Nope, nope and nope. The thing they all have in common is a lack of innovation, but is that such a bad thing? Something else they all have in common is consistent evidence of master craftsmanship, but when it comes to games, that particular element is often brushed over in favour of endless deconstructions of what a particular title does differently to its peers.
Perhaps that last comment does the gaming press a disservice, after all, both Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 scored favourably in the majority of reviews. I'm also being a little unfair on the games mentioned, both titles have their share of quiet design epiphanies. The problem lies in how we perceive interactive entertainment as a burgeoning art form (there goes that nauseating sentiment again). Though there is still bountiful room for innovation in the industry (and long may it continue), it could be argued that gaming is now mature enough to afford more in the way of a self-referential perspective.
Why is it such a crime to avoid innovation altogether in favour of crafting a beautifully paced and balanced shooter, or narrative led RPG? Admittedly, film making could never have attained such dizzying artistic heights without visionary masterpieces like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. But neither could it have cemented itself as a craft and a discipline without less innovative, but arguably just as perfectly executed, classics like Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas or Ridley Scott’s Alien.
Nobody would point the finger at a book like Simon Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold for being deficient in new ideas. Most level headed critics would be much more likely to praise Le Carre’s deft handling of pace, structure, suspense and intrigue. Innovation simply doesn’t always apply and neither should it in interactive entertainment.
Mirror’s Edge may have a premise different from any other FPS before it, but beneath the veneer of brave new leaps lies a tawdry set of the genre’s oldest ideas, many of them carried off with little flair. It’s not like EA Digital Illusions should be condemned for trying, it’s an admirably ambitious conceit for a game (and it has a visual design to die for).
The point is that innovation can get in the way of craft and often does in an industry that seems at times embarrassed by its techniques and devices rather than enriched by them. As does gaming's audience which appears to crave solutions to problems that don’t exist.
Just to reiterate, innovation is a good thing, the industry thrives on it. Let’s just not make it the be all and end all of games design and gaming critique. As is the mantra this time of year (especially while the big studios wrap up the holiday big hitter projects and ramp up next year’s summer blockbusters) everything in moderation please.