With the Wii U already released, the Xbox 360 celebrating around its last year and the Playstation 3 likely soon to follow, this console generation is coming to an end. So, before we go into the new era, now is the time to see how everyone did over these last several years.
Microsoft - Xbox 360
Certainly an improvement over the original. Whereas the Xbox only had 30 titles receiving rave reviews (via Metacritic), the Xbox 360 so far has 50, the highest this console generation. The Xbox 360 was also sleeker in design from it predecessor (at least the Elite version), the Xbox Live options were expanded and the Arcade really brought downloadable gaming beyond just PCs. That having been said, there was the whole Red Ring of Death fiasco and a lack of HDMI support for older versions but, overall, there were no huge hiccups.
Interestingly, even though Halo: Combat Evolved was easily the highest rated game on the Xbox, the Halo franchise is now fairly far from the top in terms of critical reception. Regarding major exclusive titles, Xbox 360 brought us continuations of Forza and Halo while also introducing the Gears of War series, although Mass Effect losing exclusivity somewhat hurt them.
There are still some great titles scheduled for release, however, so the X360 isn’t dead yet.
Sony - Playstation 3
Sony made few mistakes this generation. While it was a bit late to the party, both in terms of release and the arrival of fantastic titles, the Playstation 3 was still a great deal on a Blu-Ray player and showed the world how fantastic games look in a true HD format. Whereas Xbox 360 games often required multiple disks or noticeable visual compromises, the PS3 really demonstrated it power. However, there was the whole hacking scandal which Sony didn’t handle quite as well as it should have and the revolutionary Playstation Plus feature kicked in a bit too late for there to be any genuine impact.
The PS3 was also hit hard by the loss of exclusivity rights to several franchises (Devil May Cry, Virtua Fighter, Assassin’s Creed) but it still had the better of the exclusives. Series such as Uncharted and LittleBigPlanet enjoyed multiple successes while the console also featured excellent continuations of Metal Gear Solid, God of War, and Killzone and the late introduction of the amazing Journey. A special mention also goes out to Heavy Rain, which didn’t quite gel in terms of pure gaming but was a cinematic revolution of sorts.
The PS3, currently lagging behind the X360 in terms of pure numbers for AAA hits (it has 44 in the Metacritic “90s” zone, whereas the PS2 lead the pack with 58). However, it also has several games slated for launch next year and The Last of Us, in particular, could be the best PS3 game yet. Therefore, it may very well overtake the Xbox in terms of purely tallying up critical hits.
Easily the biggest financial success of this generation, the Wii nonetheless dented Nintendo’s reputation amongst serious gamers. With just 14 titles at the top, the Wii became a “party” console, suited for kids and unserious adults. Once the gimmick of using motion controls wore off, the things that became visible were the noticeably weaker graphics and lack of quality games. To be fair, though, the Wii allowed players to download and play classic NES, SNES, GEN, and N64 gems that could not be found anywhere else.
Interestingly, of the 14 highest-ranking titles on the system, 8 were exclusives, easily the highest percentage of exclusive hits amongst the consoles. The system’s control scheme and Nintendo’s ownership of its biggest titles (Mario, Zelda, Metroid) meant that most of the good games for the Wii could exist only on the Wii. Either way, the Gamecube alone had 26 titles ranked at the top; the Wii simply lacked enough compelling software.
Rockstar Games - Grand Theft Auto IV
A game that deserves special commendation. Console developers want exclusives to be the best, simply because they entice purchase of the console. Apparently, Rockstar didn’t get the memo and ended up making the highest-rated game across both the X360 and PS3. A true technical and artistic marvel, GTA IV really ups the ante for gaming and makes you wonder how the next generation is going to top it.
Despite the Wii U and the promise of several decent titles, this console generation is slowly, some say too slowly, winding down. There were several high notes but some unforgettable lows as well. Were you disappointed with how things have gone these past few years in gaming or utterly thrilled? Sound off in the comments below.