The Five Biggest Gameplay Trends Heading into the Next Generation

The winds of gaming are constantly shifting and changing, but whether it be the next generation bearing down on us, or the inevitable just happening to be occurring, it seems quite a few changes seem to happening at once when it comes to actual gameplay.

For our purposes, let’s call them trends.

Like any other medium, gaming is susceptible to trends now and then, but unlike, say, the world of fashion where they often pass by with such speed as to go unnoticed, trends in gaming tend to stay quite some time. If you’re looking for what to expect out of video games as we enter a new generation then, look no further than these five trends, which will soon dominate the industry.

5. Tablet and Smartphone Interactivity

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Maybe the Wii U isn’t so farfetched after all, as supporters for using smartphone and tablet features with their games are a growing crowd.

This is most obvious through the Xbox One’s features, which make it clear Microsoft intends to use every entertainment avenue available to enhance the function of their system, however, this is also visible in individual titles like “Watch Dogs” and “The Division,” which are not only promising, but show some exciting and creative tablet support features as well.

It’s a growing tech world out there, and video games seem to be recognizing that as they head into a new generation.

4. Games Get Harder

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This is more a notion of where we are going to be in a year from now, more than an idea with a host of tangible examples, but games are slowly getting harder.

Call it the “Dark Souls” effect, but suddenly it seems like even the normal modes of titles are presenting more of a challenge than they did just a few years ago. Whether it be in last year’s surprise hit “XCOM,” or this year’s GOTY leader “The Last of Us,” single player games are creeping closer to the 15 hour, or more, completion mark that was rare in even more recent major releases.

The only downside here is that this could lead to a greater emphasis in the freemium model as companies charge to help gamers get ahead. As long as some personal restraint is shown from gamer’s end though, this is a good thing.

3. Shooters Are Here to Stay

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The shooter genre (the majority of which are of the FPS variety) represented the dominate game type of this last generation and, if this year’s E3 is any indication, that isn’t changing anytime soon.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as many of these shooters represented the best games of the show. Titles like “Titanfall,” “Destiny,” and “Killzone: Shadow Fall” all garnered well deserved attention, and show that FPS’s are not only still kicking, but have plenty of life left in them.

If you’re really down about this though, just know that plenty of developers on both the indie scene and elsewhere are coming up with a plethora of original ideas, seemingly to combat this movement. However, that’s just all the more evidence the shooter is still king.

2. Color Comes Back

In an effort to present a “maturity” of sorts, many games from the previous generation used muted tones of grey, black, and brown and little else. While it got the bleak mood across well enough, it also led to every game looking the same.

But between “Bioshock Infinite’s” bright and creative world of Columbia, “Far Cry: Blood Dragon’s” neon tints, and several titles at E3, it looks like the sun is slowly breaking through the grey, and color is being highlighted once more in the gaming world. Even “Killzone,” the poster child of the grey palate, seems to be integrating reds, blues, and more into its next title, serving as a harbinger of sort for the movement.

Maybe not everyone sees it the same way, but this is a promising trend that can only improve creativity.

1. The Apocalypse

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Every once in a while a setting dominates gaming. It was WWII, then it was Sci-Fi military worlds, and then of course the last few years have shown a horde of zombie games flood the market.

Now though, it’s the apocalypse that’s primed to dominate the scene. “The Division,” “The Last of Us,” “Mad Max,” “Titanfall,” “Destiny,” and too many more to count all show some sort of view of the world after the one we know now has ended, and they are just the horsemen of this movement that is sure to change the landscape of gaming in a literal way.

Like many other trends, your interpretation may vary on this movement, but it does mean that from now on it’s the end of the world as we know it.

The Top 10 Games of E3 2013

Sure we’ve looked at how the biggest game companies in the world fared at E3, but when you really get down to it, the expo is more about the individual games that will come to define the next year and far, far beyond.

While this year’s E3 may have been no different, it is unique from previous events in that there wasn’t that one game that clearly stood above all, but rather a host of  intriguing titles that promise to bring a variety of incredible gaming experiences to this generation and the next.

