This holiday season, we'll have new consoles in our entertainment centers. While we on the USgamer staff are still deciding between the two, we are still looking forward to both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X regardless.
Lately, we've been thinking what we want out of the new consoles. No, not in games or tech. Mostly, we've been thinking about what trends in gaming we'd like to stay in this past generation. Y'know, the sorts of things we don't want to see return—whether it's a downtempo song cover in a trailer, or squeezing between two rocks to hide a loading screen. So, here they are, the 10 trends we hope PS5 and Xbox Series X games avoid.
I partially blame my current distaste of trailing missions in Ghost of Tsushima, which I've been playing a lot of as of late. Ghost of Tsushima is a perfect example of the failings of tailing missions: an open-world game of exploration and player-experimentation, forcing you to slow things right down to a crawl, following an arbitrary path with an instant failure state if you're spotted.
If tailing missions can't go away entirely, I'd at least prefer there to be some consequence other than an instant fail-state for when you screw up. Let there be a worthwhile reward for slowing the pace down to a tedious crawl and forcing us to stick with it, and punishment other than an instant game over for if we're spotted. Games like Ghost of Tsushima are all about adapting to your current situation—whether it's a Mongolian warrior with a flaming sword bearing down on you, or a huge black bear chasing after you—and tailing missions rob the player of this variety entirely. —Hirun Cryer
Twee Games About Mental Health
Look, I understand that part of creative work is allowing yourself to explore real-world themes. It's a way to work through your worldview, your memories, and your emotions. Combined with the collaborative nature of game development, this can lead to some truly transformative experiences. I want developers to do this!
But far too often, the metaphor is entirely overt. The pitch is our main character wrestling with their demons, fighting or avoiding them. And those demons are entirely on-the-nose: a persuasive devil to represent a drug addiction, a large ogre as a stand-in for an abusive family member.
Layering an unsubtle metaphor over a fairly standard platformer or adventure game does your message no favors. If you're making games, you still have to ensure that you have unique mechanics that fit with the themes you're trying to convey. Don't be afraid to hide the metaphor a bit; sure you might want to talk about mental health or work through a personal trauma, but have that be something that unfolds for the player slowly, without their initial knowledge. Instead, too many games plaster that point on the front of the proverbial box, ultimately undercutting it. —Mike Williams
The "Ubisoft Tower"
"Ubisoft Towers" were already humdrum by the time they turned up in Breath of the Wild three years ago. That same year, Horizon Zero Dawn put a neat, mobile twist on the concept with its Tallnecks, but those still fulfilled the same purpose. Towers or "synchronization points" then popped up again in their franchise of origin with the next two Assassin's Creed games, and it seems like they'll be present in Valhalla, too.
What started as a smart way to guide players in the early Assassin's Creed entries now feels increasingly like a holdover as the series expands in scope and mechanics. On top of that, no matter how the Tower idea is tweaked in other open-world games, it always ends up sticking out like a sore thumb.
Ubisoft Towers have come to define a formulaic approach to open-world design. With next-gen games, it's not as though every open-world title should either start with a full map or go all-in on directionless discovery, but it'd be nice to see developers coming up with new solutions to the problems that Ubisoft Towers exist to solve. If there's a map to be unfogged, a fast travel point to unlock, or a beautiful vista to take in, just stop telling players to go to that tower over there (and then that one, and that one, and that one off into infinity). —Mathew Olson
Down Tempo Pop Song Covers In Trailers
A trailer is not easy to make. Oftentimes, it is the first impression any potential player has of a game, and so it has to establish a great deal in a short amount of time. That doesn't just mean gameplay or setting, but tone. Today's games are growing increasingly more mature. For every Paper Mario, there is a Gears or The Last of Us.
For obvious reasons, this has translated into trailers using more somber music, rather than brassy fanfare. And for some reason, these are frequently covers of songs whose source content was absolutely not that.
