The Highs & Lows Of The 7th Console Generation - A Retrospective

The 7th console generation, arguably one of the most competitive console generations yet; however, unlike its predecessors, this generation stands out for it saw gaming amplify in terms of profit and consumers ultimately leading the industry into the raging powerhouse of an industry we know it as today. Despite its ultimate success, just like its forerunners, shared its equal serving of highs and lows which tested and strained the core of the industry during its lowest point. So, without further ado, let's move onto the 7th console generation - a retrospective!

 The first glimpse of the "next generation" - or the future of video games consoles for those unaware of the technical terminology - came in 2005 when MTV broadcast 'MTV PRESENTS: The Next Generation Xbox Revealed' which featured movie star Elijah Wood explore the aesthetics of Microsoft's XBOX 360. Having also been shown on the cover of TIME magazine the Xbox 360 received a generous degree of coverage pre-launch. In the run up to the console's launch Microsoft confirmed a 'fall 2005' release date to which they loyally obeyed; the XBOX 360 released in November 2005 for the US, Canada and Japan before its European Launch in December 2005 - the latest date at which the XBOX 360 was launched came in 2007 when the console was released in Russia on the 10th February. Launch titles ranged from action titles such as Neversoft's GUN and Call Of Duty: 2 to racing ans sports titles such as the original Need for Speed: Most Wanted and NHL 2K6. Thanks to the rich pre-launch coverage, the XBOX 360 saw a more successful launch than its 2001 forerunner, the XBOX, however, despite this success, the console had a every, very high failure rate thanks to the infamous "RROD" ('Red Ring Of Death' to those not aware of gaming mumbo-jumbo) which meant the system was dead, overheating problems and reports of discs being destroyed by the poorly aligned and designed disc insert when the system was moved.

The very early PS4 design
With regard to Sony's "next generation" offering, the Playstation 3 was revealed mere weeks after the reveal of the XBOX 360. Promising higher specs (the technical gobbeldy-goop that determines how powerful a console is with regard to the games it can handle) than the Xbox 360, the PS3 underwent both design-based alterations and release date changes away from the originally promised 'Spring 2006' release. The Playstation 3's reveal was seen as somewhat of a disappointment to gamers worldwide, not only was the console released one year after its competitor, the Xbox 360, but a bittersweet taste was left in the mouths of gamers when the system was announced to have a $499 price tag for the 20GB model or a $599 price tag for the 60GB model - both of which have now been discontinued. Despite these flaws, the system had an integrated Blu-Ray drive - a huge advantage over the HDDVD drive of the Xbox 360 - higher system specs which meant it was more powerful than the XBOX 360 and had free online multiplayer whereas the XBOX 360 required the player to have an Xbox Live subscription for them to access the complete multiplayer experience. Despite these flaws the system also saw an immensely successful launch with systems being sold out and being further sold on eBay for upward of $1000. If anything, this set the tone of the generation to come due to the hugely successful launches of both the XBOX 360 and PS3. Due to the obvious year's gap between the PS3 and XBOX 360, the PS3's launch lineup featured a newer spectrum of games ranging from the utterly engrossing FPS (first person shooter) games: Call of Duty: 3 and Resistance: Fall of Man to an array of sports and racing titles such as NHL 2K7, Ridge Racer 7 and even the 8th entry into the Tony Hawk's series, Tony Hawk's Project 8.

Finally, the last contender to reveal their console was Nintendo with the oddly named Nintendo Wii. Released on the 19th November 2006, the Wii promised to deliver a new aspect to gaming. With the introduction of motion-controlled gaming, the Wii stood out among its other two competitors which gave it the competitive edge when it came to deciding which console to choose. Thanks to its intuitive new control scheme, the Wii attracted gamers and non-gamers which helped it sell in ridiculous amounts during itsongoing  lifetime on the market.

With all 3 systems out, the foundations has been set, it was now time for developers focus on releasing games.

The year-boost available to the XBOX 360 allowed the system to release top-notch content and turn heads before the competition arrived. As Microsoft took note, they decided to publish Halo: 3 during this period in order to turn more to-be PS3 fans onto the Microsoft side of gaming. Being a FPS ('First Person Shooter') title, Halo:3 saw the player battle alien-life forms in a post-modern setting in the distant future in which the player has an arsenal of laser weaponry and futuristic technology at their disposal. Being an FPS title, the primary focus of this game was the revolutionary multiplayer. Released late 2007, Halo:3's multiplayer offered a diversely unique experience to XBOX 360 players and gave gamers a real reason to actually purchase the young console. Currently holding a 94% Metacritic score, this exclusive was, and still is, a title highly appreciated by critics and gamers alike. The success of this game spawned various sequels and spinoffs available on the XBOX 360 and PC.

