With the new generation of home consoles now officially upon us games media has, not unexpectedly, been buried under a veritable slurry of Game Of The Generation lists. There’s enough of those though, and there’s only so many ways the genius of a select few titles can be dissected, so I decided to do something a little bit different, and write up my Memories Of A Generation – a list of games which may not necessarily be the greatest technical or artistic achievements, but those which I shall cherish as defining moments of my love for this industry, and its seventh coming.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots
Missing the tail end of the PS2’s era, and the first couple of years of PS3 meant Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of the first PS3 games I experienced, and perhaps warrants its position atop my list for that reason alone – being the game which introduced me to PlayStation 3.
A few dabbles of unexciting new IP aside, Guns Of The Patriots was most certainly the first PlayStation 3 game I sat down to for more than a fleeting moment, knowing instead I simply had to play-through Kojima’s newest outing in its entirety.
The first Metal Gear Solid game some ten years earlier had been full of unforgettable moments, but until I’d played through it again – and again – the depth of the characters had escaped me. It was a game as much about the classic gaming trope of not getting caught by the bad guys,as infiltrating a nuclear weapons cache, for example.
Metal Gear Solid 4, and the generation to which it belonged, changed things – I came of age.
Looking back, the actual gameplay wasn’t nearly as thrilling as I remember, and those cut-scenes are an insufferable length, but MGS4 shall forever hold its place as the first time I actively engaged with a video-game’s intentions to provide an interactive and inclusive narrative, and as a platform for storytelling beyond “rescue the princess” or “defeat the boss”. Sure there had been games many years earlier which I realised had a story, but for the most part I ignored them, choosing instead to race, shoot, sneak and smash my way through each defined level in the fastest time, looking for the instant gratification that comes from the classic leaderboard or credits screen.
Metal Gear Solid 4 changed the way I viewed, and subsequently shaped the way I played video games, to this day.
Ken Levine’s tale of a dystopian underwater existence could just as well appear on my list because of its story, one which I am still very much enjoying to this day as I read John Shirley’s novel Rapture – a prequel of sorts – but it doesn’t. Instead Bioshock features in my Top 5 because of its DLC, The Challenge Rooms. This humble £6.49 package was the first digital game content I’d purchased on a console, and as we leave the generation in which post-release add-ons, in-app purchases and subscription based season passes became an accepted norm, Bioshock once again stands as a marked turning point for my experience with videogames, and the digital arena games now roam.
The tiles I mentioned above both bestow deep woven and intricate narratives upon the player, escalating their surroundings from mere gaming environments to entertainment experiences akin to great cinematic releases. Both Bioshock and Metal Gear resonate massively with myself because of this fact, and no doubt would be on many a “Games Of The Generation” list for that very reason, but as games become increasingly detailed and bogged down with trite over-production, many step away from what we all knew and loved as video games back in our younger years; Seemingly simple characters, doing seemingly simple things.
The recent indie resurgence on PlayStation consoles has gone some way to recapturing that era for me, but there will always be one company that leads the way in championing the unadulterated essence of classic gaming and the childlike innocence of videogames as toys. Nintendo.
Nintendo’s Wii console released alongside the 360 and PS3 to instant widespread acclaim. The broad appeal of one-button gaming and gesture controls meant that come Christmas 2006 Nintendo had a captive, interested, audience – including everyone from little Jimmy to Aunt Maude.
And their master-stroke? Including Wii Sports. The collection was quite obviously packaged as an introduction to the new motion-sensitive tech, but Nintendo – whether they quite expected it or not – had struck on something magical. Wii Sports rejuvenated family gaming, and everyone from 3 to 93 had an open-ended invite to videogames for the first time in years.
Little Big Planet
Whilst creation modes and level editors within existing games were not unheard of, the arrival of Little Big Planet flipped that idea on its head. There was a fairly complete and enjoyable platformer in the box, but that wasn’t the game, it was a tutorial. For those inclined Media Molecule’s masterpiece is a game creation tool with a platformer attached. An online community with an imagination infinitely broader than mine crafted everything from their own platformers and puzzlers to first person shooters and absolutely everything in between.
Little Big Planet pulled PlayStation gamers away from their dingy identi-kit shooters and into a world of colourful creativity, one which we’ve since seen blossom with the likes of Minecraft – and will surely see more of when Microsoft’s own Project Spark launches for Xbox One – and for that it surely deserves a place on my list.
Critereon’s massive open-world racer simply has to take my final spot on the podium. Though many have tried since, Paradise remains unrivaled in its delivery of sheer brilliance at break-neck speed. This reinvention of the Burnout franchise does absolutely everything right from the moment you boot it up – be that roaring around Paradise City cherry-picking races on a whim, or pulling up alongside friends and throwing down a challenge over PSN.
That’s why it’s here – Burnout Paradise has an online infrastructure that just works. There’s no need to faff about with traditional lobbies and waiting times, just a group of up to 8 friends cruising the same persistent open-world and dropping in and out of races with the press of a button. Burnout Paradise’s online mode is fast, furious and most importantly, fun!