In some cases, this is a strange disconnect, like a Skull & Bones trailer that uses a Seal cover—and not even "Kiss From a Rose," by the way. Others fumble the delivery, like the tonally appropriate The Last of Us Part 2 trailer which Sony had to nevertheless apologize for, due to them lifting the tone of the cover from another artist. Woops.
Even some cases used appropriate song choices with a less effective style of cover. This Gears 5 trailer makes great use of "The Chain," but rather than Fleetwood Mac's version which kicks up at a perfect time for the trailer, it's a movie trailer-style, vocalist-centric cover. And then there's this:
No one, no one, no one should do a breathy, atmospheric, Lana Del Rey-inspired cover of "X Gon' Give It To Ya," much less use it for marketing purposes. Oh, and Ubisoft should really reconsider its song choices if it wants to keep pulling the whole "not political" act. Just use regular versions of pop songs! Borderlands's use of "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked" still works for a reason! —Eric Van Allen
Look, detective vision on its own is an adequate idea, but I dislike the way so many games use it as a crutch or as a visual shortcut, or just put it in games that don't warrant it. Either design an environment that highlights what the points of interest are—you know, like what environment design should do—or build an experience that allows me to actually deduce things and work out what I should be doing organically. Painting half the world in glowing orange just feels lazy, not to mention that a lot of games with it force you to walk slowly while it's turned on, telling you "you can run or you can see things, but not both. After all, we don't want you getting spoiled."
What makes it worse is that some designers seem to think that detective vision somehow constitutes a puzzle, where in reality all it boils down to is that if you enter a room and it's not immediately clear what to do next, you press a button and then look at whatever object changed color. And I don't think it's a coincidence that those tailing missions Hirun was so rightly peeved about have escalated proportionately with detective vision. If I had a penny for every game that told me to press a button and then follow a glowing line on the ground, I still wouldn't be able to afford enough liquor to make them feel fun. —Joel Franey
Squeezing Through Spaces to Hide Load Times
During the recent Unreal Engine 5 tech demo, one bit annoyed me in particular: The heroine squeezes through a tight space. Epic Games later said that it wasn't a way to mask load times, as has often been its most obvious use in the current generation. Alas, it used the "squeeze between these big rocks" thing anyway. I'm tired of it.
It's become such a thing that it's not even cleverly hiding environment loading anymore, as was once the norm. Now, it's just a thing that triple-A third-person games do. In The Last of Us Part 2, I squeezed between spaces. In Final Fantasy 7 Remake even, I squeezed between spaces. It's become so ubiquitous that even in games that don't seemingly need to mask load times find a way to squeeze the mechanic in, such as in Ghost of Tsushima. In next-gen, I want no more of it.
Hopefully one day the next-gen consoles's tech will mature to a point around mid-generation where, perhaps, there won't be any loading that needs to be hidden at all anymore. Or at least not in an annoyingly obvious way. For now, I assume we're stuck with it for at least a few more years. I look forward to inching through more crevices and groaning about it on PS5 and Xbox Series X. —Caty McCarthy
The Battle Royale Circle
I originally wanted to pitch this as battle royales being tired in general, but that's not true. Games like Fall Guys have proven that there's still a lot to do in the massively multiplayer last-person-standing realm. So when I dug down deep, to try to really identify what it is that has made so many battle royales feel compoundingly stale for me. It's not dropping onto an island, giant maps, or even shooting. It's that damn circle.
The circle was, as best I can tell, popularized by PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, one of the ur-royales. Then Fortnite employed a similar system. Every game ever since has employed some system that is a circle, or at least circle-adjacent; either having sections of the map become inaccessible or harmful over time, or just straight up implementing an encroaching circle.
