This time last year we were counting down the days to the arrival of the eighth generation of gaming consoles.
By the end of September 2013, between the news stories about Grand Theft Auto V online bugs and Kim Dotcom, the Microsoft promotional division was already announcing release day parties and Xbox One giveaways. A few weeks later Sony started its own publicity push, and by the end of October the stories were starting to flow about the games that were shipping on day one. Among them were familiar franchises Forza and Killzone, new titles Ryse: Son of Rome and Killer Instinct, as well as some games we had already been playing like FIFA ‘14. While the hype machine did its job, and everyone was amped to get their hands on the new hardware, the games were a letdown. And, almost a year later we’re still waiting for a great gen-8 game.
Not that mediocre release day games is a new thing. When the PlayStation 2 reached New Zealand in November 2000 the best games you could get were the new FIFA, Ridge Racer, and Tekken. Which were about what you got with the PS4 and Xbox One. But, a year later when I could finally afford a PS2 ($650 on hire purchase - from what I remember) I was able to get the amazing Grand Theft Auto III. This was before the days of digital downloads, when games always had different release dates in North America, Japan, and Europe. By November 2001 not only was GTA III on the shelves here but Final Fantasy X and Metal Gear Solid 2 were rolling out in Japan and the US. So, everyone in the world, no matter what region they were in, had at least one brilliant, industry changing game. Without even taking into account that the PS2 was backwards compatible and could also play DVDs. So even if it had no new games it was still worth buying, and was going to get one hell of a workout straight out of the box.
Even the Xbox was worth getting when it first arrived in 2002. Aside from the fact that it was so big and solid you could fight off a zombie hoard with the thing, there were a lot of great games. Max Payne, Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, Silent Hill 2, along with instant Game of the Year contender Halo: Combat Evolved. A brand new console, that would make your whole flat rattle when you turned it on, and it somehow managed to have great games on launch day.
Then the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles rolled out in 2005/6. The Xbox got here first and with it came all the usual EA Sports games, a new Ridge Racer title, and a couple of months after its PC release, Call of Duty 2. Also, getting a solid workout on PCs was The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Although it was originally down to be a launch day release for the Xbox 360, it was delayed. When it came out around the time we first got our hands on the PS3, it was the only game you really needed. A launch day PS3 with an extra controller, the special base to stop it overheating (yeah right), and a couple of games could set you back a thousand dollars - and playing Oblivion would make it all worthwhile.
So now we have our eighth generation consoles. We’ve had them for almost a year. Are there any Games of the Year there yet? On launch day we had a few new titles with varying amount of hype around them. Killzone, Ryse, Killer Instinct. None of them even close to the 9+/10 games that Halo and Oblivion were. We got all the sports games again. But all of them, including FIFA and NBA2K, had the feeling that they were last generation games ported to the PS4 and Xbox One. How is that possible? You buy a new console and games have more features, feel more complete, and are simply better on the older consoles. The simple answer may be that developers haven’t had enough time to work with the new hardware. Fair enough. If that’s all there is to it, after almost a year, the great games should be pouring in.
Or they would be if everyone hasn’t been totally focussed on remastering old games. Don’t get me wrong - my love for all things Tomb Raider and The Last of Us, not to mention Metro and Diablo III - is firmly on the record here at NZGamer. But this year I’ve played the HD versions of Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts - more than ten years after I bought and played the originals. A ten year gap. Now I’m expected to buy the same game two years in a row. I got GTA V last year, and I’m expected to buy it again in November. Am I really that stupid? Just because I spent $700 on a new brick… uh, I mean console. Sadly, I am. And I’m ashamed to say I’m looking forward to it. Rockstar - I hate you.
So, what’s the panacea to lame sport ports and re-mastered re-issues? Infamous: Second Son was good. Just a shame that I never really got into the Infamous games. I like Forza Horizon 2. But then I’ve quite liked a lot of arcade racers. Midnight Club, Burnout, Split Second. I liked them, played them a bit... then never played them again. There’s a chance Forza Horizon 2, no matter how good it is may go the same way. Child of Light and The Swapper got great reviews. But what does it say when small titles are better than the ‘big’ games? Then again, you could always make the argument that the movie and music industries have been that way for years.
But I’m an optimist. I’m still looking forward to some great games on my semi-new console. Far Cry 4 is out very soon, and it’s looking great. Although I liked the over-the-top mod Blood Dragon better than Far Cry 3. Then there’s Battlefield Hardline, Batman Arkham Knight, The Division.... But since they were all pushed back after being due for release this year, there’s no telling how long I’m going to have to wait. If it means they’ll be finished and good, I’ll happily wait. It’s just that while the PS2 and Xbox had great games inside the first year, the very best games tend to come at the end of a console’s lifespan. So it might take a long time.
I can wait. I’ll wait for Mirror’s Edge 2 and Mad Max. Mirror’s Edge was the PS3 game I sunk the most time into, and wrecked the most controllers playing, and Mad Max 1 and 2 are the two greatest films ever made so it should be great game. I’ll wait for The Witcher 3 and The Order 1886, no matter how much they push back their release dates. I’ll wait because I know that sometime in the next seven or eight years, there’s going to be a great gen-8 game. Sometime.
Header image credit: Digital Trends