Something is missing from the current generation of video game consoles: essential video games that nobody ought live without.
At launch, the two new major video game consoles released with a number of exclusive titles, but none of these were really system sellers. Dead Rising 3 was perhaps the most fun of the bunch (in this reviewer’s humblest of opinions) but other titles on the Xbox One, like Ryse: Son of Rome, left much to be desired.
The PS4 had its own exclusives, but the gorgeous Killzone: Shadowfall was—much like its predecessors—a nice-looking but unsatisfying shooter, and nothing else on Sony’s system really jumped out. The graphics were a nice step forward but the games were missing.
And they still are. This is in spite of two new major releases on the Xbox One and PS4.
Respawn’s Titanfall met with rave reviews when it landed on Xbox One and PC (and later Xbox 360) last month, though actual sales figures remain undisclosed. The mech-and-parkour shooter is a fun competitive diversion, to be sure, but it’s missing a single-player campaign, and that leaves the game feeling somewhat anemic for its $59.99 sticker price.
I’m not averse to multi-player only shooters. On PC there are plenty, from Counter-Strike’s various iterations to Tribes: Ascend to Warface. But these MP titles all have one thing in common: They’re either quite cheap—Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is $14.99 on Steam—or free-to-play. I can’t think of a single MP-only first-person-shooter on PC that costs full retail.
I have mixed feelings about the lack of SP in Titanfall, setting the price complaint aside for a moment. While I think that the solo campaign in games like Call of Duty is often too short and not necessarily great, and certainly not the main attraction, I do enjoy playing through a campaign prior to dipping my toes into the arena. You could think of it as an extended tutorial; but I think it does more than that, setting the stage and tone for the MP.
While I think that Call of Duty, as a franchise, creates a problem by annually releasing games from various studios, splitting potential player bases across multiple titles, there’s something to be said for at least including new solo campaigns in each release. Titanfall may not change this, but I’d hate to see MP-only shooters become the norm—at least for the same price.
Ultimately, Titanfall is a franchise with enormous potential, but it feels a bit thin on replay value and can be purchased for PC (and played with mouse-and-keyboard) making an Xbox One purchase far less necessary.
Infamous: Second Son
Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS: Second Son is an incredible-looking game that can be, for a while, quite a lot of fun. It’s well written, brilliantly acted, and boasts the best visuals I’ve seen on any video game console.
But it falls into the trap so many open-world games fall into, growing in its repetitiveness and struggling to balance the sandbox against narrative momentum. The dual morality options never really fundamentally change the story, either, leaving the bulk of the story relatively unchanged.
While there’s much to admire here, including a compelling protagonist who puts a prankster sheen on an otherwise grim, totalitarian story, Second Son had a hard time keeping my attention beyond its first few hours. It’s certainly not a generation-defining game, or a title that ought to inspire hordes of potential PS4 buyers.
If you are a PS4 owner, Second Son is a no-brainer purchase, of course, easily the best title released on Sony’s system thus far. But that’s not a high bar yet, and I find myself much more excited about the remastered The Last of Us release, even though I’ve already played that on PS3.
Both inFAMOUS: Second Son and Titanfall are good, solid, fun games. But they’re not great games.
Upcoming titles will give PS4 and Xbox One owners something to look forward to, but most of the upcoming releases are cross-gen, giving customers a reason to continue holding off on current-gen purchases.
Watch Dogs lands on the May 27th on current and last-gen systems; Child of Light hits shelves April 30th on new and old systems; same with Wolfenstein: The New Order which will blast its way here on May 20th. And, of course, each of these titles is also coming to PC.
Actual current-gen exclusives start landing later in the year, but by and large any of the major titles with a release date attached is a cross-gen game (Evil Within, Destiny, etc.)
Of the Big Three, only Nintendo has really compelling exclusives in the wings, with both Mario Kart 8 and the new Super Smash Bros. (at least the 3DS version) nearing release. But the Wii U still hasn’t taken off, in spite of quality first party content.
I often argue that content is king, but there’s something else at play here. The PS4 has been a strong seller since launch in spite of lackluster content. The Xbox One has sold fewer units than its rival, but by all accounts is still doing pretty well for itself without any Halos or Gears of Wars (the NPD reports that in February of 2014 the Xbox One sold about 90% of the total PS4 units sold, though the higher price meant it edged out Sony’s system in total dollars.)
Both systems continue to sell without content to justify their success. Either this means that content isn’t nearly as important as we thought, or it means that people remain optimistic and enthusiastic about traditional video game consoles and believe the content will follow. Cross-gen games will look better on new systems, and maybe that’s enough to justify the upgrade for now.
NPD numbers for March land on April 14th.