Reviewer Rodeo: A Generation of Innovations

Reviewer Rodeo: A Generation of Innovations

Welcome to the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Each week, we’ll grab on to the hottest issue, hold on for dear life, and wrassle it to the ground.

Even though the PSN is still the hottest topic, we’re taking a detour to focus on more positive things. As we inch toward the next console generation, we’re taking a look at the innovations that the XBox 360/PS3/Wii era has given us. Our reviewers examine the most important advancements and those that have been the best received by the community.

Drew “Frustrated Fury” Leachman
I would have to say that the biggest innovation of this generation would have to be the full integration of online capabilities. Sure, the Xbox, PC, and PS2 had online back in the day, but this generation has really taken off with it in an amazing way. It’s almost taboo to not be online while playing your games. With this leap forward, it has even opened up more venues to obtain content. Expanding the length of a game with DLC, adding online multiplayer, networking with other players, and downloadable titles wouldn’t have been possible without online expansions in gaming. Online not only adds to the gaming side of things, but the entertainment venue as a whole. My Xbox and PS3 are more than just a game console. I can watch television shows, movies, listen to music, chat with family and friends, and a ton of other multimedia things that would not have been possible without online capabilities. Online integration is just the beginning and more of it is on its way.

John “Dubya” Whitehouse
It has certainly been an interesting era for consoles. While Microsoft & Sony went for power, Nintendo went for innovation, but at what cost?

The 360 and PS3 are powerhouses, both having strong and weak points. While the 360 took online gaming and social interaction through games to the next level, the PS3 gave us a console that oozed power and performance. And although, in the early days, many people had to pick a side and play, with the many price drops since their launches, it is relatively easy to own both console and get the best of both worlds.

We have seen the birth of DLC and the rise of the indie developer on consoles. We have seen many games target online gameplay over the single player experience and we have seen the focus shift to making game playing more social.

It has been the biggest, most technically advanced generation of consoles. And we haven’t even mentioned the Wii yet.

The Wii did something no other console had done before: put a console in almost every single home! By aiming the console and marketing towards the more casual gamer, they tapped into a resource previously feared by console makers. Suddenly, consoles weren’t the big, nasty evil many people believed them to be. You could play video games with your parents, your granny and maybe even your cat! But with this sudden success came problems. First of all, gaming was suddenly found in the media spotlight. Certain media outlets tried to strike fear into the hearts of the public, by running stories (many based on misinformation) that shone a dark light on the industry. There was also the massive amount of ‘shovelware’ that has dogged the Wii since it launched.

Because of the amount of consoles sold, it became very easy for the publisher to green light games that copied the standard mini game formula. Sure, the Wii was revolutionary in it’s approach to gaming, but even Nintendo didn’t give it the support it needed to break away from the ‘casual mini game’ moniker it gained. For example, the Wii Motion Plus; a device created to finally do what Nintendo promised originally by providing precise movement control. However, they launched the device and Wii Sports Resort to go with it, and then failed to create a single game that solely supports the functionality. The same can be said of Wii Speak. The Wii was also lacking in multimedia support (it didn’t even play DVD’s), and was a nightmare to play online with.

However, all three consoles worked well together. Whatever you wanted from the machine under your telly, chances are one of them fits your needs.

With Nintendo’s announcement of an E3 announcement comes wild speculation and rumours. Will it be the Wii 2? Will it be more powerful than Xbox or PS3? Will it innovate, as the Wii did? Only Nintendo knows the answers, and we don’t have long to wait to find out.

Michael “Red Pen of Doom” Futter
I agree with Drew that the most important innovation of this generation was the complete integration of online services with games, for better or for worse. Certainly, there have been some fantastic elements of this new gaming mandate. DLC to extend the life of games, developer responsiveness and ongoing support based on community feedback, and non-gaming services like Netflix integrated into each platform all raise the profile of the industry.

Unfortunately, there is a sinister side to the online revolution. DLC has been abused too often by developers selling on-disk or purely cosmetic enhancements at obscene prices. Patches, while utilized legitimately by most, allow less scrupulous developers to ship broken and incomplete games. Additionally, developers feel pressured to include multiplayer components in games that simply don’t need them. This robs development time from enhancing the core single-player experience.

I have a few modest hopes for the next generation of consoles. First, I would like to see Microsoft and Sony regulate the sale of on-disk DLC. Day zero DLC is offensive to customers and damages the industry as a whole.

Second, I hope to see the community get past the “every game must have multiplayer” mentality. There is nothing wrong with a strong single-player game as, I’m sure, LA Noire will reinforce.

Finally, I would love to see more games that reinforce the need for good voice communication among players. I’ve made no secret about my love for Chromehounds. That game required a level of interaction among teammates that was unmatched. From inviting others into your garage as you built your mechs to following the orders of the on-field Commander, your success was purely predicated on communication. I also recall the days of the XBox Live Beta and the early days of the public launch. Nearly everyone strategized in MechAssault and Unreal Championship. I yearn for games that bring back those glory days. Too often, online games are completely silent.

One last note before I sign off; while I believe that online integration was the most important innovation of the generation, I believe there is one advancement that has been almost universally well-received by the community. The introduction of achievements by Microsoft has been a surprising and overwhelming success, so much that nearly ever other online platform has incorporated some form of beloved things. I believe that these were such a huge success because there is no downside. You don’t have to purchase them; they are nearly omnipresent; and they fulfill our needs to collect, compare, and brag. Most importantly, if you don’t care about them, their presence doesn’t diminish your enjoyment in gaming.

This generation has been a major turning point for the industry, which is why it will be sticking around longer than any prior generation.

That’s all for this edition of the ZTGD Reviewer Rodeo. Join us next week as we grab onto another bucking bronco of controversy and beat it into submission.

Got questions or comments? Drop ’em in the comment section below or hit us up via email. Suggestions for Reviewer Rodeo topics that you want our opinions on? Hit Mike up at [email protected].

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