Give me some examples?
Why? Because you don't want developers to push the envelope, you don't want developers to make better games.
This is completely wrong. Stop telling me what I'm thinking. You're misinterpreting me, and I don't like that.
You seem to be under the assumption that I'm just ignoring these things you're talking about. I'm not ignoring them.
Never mind games capture entire body movement, or have hundreds more animations in one character than last gen, or have draw distances that go off into the distance for miles and miles.
Motion capture's relatively new for games, but as a concept, it's not that new, and it's been used in movies for a long time. The additional animation is nice, sure, and so are the large view distances.
How, though, do these matter at all on the gameplay front?
Never mind that computer AI evolves and reacts to the player, and never mind realistic physics, streamlined online play, downloadable content that extends the game experience, never mind that all.
Realistic physics is, certantainly, realistic, but I've yet to actually see anything besides, say, Gmod, this gen, use physics in an interesting way -- it's mostly been ragdoll physics and stuff like oblivion's traps which I've never actually seen work properly. Exile probably has one of the most interesting uses of game-physics I've seen, and that game's from '88.
Physics aren't that hard to model, though. I mean, Frontier: Elite 2 and Frontier: First Encounters had quite realistic Newtonian phyiscs for space flight (Which, I believe, isn't particularly common. Partially because whether or not it's fun is debatable, but eh).
I'm not sure what sort of games you're refering to, when you say AI. Of the top of my head, I can't really think of any PS2 or GC RPGs with adaptive AI. I don't play much in the way of FPSes on consoles because the controls don't really jive with me for it, but, say, Metroid Prime 1 and 2 don't have adaptive AI, I know. Very obvious pattern-based enemies. Same for the Zeldas.
On the PC front, Unreal and Half-Life both had pretty strong AI, but that was some time ago, and I don't think they were adaptive, either. I also hear Half-Life's AI is almost entirely based on what sort of path-nodes you have set up or something. UT2K4's bots were strong, but not really revolutionary. Call of Duty 2 had pretty standard AI. Same for 1. Strong, but nothing really revolutionary. More often than not, I read reviews and here complaints about the AI in a lot of new games.
Now, I do remember some very interesting simulations from the mid-nineties with really interesting AI. Creatures 1 and 2 come to mind. Galapagos was also relatively interesting adventure sort of game based around operant conditioning.
Truthfully though I don't really remember a lot of games actually having adaptive AI, so I'm guessing this is a feature from Halo or something.
I also seem to recall a few games apparently recording play styles or something, saving them across game sections, and tweaking the AI as per whatever got found in the recorder play styles, but I don't know if this feature was ever actually implemented, and I haven't heard of it in any recent games.
Downloadable content... Well, that's been around since the internet took off in the late 80s. Nethack has sharable bones files. Adventure had... user-made mods, I guess. That's not really the internet, though. Anyway. A lot of games had free mission pack type things. GalCiv I and II are recent examples. Daggerfall and some various strategy games are older ones. Morrowind also had a fair amount of free, official mods. Also, I'm not even mentioning the extremely massive freeware games scene.
The modern incarnation seems to lead to things like GTA editions that ship without content. Er, no thanks. I'd prefer stay in the days when downloadable addon content was free.
And streamlined internet play? Again, relatively newer, but nothing THAT new. Battle.net's an ooooold service. Sierra's Wow service had a decent run, I guess. Gamespy arcade's also been around for some time. I don't think modern player-matching systems STARTED with UT99, but they've been around since at least that long.
Basically, though, I'm really not ignoring the technological advancements. I'm just not impressed by what people are doing them. I don't think most devs are pushing the systems to their limits at all. They're using the hardware exactly how it's meant to be used, and not really going beyond it at all.
Also, even IF the CGIs in games get prettier, that doesn't mean the art directions going to get any better either. If you're a crappy artist or suck at 'directing' CGIs, it doesn't matter if you're working with low-poly, flat-shaded models on a PS1, or highly detailed models on a PS3.
Be it a little shader, or a bit more detailed water, those techniques and that detail will be shared and continue on in future games, and they will also look better in time.
Sure, that's dandy, but I'm not going to spend 60 dollars on a game just so I can look at the water (Unless we're talking some incredibly unlikely sequel to Aquanaut's Holiday or something).