As we narrow toward the end of the first month of 2012, new rumors have recently surfaced of the next generation of consoles. Microsoft has revealed it’s development of the Xbox 720, and updates on the Nindendo Wii U are all but imminent at this point. No rumors yet on Sony’s new system (I’m gonna go ahead and guess Play Station 4), but come E3 time this year, we should know whether these companies have something coming or not.
These days, I can’t help but feel a bit cautious about the signs of a new console generation on the horizon. Even though the current generation is already five years old, and the average console life cycle usually lasts on average seven years, it still feels a bit too soon. Perhaps this is just the way technology is these days. After all, we’re in a generation where a new phone module is developed and marketed every six months. But the real reason for my skepticism is that I feel there are several trends that have stagnated the creativity and innovation of the current generation of video games.
Many of these trends were not always bad things. In fact, all of them seem to have branched from games that we all believed (and still do) to be really good games. Unfortunately, the impact these games have left on the industry has turned out not to be all that beneficial in the long run. So with that, here is a list of 5 games that were great when they came out, but now I can’t be more sick of every other game milking their gimmicks dry.
I cannot stress enough, none of the games I am about to mention are by any means bad. This is not about the quality of said games, but the impact they’ve had on the industry since their release. In fact, just to be fair, I’m going to begin with one of my personal all time favorites.
God of War
2005, the god of action gaming hit the Play Station 2 by storm and was an immediate hit with critics and core gamers alike. Never before God of War did a hack-n-slash title have a combat system so fluent and visceral. Never has a game captured the grand epic scale of Greek Mythology in a visual masterpiece such as this. Never before Kratos has a video game character been so loved solely for his personification of pure rage, vengeance, and a necessity for justice. Gameplay, story, visuals, God of War struck gold on all borders.
So what does this game have to show for its success seven years later? Well, after fighting it and fighting it for years with Chris, I have finally caved: while every iteration of the series has indeed been a blast to play, the stories of the sequels fell far beneath the standards of the Greek tragedy David Jaffe left us with in the first installment, but that’s just the beginning. For years, dozens of action games attempted to emulate its gameplay and combat system to the point where it became just about impossible to find an action game that didn’t have some kind of extended blade-on-a-string weapon. I especially liked it when Spider-Man started using his webbing to create hammers and other blunt attacks and called it innovative. Since God of War, really the only combat systems that truly felt fresh were Bayonetta (which may have only felt fresh because I hadn’t played Devil May Cry), and Batman Arkham Asylum.
Oh yeah, and Quick-Time-Events? They were cute for a while, but I am so done with those. Nothing irritates me more than games like Force Unleashed shoving haphazard QTE moments that are impossible to be ready for.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The launch title for the original Xbox, Halo Combat Evolved, will be remembered for one reason and one reason only: It was the first FPS I ever played on a console that used a dual analogue control scheme (left analogue to move, right analogue to aim), and ten years ago, I was very impressed by it. Along with the good controls, it had a somewhat decent sci-fi plot with creative enemies, fun vehicle sections, very colorful environments and set pieces, and AWESOME music, so yeah I was totally drinking the Halo kool-aid for those first couple years.
Now, we are in a generation where that once neat dual analog control system is used in every single FPS to date. FPS is now the dominant and best selling game genre on consoles. There are entire armies worth of sci-fi shooter games staring power armored space marines every year (KillzoneConduitGearsHazePreyRedFactionFractureTurokDeadSpaceMassEffect, you know, just to name a few), each possessing their own version of the “We want to be the Covenant” alien race, along with token main protagonists that have the personality of a ton of bricks.
Sorry to all you hardcore fans out there who read the extended universe books and whatnot and know all the intricate details and back stories, but Master Chief is boring, and that’s final. Anyone else find it the slightest bit ironic that a man with no face is now not only the face of Microsoft Game Studios, but has become the most well known mascot of an entire generation? I’m sorry, but seeing a console mascot that is so shallowly developed that I can’t tell you a single solitary detail about him besides “he wears green armor and shoots a lot of aliens” as the new gold standard that all other games aspire too, as sopposed to the colorful robust console mascots of yesteryear like Mario, Sonic, and Crash, forgive me if I can’t help but feel a little disheartened by that.
As a free game bundled with Nintendo’s latest console, Wii Sports stands as many players’ first, and often most effective, experience with motion gaming. It was a gateway that helped introduce a whole new way to play that appealed to people across the globe of all ages and backgrounds. It was the niche that led Nintendo’s new innovative console to dominate its competition in those opening years. I appreciate this game to no end for what it was able to accomplish, and I have nothing but positive experiences playing it myself with my friends and family.
That said, I doubt this game would have been half as successful had it not specifically been attached and bundled to the actual Wii console. By its own merits, it feels less like a full fledged game and more like a demo used to display what the technology is capable of (a really good demo, but a demo nonetheless). We’re coming up to six years now since the Wii’s launch, and honestly I cant think of any game that was executed as well as what Wii Sports displayed. Sure there have been dozens of casual party games that have tried to do exactly what Wii Sports did, but none of them, save for direct sequels like Wii Sports Resort, control nearly as well. As for the hardcore Nintendo games for the system, all of them fall into one of three categories. Either they…
- Use motion control for a few minigames and maybe one or two actions that could easily be replaced with a button press (games like Mario Galaxy and Twilight Princess).
