Sequels are part and parcel of any console cycle, and this current generation is no exception to the rule. Whether it’s expanding on gaming’s tent pole franchises from yesteryear or capitalizing on the success of fresh IP, some of the biggest entertainment launches of this cycle have been front full-fledged blockbuster follow-ups like Halo Reach, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and most notably, Call of Duty. Let’s face facts: sequels make big bucks, and punters lap them up on every occasion.
Having said that, one cannot argue that some series are teetering precariously on the edge of brand fatigue. Annualized sequels are nothing new; after all Electronic Arts and Eidos were pumping out yearly instalments in FIFA and Tomb Raider respectively back in the late 90s. However, this generation has seen many industry giants cotton on to this strategy, with Activision having squeezed out a new Call of Duty annually since 2006. Ubisoft also followed suite with its critically-acclaimed Assassin’s Creed franchise, with yet another entry due later this year. The problem? The majority of these annualized efforts offer only incremental upgrades to the established series formula, and gamers are already getting fed up of it.
With murmurs of the next crop of home consoles doing the rounds frequently as of late, it’s time to look at some of the industry’s biggest franchises that could do with a major overhaul when they make the inevitable transition to PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 in the next couple of years. Whether it’s a series that has been doing the rounds since the days of PSOne or a relatively new endeavour that has only just cropped up in the past five years, PSU presents 7 series that need a next-gen overhaul.
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CALL OF DUTY
Activision’s annual military shooter series has proved a perennial money-maker pretty much since the beginning. The last three iterations have smashed entertainment records around the globe, and players continue to lap it up every November, logging countless hours online and establishing the series as one of the most-played games on PSN and Xbox Live. Yes, it’s a proven success, but let’s face it: the franchise’s aging paradigm and chugging engine is in dire need of an overhaul. Underneath all the spectacle and flashy guns, the game is still a linear rollercoaster ride scripted down to the last bullet casing. With the technology provided by next-gen consoles, we expect more than just a fresh coat of paint. How about expanding the game environment to offer more freedom? We don’t mean turn it into a sandbox, but how about offering players a chance to pick up a few side quests and explore a bit more? The multiplayer is solid, no one can deny that, but the single-player experience needs a shot in the arm. Make it bigger, longer and offer more reason to come back to it. Aside from that, a new theatre of war wouldn’t go a miss either. While WWII has been out of the equation for a while, we suggest tackling WWI instead; this hasn’t been done in any major shooter of recent memory, and the limited technology available during this era would inherently offer a far more challenging, invigorating experience compared to recent modern outings. Imagine slogging through the trenches, carefully managing resources while pushing to your objective? We'd also like to see some squad tactics implemented, offering more strategic elements to the traditional run-and-gun action. Such a setting would also provide for a solid experience with a partner, with campaign co-op still remaining one of the most fan requested features to make it into the series.
First of all, we liked SH: Downpour. It was flawed, yes, but still quintessentially old school horror, with a palpable sense of atmospheric value and gripping plot. However, the series has been meandering in the ‘pretty good’ category for a while now, and we think it’s high time Konami returned its celebrated psychological horror series to form. Whether or not Team Silent would consider taking the reins again remains to be seen, but the franchise needs a kick up the backside. Downpour’s pseudo-open world showed great promise for a proper sandbox outing, and we think this would be a great direction for the series to take. Silent Hill’s lore is ripe for the picking, and opening up the area for numerous side quests would give developers ample opportunity to delve into the cursed town’s bloody and intricate history. The great thing about Silent Hill is that it doesn’t need to connect to any previous games; each story is about an individual exorcising his or her own demons, allowing for a self-contained adventure that stands on its own two feet. This template makes for an ideal springboard for re-launching the franchise for the next-generation of consoles. If anything, combat needs to be totally revamped; Homecoming’s was arguably the best incarnation the series has seen in this respect, though even that wasn’t devoid of hiccups. Gunplay is entirely functional, but melee brawls need to be given a facelift, allowing for greater freedom in regards to attacks and improved character movement. The fact is, as it stands Silent Hill is about a decade out of date in terms of combat, and needs to progress beyond its archaic trappings if it’s to evolve.
Capcom’s million-selling zombie slaying series has been going strong for just over 15 years now, and has already received an extensive overhaul in the shape of 2005’s Resident Evil 4. However, recent entries has seen the franchise slowly but inexorably detaching itself from its survival horror roots, with Operation Raccoon City taking the form of a fully-fledged cover shooter. Resident Evil 6 in particular appears to be embracing this design philosophy, implementing cover mechanics, machine gun-wielding foes and melee combat. Sure, Leon’s scenario features zombies, but even those have been spruced up to accommodate the fast-paced gameplay. With three scenarios, it seems Capcom is trying to cater to all types of fans, resulting in a somewhat jumbled mess of concepts. What Resident Evil needs is to be one thing; a cohesive, survival horror-driven adventure that above all doesn’t force co-op down your throat. Throwing in another partner, be it A.I. or human-controlled intrinsically makes the game a less frightening experience, a feature which RE6 also seems to be embracing. If co-op is going to be featured, why not take a leaf out of RE: Zero’s book; have two players working together, and have a mate replace the previously AI-controlled partner. This would open up a wealth of diversity in the gameplay, which could see one heavily-armed gamer tackle a room full of zombies while his companion circumvents a particularly tricky environmental puzzle. In other words, think RE: Outbreak but with all the advantages of a modern control scheme. Above all, it needs to stick to the traditional conventions of survival horror while remaining contemporary enough for modern audiences.