That may be great for gamers, though not their wallets, but when trying to narrow down such a stacked field to only 10 titles, you open yourself up to a world of disagreement, self doubt, and the feeling that ultimately you forgot something. Nevertheless, through it all, these were the 10 best games on display at E3 2013.

10. Star Wars Battlefront – Ok, ok, this one wasn’t really on display long, and as such we know less about “Star Wars: Battlefront” than any other major game revealed at E3, but what we do know is it’s the unlikely revival of the highly underrated “Star Wars” online multiplayer series made by the same people who have been making some of those exceptional “Battlefield” games of late.

And you know what? That’s all we need. Get excited people, because this is really happening.

9. Rain - I’m a fan of unique concepts in games, because even if things don’t completely work out, you’re left with something that stands apart at the least.

In that spirit, “Rain” is already a success of some sort, as its invisible protagonist illuminated solely by the falling rain provided one of the more original visuals of the entire show, and promises to refresh the age old ideas of puzzles and platforming by building everything else around that design. “Rain” could very well be the next indie darling for the PS3 and gamers everywhere.

8. Sonic Lost Worlds - Of all the unlikely possibilities that could of occurred at E3, the biggest one that came true would have to be…well probably the return of “Battlefront.”

But right after that would be a Sonic game being the highlight of Nintendo’s showing. Sonic has had a rough fifteen years in terms of quality games, but “Sonic Lost Worlds” looks to erase that long dry spell in a big way. Sure it may take a design idea or two from “Mario Galaxy,” but with gameplay that fast and exciting, no Sonic fan (or soon to be Sonic fan) is likely to balk.

7. Evil Within –  Ask any horror gaming fan what the problem with the genre is today, and they’ll likely tell you it’s the action heavy focus made popular by the revolutionary “Resident Evil 4.”

While many have promised to buck the trend, the very real gameplay shown of “Evil Within” looks to actually be doing just that. It takes all of the aspects required of a good horror game (a mix of scares, great environment, and crafty production) and builds it around an enticing story that looks to be ready to make good on that whole scaring the beejesus out of you thing gaming has been lacking of late.

6. Beyond Two Souls - We’ve known the next game from the developers of “Heavy Rain” was going to be a cinematic journey for some time now, but after the extended preview at E3 2013, it’s still clear we don’t have a grasp of exactly what it is.

While some are worried by the action heavy trailer, if Quantic Dreams can combine the subtle storytelling and literary quality character interactions of “Heavy Rain” with the surprisingly interesting action we saw in “Beyond’s” E3 preview, “Beyond Two Souls” could be much more than anyone was expecting, and make a serious game of the year run in one of the most stacked years in recent memory.

5. Titanfall - While no one is going to try to pretend the Xbox One had a great showing at E3, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t individual highlights during their presentation, particularly in the exclusives department.

Of those, “Titanfall” made the most noise, and with good reason. It’s combination of first person shooter and mech combat gameplay shown in a highly cinematic fashion (and set to some great music), was one of the more visceral reveals of the show, and even has gamers who’ve already sworn off the Xbox One keeping close tabs on it.

4. Destiny - While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Bungie a one trick pony, the developer hasn’t had much reason to veer from “Halo” in the last decade or so and flex their creative muscles.

With “Destiny” they appear to be making up for lost time by introducing some intriguing new ideas into the genre they re-shaped with “Halo” (console first person shooters), and have so far displayed a game that may be promising a lot, but continues to look better with every minute of gameplay shown. Should they be able to make good on their ideas, this could very well be the premier FPS franchise of the next generation.

3. The Division – Some games can generate hype by just breaking down their pedigree. “The Division,” an open world, online team based, post-apocalyptic shooter RPG, set in the ruins of New York, is one of those games.

But if buzzwords and genres alone don’t convince you, then surely its extended gameplay demonstration will, as it shows a massive online shooter in the style of an apocalyptic “Arma II” with enticing futuristic features like tablet support, but still based upon the classic idea that shooting with friends is fun. This is an incredibly ambitious idea that may soon quickly grow a rabid fanbase and move some consoles.

