Are first person shooters finished until next-gen of consoles?
Something magical happened in 2007 when Infinity Ward changed the rulebook with the original Modern Warfare. With its unique perk system, balanced maps and epic scale; the next generation had found its poster boy. But that was five years ago.
Many have become disillusioned at the lack of creativity in nearly every online shooter since. Yes Modern Warfare revolutionised the genre but did it really leave a positive impact?
From Halo Reach to Resistance to the upcoming Syndicate, every current FPS has Call of Duty 4’s footprints scattered all over. It is now a convention for every FPS to have its own inferior versions of the perk system and weapon customisation options that made COD4 so great.
Modern Warfare – doomed by success?
I have been a fan of Infinity Ward since the beginning and it has pained me to see their franchise (not Activision’s – they just milk it), descend into the annual process of re-wiring a five year old engine. The series has become an annual fixture much like a FIFA or Pro Evo; released with the same engine and two or three minor improvements.
I would even argue that with growth (MW3 made $1 billion in 16 days); Call of Duty has dumbed down the core elements of its gameplay to make it more accessible to players. MW3 contains guns with no recoil, an enormous hit detection and SMGs with the same range as sniper rifles – is this really where the gameplay of shooters should be heading?
Sadly as long as the billions keep rolling in, Activision won’t change their ‘winning formula’ and this will continue to influence other studios to make money in the same uncreative way.
Who am I blaming? Well, I think this generation of consoles has more than outrun its life cycle. Top rate PCs now outperform their console counterparts by massive margins and developers using old kit will cling to old habits. As a result developers are in no rush to build new engines for the 360 and PS3, and with constant rumours of incoming new Microsoft and Sony consoles, can you really blame them?
Yes Gearbox tried with Battlefield 3, but the console version is buggy and graphically inferior to its PC cousin. And with Valve keeping Half Life 3 a closer guarded secret than Area 51 and Respawn’s much anticipated shooter still a mystery, the short-term future doesn’t look too promising for consoles expected to continue for at least another two years.
There have been some brave attempts to innovate -we’re thinking Codemaster’s Bodycount, more than Duke Nukem. Sadly it’s hard to capture the imagination of gamers when innovation comes at the cost of a game broken in several places. So far, the likes of BulletStorm have introduced more comedy into the genre, but that’s about it.
As bleak as this sounds, I don’t expect to see another FPS come close to the quality or impact of COD4 on this generation of consoles. And when one does eventually turn up on our Xbox 720’s and Playstation 4′s, probably emblazoned with a Respawn Entertainment logo, will it really be good news for the FPS genre in the long run?