Next-gen is now now-gen, and that means a bevy of new games on the horizon that are ready to harness all that glorious, raw power. In the months leading up to the consoles’ releases, we had endless marketing that shoved that raw power in our faces, so now it’s time for developers to pick up the baton and run.
While console hardware has advanced, it doesn’t really seem that gameplay or features have followed suit. We’re still playing our Call of Duties, our Assassin’s Creeds, and our Battlefields. Where’s the next-gen gameplay hook, or are we going to play the same things for the next seven years, albeit with shinier sub-surface scattering and denser foliage?
Fret not, because the next big gaming thing has already made itself apparent. There are a number of titles on the horizon that all share a similar mechanic that makes up a core pillar in each of their designs. They’re the games that deliberately shake up the boundaries between single-player and multiplayer; that whole “seamless online integration” thing. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s becoming a very important bullet point in game pitches. Need for Speed Rivals dabbled in this already, where your ostensibly single-player game takes place in a shared instant that allows you to interact with or totally ignore other online players.
So which titles are doing this, and what’s the other trend that seems to be an additional new “big thing”? For a start, there’s Destiny.
Destiny (PS3, PS4, X360 & X1)
If you haven’t heard of this game by now, then you’ve been under a rock for the last three years. This is Bungie’s new baby now that the Halo franchise has been handed over to somebody else.
In Destiny, you’re essentially playing an MMOFPS even though they’re trying their damndest to market it differently as a “shared world shooter”. In other words, your single-player campaign takes place in an online world that is shared with other people playing their own version of the single-player campaign. Of course, paths will cross and you can either join up with your friends or strangers, or you can carry on pushing forward solo. It’s probably something akin to Journey, only with a lot more guns and violence and a lot less emotion. A closer comparison would probably be Borderlands, but with more emphasis on the online, shared world aspect because you have to be online in order to play Destiny.
There’s a lot riding on Destiny. Activision has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the game, and Bungie has spent several years working on a project that has taken up their entire workforce. For Bungie, Destiny is their lives for the next ten years.
Titanfall (PC, X360, X1)
Giant robots! Parkour! Guns! The fresh, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed team from Respawn Entertainment probably had most people at the “giant robots” part. This game is a big deal for multiple reasons. For a start, this is the first game from Vince Zampella and Jason West – the ex-Infinity Ward guys and the blokes partly responsible for Call of Duty. Second of all, there was all that awkward legal action shortly after the two split from Activision. Then there’s the fact that Electronic Arts (arguably Activision’s biggest rivals) picked up publishing rights to Titanfall. There’s a sordid trail of details with this game, but who cares? Giant robots!
Titanfall seems to be reversing what Bungie is doing with Destiny. While Bungie is making a single-player game that plays like a multiplayer game, Respawn is ensuring that Titanfall is a multiplayer only game that has the depth, feel and narrative of a single-player campaign. As such, you won’t be playing endless capture-the-flag matches without a context; every online “match” has a plot with NPC characters and varying mission objectives. The whole game is tied up in this new, science-fiction universe with enough canon to ensure that it feels like you’re playing a detailed single-player experience, only online and with another 11 people.
Also, giant robots.
The Other Other Big Thing?
Perhaps you’ve noticed this as well: the second recurring gameplay theme of this new generation seems to be the growing preoccupation with 1-vs-many games. Over the last few weeks, two brand new IPs have hit the gaming scene, and both are online games designed for many players to take on a single other player.
Evolve (PC, PS4, X1)
Turtle Rock Studios brought us Left 4 Dead – arguably the best team-based online shooter in recent memory. What do you do once you’ve made a game of that calibre? You strike out on your own to do something new, even if that something new is heavily inspired by your past success.
In Evolve, four players take on the roles of a four-man, alien hunter team. Each team member plays a specific character that fulfils a unique role in the team of four. That team then sets out to hunt the alien, one of which is known as a Goliath. The Goliath is controlled by a fifth player, and as the game progresses and the Goliath levels up by hunting and eating the NPC wildlife, so it evolves to become far more powerful and much, much bigger
Evolve will feature multiple alien types for the fifth player to choose from. As for the alien hunters: there’ll be options as well as the ability for some customisation. While the game is built with multiplayer in mind, you can play it on your own with AI-controlled bots if you’re the type who vehemently shuns all social interaction.
Outrise (No platforms finalised)
Outrise came out of nowhere. Hell, the development team doesn’t even have a name yet, and there’s no indication as to which platforms we can expect the game on. Be that as it may, Outrise is another 1-vs-many title on the (distant) horizon. It’s getting a lot of attention thanks to the developers likening their vision to “a multiplayer Shadow Of The Colossus meets Left 4 Dead”.
Outrise takes place in a science-fiction setting, where society is ruled over by the United States Federation thanks to their controlling of a single currency called CryptoCoin. Whoever controls CryptoCoins controls society. Enter a rebel group known as Outrise: they plan to topple the USF by any means. Unfortunately for the Outrise group, the USF has giant mechanical war machines. These boss mechs are controlled by one player, with every other player in the multiplayer match playing as a member of the Outrise army. Currently, the team working on Outrise envisage 16 players making up the Outrise faction. Of course, the one player playing as the UFC boss mech will have massive firepower at his or her disposal, so the Outrise team will need to work together in order to win.
Outrise has similarities to Titanfall in that the game is trying to hit the sweet spot with a multiplayer game that has the narrative and canonical depth of a single-player game. As such, the universe of Outrise is planned to be detailed one, with each character of the Outrise group getting a complete backstory and full characterisation.
Multiplayer games that feel like single-player campaigns? Single-player games that feature seamless multiplayer experiences? The rise of the one-versus-many sub-genre? These are the trends that are becoming apparent in this new generation of console gaming. Will they take over in popularity from the likes of modern-day military shooters? Here’s hoping.