With the PS4 now here and the Xbox One set to arrive in India later this year, we’re at the beginning of a new generation of games. While many of us may immediately move onto the new consoles, in a country like India, the PS3 and Xbox 360 are only just getting started, and will now become the entry-level home consoles going forward.
So for those of us bidding farewell to the Xbox 360 and PS3 as our go-to home consoles, we thought we’d highlight what we felt were the games that defined this past generation. At the same time, this series of features also contains the must-play games for any new PS3 or Xbox 360 buyers.
We initially thought to include the Game of the Generation category within our Game of the Year 2013 awards, but our editorial team simply couldn’t agree on a list of five nominees. It’s simply impossible to look at the last seven years of gaming and pick just five games as the best. So we instead decided to pick five games each that we thought were the games of the generation. So over the next couple of weeks, each of us will present the games that we felt defined the PS3/Xbox 360/Wii generation.
That wasn’t easy either, but after lots of deliberation, I’ve finally settled on a list of five games that I’m reasonably satisfied with. You might look at these five games and think, ‘Oh, sequels’, but these were the games that made gamers want those sequels. Each of the games below reinvented its respective genre and set the bar for everything that came after it. For better or worse (the former in my opinion), these games best represent the generation gone by best.
5. Gears of War
Gears of War deserves a place on the list purely for blazing a trail that countless other third-person shooters happily followed.
My including Gears of War in this list probably is more a case of nostalgia than me being a fan, but no game has had as profound an impact on a genre during the last generation as Gears of War did.
At its time, Gears of War was the first truly next-generation game, and it was the killer app the Xbox 360 had waited what seemed like an eternity for. The shiny HD graphics and the epic set pieces were unlike anything we’d seen before, and its multiplayer established Xbox Live as the online gaming platform.
A lot of the credit for the abundance of cover-based third-person shooters and the success of the genre must go to Gears of War. Epic Games didn’t invent the cover mechanic in third-person shooters, but it sure did perfect it. And even though the franchise didn’t go on to scale the heights this first game promised, Gears of War deserves a place on the list purely for blazing a trail that countless other third-person shooters happily followed.
4. FIFA 09
It introduced two big features that today form the crux of the FIFA experience – Adidas Live Season, which has evolved into EA Sports Football Club, and FIFA Ultimate Team.
I’ve been a PES fan ever since I first switched over from FIFA in 2000, and it’s my preferred football franchise to this day, but boy did FIFA 09 blow me away!
EA came into the PS3/Xbox 360 generation battered and bruised by Konami’s PES franchise, and decided to head into a bold new direction on the new consoles. Starting with FIFA 07, EA’s vision was to make the franchise more simulation-driven and unapologetically realistic. It’s not an approach I was convinced by, and for the first two years, they didn’t quite manage to nail it either.
That all changed with FIFA 09. I remember first playing a preview build a couple of months before release and being so impressed by its snappy and un-FIFA-like controls, fluid animations, and one-on-one physical play.
EA’s big win came in the gameplay department, and it was the most convincing argument it ever made for PES fans to switch over, but what really earned FIFA 09 a place on this list was the way it revolutionised multiplayer for sports games, starting with 10 vs 10 Be a Pro Online. Moreover, it introduced two big features that today form the crux of the FIFA experience – Adidas Live Season, which has evolved into EA Sports Football Club, and FIFA Ultimate Team.
3. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Infinity Ward will forever have our gratitude for dragging the military shooter genre out from the rut of the World War II setting.
While sales of the Call of Duty games remain strong, the series has been in steady decline over the last few years, a result of playing it safe by sticking to tried and tested formulae in both single and multiplayer. Amidst all the grumbling that is now commonplace when Call of Duty comes up for discussion, however, it’s easy to forget that 2008’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was the boldest and most influential game the first-person shooter genre has seen.
Infinity Ward will forever have our gratitude for dragging the military shooter genre out from the rut of the World War II setting. With Modern Warfare, it brought the series closer to the present, tackling issues like civil war and terrorism in what is, in my opinion, the best campaign in Call of Duty’s illustrious history. Missions like All Ghillied Up, Death From Above, and the Mile High Club epilogue are some the very best the franchise has to offer.
What established Modern Warfare as an instant classic though was its multiplayer, which introduced unprecedented depth with the inclusion of perks, kill streaks and class customisation, and forced us to change the way we approached multiplayer shooters. To this day, multiplayer in Call of Duty games – not to mention countless other shooters – follow in the footsteps of what Modern Warfare first brought to the table.
2. Assassin’s Creed 2
Free-roaming on foot across the rooftops in Renaissance Italy was a far cry from the open-world norm.
The concept of an open-world action-adventure game where you had no vehicles seemed absurd until Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed came around. Possibly the most hyped new IP of the generation, the series debut eventually turned out to be an underwhelming affair. Repetitive gameplay and teething issues on the new consoles saw the game panned by critics and gamers alike, but then Ubisoft pulled off the most spectacular turn-around of the generation.
They took away everything about the first game that didn’t work (repetition, monotonous environments), kept what worked (gameplay mechanics) and came back two years later with a new protagonist, a new location, and a new time period. Assassin’s Creed 2 reinvented the open-world action-adventure genre. Free-roaming on foot across the rooftops in Renaissance Italy was a far cry from the open-world norm of driving around city streets, and this time, Ubisoft’s execution was near-perfect. The fact that the game was set in stunning recreations of Venice and Florence didn’t hurt one bit.
What really made Assassin’s Creed 2 memorable though was how it embedded the series’ rich and convoluted back story into the game’s missions and the brilliantly designed catacombs. Future games went on to improve on the formula further and even introduced a truly unique multiplayer mode, but Assassin’s Creed 2 was the game that started it all.
1. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Naughty Dog took everything I love about video games and distilled it onto one disc, and for that and more, it is my game of the generation.
Uncharted 2 will always be a special game for me because I had the rare opportunity to play it before most people in the world and review it on IVG even before major websites like IGN. I’d been reviewing games for a long time, but this was my first 10/10 review, and that scared the crap out of me, but nothing I’d played before Uncharted 2 or since then has been more deserving of that perfect score.
Some people (with better taste in games than me, I’m sure) dismiss Uncharted 2 as the gaming equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster, but no game has made me put down the controller to just admire what was before me, or drawn me into a cutscene to the point where I forgot I had to play on after it. Naughty Dog’s brilliant writing, the excellent voice cast, and jaw-dropping visuals were just the icing on the cake.
Uncharted 2 is proof that games don’t need to break the fourth wall, throw moral choices your way, or deal with philosophical subject matter to stay with you long after you’re done playing. With this game, Naughty Dog took everything I love about video games and distilled it onto one disc, and for that and more, it is my game of the generation. By a mile.
Check back later this week for Part 2 of Games of the Generation courtesy Rishi Alwani.