I'm looking forward to next gen for one and but the one reason, right now: science fiction appears to be on the brink of conquering the industry. Established IP like Battlefield and Call of Duty are inching past the present tense, lured by the prospect of prototype, near-future weaponry. Activision and Microsoft are going head to head for dominance of the space marine premise with Destiny and Halo's new Reclaimer trilogy.
The list of contenders rolls on. Trion Worlds has teamed up with Syfy to create a Borderlands-ish MMO, Defiance, which will run alongside a television series of the same name. Sleepers like Respawn Entertainment are quietly bustling away in the corners. CD Projekt is developing an utterly lush RPG based on the Cyberpunk 2020 boardgame, set in a city of dream junkies and flying cars. LucasArts has what smells strongly like a credible Star Wars game on its hands in the shape of bounty hunter outing Star Wars 1313.
All this poses interesting challenges for older and/or less-sung sci-fi IP, needless to say, and I was keen to hear Crytek co-founder Cevat Yerli's thoughts after sampling the latest instalment of the Crysis series. Long story short, he's not too worried. "Crysis has its DNA, which is about the way the player expresses his playstyle," Yerli began. "You always have choices, and when you divide the game up into the player, the environment and the AI, those are three dimensions that we're making as open as we can.
"The sandbox is as open as we can make it, the AI system - the player always has choices about how he wants to tackle it. And in Crysis 2 we added weapon customisation which adds another dimension to the freedom. So if you add that decision-making to a fairly open and flexible player-expressive sandbox DNA, this makes Crysis stand out. Because that's our heritage, the result of our investment for the last 10 years.
Newcomers to the niche will have a hard time rivalling the choice-driven play that characterises Crysis, he went on, singling out Call of Duty and Destiny in particular. "To get there, you have to build all these foundations first, and it's challenging for any new company or any company that has a certain DNA like Call of Duty to get there.
"Or Destiny, which is Bungie's new title, building on the Halo franchise - there's some DNA there that goes in this direction, but again they're much more occupied in their minds with establishing the IP, not evolving the IP. So it is possible that Crysis might be similar, but I believe that the Nanosuit and our choices will stand out."
"And as long as you do something that has high quality, and makes an emotional impact on the player - whether that's through the gameplay or the narrative or whatever it is - it could be any kind of setting," interjected Crytek's director of creative development, Rasmus Højengaard - he of "next gen consoles with pre-owned blocks would be awesome" infamy.
"You could easily choose a medieval game that appeals to you in the same way," he added. "Just because there are three sci-fi games doesn't mean you would go to one of the other sci-fi games. All high quality games that are first-person and single player compete with each other anyway - you just need to make something really awesome that resonates well with players.
"And to be honest, in a way a small amount of competition or pressure is a good thing, because it forces you to think outside the box."
Hands-on time with Crysis 3 suggests that it isn't a shooter that thinks outside the box, but a shooter that attempts to merge the boxes of Crysis 1 and 2. Are you getting a good feeling? Yerli insists that Crytek's CryEngine 3 technology is "three years ahead" of its closest competitor, the Unreal Engine 4, and claims it will dominate next generation hardware. Just as long as that's also true of sci-fi at large, Cevat...