The first multiplatform heavy-hitter came in the latter quart of 2007, that's right, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare saw a worldwide release in November 2007 and set the tone for the generation to follow all because of its engrossing single-player mode, relentless, utterly addicting multiplayer portion and variety available to the player within these modes. Published by Activision and developed by Infinity Ward, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare proved to be so unique that hundreds of developers replicated COD4's behemoth-sized multiplayer mode; therefore, it arguably was the reason behind this generation's onslaught of FPS games (First Person Shooter games to the non tech-savvy) ranging from exceptional titles (such as Battlefield: 3) to shoddy rip-offs (such as the Darkness). Unsurprisingly, Call of Duty 4's experience has been rehashed, re-envisioned and remade in the half-dozen Call of Duty games released in the following 6 years. Although this legacy has been prolonged, the "original" has yet to be topped in the eyes of its fans due to the complexity of the later releases which eradicated the sense of ease ignited whilst playing COD4.

As expected, Call of Duty: 4 didn't mark the end of this generation's stand-out titles due to the consoles being in their infancy at the time of the game's launch. The next developer to reach new heights in what was commonly admired in video games was Rockstar Games with their near-flawlessly reviewed Grand Theft Auto: IV in May 2008 which to this day has sustained one of the highest scores given to a game ever on Metacritic (98%). Starring erratic war veteran, Niko Bellic, GTA: IV portrayed our hero's arrival in a modern-day New York spinoff, Liberty City. Within this meticulously crafted work of art our hero rose from the gutter during his pursuit of an old friend, Darko Brevic, however, as the story unfolds the player comes to a realisation that Niko's journey isn't entirely positive. GTA:IV's charm wasn't fully conveyed through the singleplayer mode, infact, the best way one could enjoy the living and breathing sights and sounds of Liberty City was with friends via the online 'free-roam' mode. Whether it be a simple drive, blood-soaked manhunt or flight/sail around the behemoth of a city, GTA:IV's light really shone in the game's multiplayer. GTA: IV's Liberty City was a post-GTA3-era recreation of Liberty City, the same is due to follow for GTA3-era Los Santos in Rockstar's upcoming GTA:V.

Following the trend of games manipulating the "next gen" consoles' unparalleled degree of power, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots delivered gamers with a hyper-realistic take on gaming through its lifelike graphics and advanced AI. Having only been available on the PS3, MGS4 arguably was underplayed, however, the attention it received made up for the game's exclusivity for it was awarded a 10/10 in its first review from the Official Playstation Magazine and received a consistent height of praise from critics worldwide. Released on the 10th June 2008, MGS4 pushed the boundaries of gaming and in its success received a 94% Metacritic rating which may be the reason for it shipping over 3,000,000 copies in less than one month of being released. Taking the player into the mind of Snake's last epic task, MGS4 offered an incredibly satisfying conclusion to one of gaming's most acclaimed franchises to date. Fortunately, despite being the concluding chapter to this epic saga, it wasn't the last game in the series, that's right, years after MGS4 a handheld title named MGS: Peace Walker was released as well as the upcoming MGS5.

The tides of greatness yet again turned during the back-half of 2008 when Bethesda's RPG behemoth, Fallout: 3, was released to gamers worldwide. For the first time in the "new" generation gamers were treated lovingly with the undeniably huge post-apocalyptic RPG survival game. Giving the player complete control over their custom character, Fallout: 3 allowed players to explore an un-tethered, feral wilderness at their own pleasure; however, due o the nature of the environment, this was no ordinary wilderness. Occupied by mutant-humans, decrepit ruins and desolate plains, Fallout:3 was one of this generation's most unique games released. Available on the XBOX 360, Ps3 and PC, Fallout: 3 laid the foundations for RPG games to follow which can be seen in various RPG games that embraced this generation's platforms. Currently holding a 90%+ Metacritic score, it is evident that gamers and critics alike embraced the game with open arms, unwilling to let go. Fallout:3's success spawned a follow-up named Fallout: New Vegas which took the best aspects from Fallout:3 and improved upon its formula, however, not only was some of the series' spark lost in this release, but some aspects were poorly manipulated and even ruined which resulted in New Vegas receiving lower review scores.

Entering 2009, the promise of quality-games didn't fade. Infact, 2009 arguably brought more innovative games to the table on both platforms thus offering a depth of choice to cross-platform gamers. The next game, however, is an exclusive title available only on the Playstation 3, that's right, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves shook the foundations of society with its brilliance and made anybody without a PS3 crave one for this title alone. Uncharted: 2 came packaged with an immersive, intricate storyline, mindbogglingly realistic graphics that utilized the PS3's superior graphical power (over the 360) and an extremely satisfying multiplayer mode, dripping with content. Currrently holding a 96% Metacritic score, Uncharted 2's success helped fund the sequel, Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, and really put Naughty Dog on the map for being one of gaming's best developers, despite having formerly been a PS1 and PS2 developer. To this day, gamers argue that the train level featured in Uncharted 2 is one of the best levels ever made for it features a moving train traverse a multitude of different environments and terrains.

