There have been flashes of brilliance here and there, but the current console generation is still waiting for a burst that dashes the industry forward.
Luckily, 2017 is being billed as exactly that sort of year, and the industry has been very vocal in its excitement. It’s easy to see why, of course; Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo’s first party studios are looking very hot, indeed, with scores of exclusive titles in numbers not seen since the previous generation. And then we’ve got some long-awaited titles from third party developers that are expected to become leaders of their respective genres.
But this year marks the 10th year anniversary of one of gaming’s best ever and if 2017 is truly to be remembered as a golden year, it’s got some pretty serious competition usurping 2007. More importantly, looking back on 2007’s impressive catalogue, many of those games arguably hold up just as well today. This begs the question, how much has gaming really evolved over the past decade?
So, we’re looking back on eight special games from 2007 and discussing what this year’s most anticipated titles will have to do to earn their own place in gaming legend.
Uncharted vs. Horizon Zero Dawn
Only just around the corner, Horizon Zero Dawn looks like one of the most exciting new IPs in the past decade. There’s a real sense it might become one of Sony’s new flagship franchises, carrying on the baton from an exclusive like Uncharted. Speaking of which, back in 2007, Naughty Dog launched Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which has since become PlayStation’s golden child.
Drake’s Fortune might not have been as accomplished in its gameplay as the later titles in the series, but when it emerged on the scene it had an x-factor that immediately spoke to fans. The marriage of swashbuckling action adventure and a cheeky protagonist in Nathan Drake gave fresh life into the third-person shooter genre. Uncharted has since become the benchmark for cinematic action in video games and is adored by PlayStation fans.
Horizon Zero Dawn looks superb, but it has quite the task if it’s going to become as etched into PlayStation legend as the Uncharted series. We’re not expecting the same Hollywood levels of clever writing and set pieces, but Horizon’s fascinating thematic setting, gorgeous open world, and emergent gameplay might just see it uttered in the same breath as Uncharted in years to come.
BioShock vs. Prey
Following the acclaim of its brilliant IP Dishonored, Arcane’s upcoming reboot of Prey looks to continue the studio’s design ethos. You can already see the Dishonored lineage in gameplay demos with Prey’s fluid mechanics encouraging player experimentation and choice. Arcane might well be onto a real winner with Prey, but they’d do well to stack up against a somewhat similar 2007 release: BioShock.
An iconic and seminal classic, BioShock’s RPG and FPS hybrid design was a game changer. Inspired by System Shock 2 (of the same creator), it amazed with its top-notch gameplay, twisting narrative, and Rapture’s creepy confines. The recent remastered edition for PS4 and Xbox One was a reminder of just how accomplished it is, even today.
Prey, though, might just have the stuff to give BioShock a run for its money. Prey’s recent gameplay demos showcase an interesting expansion on the weapons/ability formula, as seen in BioShock. The manner in which they help facilitate traversal, in particular, looks very innovative. Throw in some gorgeous visuals that bring its ambient and eerie locale to life and even amid a year plush with quality, Prey might well be able to reinvent the wheel in a similar fashion to Bioshock.
Super Mario Galaxy vs. Super Mario Odyssey
Given his stature as a gaming icon, it would be easy to forget gameplay is at the core of Mario’s success, not the character itself. Super Mario Bros. was a near perfect example of pure gameplay in a 2D package and became the benchmark by which all side scrolling games would be compared. Then, Mario 64 did exactly the same for 3D game design, completely setting the standard and would go on to influence nearly every modern third person game.
Things got even better with Mario Galaxy, released in 2007. Galaxy pushed the Wii to its absolute limits and producing a vibrant spectacle that looked utterly beautiful, even on that limited hardware. The game’s design, too, was a marvel to behold, showing a level of ingenuity in its design that once again trumped rival platformers.
Mario’s debut on Nintendo’s upcoming Switch console carries with it a great weight of expectation. Speculated to launch this fall, gamers will be hoping for another instant classic. Gameplay demos showcase a Sunshine-esque iteration, with a sandbox level design reminiscent of Galaxy. To exceed Galaxy’s 97 Metacritic rating, though, Odyssey is really going to have impress.
Mass Effect vs. Mass Effect Andromeda
Mass Effect has evolved significantly from the original 2007 title; what was once a true role-playing game has since become much more of a third person action game. It seems that 2017’s Mass Effect Andromeda will continue on that same beat, which has clearly resonated with its audience. Nonetheless, take nothing away from the original title that gave birth to Bioware’s cherished IP, lauded for its open galaxy setting and branching narrative.
Mass Effect is built around a choice/consequence design, in which player decision shapes the narrative. Of course, things went a little awry at the trilogy’s conclusion, which many fans have been vocal in their frustrations. Mass Effect Andromeda, then, has a real opportunity to become the definitive game of the franchise and appease irritation caused by the trilogy’s unsatisfactory ending.
A set of new characters compliments a new galaxy locale, but exceeding sky high expectations isn’t going to be easy. Still, we’re confident Andromeda has the stuff to rank higher than the original title.