2. The Witcher 3 - The team behind the “Witcher” series seem to have their brains firing on a different level, as their ability to craft a massive RPG story composed of smaller moments, and built on a foundation of unique combat and gameplay has quickly turned the franchise into a runaway cult hit for hardcore RPG fans across all platforms.

With the “Witcher 3” it appears the team is looking to expand that fanbase by crafting a more accessible, but no less brilliant, masterpiece. While it takes some cues from competitors here and there, the “Witcher 3” is promising a unique open world experience with truly dynamic scenarios and environments that doesn’t sacrifice any of the gameplay that made the franchise what it is. At an E3 filled with the phrase “Next-Gen,” this looks to be one title that truly encompasses the idea.

1. Watch Dogs - “Watch Dogs” wasn’t just the surprise of E3 2012 because it was an unannounced original concept from a high profile developer, but because of just how good it looked even in its early stages.

A year later and not much has changed. Just when “Watch Dogs” looks to have shown all of its tricks, another gameplay demonstration comes out, and we are left to realize that there is not only more than meets the eye to Ubisoft’s next big thing, but that it all seems to be coming together to form something as creative as it is polished.

Even if “Watch Dogs” fails to live up to its lofty hype, it could be no worse than an incredibly entertaining game. As of now though, it appears to be much more than that, and the best game of E3 2013 to boot.

Platform adventure and so much more from Wii U

The launch of Wii U in 2012 brought with it a fantastic selection of titles for gamers to get the most out of the home console. And next year, it looks like there will be plenty more to look forward to. From platform games to health and fitness packages, it seems the Wii U has all gaming bases covered.

Mario returns for platform adventure

For many, the release of a new console comes with the hope there will be re-imagined versions of console classics. Nintendo certainly didn’t let people down, bringing the latest of its Mario games out on the launch day. In New Super Mario Bros. U, you can expect an all new 2D side-scrolling adventure, but with some great new twists in gameplay. As well as allowing up to five people to join in with additional Wii Remote controllers, the innovative Wii U GamePad allows you to get more control by placing Boost Blocks and much more.

Family gaming across Nintendo Land

Wii U is a home console that works brilliantly for solo play, but it’s even better when bringing everyone together. A great example of this is Nintendo Land, a fabulous title that takes you through 12 different attractions – all based on the worlds of famous Nintendo franchises. With each game, players will be challenged to take on a series of levels and modes that will test your skills in all kinds of ways. You can visit places like Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, take part in Mario Chase or take on the bad guys in Metroid Blast, to name just a few of the attractions featured.

More action and adventure to come in 2013

If you were lucky enough to get a Wii U at Christmas, you may be wondering what is coming up in the New Year. Well if its platform fun you’re after then Rayman Legends could be just the ticket. Maybe you’re after high-octane action from one of the latest shooting games? If so, Aliens: Colonial Marines should probably be on your shopping list. There are also releases like Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and Pikmin 3 to look forward to, as well as Wii U Fit – which could be just the thing to help you out with a few of those New Year’s resolutions you’ll be trying to keep up with!

All in all, if you decided the Wii U console was for you following its November release – there is plenty coming down the line to enjoy in the coming months.

A Shocker, but Crysis 3 Apparently Looks Really, Really, Good

Every developer naturally hypes up their releases. Most of the time though, the hype is just that, and ends up being completely unjustified (see Molyneux, Peter).

When it comes to the developers of the “Crysis” series hyping the graphical prowess of their next title though, you can usually take that guarantee to the exceptionally well rendered bank, as the series continues to produce the most jaw dropping titles available. True to form then, Crytek’s CEO Cevat Yerli is promising that “Crysis 3” is going to be stunningly beautiful. How good looking? Apparently they have maxed out the capabilities of the current generation of consoles, and are promising that no game released in the current gen will look as good as “Crysis 3”. He goes on to stay that the consoles will still have nothing on the PC version, which at max specs will supposedly rival or exceed the early batch of next gen titles for graphical prowess.

