Are We Already Playing The Next Gen?
We all know the big dogs at Sony and Microsoft are carefully planning their next generation of consoles and with powerhouse, eye meltingly gorgeous games such as Star Wars 1313 and Watch Dogs being showcased at E3, the next generation is slowly becoming a reality.
There is a ton of speculation around with new rumours surfacing every day but looking back over 2012 we can see that the next gen is already leaking through and being hinted at. Games are getting bigger and pushing our consoles to their absolute limits and as a result, many developers have given us a cheeky peek at up and coming experiences.
This little jitty is inspired by my recent playthrough of IO Interactive’s fantastic Hitman Absolution. At one point in the game you have to lose the police by blending into a crowd. Usually, a ‘gaming crowd’ consists of four NPC models wandering around aimlessly like zombies on crystal meth and that has always been due to technical limitations. However, Hitman’s crowds are the greatest of this generation by far. I mean, they completely blow you away every single time. Every. Single. Time.
When you have to push your way through over 200 characters with their own aims, paths and even in some cases, personalities, it is an experience that gives us a slight glimpse of what could truly be reached with our next cycle of gaming machines. Hitman’s crowds are breathing, organic and real; a testament to IO’s utilization of current console power, but just imagine what could be achieved on consoles 4 times as powerful.
Similarly, Far Cry 3 provides gamers with the series staple open world but this time it feels different. Ubisoft have not only managed to forge a huge expansive game world but they have filled it with character and it feels dense. It is a feeling that has only truly been achieved recently when developers have learnt how to push their devices to the limits, take Batman Arkham City as another case.
Assassins Creed III is also a brilliant example. As our review claims, Assassins Creed III is an incredible game with unparalleled ambition but it is held back by technical limitations. Boston, New York and the Frontier are huge lands that buzz with life yet there is still that feeling that we are being held back. Hitman’s crowds are breathtaking, but still reduced to smallish areas. Assassins Creed III is huge, but lacking depth. Arkham City was dark, gritty and rich. These are all examples of how to 2012’s big hitters are offering us limited tasters of what is to come.
But, in a sudden turn of events I ask this, does the increased technical power necessarily mean better games? We all want bigger worlds, more to do, better graphics etc but games aren’t solely judged on their scale and scope. I could argue that our animalistic desire for size (oh Matron!) has blinded us from the potential for innovation, narrative progression and more originality, but I don’t want to sound pretentious!
I suppose the real telling point is when Bioshock Infinite is released in early 2013. The Bioshock series has grown an almost mythical status with its absorbing universes and truly divine stories, so when Irrational release their latest masterpiece in early 2013, it could show us that what we really want from the next generation is improved story telling. Forget about the pixels, let’s try and drive creativity for new IPs and gaming experience that were simply unachievable on our current cycle.
2012 has been a great year for gaming but I can’t help feel it’s been held down by the idea that it is a stop-gap-year, stuck between the peak of console potential and anticipation for the new consoles. What we have seen though is hints at what we can expect from our next generation. Hitman, Far Cry, Assassins Creed III and even Mass Effect 3 have wetted our lips with excitement for the size and graphical prowess that could potentially be achieved.
I’m excited. I’m psyched. I’m down right sexually aroused about the PS4 and Xbox 720 (still think it’s a rubbish name idea, the 720!). But there is a sense we may be too obsessed with power Instead of subtlety and innovation.
Either way, the next generation of consoles is going to be awesome and if our current cycle has taught us anything it’s that there is room in the industry for explosions, size and graphics, but there is also a market for originality, creativity and damn right craziness! (Platinum games I’m looking at you!) 2012 has made me a very excited boy indeed!