Next-gen is being held back by last-gen, but Shadow of Mordor might break the chain

If you’re the early adopter type, sitting there with your Xbox One and your PS4 and your copies of Killzone and Ryse, you’ve seen some terrific examples of what the new hardware is capable of visually. Then again, for all their bells and whistles and particle effects, the in-game experiences aren’t that far off from what you can find in plenty of Xbox 360 or PS3 games. But if you’re afraid that’s all these new consoles are ever going to be good for, worry not. The truly “next-gen” games, the games that take full advantage of their expensive and highly advanced hardware, are on the way.

Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor developer Monolith Productions told IGN today that they’re focusing more heavily on the Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game. Specifically, the game’s ambitious AI system, dubbed “Nemesis,” will be somewhat diluted in the previous-generation versions, because they’re just not quite equipped to handle it. Considering that the developers have specifically referenced the Nemesis system as the game's big, next-gen feature, this makes sense.

It comes as a slight surprise every time, but the fact that many games surrounding next-gen launches don’t astound with their visuals and mechanics makes a good deal of sense. There’s not much incentive to make groundbreaking stuff for platforms that don’t have a huge install base, so the inclination for developers is to make a game that will work great on the previous consoles, too. Around the launch of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, we saw plenty of PS2 games upscaled to 720p. With the new consoles, we’re seeing a similar trend of games that look better, but don’t necessarily give us experiences we couldn’t have had with our newly obsolete hardware; hardware that, in case you're wondering, is still sitting in nearly 200 million houses around the world. Developers aren't just going to leave that potential money sitting on the table--not just yet.

With this news, Monolith is essentially purporting to buck that trend, and perhaps a bit earlier than expected. Last generation, it was a couple of years before we started seeing games that were decidedly better on all fronts. Games like Assassin’s Creed showed what could be done on the new generation of hardware, not just visually, but also with improved AI and gameplay systems that were only possible with greatly increased processing power. Climbing actual ledges? That's something the PlayStation 2 simply couldn't handle. Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis system seems like it could be a similar jump.

For those unaware, Shadow of Mordor’s AI system promises more persistence with its enemies. The adversaries you face aren’t just dumb grunts who follow routines, they’re persistent characters who learn and change as the game progresses. Light an orc on fire and he might come back later, remembering the time you burnt his face off--hell, he might be horribly scared of fire. It’s an idea that’s full of promise, and should make players approach combat and stealth with more care. And because it’s running a constant simulation of all of these characters, apparently even when they’re not on-screen, it’s just too much for last-gen consoles: The Nemesis system is “just so huge in terms of content, calculations and AI we’ll just have to try and get as much of it in as we can,” design director Michael de Plater told IGN, referring to the previous-gen versions of the game.

That’s a vague quote, and as it stands we don’t know exactly how innovative or impressive the final version of Shadow of Mordor will be, or how dumbed-down the last-gen versions will wind up. Either way, it's certainly nice to see a developer commit to delivering never-before-seen experiences, if only so I can feel better about my exorbitant investments in all this so-called “next generation” hardware.


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  • richard-stachowsk-iii - February 24, 2014 9:55 a.m.

    This happens at every new console gen.You don't start seeing next gen exclusives for at least 6 months to a year.Because not everyone has adopted a xb1 or ps4 yet.So publishers in their infinite greed decide to keep making multi plats that also support last gen to maximize profit.last gen isn't holding any games back.It's greedy corporate pricks that need to get every last penny.Cause they can't be happy with making say 200 million profit.Watch ones the majority have xb1/ps4 you will see fewer multiplats that are on last gen.It's why console gamers should just leave buying a new console at it's launch to the fanboys.And wait till the games start coming out. It's why I waiting till april to buy a ps4.Cause that's when you will see more of those next gen exclusives starting to churn out.Until then I have plenty to play on my ps3.
  • staz - February 24, 2014 2:21 p.m.

    This has got to be the most short-sighted, ill-informed thought I've seen on the internet today. The budgets for these AAA games that really maximizes the potential of the new consoles are enormous. And games aren't making $200m profits. Some MIGHT be making $200m SALES, but there are these things called COSTS that every business venture have. And if you were in charge of the return on the investment that one of these games requires, you'd be maximizing your audience as well. And the audience just isn't there for the new consoles yet. And doing big AAA titles for JUST the new consoles out of the gate wouldn't guarantee an expanded proliferation of the platform but could put the jobs and the company who made it at risk if it can't be profitable. Not every business is out to screw you and steal all the money from the poor honest working people in the world. Stop crying about your video games and learning something...anything, about business.
  • The_Tingler - February 23, 2014 11:43 p.m.