Uncharted is relatively new in comparison to the other series featured in this list, though we’ve already seen four games in less than five years. Make no mistake; Nathan Drake’s wise-cracking, treasure-hunting exploits have become a tent pole franchise for Sony, but that’s no excuse to get complacent. Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was arguably the pinnacle of the series, and while Drake’s Deception and Golden Abyss proved fantastic endeavours in their own right, they didn’t quite measure up to the 2009 adventure. We’re massive fans of the series, but it would be disingenuous of us to suggest Uncharted isn’t in danger of becoming formulaic. The tight, action-packed template that fuses epic set-pieces with lengthy gun battles has worked a charm, but we think for next-gen it’s time to shake things up a bit. For starters, let’s pit Drake against some new foes. Gun battles are mechanically competent, but monotony sets in from having to cap the same old generic baddies again and again. With all those exotic locations Drake visits, how about throwing in some dangerous wild life to battle? Elsewhere, we think it would be great if Naughty Dog opened up the locations a bit more, giving Drake more freedom to explore. There’s already a solid collectible element in place with the treasure system, so how about taking this to the next level with proper mini-quests? We’re also interested in seeing an overhaul of the climbing mechanics though; previous games have been a relatively simplistic affair, with the game almost holding your hand as you precariously scale cliffs and structures. We’d like to see the developers make your route made less obvious and linear, as well as giving players more control in terms of the actual climbing. Remember the old precision jump-and-grab antics of Tomb Raider? Something like that would be an obvious extension for the current Uncharted template. Also, co-op -- would it be such a bad thing?
Tekken’s had a lengthy relationship with Sony, having been around since the company got into the console business with the original PlayStation back in the mid-90s. Since then it’s flirted with multi-platform territory, expanding its audience greatly though not exactly implementing any drastic changes to the formula. Tekken 6 allowed you to bounce your opponent off the ground to continue a juggle, and character customisation has allowed for users to have a sense of individuality when taking the game online, but overall they’ve mostly been incremental additions. Tekken 7 hasn’t been announced yet, and likely won’t be out anytime soon with Tekken Tag 2 filling the void, but we think it would provide ample opportunity for Namco to inject a bit of flare into the proceedings. For starters, we think the cast is in need for a major shake-up. Tekken’s plot has always been a convoluted bag of nonsense, but these days the roster has got so bloated we’re packing nearly every single major character to have ever step foot inside the ring. Namco needs to trim the fat, starting with some of the old timers. We love the likes of Heihachi, Ganryu and Wang, but isn’t it about time they retired to mow the lawn? With fresh blood like Lars and Lilli coming in, it’s time for the next-generation of fighters to supplant their elders at long last. Tekken's aging paradigm has proven just as solid as it’s always been, with lightning-fast juggles and a deep move set making up the backbone of the experience. Nonetheless, we wouldn’t mind seeing some of the more strategic components flesh out. Above all, ditch the horrible campaign extras like Devil Within and Scenario mode and bring back gems like Tekken Force, Tekken Ball and Tekken Bowling.
GOD OF WAR
God of War’s visceral combat and sumptuous visuals have remained a staple of the PlayStation brand since 2005, and seven years on we’ve already seen three main entries and two PSP spin-offs. With God of War: Ascension in the pipeline, which will more than likely be Kratos’ PS3 swansong, we think it’s time Santa Monica spiced things up for the series’ inevitable transition to next-gen. God of War has relied on the same gameplay mechanics since day one, and while insanely satisfying, could benefit from an overhaul. Not only that, but isn’t it about time Kratos gave up his lion cloth to a new protagonist? With Ascension being set before the events of the original trilogy, there’s not an awful lot more they can do with this character; sure, GoW 3’s ending was ambiguous, but still wrapped things up pretty nicely. Either way, Kratos has endured plenty of time in the limelight ,and what better way to introduce the series to next-generation consoles than with a new hero? Also, how about a new era? We think the Greek Mythology has been milked for all its worth, it'd be interesting to see what else the developers could come up with.
EA Sports doesn’t need to do a lot to the FIFA series to continue its incredibly successful run as the most popular and, for FIFA 12, the fastest selling sports game on the market. Last year we saw some of the biggest changes to the series, including a new player physics engine, the new contain defense system, and precision passing. But for a lot of FIFA fans, these changes felt relatively minor. The task of creating a drastically different sports game in yearly installments is extremely difficult, but we can’t help and feel that if EA Sports wants to keep its FIFA series as the king of the hill, it needs to take some greater risks. Perhaps we could see a richer, more authentic football experience created by stronger gameplay mechanics? Maybe we need to see even sharper graphics, less bugs, and truer-to-life player replication. But, we’ve seen these changes before. We welcome these changes and enhancement in FIFA 13, but by the time EA Sports releases the first FIFA game on PlayStation 4, we want to play a game that is so much better, so much more authentic, so much deeper for true fans, that the title of highest selling sports game is never questioned. Cosmetic change aren’t enough to keep FIFA on top of the competition, here’s hoping EA Sports pushes the envelope and takes some massive risks in game modes, gameplay, graphics, and online.