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion vs. The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
It’s hard to remember the last time a Zelda game had been hyped to the same extent as Breath of the Wild. Nintendo is really touting the upcoming game as something special. Not that they have to, particularly, because it’s quite obvious it’s going to be incredible! Open world Zelda is a dream come true; the ultimate expression of non-linearity that has always been at the heart of the series.
Breath of the Wild introduces mechanics and quest structure that make it much more of a role-playing game than any Zelda before. By default, that means it is being compared much more closely with popular contemporary open world RPGs. So when we look down the list of 2007’s best, it’s hard not to draw comparisons with what was at the time the undisputed king of the genre: The Elder Scrolls Oblivion.
No RPG before Oblivion had brought a fantasy world of that sort of scale to life in such an open and non-linear fashion. Oblivion was a meticulously detailed world, and while its narrative and aesthetic design stuck fairly close to traditional RPGs, the game’s boundless ambition and ease of play resonated with a massive audience.
It’s easy to get swept up in Breath of the Wild’s admittedly wondrous spectacle, but there’s few who would question Oblivion’s place in gaming history, and for it to be remembered in the same will be quite an achievement.
Halo 3 vs. Sea of Thieves
In a year in which Sony is launching a near tidal wave of highly anticipated exclusives, Microsoft has some work to do to level the playing field. Microsoft’s new Project Scorpio console will need quality titles to help its launch, and presumably, they feel that Sea of Thieves is going to be one of them.
Microsoft, of course, knows all about quality exclusives. Halo, in particular, is one of its console’s biggest success stories, and 2007’s Halo 3 is arguably the best in the series. With one of the most intense narratives of any Halo campaign, typically accomplished gunplay, and a superb multiplayer, Halo 3 is a fitting conclusion to the first trilogy. It is an iconic exclusive title that helped propel the Xbox 360 ahead of Sony in the previous generation’s console race.
On paper, the upcoming Sea of Thieves’ cooperative pirate ship gameplay sounds like an absolute blast. The grandeur of its ambitious online environment has the potential to produce some truly entertaining moments of multiplayer action and the title might well become an acclaimed exclusive of the same ilk as Halo.
Yet, despite its promise, it has been hard to nail down exactly what the extent of Sea Of Thieves’ gameplay loop is. More importantly, the success of the Xbox brand was built on shooters such as Halo and Gears of War, and though Sea Of Thieves is an unquestionably intriguing concept, we’re not quite sure it’s going to resonate with Xbox’s core audience in the same numbers.
Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare vs. Red Dead Redemption 2
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the arguably the most important FPS title of the modern era. Its emphasis on set-piece action scenes and global conflict has influenced almost all other contemporary shooters. Not to mention, Modern Warfare’s multiplayer offering is celebrated as pivotal in that it convinced other developers that a solid online component was a necessity for all games moving forward.
Even next to such esteemed company, though, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption holds its own. The game’s detailed wild western open world setting and a brilliantly crafted narrative are fondly remembered as one of the PS3’s best games. It’s no small wonder the sequel has been hotly anticipated. In fact, last year’s tease caused the internet to lose its collective mind, and Red Dead Redemption’s success seems to have generated near Grand Theft Auto levels of interest.
In 10 years, there’s every chance that the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2 will command the same sort of respect for open world games as Modern Warfare does for the FPS genre. But in order to achieve that, you would have to imagine the game is going to need to really innovate and push the genre forward. Bigger and better for RDR2, we’d like to see a game design that breaks the mold of open world convention and does something we haven’t seen before.
The Orange Box vs. Everything Else
We could hardly write about 2007 without mentioning the greatest compilation of games ever put into a single package. The Orange Box finally brought across Valve’s revered Half Life 2 to consoles, but it didn’t just stop there, throwing in the conclusive two episodes, the legendary puzzle platformer Portal, and the multiplayer classic Team Fortress 2. Talk about getting the bang for your buck in an industry inundated today with remasters, re-releases, and collections; The Orange Box offers value that probably won’t ever be seen again.
Unpacking its content, Half-Life 2 is quite simply one of video games’ biggest icons; a hugely influential franchise with DNA that can be found in dozens of modern games. Its engine spawned several other notable games, including Portal, which was an absolute triumph of puzzle design and witty dialogue. Team Fortress 2 remains popular today as a colorful multiplayer team-shooter and inspired shooter/MOBA hybrids such as Overwatch. Both Half-Life 2 and its spin-off titles have all been seminal for their respective genres, making The Orange Box a quite unrivaled collection of games.
In fact, The Orange Box is so good that we’d wager even a handful of 2017’s upcoming titles would be hard-pressed to match it in quality – even if the likes of For Honor, Dragon Quest XI, Nier Automata, and Cuphead are among some of the titles we haven’t discussed. That’s not to say those games don’t look great, which they certainly do, but to trump The Orange Box would be for each title to define their genre; a tall order, even for such a tantalizing list.