Console Wars – Generation 7

Generation 7 saw some great things. Microsoft hit their stride with their second console, Sony maintained dominance over the market, and Nintendo… well, Nintendo had a console too.

Xbox 360 was my first console in the 7th generation, very soon after launch. I excitedly traded my Xbox and a few games to pay for half of it, assured by the staff of my local Gamestation that the new console was fully compatible with the older games. It wasn’t. The first “HD” console, they assured me that even with my old SD CRT the games would still look better than ever. They were right about that.

Project Gotham Racing (number 2 maybe?) was an amazing experience, as was Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land which I’d put off buying for the new generation. There were some terrible games in the first weeks though – and Kameo stands out as the worst offender. Possibly one of the worst games I’ve ever played. And it’s not just false memories saying that – I recently got Rare Replay.

Highlights of the console for me include: Crackdown, Guitar Hero 3, Alan Wake, Bayonetta, Devil May Cry 4, Fallout 3, Red Dead Redemption, Tony Hawk’s Project 8, and of course Forza 4… Forza Horizon was pretty cool too and pushed the hardware to its limit graphically.

Most played? Grand Theft Auto 4 and its expansions. I was in Spain (Salou/Barcelona) when the game was delivered to my home in 2008, so getting home was quite exciting. I don’t think I moved from the sofa for three days when I first got hold of it. It took everything great in San Andreas and condensed it into a living world, with wonderful physics and a great selection of vehicles. Online free play with helicopter races through the city skyline were great times.

Nintendo’s Wii, you may remember, was basically impossible to purchase for six months after release unless you sold your soul and first born child to an eBay scalper. I waited, and soon enough had my own Wii with Wii Sports packed in. I purchased it in my meal break during a late shift at work, which meant my supervisor and I spent the second half of our shifts (the quiet half) enjoying some boxing.

Many people complain about the Wii’s controls, but the whole thing worked very well in my eyes. The Classic Controller meant that many games could be played in the traditional manner, and many others (such as Super Mario Galaxy) used subtle, non-intrusive gestures for some in game moves.

Another common complaint about the console is the massive amount of shovelware, as if it’s existence meant that you had to buy it. The Wii was purchased by everyone and the gran, so the market responded by providing games for those new markets. You still had some amazing great games to play, including: Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel, Mario Kart Wii, Metroid Prime Trilogy (the first two updated with wiimote controls, a great update!), Kirby’s Epic Yarn, New Super Mario Bros Wii, the best Wario Wares game, and Skyward Sword (one of my favourite Zelda titles).

The console was a natural fit for shooting gallery games too, with House of the Dead 2&3 and Ghost Squad having great arcade conversions.

Latterly, Wii was also subject to a soft mod (requiring an SD card and software, no modchips) that enables it to run Wii and Gamecube backups from a hard disk, and emulators for all previous Nintendo consoles amongst others.

PlayStation 3 entered my life a few years later. We’d bought one for my now-wife’s brother, and sent it back with their mum to Venezuela. He’d paid at least most of it with vouchers, but we could get it a lot more easily and probably cheaply than he could. I remember asking him do you have a HDTV because it won’t work with an NTSC TV and you’ll have to get games from Europe too. It’s all good he said.

Well it wasn’t all good, he couldn’t use it so had to get an American one, which meant the following year (2009) it came back to me as a gift from their mum for taking the day off work and picking her up at Heathrow.

It came to me with no HDMI cable and no controller so I had to pop to Tesco as buy those, and picked up a couple of games and Avatar on Blu-ray to see what that was all about. We had a modest Sony Bravia 720p TV, 32″, but I was still impressed. I initially intended the PS3 to be my secondary console, for the exclusive games only, but it soon replaced my 360 and became my main console. Today my 360 is boxed away, but my PS3 still sits out so I can finish some of the games on it – including Ni No Kuni, Metal Gear Solid 4, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy (which I enjoy more than most).

Besides these titles the standouts for me were: Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Demon’s Souls, Resident Evil 5, Rayman Origins, Batman Arkham Asylum/City, Lollipop Chainsaw, Ico/Shadow of the Colossus, Gran Turismo 6, Enslaved, Odyssey to the West, and Rocksmith. Don’t forget that the system also played 100% of the PlayStation library, and early adopters also got to enjoy PlayStation 2 compatibility.

The greatest game on the system though? Undoubtedly Dark Souls. I’d played Demon’s Souls without being aware of the hype and naturally wasn’t getting far into it, and when I saw Dark Souls sitting on a shelf I knew there were a lot of people claiming it was special. A true hardcore game for hardcore gamers. Now in that sense of the word I don’t consider myself hardcore – I rarely set a game above normal difficulty unless it’s one I’ve completed before and want a challenge, but the aesthetic appealed to me from the previous game.

It took me years to get into it. I kept getting killed by skeletons near the start and giving up. Then I had an epiphany. “What’s the problem,” I asked myself, “with using a guide to at least see what you’re doing wrong?”

And so I loaded up a guide (IGN’s for what it’s worth) and followed it. I only used it to tell me where to go, not what to do when I got there or how to defeat a boss or anything else. The stairs you’re “supposed” to follow at the beginning, I hadn’t even seen them hiding behind the tree!

Little by little I made progress, and one day the game just clicked. I understood it. I became more confident, more skilled, and ultimately I beat the damn game! It was a glorious moment, immensely satisfying. And yet (pun intended) it left me feeling hollow. I wanted more. Thankfully there was more, but that’s for another day.

This is perhaps the closest fought generation in terms of picking a favourite. Having read this you’d likely expect me to say PlayStation 3. And I almost would, except it’s the Wii that stands out to me the most from this time. As with all Nintendo consoles it was the only way to play Nintendo’s excellent games, it had backwards compatibility with my Gamecube discs and controllers, the eShop (despite the inherent flaws of a points based currency) had some great games on it, and today it sits under my TV soft-modded with all my Wii, Gamecube and a good selection of Nintendo and Sega retro emulators running on it. I was also able to buy a component cable for it for about 1% the cost of the Gamecube component cable, and it looks good at 480p.

What are your experiences with the 7th Generation of consoles? Find @bitlandgaming on Twitter or comment below to have a chat about your memories.

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