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Monday Muse: Thank god next-gen is almost here

Plus: Aliens: Colonial Marines finally set for release

In a new weekly column, CVG writers share their early week insights...

8 years. That's how long it's been since we last revelled in the buzz, the doctored trailers and marketing pot-shots of a Sony and Microsoft home console reveal.

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At E3 2005 I remember the mood of hysteria as half the world's games press rushed from Sony's PS3 show-stormer - the 'grill' Photoshops already in circulation - to the equally impressive Xbox 360 world premiere across town.

Who could forget those first incredible glimpses of Project Gotham Racing 3 and that Killzone 2 trailer? The PS3's futuristic curves, and Microsoft's impressive vision for the future of Xbox Live?

It was brilliant, if exhausting stuff, convincing enough to revitalise the passion of even the most cynical games stalwart.

Cut to 2013, and the impending PlayStation Meeting inspires as much a feeling of relief than excitement.

This console cycle has lasted longer than any other - and it's easy to notice. For most of the industry - gamers included - it's been far, far too long.

In 2012 the games market contracted by almost a quarter in both the US and UK, as the gaming public sat anxiously on its hands for the next wave of hardware innovation to arrive. Everywhere you look there are major publishers going downhill, and in an even worse state are physical retailers, desperate for the shot in the arm new hardware could bring.

But perhaps the most depressing casualty of the never-ending console cycle is, a few welcome exceptions aside, the increasingly pedestrian release slate.

With the provocative BioShock Infinite and The Last of Us delayed, 2012 saw the most predictable onslaught of franchise sequels in recent memory, and if we're honest, how many of them didn't feel creatively constrained by the thinning margins of current-gen hardware?

It was the year of safe bets, and as EA Labels boss Frank Gibeau told me at 2012's E3: Gamers only got half a show, as the industry inevitably held its cards for next-gen.

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In the same interview the EA exec admitted that even his company was holding off five brand new IPs for the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles.

There's no doubt that the industry is desperate for new machines to breathe new life into it. But these new arrivals can't simply be more powerful editions of what we've seen before - they need to update to modern tastes as well.

Sony and Microsoft should be feeling the pressures from a drastically changed marketplace, with some industry voices calling the current console model, still reliant on expensive boxed releases and cynical DLC plans, unsustainable.

The next Xbox and PlayStation need to prove that consoles can offer the affordable, immediate and flexible experiences we've come to expect from PC and mobile. $4 indie titles need to mingle with £30 blockbusters, and they need to be delivered to gamers on our own terms, unconstrained by arbitrary platform restrictions.

It remains to be seen if the platform holders are up that challenge. But thank god we'll be finding out if they are in less than ten days time.


Another test for survival horror

Dead Space 3, the latest survival horror instalment decreed to have 'gone action', has caused much debate among the gaming community, with more than a few forumites proclaiming the EA series 'Dead' and other, more level-headed commentators simply glad it's been commercially viable enough to last this long.

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Personally, I enjoyed Dead Space 2 even more than the original, mostly because the action slant offered a change of pace, rather than a tedious retread of the original game.

The latest instalment of course continues the set-piece-athon formula rather than switch it up for a third time, which is disappointing. But nobody can deny it's a masterfully crafted campaign that's consistently entertaining. But not scary... at all.

Tomorrow sees the global release of the latest instalment in another classic horror series, Aliens: Colonial Marines, and going by the media released so far, nobody would be surprised if that also shares an unhealthy obsession for explosions.

Our review goes live tomorrow morning. I've no doubt it'll stir up even more debate.

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