How next-gen gaming will break the fourth wall

Forget HD: at E3, next-gen games are breaking down the screen and climbing into the living room.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, the world’s biggest games show, went down again this week in California. More than 48,000 developers, publishers, industry insiders and journalists converged on the LA Convention Centre to check out the latest games, accessories and ideas from 230 exhibitors.

As usual, the big three, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo, stole most of the headlines. Microsoft and Sony waged a war for the hearts and minds of hardcore gamers, revealing new look hardware, plus pricetags and launch dates for their new next-gen consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 . Not to be outdone though, Japanese gaming giant Nintendo, which has struggled to make an impressions with its Wii U since launch late last year, announced a raft of new games for the console, including several new Mario and Zelda titles.

A photo of the Xbox logo at the E3 gaming convention
Xbox at E3 2013© Mooshuu

Plenty more promising new titles were announced too, including the long awaited latest instalment in the long running RPG franchise, Final Fantasy XV, a Killer Instinct revival, and a whole new IP from the minds behind Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, the stunningly ambitious looking sci-fi shooter Titanfall. This year’s new batch of games were bigger and better looking than ever before - but we all saw that one coming, right?

If there was a less expected trend at this year’s E3, it was for interactivity: the next-generation of consoles are competing with smartphones and all sorts of on-demand entertainment for your attention.

Big game developers know that, and now that we’re more connected than ever, they’re taking that and using it to their advantage, tying them all into their new blockbusters, and making full use of the clever new cameras that ship with both the Xbox One and the PS4. Here are just a few of the games that are set to break down the fourth wall and quite literally invade your living room - and the world outside.

Dead Rising 3

Microsoft’s second screen SmartGlass tech has been around for awhile now, but it’s only with the Xbox One that developers are really starting to make full use of it. Install it on your tablet or smartphone, and you’ll be able to unlock some clever extra features in Capcom’s zombie survival horror sequel, including the ability to call in air or drone support, distract zombies with flare drops, or search out hidden items in abandoned buildings. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine one player taking out zombies while a co-op player uses their phone or computer to scout the area.

That’s not all Capcom is doing though. The Xbox One comes with a new, next-gen Kinect motion sensing camera that perches above or below your TV. It can see you, but it can also hear you, and that’s where things start to get really smart - and scary.

In Dead Rising 3, Capcom’s hinted that zombies will be able to listen and react to noises your side of the TV screen. That means you can shout out a zombie to grab its attention, lure it out and dispatch it - but it also means unexpected noises could give you away. In other words, you’d better hope a family member doesn’t come strolling in while you’re hiding and ask what you want for dinner, or you may end up as it.

Destiny

Destiny, the next game from the Halo creators at Bungie, was officially announced earlier this year, but we got plenty more details as well as a full trailer this week at E3. As you might have guessed, it’s a shooter set in the intergalactic future, but Bungie has big, ambitious plans for the game.
For a start, they’re calling it “alive”. It’s not quite a massively multiplayer online game, in which all the players online at one time can play against each other - rather, you’ll be seamlessly matched against others, and events can happen in the game which may have lasting ramifications.

Bungie’s even got plans to rope in social media and the phone that’s in your pocket. Even when you’re away from the console, the game world continues: the studio says it’s working on an app that will notify you on the go of new quests, as well as what your friends are up to in the Destiny universe at any given time.

Metal Gear Solid V

Konami has finally stopped playing games and announced the next Metal Gear Solid V properly this time - the stealth action game is headed to current-gen consoles and next-gen as well, and alongside a new open world to explore, gaming visionary and Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima is looking at roping in the devices we all carry around now too.

“With MGS5, I feel that [using] multiple devices, tablets and smartphones and how to interact with it socially is a big step forward,” he told Polygon [http://www.polygon.com/2013/6/13/4425442/next-gen-metal-gear-solid-5-smartphone-tablet-kojima] in an interview at the expo this week.

Kojima didn’t elaborate on how this would work, but you can bet it’d be something smarter and more useful than viewing your multiplayer stats: the gaming auteur is known for messing with gamers’ minds though, and has dabbled with fourth wall gimmicks before.

One boss in the original Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation, Psycho Mantis, could only be defeated by plugging your controller into the Player 2 slot. He’d also look at the save game files on your memory card and would casually namedrop any Konami titles you’d been playing during the fight - who knows what he could do with the phone in your pocket and a Kinect sitting on top of the telly.

Quantum Break

Perhaps the most ambitious game of all on show at E3 this week was Quantum Break, the stunning follow up from Remedy, the studio behind the original Max Payne, and more recently, Alan Wake. Its next-gen game focuses on time travel, and from the trailers we’ve seen so far, promises some explosive set pieces, as well as stunningly lifelike characters - Remedy have even used dental moulds to make sure characters speak realistically.

Here’s where things start to get surreal: Quantum Break will play out in episodes, and after each, you’ll watch and participate in a game show, in which the presenters recap what happened using footage of your actual gameplay, as well as present you with options as to how the story then unfurls. It’s more than a little ambitious, but as a flagship Xbox One title, what else would you expect?