The next title was a sequel to 2007's highly anticipated, poorly received Assassin's Creed. Released worldwide in November 2009, Assassin's Creed: II brought a much-needed breath of fresh air to the medieval - soon to meet the Renaissance - franchise. Throwing players into a Renaissance vision of Italy, Assassin's Creed: II introduced many much-needed changes into the franchise such as a firm storyline, new gameplay mechanics, the ability to actually use stealth and a whole new arsenal of weapons. In throwing such  improvements into the mix, Assassin's Creed: II gave the franchise a new face and helped form the basis for the following games which were a continuation of Assassin's Creed: II's story of Ezio Auditore - the forced to be assassin on a personal vendetta. Assassin's Creed: II received high praise and currently holds an 86%+ Metacritic rating (with the PC version being quite a bit lower than the console version which drags down the score). Although incomplete, Assassin's Creed: II began with, and concluded with an immensely satisfying storyline comprised of likable characters, stunning set-pieces and interesting missions.

Entering a new decade, the quality of games released sustained their degree of quality that was seen in the decade prior. This was portrayed perfectly in Rockstar Games' undeniably huge Red Dead Redemption allowed players to traverse a feral uncaged Western wilderness beginning in the late 1800's and concluding in the early 1900's. Starring grizzled gunslinger, John Marston, Red Dead Redemption saw our hero explore the Western front in a time of betrayal, mistrust, violence and corruption on his journey to track down former friend turned bad. The story of Red Dead Redemption was one of wealth, morality, justice as well as sadness which blended a plethora of emotions into one satisfying cocktail. If anything, Red Dead Redemption was one of this generation's most unique games for it offered a huge open world in both the single and multiplayer servings in which players could round up their posse of friends and embark on a hunt, track down other players or simply enjoy the world Rockstar had lovingly handmade for their enjoyment. Red Dead Redemption currently withholds a 95% Metacritic rating which reflects its unparalleled degree of greatness in the western genre.

Next up, Quantic Dream's story-based interactive masterpiece, Heavy Rain. With a fitting tagline named "How far would you go to save someone you love?", Heavy Rain threw the player into a aesthetically-attractive interactive world in which the player determined the fate of each of the four characters by the choices they chose. Whether the character miss a button-press to cause a nasty car crash or choose to pull the trigger on another character, the player's choices were the soul of Heavy Rain and kept the game fresh on each new playthrough thus adding immense replayability to an already unique game. If you haven't played this title then you're most definitely missing out as the Metacritic of 87% argues justifiably. Despite being exclusive to the PS3 Heavy Rain is worthy of every bit of credit it receives for its excellent narrative, engaging storyline, deep character design and magnificent graphics show. Although there is no sequel in sight, Quantic Dream are currently working on the highly anticipated Beyond: Two Souls which is due out late 2013 to PS3 players worldwide.

By the end of 2010 an abundance of new, intuitive games had blessed the PS3, Xbox 360 and PC, and as we entered 2011 hoped were high for many upcoming games... The first major event happened on the 20th April 2011 and went on for a dreary 23 days. That's right, 2011 started off with a major blow to Playstation fans when it was officially confirmed that the Playstation Network had been breached thus forcing Sony to flip the switch and shut the service down. 23 days later and a patch was released to mark the rebirth of the PSN and patch the hole made by infamous hacker, Geohot, who now sits in prison for being caught with drugs on the Mexican border. May 14th 2011 marked a day of success. It meant that gamers could finally return to their much-loved multiplayer games and Sony announced the 'Welcome Back' scheme in which all gamers had the ability to choose a game from a selection chosen by Sony; moreover, all users were treated with a 30 day Playstation Plus subscription to make up for the downtime. Fortunately enough for Playstation fans, the network was restored mere days before the next highlight of this generation.

Team Bondi's detective thriller released on the 17th May 2011 marked change in the world of gaming. Never before had gamers seen such accurate facial animations mo-capped from actual actors using extremely advanced technology. As the case with games seen previously this generation, LA NOIRE blurred the lines between gaming and reality by delivering games with incredible graphics and incredible facial-animations that wowed gamers and critics helping it achieve an 89%+ Metacritic score. Starring grizzled war-veteran gone cop, Cole Phelps, LA Noire gave players an insight into the troubles the LAPD of the late 1940's faced such as difficulty finding evidence, lack of technology and even the ability to "read" peoples' emotions and expressions to determine whether they're telling the truth or not. Similarly, the outcome of a mission in LA Noire was determined by the steps taken by the player. For example, if they missed a piece of evidence or convicted the wrong person then the case would play out differently.

