Best Of The Generation: The Games That Set The Benchmark
You can go your entire life eating only McDonald’s, not really knowing what delicious food is until the day you walk into a Col Cacchio’s and sample some of that delectable pizza. Up until that point in time, A Big Mac is about as good as it gets. Similarly in gaming we can have certain standards and may even believe that what we’re playing are pretty great until something comes along that raises the bar quite a bit. A game that truly shows off what games are capable of and is so far above everything that came before it.
When a new console generation takes its first breaths we aren’t quite sure what it may be capable of. The technology is still new, developers haven’t had much time to play around with it and are far from making the most of the hardware. However, after a year – sometimes more, sometimes less – a game comes along that really blows you away and is just miles ahead of anything that you’ve seen before. It raises the benchmark for what a game can do and from that point onwards any game will be judged against it. It’s that moment when you realise what it truly means for a game to be “next-gen” and from here you can see the future of gaming. Like a fat kid falling down a flight of stairs, let’s roll.
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Adam says: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was a visually splendid game that pushed the cinematic expertise of Naughty Dog far beyond what I could conceive. Weather effects, environmental details, character animations and action set-pieces had finally reached an amazing level of detail on the PS3. Uncharted 2 still stands as testament to Naughty Dog’s quality as we end the current generation and enter the next. It sold me on current-gen console experiences more than any other game. It was a quality experience not only in terms of action and adventure, but also in weaving a great story filled with memorable characters. There were hints of this potential in the previous game, but Uncharted 2 brought everything to the table. It set a standard for motion capture technology and the representation more “real” characters in a video game. It laid the foundations for other Naughty Dog games like the Last of Us, which is all thanks to the legacy of Uncharted 2.
Peloma says: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. I don’t even think I need to explain why. This game looked jaw dropping, especially if you played the first one which was nothing to write home about. I was playing this game and found myself saying “Oh my God!” so many times because it had so many amazing moments. The voice acting for the characters especially Nathan Drake was amazing which just enhanced the story even more for me. There were two sequences which stood out in particular – the train scene with the helicopter and the one where Nathan is locked in a gun fight in a collapsing building. After playing them I had to stop and call my roommates then replay those scenes. That was how epic I thought they were. It was one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played with such a great narrative and added to that some really fun gameplay, I was left in awe and it completely changed the way I viewed action adventure games.
Azhar says: Assassin’s Creed was the first game this generation that I was truly hyped for. These days, I’ve long trained myself to not get hyped at all and keep expectations realistic. Try teaching that to a fourteen year-old who was counting the days until its release, watching all of the E3 demos and subsequent trailers and determined to buy it the day it came out, which I did. Considering Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is one of my favourite series of games in history, Assassin’s Creed being its spiritual successor did more than enough to blow my mind, and when I first played Assassin’s Creed, I was absolutely blown away. So many things stood out. The sheer vastness of the open world. The immense freshness of the game as a stunning new IP with bags of potential. The incredible graphical detail for a game of that size. The hundreds of realistic animations. The way the game brought a kind of interactivity and fluidity that had previously not been seen in games of this kind before – such as with the way you could naturally interact with and scale any building – truly sold me that the new generation had arrived. It changed my perceptions of what was possible in open world games, and was the loudest welcoming message to a new era of gaming that I had at the time, blowing my mind with its ending and getting me to already start praying for an announcement of a sequel.
AG says: Before this I hadn’t played any “next-gen” games, Assassin’s Creed was my first and it immediately felt like nothing I had ever played on PS2. Perhaps it was a little reminiscent of Prince of Persia but then this series is its spiritual successor. It featured breath-taking visuals in a massive open-world with three huge cities waiting for you to climb every tower and run across every rooftop. Not only that but Ubisoft had managed to recreate landmarks and the atmosphere of each city as it might have been during the Crusades. The world felt alive and you had only to wander around to breathe it in. There was a new level of nuance and interactivity to the world. Everybody was a target for your blades with repercussions and every surface begged to be scaled. The game may have been repetitive and far from perfect but it was my first taste of the ambition and scope that developers would be able to realise with this new technology.
Cavie says: Remember how the old Prince of Persia games worked with levels that were separated by loading screens? Even though PoP: Warrior Within was semi non-linear, it still required you to enter sections that were effectively closed levels that required loading to navigate between. Then Prince of Persia’s spiritual successor, Assassin’s Creed, released to the world and showed us that, wait a second, now you can load entire cities that while still separated by loading screens, allow a lot more play space compared to the levels of old. Suddenly you didn’t have a section of an area, but you had that entire area opened up to you, to run around in. It was entirely free to be explored and when you were done, you left and entered another area equally as large. It was that move to proper open world that told me that the current generation had arrived. Add in the cinematic construction of dialogues between characters and the breathtaking visuals and you had the, at-the-time, definitive current generation experience. One that made you sit back and go, “Yeah, not really possible on a PS2.”
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Marko says: Oblivion was the third game I’ve ever owned this generation with the second being a bundled copy of Perfect Dark Zero (which was kind of a bland first person shooter) and the first being Saints Row. Oblivion was the first game where I had the feeling of “holy balls, this is the future of gaming”. You see, I had a crappy stock PC with no graphical capability whatsoever so I couldn’t experience all the powerhouse games of the early days. Hell, most of my time was spent replaying GTA San Andreas for the 20th time. When I first played Oblivion I was thrown into this gigantic world with so much freedom that a bald eagle wrapped in the American flag would feel jealous. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted to. RPGs were also a foreign concept to me and I didn’t know I would have this absolute love for them until Oblivion entered my life. I was so in love with the game that I broke the disk from playing too much. The thing got cracked and was rendered obsolete just by being played so often. But I loved the game so much that I went and bought it again. I possibly played it for 400 hours or more if you can believe it. It was also the first game that I achieved full GamerScore in, a habit that would stay with me right up until today. This was the game that ushered in a new chapter in my life and I’m entirely grateful for it.
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Rudolf says: I didn’t enter this generation from the start and only played PC games, but the one that made me feel as though I was playing something new and really awesome was Batman: Arkham Asylum. It’s a complete package: excellent combat, interesting villains, the superb Scarecrow segments and a beautifully made location. I re-played this game more times than I can recall and I’m pretty confident that this speaks for itself.
Gears of War
Alessandro says: Whenever I think back to a point where I realised that gaming would make up a substantial part of my life, to the point where I am now actively pursuing a career in the creation of them, I always find myself recalling the day I purchased and played the first Gear of War title from Epic Games. Again, I was really out of touch with gaming media back then, so the experience of buying a game with a cool looking cover off the shelf was both risky and exciting. There isn’t really a way to describe the feeling you get when you realise that the risk has paid off, and nothing could have prepared me for the change Gears of War brought to my life. An intense and gritty shooter set in a dark future for humanity, Gears of War not only introduced me to the more hardcore nature of gaming, but did it with a sense of brutal style. Massive guns with chainsaws on them, a blend of horror and action and incredible gruff voice acting really did make me realise that the previous generation of colourful platformers such as Jak & Daxter were gone, replaced instead with this new type of game. It’s been one hell of an enjoyable ride ever since.
As we dive head first into a new console generation, it helps to look back and realise that it will take a bit of time before we start to truly see what the PS4 and Xbox One are capable. It will take time before the bar is set significantly higher in terms of what developers are capable of. It won’t come from launch titles and even within the first year games may be very comparable to something you would’ve gotten on PS3 and Xbox 360 but one day a game will come along and you’ll stare in wonderment, thinking “this is the future of gaming, this is truly next-gen.” Until then, we wait but fortunately we can play a few games to pass the time.