The Golden Age


Welcome to the winter of my discontent. Maybe it's my age, maybe it's the ‘place' I'm in, maybe it's the state of the industry or maybe it's all of those things, but I'm liking less and less games. Perhaps I'm getting old and games just don't float my boat anymore. Queue moment when I bleat on about those halcyon gaming days of yore. But I'm going to go out on a limb here and say it's not me; the industry's gone stale.

It's been a long time since I got really excited about a game. Sure there have been good games, but sadly there have been very few great games. The early part of this new century was rich with great games.

Let me take you on a journey back to 2001 – now there was a year to remember. Stay with me here and prepare to be amazed.

The year began with the release of Ico – one of the most emotive games ever, lending a new look to the gaming environment. The intuitive mechanics have become a mainstay of adventure games. Remember how Ico would teeter off a ledge, only to grab onto it at the last minute? Then the Prince of Persia borrowed the move and now the torch has been passed on to Lara. The bleached lighting effect has also become a favourite with game designers everywhere – a big legacy for a game with little commercial success.

Then we had Rez – still in 2001 here. Rez shook things up a little by usurping glossy, hyper-realism and opting for a blast-from-the-past-wireframe-modelling. The simplicity was mind blowing and the gaming was eye-bleedingly addictive (in a good way).

Just one year earlier we'd happily been playing our way through Space Channel 5 and a legend was born in the form of Ulala. Not content with this, the 21st century gave us Jet Set Radio (also Jet Grind Radio) and heralded the beginning of cel-shading in games. It was a visual revolution that can still be used to great effect, allowing designers to give their game a distinctive look that sets them apart from the perfectly rendered freckles and open pores.

Skip back to 2001 and we have MGS2, arguably the best in the series and the game that spawned a thousand copycats. In fact we're still bearing the brunt of that particular legacy. And as if that's not enough gaming goodness, 2001 also gave us Devil May Cry – the first hack and slash gorgeosity featuring Dante, from those crazy kids at Capcom.

And there's more.

Now it's time for the big hitters. Let me just say Halo and a little game known as GTA 3. Although there were big games before and there have been big games since, these two set a new benchmark. Much like Star Wars heralded the end of the Hollywood new wave movement in the late 60s and 70s, Halo and GTA III were the blockbusters of the century and every publisher wanted a piece of their pie.

After Halo and GTA III we welcomed a swathe of sequels and play-alikes. It was all about being a Halo beater or more ‘mature' than GTA and so the taste for something a little different was forgotten. Now we're regularly served up sci-fi first person shooters with various meat heads with guns, and a side order of Scarface style gaming, including er"Scarface the game.

We need a renaissance dear play chums. We need somebody to come up with something new to blow our little cotton socks off. I want the next cel-shading or the sensitivity of Ico or the plain fun and style of Devil May Cry. There must be some enfant terrible out there, ready to give us the gaming equivalent of À bout de souffle (Breathless) or Blue Velvet. And I don't mean Blue Velvet the game, I mean the artistic equivalent.

If games really are art, then let's see a few titles that have something to say about the world we live in and the frailty of the human condition. Let's have some pretension and lofty ideas for a change.

While I'm waiting I'll be maiming and killing the Flood. Sigh – six years on and all we've got to show for it is Halo 3. I'll regurgitate all this tosh as I sit and wait for Halo 6 in 2013.

Most played: Marvel Top Trumps

Most wanted: New wave gaming

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