I know, I know. We are only a few months into the new generation. I shouldn’t expecting to see the full potential of the Xbox One or the PS4 anytime soon. It took a couple of years to get something truly defining next-gen such as the original Modern Warfare or Uncharted 2 or the Mass Effect series. But the first real heralds of the next-gen are here, with Titanfall hitting the Xbox One and Infamous Second Son arriving on the PS4. They should be showing some of the real potential of our next-gen hardware right?
Well they certainly look prettier. Especially Second Son. The detail in faces and the look of the city are absolutely astounding. But gameplay-wise? Neither game offers much of anything in the way of new things you couldn’t possibly have done on a last-gen console. Titanfall’s biggest claim is that it’s a fun, competently done shooter. It’s even coming out on 360 (maybe) with at least the basic ideas (giant mechs, FPS parkour) intact. What is Second Son’s big “next-gen” innovation? Using the touch pad and motion control in annoying ways when a simple button-press would’ve served better (shake your controller to shake a can of spray paint, really?). It reminds me a lot of Uncharted: Golden Abyss for the Vita, where solid gameplay suffered some from clearly shoehorned-in technology of the controls. The game is fundamentally fairly similar to previous games in the series.
What about games on the horizon? Frankly, games like The Order:1886 and Quantum Break once again look damn pretty and will probably be perfectly fine games, but what is really new about them? I’ve always considered next-gen where we get to see some totally new things that just weren’t possible before beyond shinier graphics. New dimensions to old genres, vastly improved A.I. or even new genres altogether. It’s still early, but we should at least be seeing indications of where this generation is heading, and right now that direction seems to be nowhere special. Batman: Arkham Knight was just announced, and its big new innovation is that you can drive the Batmobile. That seems like something that could’ve been implemented in previous titles (possibly at the cost of other things, but not beyond the realm of possibility).
Maybe it’s just the law of diminishing returns. Each previous generation was a rather huge leap over the last, and it had to catch up to itself eventually. That certainly doesn’t mean there won’t be fantastic games well worth owning on each system. Everything I’ve heard about Titanfall is fantastic. I have Second Son, and it’s an excellent game. I am very much looking forward to the The Order: 1886. I’m just wondering if and when we’ll see anything that makes me think “you couldn’t possibly do that on a PS3 or an Xbox 360″ beyond shinier graphics. People looking for fresh new “next-gen” experiences on their next-gen consoles may be waiting a long time and ultimately never really get that experience. I hope E3 proves me wrong though.