The End of Another Generation: Everything Was Rubbish
I'm writing a retrospective series about the end of the 8th Generation , which includes a Top Twenty Countdown of my favourite games.
Don took a sip of his coffee. Colombian. "What if, and bear with me here, we introduced a draconian game licensing system for our new console?"
Bill looked up from his hog roast. "Fuuuuuck" he gasped. Meat juices rolled down his chin and onto his collar, staining it a grubby yellow. He didn't care. He had a wardrobe full of spare Windows 95 polos in his office. The benefits of being a billionaire.
"What exactly do you mean, Fabian?" Bill was notorious for misremembering names.
"It's Don, my liege. We would force a system that binds physical copies of games to the user's Live account, which would all but kill-off the second-hand market. The console would be always-online."
"Hashtag deal-with-it, sir".
"I like it Samantha. Shit, I really fucking like it. Make it happen yesterday."
And that's 100% probably exactly how it happened. Before we could even buy one, we were already mad at the Xbox One. So mad in fact, that MS was forced to make a complete about-face and we were saved the indignity of their staunchly anti-consumer schemes. Xbox ultimately took a very different path, a very nice one that would lead to Game Pass, but the One still failed to recapture the success of the 360. The damage, perhaps, had already been done.
The 8th Generation was full of highs. However, there was no shortage of lows too. The original plans for the Xbox One may have been the nadir, but there was plenty of other rubbish to contend with over the last decade.
Until the Switch saved the day, post-Wii Nintendo was having a shocker. The 3DS sold poorly at launch, leading to a very fast, very significant, and very embarrassing price cut. Whereas the 3DS was able to recover and thrive, the Wii U never got off the ground. The messaging was confusing, as was the name. Was it a peripheral for the Wii? No, it was an ugly cross-gen hybrid, one that felt and looked like a toy and had few of the features we'd already come to expect from our modern consoles. The touch screen pad was a nice idea that was poorly executed, and rarely used convincingly. The Wii U has been subject to a fair bit of revisionism in recent years, at times being likened favourably to the Dreamcast, which is the kind of comparison only the dimmest or dimwits would ever dream of making.
Nintendo also had an extensive issue with thumbsticks over the last generation. They forgot to add a second one to the 3DS, oops, and had to release the appalling Circle Pad Pro. And today, millions of gamers are struggling to keep Mario from randomly wandering off cliffs, thanks to Joy Con drift. Absolute shite.
The last generation also bore witness to the demise of the handheld console. Sony gave up on the Vita sharpish and we'll never see them re-enter that space. The 3DS, after the aforementioned disastrous start, did gangbusters, but we've most likely seen the last of the DS family. Yes, I know, Switch Lite. But that thing is far too large to be a true portable. You're playing that in bed, not on the train.
If I'm honest, I found 8th Gen hardware to be largely underwhelming. Switch aside, there was far less innovation; just more of the same but slightly tweaked. Sometimes for the better, sometimes very much not. In so many ways, it was the iterative generation. While I'll look back with fondness at some of the games of the last decade, I can't say the same for the hardware. At least not the home consoles.
The PlayStation storefront remained an absolute abomination. There are few things less aesthetically and practically pleasing than searching for a game on the console store. Fortunately, Sony took our complaints to heart and vastly improved things for the PS5. No wait, that's not right. That's not right at all.
Other things that I enjoyed getting annoyed about over the last ten years, in no particular order: games as a service, the term "influencers" and influencers in general; the battle royale genre, free-to-play everything, and Kickstarter. It felt like every game had to be an open-ended experience, or if it did have a definite ending you wouldn't see it for at least fifty hours. Where are the tidy and exhilarating ten-hour campaigns that were bountiful in the previous generation? As for Kickstarter, I deeply dislike that business model. For every success story it produced, we got at least one Mighty No. 9 or Unsung Story.
And then there are the games that we got and the games we didn't. Mass Effect Andromeda brought one of my favourite modern series to a grinding halt, and I have absolutely no idea what happened to Cyberpunk 2077. Between the delays and the shocking state of the final product, I completely lost all interest in what had been one of my most anticipated games in years. I thought Doom was repetitive nonsense, though I realise I'm in the minority, and I can still vividly recall playing Destiny at launch with a friend and being gobsmacked at the half-arsed-ness of it all. Much like No Man's Sky, it bounced back, but those were two prime examples of unrealistic expectations set by the publisher and/or developer, and promises unkept. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain somehow managed to be both one of the best and also most disappointing games of the 8G. And as for the PT teaser, please stop banging on about it. It was just OK. Really, it's fine to lose it off your HDD.
The 8th was yet another generation where we didn't get a new or remastered TimeSplitters. Utter, utter rubbish.