There's an importance to tightening the ring of potential battle, especially with such massive maps and in a game where the player count is going to drop over the course of the match. There has to be better ways of doing so, however, and the circle feels like an easy way to enforce this. Hyper Scape plays with sections fading over time, but I want to see more games explore how a map can evolve in different ways during a match. What if an arena stayed the same size but had unique hazards to encourage movement and discourage "camping," like the second Hunger Games book/movie? Or what if, like Fall Guys, the battle took place across different arenas and the dwindling players were shuffled between them?
Battle royales are still fine. It's just the circle that needs to change. —Eric Van Allen
That Prevailing Overwatch and Fortnite-Like Art Style
Look, I don't want to tell a developer what they can and can't do. I also don't want to feed into the "CalArts style" nonsense I sometimes see online. But folks, sometimes it feels like you're mining the same ground to your detriment.
Overwatch is one of the biggest games of the last generation, and part of that was its well-designed cadre of characters. Not only is every character instantly readable on the battlefield, the designs carry a whole lot of personality. Overwatch, and later Fortnite, both carry forward this clean visual style, suited for action figures as much as animation.
If you're not Overwatch or Fortnite though, using a similar style is going to hold you back. The recently-released Rocket Arena is a good example: the 3v3 arena shooter doesn't actually look like Overwatch or Fortnite if you dive into the details, but spread out in front of a player it has a similar vibe. Squint and you'd be remiss to tell the difference. Amazon's non-defunct Breakaway and Hi-Rez Studios's Paladin also mine a similar space, to the point that if you search for "Paladins" on Google, "Overwatch" appears as one of the additional terms.
A unique art style can go a long way toward making players pay attention to your characters. Imagine an online multiplayer game with the sumi-e style of Okami, or a watercolor aesthetic? Immediately, you stand out in the crowd. I understand why the "Overwatch look" is a thing—it's clear and readable—but developers should dream bigger. —Mike Williams
Big Ass Patches
I have two PlayStation 4s. I keep my launch edition in my room and my PS4 Pro in my living room. My launch PS4 is what I like to call my "Call of Duty machine." That's because pretty much nothing else fits on it.
This has become an unfunny joke as of late. File sizes for triple-A games are already massive, with most clocking in at around 100GB. With live service games and general post-launch patches, those file sizes have only ballooned over the years. Just now, I'm wondering how big Call of Duty: Modern Warfare's Season 5 update is going to be, considering it's already teetering near 200GB. Destiny 2, for its next expansion, is literally rolling back planets into a vault in an effort to slim down its file size. For a lot of live service games, they basically beg to be the only game on your hardware, because you don't have an option otherwise. (Unless you have an expanded hard drive.)
Both the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 aren't expanding much either, hard drive storage-wise. Both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X have a 1TB hard drive, the same as the Xbox Series X. The PlayStation 5 is even smaller at 840GB. Sony has claimed its new proprietary SSD will reduce install sizes, however. But at the rate triple-A game development is headed, file sizes are only going to get bigger, not smaller.
My wish for next-gen is that the hardware itself creates solutions for this, as the PlayStation 5 promises already. Maybe that lies in more impressive compression; maybe it lies in developers having to cut their losses and making smaller, less data-rich games. I'm not a tech wiz, so what do I know? I just don't want a single game to take up the majority of my hard drive anymore. That's all. —Caty McCarthy
Crafting As an Afterthought
Bleeeeagh. Nothing tries my patience these days more than a crafting system that feels vestigial and unnecessary. Crafting should be as much art as science, building clever devices and structures to solve elaborate problems in any one of numerous ways. But a game in which there's less than a dozen resources and you just press them together for upgrades and the same three items? That's just another currency, not a resource to be experimented and tinkered with.
Horror games seem especially prone to this blight, perhaps thinking they owe some token tribute to Resident Evil. Alien: Isolation and The Last of Us were obvious cases, as well as Horizon Zero Dawn, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2, to name a few others. These games aren't improved by having crafting mechanics any more than bars are improved by open-mic nights and karaoke: It's just something they feel they're supposed to have, no matter how many people resent them for it. —Joel Franey