Do we believe these impressive claims? Well considering “Crysis 2″ is over a year old and looks like this:

I’d say they have a pretty good chance. And while it would have been more intriguing if we were promised the most incredible gameplay of the generation, I can’t wait to see what the peak of the current hardware looks like in motion, and maybe even a preview of what to expect from the true debut of the next generation.

Oh, ummm….Sorry Wii U

Wii U, Xbox 720, PS4…Ouya?

Originally, I wasn’t sure whether or not to report on the Ouya, mostly because I feel like I met my quota on farfetched console rumors with that Xbox 720 report leak. However, between the underwhelming Wii U unveiling at E3, and Microsoft and Sony remaining mum on their future plans, 720 leaks aside, it’s getting harder and harder to get properly hyped up for the next generation of consoles based on mere official information. So here I am, reporting on another console that may or may not exist.

Cynicism aside, the truth is that there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the Ouya. Because Ouya isn’t just a vaguely dirty-sounding word, but is instead a rumored new entrant into the console wars that has the backing of veterans like Ed Fries (Xbox) and CEO Julie Uhram (IGN).

Now, obviously, anybody trying to make a successful new console has to have an ace up their sleeve to separate themselves from the industry giants. The Ouya’s trump card, as first reported by The Verge, is its Android-powered core, which will supposedly help the console double as a development kit. Essentially, the Ouya is “hacker friendly” and allows for gamers that buy it to create their own titles. Even more appealing is the consoles alleged price tag, which is said to be set at $99, and will feature completely free games.

While there is apparently more information about the Ouya set to break in the coming days, what we have now is tantalizing enough. The idea of a major release system encouraging a lassez faire attitude towards its consumers concerning security policies and publishing rights is an interesting one, and brings consoles closer toward their seemingly inevitable assimilation with some of the finer points of PC gaming. In fact, there is a lot about the Ouya that reflects the recent evolutionary trends in gaming. It combines a little bit of mobile app gaming, the explosion of the indie development market, and is supposedly set to offer the whole package to you for a foundation-shattering price point.

It’s a console based around the concepts of freedom and independence, making the 4th of July the perfect day to consider its potential impact. Because honestly, whether or not the Ouya bucks the trend of previous cinderella entrants into the console market and actually makes it is, at this time, largely irrelevant. As the “Madden” franchise has shown, when there is a lack of real competition in a market, it’s hard for your product to not become stale. And if even half of the information about the Ouya turns out be accurate, it is at least an exciting idea that may hopefully force the major players to consider the benefits of its more appealing ideas.

A Possible Leak From Microsoft May Reveal the Future of Xbox

While the Wii U has been making its publicity tour, including an awkward appearance on “The Jimmy Fallon Show,” there has been a very shocking dearth of information from Sony and Microsoft concerning their next generation plans. That is, until now.

Well… possibly.

There is this absolutely massive 56-page report that is currently making its rounds on the front page of most major gaming websites.  Its contents are various, but the general summary of it is a detailed “game plan” of sorts for Microsoft’s next console launch, including features, a price point, and a broad ranged analysis of the console market both at the time of the documents origins and how it will look by 2013 (the next console’s supposed launch date) and beyond.

Now, this report is being classified as a “leak” as it apparently made its rounds internally around Microsoft back in 2010. However, while Microsoft is naturally remaining mum on the subject of its origins and accuracy, there are many who believe the report to be more or less a hoax, albeit a very detailed and professional one. Nevertheless, the most eye-grabbing bits of the report are the specific features of the alleged new console (which is named Xbox 720 in the report). Among them are:

- Blu-ray functionality (oh come on Microsoft, giving up on HD-DVD so easily?)

- Enhanced Kinect support, including the expansion of the system to allow up to four players and a new sensor all together

- A $299 price point

- Cloud support for taking your multimedia files anywhere

- Potential tablet integration

- Enhanced reality glasses, dubbed Fortaleza, that provide features such as heads-up displays and other virtual reality aspects

- Games that are “4x to 6x better looking than current titles”

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