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Much like films and TV, the video game industry has become dependent on milking long-running franchises to their very limit, to the point where the majority of big-budget releases are sequels, prequels, remakes, remasters or reboots and only rarely will a publisher take a chance on something completely new.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing – if a franchise is successful and well-loved then gamers will embrace it whole-heartedly. Just look at Nintendo, pretty much every first party release is a continuation of a series that’s been going since the late 80s or early 90s, and almost every one is a smash hit.
That being said, when something fresh comes along, introducing new characters, worlds and concepts, it can feel truly special. There’s a buzz in the gaming community whenever something new captures imaginations and a palpable excitement after release at the thought of what this new property might become.
So, for part four of our review of the console generation gone-by, we celebrate the five best new Intellectual Properties to grace our screens.
A title that was announced at the start of the console generation but wasn't released until its final year - this might give some idea of just how bold an idea Dreams is. Developer Media Molecule made a big promise when they teased this release: A game that would give you the freedom to create your own video games and share them with other players, as well as to play any of the thousands of games that others have created.
It took a long time to perfect the formula and ready the game for release, but when it came, it lived up to everything that Media Molecule said it would be. A cradle for innovation where skilled creatives could share their work with a thriving community, a game that offers unreal value for those who just want to play rather than create as you could go back to try it every few weeks and find scores of amazing new games waiting to be enjoyed.
Dreams is a one-of-a-kind game that stands a testament to the perseverance and passion of not only the developers who spent so long making sure they delivered on their word, but to the users who devote so much time to polishing their creations to a sometimes professional level.
If you show someone with a good knowledge of video games a still from any moment in Cuphead (even without its titular hero included in the shot) and ask them “which game is this?”, they will be able to answer correctly in about 1/1000th of a second. The achingly nostalgic aesthetic that this game is built (and partially marketed) around makes it not only instantly recognisable, but an absolute beauty to play.
That beauty bleeds into the gameplay as players weave, shoot, jump and dodge in a ballet of bullets, ensuring that the action is a joy to watch even as your number of attempts to best this particular challenge march deep into double figures.
We said it in our list of Top 5 Xbox One Exclusives of the Generation and we'll say it again – for a long time, this was by far the best reason to own an Xbox One.
It's been said that Undertale has garnered something of a cult following, but in reality 'cult following' is putting it mildly. In fact, so devoted and numerous are the fans of developer Toby Fox's indie darling, that Undertale was notoriously voted the best game ever in a 2015 GameFAQs poll.
Although 'best game ever' might be a considerable stretch, Undertale is undoubtedly a marvel. Filled with a cast of some of the most lovable goofballs ever assembled in one place, Undertale is a game that's guaranteed to elicit a tear or two, be they tears of joy from the stream of jokes and jabs at RPG norms, or tears of regret as you mercilessly slaughter those aforementioned goofballs.
The idea of allowing players to not kill or fight any enemies, but rather solve your disputes with kindness was something that no previous game had ever committed to this hard or arguably this well.
What can we say about Control that we haven't already said? We consider it a five-star game with a sense of freedom and excitement in its combat that's leagues above most of its peers and the world and lore that Remedy Entertainment has woven throughout Jesse Faden's journey through the Federal Bureau of Control becomes more absorbing with each step taken.
The dark, tense but also surreal atmosphere makes the game feel unique and the shifting walls and otherworldly overtone of Control's setting ensures that the plot and action stay unpredictable. After all, how many games have you engage in gun fights with paranormal demons, then solve a puzzle by making the room as lucky as possible, then hit you with an optional boss that seems to be a giant ball made of clocks that attacks you by belching clocks and is damaged when you hit it with...clocks? Not enough!
What's more, in the most recent DLC expansion 'AWE', the developers began the process of tying Control's story in with that of previous critical hit 'Alan Wake' and the possibilities that this marriage of worlds creates is simply mouth-watering.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017)
We've already named this epic as the very best PlayStation 4 exclusive of the generation but now we're going one step further and proclaiming Horizon: Zero Dawn to be the best new IP of the whole generation across all consoles. And why? Well, if you're asking that question then you clearly haven't played Horizon: Zero Dawn.
Guerrilla Games outdid themselves when they released this game onto the world – a lush, gorgeous huge open world with an original and engaging post-apocalyptic sci-fi tale and a wealth secrets and back story to unlock, one of the most empathetic and instantly iconic heroines in the industry and heart-pounding battles with awe-inspiring creatures with enough combat options that these fights never get old.
Sony has already marked the sequel to this game as the biggest release for the next console generation in its formative years, and as for where the franchise goes from there, who's to say? One bet that seems pretty safe is that one sequel won't be the end of this franchise. Chances are there's a lot more Horizon on the horizon.