Xbox One, Playstation 4 console releases blunted by lackluster early titles

The New York TimesSeptember 12, 2013 

Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall for Xbox is highly anticipated — but won't release until next year. The first titles available for the new Xbox One console are less inspiring.

COURTESY OF RESPAWN ENTERTAINMEN

Video game players are always excited to get their hands on new consoles, and in November, two new game machines are scheduled to be introduced: Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4.

But while new consoles usually lead to better games, often that happens only in the long run. Some of the final games made for aging consoles have been better than the first games that were released for brand-new systems.

Neither the PlayStation 3 in 2006 nor the Xbox 360 a year earlier went on sale with a single memorable initial title.

Xbox 360 gamers waited four months for their system's first great game, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and an entire year for the next one, Gears of War. Likewise, a full 12 months went by before PlayStation 3 players were able to get their hands on that system's first noteworthy exclusive, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. At the same time, two of the PlayStation 2's most highly regarded games, Bully and Okami, were released mere weeks before the release of the PlayStation 3.

It's too early to say for sure, but something similar looks as if it will happen in 2013. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One each have a long list of launch titles, but the most interesting games that will be playable on the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft seem to be coming next year, including Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment and Project Spark from Microsoft Studios, both of which are Xbox exclusives on console; The Witness from Jonathan Blow's Number None, a console exclusive for the PlayStation 4; and Destiny from Bungie, which will be playable on both (and on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3).

Who knows? There might be surprises among the first batch of games being released with the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One. Maybe Ryse: Son of Rome, an initial Xbox One title, will end up as one of the year's best games. But Ryse's E3 demonstration didn't do much to augur that, instead promising to immerse players in antiquity by letting them repeatedly stab people in the neck. The developers of Dead Rising 3, another Xbox One exclusive, have talked about using the system's superior technology for the important work of improving the graphical fidelity of zombie blood and teeth. Sony's big-budget exclusives don't look any more enticing.

Many games will be released with versions for currently available consoles — the Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo's Wii U — as well as for the new ones. The most exciting of these games is Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, coming Nov. 19 for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U. (No release date has been announced for the PS4 and Xbox One.) An open-world game about information hackers in a near-future Chicago, Watch Dogs seems impossibly well-timed for the year of Edward Snowden.

Perhaps because two new consoles are coming out nearly simultaneously, the next few months seem to be the most unpredictable video-game autumn in memory. Can the gameplay in Watch Dogs possibly live up to its alluring premise? Will the military shooters Call of Duty: Ghosts and Battlefield 4 be hurt by a form of the blockbuster fatigue that afflicted moviegoers this summer? Will Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag mount a comeback for that series after last year's divisive Assassin's Creed III?

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