The One Real ‘Next-Gen’ Game Of The Last Generation

The One Real ‘Next-Gen’ Game Of The Last Generation

Every time a new hardware generation comes around, we hear the same old boasts. More polygons! More effects! Higher resolution! Well, you know what, I don’t care about any of that. I want new hardware to improve the way I have to play games, or approach them, and no single game this generation did that more than Dead Rising.

It didn’t just use the 360’s power for shinier sweat and blurrier lens blur. It used it to give us a gaming experience we’d never had before. Even after all these years, it’s tough to try and place the Dead Rising games into a genre, because the kind of game it invented doesn’t really fit. The Japanese attempt – Zombie Paradise Action – may initially seem stupidly awesome, but think about it and it actually starts to work.

It’s survival horror in some ways, from resource management to slow combat, but… there’s just so much combat, and so few scares. It’s a brawler in some ways, since so much of your time is spent fighting, but… you don’t have to fight much at all if you don’t want. There are boss fights, and it’s kinda open world, and… well, it’s just something, OK?

Dead Rising stands alone. Well, alone with a sequel or two. And it’s not often a game is able to break free of established expectations and occupy its own, fresh space in the gaming landscape.

Prior to Dead Rising, zombie games hadn’t really been zombie games at all. They’d simply placed zombie skins over your regular video game bad guy, limited in numbers and generally confined to a corridor or small “arena” level.

But Dead Rising’s ability to show hundreds, sometimes thousands of zombies on-screen at once actually did the undead justice. It led to scenes that truly felt like you were playing through the game’s chief inspiration, Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, as combat became less about timing and combos, and became something zombie fiction could be proud of: crowd navigation, weapon maintenance, scrounging for supplies.

Think about the biggest games, and series, from this past console generation. From Modern Warfare to Grand Theft Auto, Street Fighter to Madden, Bayonetta to Final Fantasy, almost every big game of the 360/PS3/Wii era was merely a refinement of an existing genre. A shooter with more explosions, a sports game with reflective helmets, a Grand Theft Auto game with bigger maps.

It’s sad, then, that in the seven years (seven!) since the first Dead Rising’s release, it remains one of the only games of the entire generation to really give us something new to play with. A kind of game we’d never played before. So thank you, Dead Rising. For that, you are one of the generation’s finest heroes.

Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku’s look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we’ll be celebrating the Heroes — and the Zeroes — of the last eight years of console video gaming.


  • The one next gen game? Sorry Gta IV, RDR and V I guess Plunketts decided you just don’t qualify…

    Sorry Luke, but GTA V isn’t just a refinement, it’s a completely new game. The RAGE engine, coupled with the new Euphoria engine? Coupled with everything you can do in it, coupled with the triple characters… I get it’s GTA but I’m sorry there’s refinement and there’s *evolution*.

    Red Dead Redemption was a brand new IP. It may have had GTA play mechanics but it was a brand new IP (sure it was an in name ‘sequel’ to Red Dead Revolver but don’t kid yourself).

    If we want to talk about Dead Rising then State of Emergency + Resident Evil = Dead Rising.

    There were plenty of brand new IP’s and creative games this generation that felt ‘next gen’ Plunkett, you’re just possibly doing this because DR3 has come out? I mean, Gears of War? Little Big Planet?

    I do get where you’re coming from, but I whole heartedly disagree.

    Oh and despite the series being completely watered down immensely by yearly sequels? If I were to pick ONE truly next gen series for the consoles, that shows many figures onscreen at once etc?

    ASSASSINS CREED. The first was pretty goddamn mindblowing.

    • I’ll give you Gears of War and Assassins Creed but this article is not just about mind-blowing next gen games, it’s about the ones that made it clear that it was next gen like a defining factor of time. Most of the examples you gave are well into the generations life.

      Dead Rising was the game (and demo!) that you could practically get on the x360 release that made it clear this was a new generation, in much the same way that Shenmue and Sonic Adventure defined the previous generation.

      • Which I understand completely, but Dead Rising, was definitely not the ‘one’ true next gen game. It is a good article and it’s a well written article. When Plunkett puts in the effort, he writes some great stuff like this, but it’s a little ill thought out, there were some other exceptional games. Little Big Planet, for instance, was truly ‘next gen’. The scope of the game, what you were able to do, the manipulation of the levels etc had the impact of realising ‘this is what next gen is about’ at its time of release as well for instance.

    • Indeed, I’m a massive fan of the first and the second, I’m really looking forward to losing myself for months in the third one 😀 Just hoping somehow Frank West and Chuck Greene turn up in 3…

      • I remember watching vids of ppl playing the demo for the first on YouTube before Christmas of the year the 360 came out. And i quite enjoyed the second despite all the criticism. (Not as good as the first but still great) and I also preordered an Xbox One for DR3. (And Ryse too)

        • Personally Ryse doesn’t interest me in the slightest, but DR3 does immensely, as does Titanfall.