- Place motion control constantly at the front of the player’s attention to the point where players hands start to hurt after playing half an hour (Metroid Prime 3 and Skyward Sword).
- Ignore motion entirely and maneuver the control scheme past it (Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Kirby Epic Yarn).
And this is just Nintendo we’re talking about. Now that both Microsoft and Sony are jumping on the bandwagon, it’s starting to get out of hand. We’ve seen innovative ways to play games in the past, and they’re not bad things by any means. But unlike DDR, Guitar Hero, the Eye Toy, and other peripherals that ran their course accordingly, the industry seem hell-bent on proving that motion gaming is here for the long haul. Maybe if we see more brilliance like Dance Central, but now, I just don’t see it.
Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare
I remember when I first played Modern Warfare. Great opening; really set the tone very nicely. Visuals, top notch. Voice work, pretty damn good too. Controls, smooth as a dime. Then the game actually starts up, I go through a few tutorials before being introduced to Captain Price, who then tests me on a little obstacle course to shoot down a set of targets while implementing every facet of my arsenal. Of course I didn’t need him to tell me I’m not the most skilled in maneuvering around FPS games, but that didn’t stop him from scolding me about how pathetic I was and how I would never survive in the field. I try a few more times to no avail, and he continues his smart ass remarks: “The objective is to do it in less time, not more.” I finally somewhat get the hang of it and do a little better, only to be followed by “That’s a bit of an improvement, but it’s not that hard to improve off of garbage.” After that, I basically said you know what, **** you Price. Excuse me if I don’t know how to shoot, reload, swap weapons, melee, throw a flash grenade, sprint, and turn exactly 130 degrees to the exact second you want me to after playing the game for 15 ****ing minutes. I wanted to give this game a fair shot, but if you’re going to give me this attitude like I’m not good enough to play this game, than forget it.” I have never played a Call of Duty game since.
And that right there has been the serious turn-off for me and this whole series: the stuck-up attitude that surrounds it. I’m sure the games play perfectly fine, in fact they’re probably great, and from what I’ve heard, the campaign from this first game was actually a pretty decent length with plenty of memorable moments. Unfortunately, the main pull of the series quickly became its online multiplayer, which is one trend of modern gaming that I cannot latch onto at all, not only because of the attitude, but it just feels like empty calories. I’m not progressing a story, I’m not competing with people I’m invested in, and I don’t feel good about myself for getting cheap-sniped slightly less times than I did the round before.
Also, if there is one genre in shooters that I am more sick of than power-armored space marines, it’s quote unquote “realistic” war propaganda. Battlefield, Medal of Honor, Army of Two, Rainbow Six, they all come out looking exactly the same. No more. Please.
Okay, one more.
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil 4 is often been praised as one of, if not THE, greatest game of the previous generation. It is also important to note that this was the first (and still only) installment of the whole series that truly felt like something special. It was packed with thrills and had memorable boss fight after memorable boss fight. As of now, I have not actually played RE4 (Chris has, so take his word for it). The main reason being I’ve never wanted to put up with tank-like movement controls and not being able to move when aiming. I am well aware that the claustrophobic controls actually help play up the horror aspects of the game, which is fine for those of you into that, but that’s not the real reason I think this game has negatively affected the industry. No, for a clearer picture off all that could go wrong with this game, look no further than its direct sequel (which I won’t go into detail because Chris already did that as well).
Besides that, RE4 was the game that made zombie slaying hip again, and since then, we’ve had our fun with stuff like Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, and Dead Space. But for every fun game, we’ve had just as many flops: RE5, Onichibara, and most recently, Dead Island. Another thing that bugs me about this trend is all the games that involve people that are supposedly not zombies, but are possessed, crazed, and/or violent due to plague, drugs, fungus, a curse, brainwashing, or whatever the circumstances. Sorry, no matter how you dress it up, they’re all just different versions of zombies, and I just find it a cheep and easy way for a game to create emotionless cannon fodder enemies. One upcoming example comes strait from my favorite developer of all time, Naughtydog. Their latest game, The Last Of Us, is probably the first time I feel so underwhelmed about one of their games, because it looks like they’re just jumping on the survival action bandwagon.
So to sum up everything I’ve said in one sentence, no more hack n’ slash action games with chain weapons and quick-time-events, no more sci-fi shooters with space marines and fantasy military propaganda, no more shallow casual motion games, no more “realistic” shooters with brown and grey color pallets and reality military propaganda, and NO MORE LAZY ASS ZOMBIE GAMES. I would really appreciate it if when the next console generation rolls along, we are able to move past at least one of these trends.
As for what kind of games I would like to see more of in the future, well, stay tuned and I’ll let you know.