    Hmm, yeah, sorry, I'm looking forward to Shadows of Mordor but it doesn't matter what they say, unless the 360/PS3 versions are being handled by a completely different development house (like Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for example) the game WILL be compromised. If it's mostly the same game it'll have to be, no question.
  • Stryder56 - February 21, 2014 11:54 a.m.

    Boy, I can't imagine what it is like to have a superior platform held back by archaic console hardware........welcome to PC gaming.
  • Eightboll812 - February 22, 2014 8:52 a.m.

    It's the same with PC gaming. If they only made games for the highest end gaming rig, they'd exclude a huge part of the market, i.e. anyone who has a PC older than a year. The only difference is that the PC market is a constant sliding scale (so you don't notice it as much) as opposed to consoles which have a discreet stepping scale. But nevertheless, a current PC game *IS* held back by the power of a 3 year old PC in some aspect or another, or the game development is incredibly more complex to manage.
  • kurkosdr - February 22, 2014 2:16 p.m.

    The laptop revolution killed PC gaming. From what I see around, most people have a laptop with some integrated or discrete midrange card. The days you looked for the most punch for your buck are over, now it's looking for the most lightness for your buck. So, suppose you are a publsher. More than half of the people own laptops, and from the ones that own PCs, only some of them have hi-end cards. Designing for the hi-end, or developing time to make the game look good for both the midrange and the hi-end segment is an unjustified expense.
  • kurkosdr - February 22, 2014 2:16 p.m.

    from the ones that own PCs = from the ones that own desktop PCs
  • cyco687 - February 21, 2014 10:56 a.m.

    I really hope this lives up to what it says it will, I think next gen is all going to be about better AI and being more interactive.
  • universaltofu - February 20, 2014 9:21 p.m.

    I wonder just how far this nemesis system could be taken, how far will orcs go for revenge, how swift and diabolical will their justice be?
  • GamesRadarCollanderCooper - February 20, 2014 9:07 p.m.

    First of all, this article reads like a press release. Secondly, isn't Shadow of Mordor the game that ganked animations from Assassin's Creed II? That's a 5-year-old LAST GEN game.
  • fullmetallegend - February 21, 2014 12:05 p.m.

    The whole point of the article was talking about next-gen game-play rather then just next gen graphics.
  • db1331 - February 20, 2014 7:36 p.m.

    Wow, I'm being crushed under the weight of the hypocrisy on display here. These consoles have been out a few months, and already they are being held back by last-gen consoles? Welcome to the last 8 years of PC gaming. Don't worry though. We won't call you elitists for pointing out the obvious. And to further put into perspective how long we've been waiting for devs to really take advantage of our hardware: Most of these new "Next-gen" games can't even run at 1080p and/or 60fps-something that has been the standard on PCs for the last 10 years.
  • GOD - February 20, 2014 5:48 p.m.

    It's odd that the game that is "bucking the trend of being held back by last gen" is still a game that will have last gen ports. I'm looking to see how Infamous does as a next gen only open world game.
  • BladedFalcon - February 20, 2014 6:08 p.m.

    Sadly, form that I've heard so far, it seems that it looks super pretty, but very much plays and feels like the current gen Infamous games. Which I mean, it's not necessarily a bad thing IMO since I love how those play. But i don't think Second Son will feel like a proper Next Gen experience just yet.
  • GOD - February 20, 2014 6:11 p.m.

    Well I'm still willing to see how it is once it releases publicly, since it being this kind of supernatural game there usually gameplay related things they have to hide due to story reasons. We'll know soon enough though.
  • Vonter - February 20, 2014 7:27 p.m.

    So the Mario Kart 8 of the PS4? :p Seriously I can't see as of now a break through. We all know presentation will be better and get better, hell MGS V looks awesome and I only think the main issue in last gen will be the framerate. I hope by E3 we hear more about how Microsoft bring games that use the Cloud, Sony shows the extend of PS Now and maybe, just maybe give The Last Guardian a release date. From Nintendo I have hopes for the new IP they have promise to unveil at E3 but I'm cautious since I don't think it'll be something profound, at the very least it will likely be fun and clever.
  • Eightboll812 - February 22, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    That's too bad in a way. My biggest complaint about Infamous was that buildings were just monolithic blocks on a street. They had no interior of any sort, so it didn't end up feeling much like a city at all. One thing I like about BF4 is the incredible detail the maps have. I'm so used to buildings having no inside that I'm continually surprised when I discover some building that I thought was just a block, actually has an inside and sometimes even an elevator to the top.

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