Feature: Why are next-gen games still disappointing?

DriveClub, one of Sony’s big PlayStation 4 exclusive games, was released this week to lukewarm reception. Evolution Studios’ long-awaited racing title had been heralded as one of the must-have first releases of the next generation, only to have a series of mid-term revisions siphon fuel from its tank. Critical response, on the whole, has been mixed, with critics divided on the intentions of the Runcorn-based developer. However, the one thing that isn’t, whichever side of the fence you occupy, is essential. Stop us if you’ve heard this before.

In fact, it’s not just the Japanese giant’s first big Christmas game that has fallen short. Earlier this year, Watch Dogs, a title that was supposed to revolutionize the sandbox genre as we know it, disappointed in its lack of identity, while Destiny, the game that was meant to kick off the holiday season, has even thwarted to his most ardent fans due to some generally serious design errors. All of these games, like DriveClub, are decent, but they are not what was promised. So what’s going on?

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expectations change

In a world without Borderlands and Phantasy Star Online, Bungie’s next big thing would have been a revolutionary game. As it turns out, Destiny feels more like a loose amalgamation of these titles than its own. The problem is that while its shootout is top-notch, it has neither the content nor the narrative to back it up, so it doesn’t live up to what Activision’s exorbitant marketing push promised to deliver. A similar conclusion can be drawn from DriveClub, a game that plays brilliantly on the track, but looks pretty washed out compared to its open-world competitors.

The reality is that expectations change, and developers must push themselves at every turn to ensure they stay ahead of the pack. Unfortunately, this becomes more of a challenge during the first year of a new generation. While companies may have locked-down specs at the moment, the tools aren’t yet in the mature state that teams previously working on the PlayStation 3 have grown accustomed to, and that creates its own set of challenges separate from those found on the PlayStation 3. a core game design level.

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It is not surprising, therefore, that the best titles are approaching the end of a generation. Subtract PlayStation 2’s unrivaled first-year fall lineup from the equation, and this is a rule that almost always rings true. It’s particularly pronounced in this case, because last year it played host to BioShock Infinite, Gran Turismo 6, and, of course, The Last of Us. For the average consumer, the difference in quality between the products mentioned and this year’s offer is enormous, but none of this would have been possible in the opening months of the PlayStation 3.

glasses with roses

And while we suppose it shouldn’t matter, that point is well worth keeping in mind. During its first year, Sony was pouring marketing money into PS3 exclusives like, er, Heavenly Sword and Lair, two titles that may have gone on to achieve some sort of cult value, but weren’t particularly well received at the time. The manufacturer’s lineup may have been broader then, with Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction and Uncharteds: Drake’s Fortune also part of its offering, but even the latter showed no signs of blockbuster potential until the demo. its sequel at E3.

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Another fascinating franchise, Assassin’s Creed, was making headlines in the hazy days of 2007 – and also, a bit like Watch Dogs, failed to achieve universal critical acclaim. The studio subsequently stepped back, learned many hard lessons, and released Assassin’s Creed II in 2009, a title that transformed the storied series into a mega-brand, and started a trend of yearly entries that remains intact to this day. . And it was around this time, by the way, that Naughty Dog rolled out Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, arguably one of the best PS3 games ever made.

The point is that these events are not very different from what is happening right now with the PS4 – in fact, they are almost identical. And while not everyone will agree, it could certainly be argued that the biggest difference here is that the games are better this time: Watch Dogs is a more satisfying first try than Assassin’s Creed, while Destiny is certainly a better title than, say, TimeShift. The only disappointment is that there hasn’t been a Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare moment yet, but with the holidays still unfinished, there’s no reason why that can’t come just yet.

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Publisher Preparation

We’ll never know the kind of conversations that took place at major companies like EA, Ubisoft, and Activision before this generation, but we have a distinct impression that publishers weren’t properly prepared. It seems like a lifetime ago, but before the PS4 set several sales records on fire, many in the media were wondering if consoles had a future. With the rise of smartphones and tablets around the world, we have to imagine that at least some of that skepticism was shared in the boardrooms of many of the world’s top game makers.

And you can see the consequences of this in the new generation: re-releases – a quick and easy method for publishers to pad their catalog – have thrown out the roost, while an emphasis on cross-gen titles has allowed companies to mitigate any risk in case the new consoles don’t take off. EA’s performance so far is particularly revealing; while the company has had to deal with a management change, its PS4 production looks clearly scattered when its annual sports tickets are subtracted. Worse yet, things like Star Wars: Battlefront and Mass Effect 4 still seem years away.

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However, this is something that will change over time. The fact that both PS4 and Xbox One are off to a good start will give publishers reason to invest again, but you’ll have to wait a while to see the fruits of that financial injection. And all of these elements combined mean that while adoption of new hardware has been faster than ever, it’s going to be the second wind – much like the one the PS3 caught in late 2009 – that will really usher in this generation in I laughed. No, it’s not ideal, but it’s not necessarily new either.

Are you disappointed with the start of this generation, or have you been enjoying your new console despite the lack of must-have games? Do you agree with our thoughts on the subject, or do you think the above points are off the mark? Babble your growls in the comments section below.

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