During the course of 2011 two brand new platforms were announced which helped the year stand out. The first of which was announced in late January 2011, this was the PSP2 - or NGP - or PS Vita as it's known by today - the console was due out in late 2011 and after that for other regions. Being Sony's second handheld ever, the PS Vita had quite a large amount of attention surrounding it in the months prior to its launch. The next console announced was the WII: U - Nintendo's second console under the "WII" name. Released in late 2012, the WII U marked the Wii's second coming, however, the gimmick of motion gaming had faded by this point and the launch of the console wasn't as successful as the console's predecessor. Both platforms gave gamers an insight into the future of handheld and console gaming.

The next highlights of this generation were the duo of unrelated RPG ('Role playing game' to those new to this type of talk) games released in the latter half of 2011. Beginning with From Software's unforgiving masterpiece, Dark Souls, gamers were treated with a follow-up to 2009's brutal RPG named Demon's Souls. Had Demon's Souls been multiplatform it would've replaced Dark Souls on this list; however, because Dark Souls was multiplatform (it was enjoyed by more people) and both games are fairly similar, Dark Souls took the spot as one of this generation's highlights. Allowing gamers the freedom to explore at their will, Dark Souls particularly stood out to the hardcore gamers for its magnificent landscapes, tough enemy variety and tricky yet addicting boss battles seen in no other game. The next game in this RPG duo was Bethesda's child, The Elder Scrolls: SKYRIM, the fifth game released in the Elder Scrolls series that allowed gamers to play the game how they want. This meant that they could explore, choose their race, choose who they allied with and even choose where they lived! Both games released were undeniably massive for they exploited the "next generation" consoles' power to realize the dream of gamers interested in RPG games worldwide.

By the end of 2011 gamers had a firm taste of where this generation was going. They'd tasted greatness in hits such as the Uncharted franchise, SOULS franchise and Bethesda's offerings and knew that the quality of games would only increase. Come 2012 and this vision was realized in many games released. However, one of the biggest titles of 2012 disappointed hugely due to being riddled with technical issues thanks to the novice developer. The Silent Hill HD Collection had much promise but fell flat on its face in delivering that promise. Featuring the highly regarded Silent Hill: 2 and Silent Hill: 3, the HD collection promised to deliver both games with superior graphics, fit for those who missed the titles originally. When the game came to launch fans took their rage online by demanding refunds from Konami and the retailer from which the product was purchased from. The situation deteriorated so significantly that Konami was forced to recall all products and offer an exchange to those who weren't happy with the product. The games had been butchered to say the least, major audio glitches, missing elements that helped build the atmosphere and certain placed were damaged in translation or completely missing.

The next title will be remembered for years to come thanks to its simplicity and absolute beauty. Journey threw players into the garments of a mysterious traveler, completely unexplained, until the player figures out that the traveler's primary goal is to reach the peak of a distant mountain. So it sounds simple? Of course it does, Journey's satisfaction comes in what is suggested by the game - the journey - so much so that the destination of Journey is the journey itself. Sound confusing? Whether you do or don't, Journey shouldn't be missed by anybody. Journey stands as one of this generation's most beautiful games in both musical score and environment, it can't be beaten. Just like many Indie Playstation exclusives, Journey invites the player to traverse a quirky yet beautiful landscape, guaranteeing full satisfaction. After playing Journey I knew one thing: this was a journey I'd never forget.

As we roll into 2013, the brilliant games don't stop. With upcoming titles such as the eagerly anticipated Grand Theft Auto: V, Beyond: Two Souls, Gran Turismo 6 and many more, it certainly looks to be a bright future for gaming. The next title is the only title of 2013 (the year isn't over) that deserves to be named one of this generation's highlights. Although multiple titles were considered, this one came on top, Naughty Dog's The Last Of Us invites players to explore and immerse themselves in a post-apocalyptic portrayal of the world today. Playing as emotionally-affected Joel, the player on-takes a task to escort a minor named Ellie with a special talent. On the way the player will encounter mutilated hordes of the decaying undead, blood-thirsty survivors, fighting for survival just like the player and a living world comprised of fantastic setpieces. Not only did the Last Of Us receive exceptional review scores, but it also grossed higher than WB's summer-blockbuster, Man Of Steel, in the opening week. 

The final contender to our list of this generation's best and worst moments comes as no surprise. E3 2013 stands as one of the best E3 events ever due to Microsoft and Sony taking their big guns to show and tease the world. With Microsoft presenting their highly anticipated XBOX ONE and Sony with their PS4, these heavyweight contenders took to the stage and showcased some of the most unique, aesthetically pleasing and downright enjoyable upcoming games. Despite Nintendo's sorely missed absence, Microsoft and Sony showed much promise from which one can assume Nintendo will do too. Here's to the future of gaming, 7th console generation, you've been great.


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