  • I think it was the smaller games that made this generation so awesome. Games like Portal, Journey and The Stanly Parable really change the way people look at games. Dead Rising was good, but it didn’t revolutionise anything. I think Portal will remain in the minds of gamers for many generations to come, I can’t say the same about Dead Rising.

  • It really was an incredible experience and certainly unlike any game before. And it definitely wasn’t possible on the PS2/Xbox. And it is still great fun, for those who havent played it. But I thought this generation’s best feature was the rise of the indie, the rise of indie gaming on consoles, and the rise of episodic and crowdfunded gaming.

  • There’s a reason why you don’t see save game systems like the DR one any more. Because it was incredibly frustrating and unintuitive. Fun idea, average execution.

    • I disagree. For me the save system was what made DR great and DR2 meh.
      Not being able to just reload a prior save if you messed up made the game what it was. It put the “survival” in this survival horror game. It forced you to think and act with both care and desperation, racing against the clock with so few safe points and the almost Dark Souls choice of “Do I save now, and hope I have enough time/supplies? Or do I do without and risk dying and losing all that progress?”
      It meant you couldn’t save everyone and win every time. Sometimes you just didn’t make it there in time, sometimes that survivor got eaten, sometimes you didn’t have enough supplies and sometimes Frank just didn’t make it. And you couldn’t just reload from way back to get that perfect play-through like we do with every game we can. You had to learn from your mistakes and start again. And the playthroughs were short and sweet enough that this was no big deal. And made every run different and varied – re-playability like no other game has managed.

      People always focus on the zanyness of DR, the costumes and wacky weapons. But for me that was not the point. All that was just fun flavor on a true, hardcore zombie survival game.
      But I guess most people did not want that and would have preferred to be yet another immortal unstoppable juggernaut of perfect heroism in a game where you cannot fail.

      • I agree that infrequent saves can make for a more intense experience. I was much more engaged in FTL for this reason.

        However, their are two main problems with the save system, as far as I’m concerned. One, I’m not invested enough in a zany zombie game to want to replay large sections over and over.

        Two, I don’t remember the save system being explained at all. I mean, this was 6 years ago, but I just remember thinking ‘WTF is going on?’ If you’re going to introduce an unusual game mechanic, at least explain it clearly.

        Where did anyone say they want to be an ‘immortal unstoppable juggernaut’? I played a GTA V assassination mission last night. It was timed, I could die (and did, when I went over a jump and hit a pole) but it was exciting, rewarding, and didn’t set me back so far that I quit.

  • I think Dead Rising was just the most visibly ‘next gen’ game, especially early on. GTAIV and the like were next gen, but in a lot of ways it was just San Andreas with more power under the hood. There’s not much that happened in GTAIV that couldn’t happen in GTA:SA. You could never put a map that size with that much detail on the PS2 but a PS2 version of GTAIV (or V) wouldn’t lose that many of the in your face features.

    I think Dead Rising 3 will claim a similar earliest obviously next gen status. The upgrade in power is more visible on Dead Rising 3 than say Ryse, which for all it’s achievements, isn’t that far from God of War on the PS2. Where most developers will still be trying to figure out what to do to make use of this new power in their FPS the guys making Dead Rising 3 knew exactly what it was going to do with that power before work even started on the XBOX One or PS4. Most games are smashing barriers like ‘we couldn’t have super detailed facial hair’ but Dead Rising 3 is smashing the hands on barriers like ‘ok, now it’s a city instead of a mall’. It’s got a much easier job than most.

  • Define next-gen. If hardware doesn’t define the generation then are we talking next gen graphics or next gen gameplay?

  • For me what has set this generation apart from the last has been Controls. The controls (motion control aside) are almost universally better for first and 3rd person shooters (3rd person shooters are playable now) than in the PS2 era.

    This is also the generation where graphics almost became indistinguishable from reality (now although we all have a sense when something is rendered and not filmed, the level of detail is so great now that there’s not a lot of scope for improvement other than just adding far more detail (which I guess is the whole 720/1080 brouhaha)

    Dead Rising is a quantifyable leap over PS2/GCN games, the graphics aren’t flash but the amount of zombies is staggering at times.

    There are a few other instances like that:

    In Assassin’s Creed, dead bodies don’t dissappear (they still do in GTA V though!) but Ass Creed was the first time I had ever seen this happen in a game

    This was the first generation to take the platformer away from cartoon characters, instead we had free-running superpowered games like Crackdown and Prototype or Parkour games like Ass Creed and Mirror’s Edge

    Assassin’s Creed IS this generation of Consoles, I wanted a 360 to play GTA IV because I was a HUGE San Andreas fan, but I could watch endless videos of Assassins Creed, the cities, these all new game systems and mechanics I hadn’t seen elsewhere, the free-running, it was as fun to watch as it was to play

    The other biggie was probably Mass Effect – I dislike the first game’s over-reliance on Stats and XP but I do like the conversation wheel, one of gaming’s innovations that’s been copied heaps now, most successfully probably in Deus Ex HR.

    Finally this gen was my first experience with online multiplayer and I’m hooked, the unpredictability of playing against real people cannot be matched

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