Are Gamers Sick of the Old Samey Style Shooters?
Give me something new – please ! ?
As the old saying goes, familiarity breeds contempt. Too much of a good thing and boredom can soon set in. I’m not talking about the larger genre of shooter video games, though supplementation with RPGs, Racers, Hack ‘N Slash, etc. is probably a good idea to ward off apathy. No, I’m talking about when those shooters are all copying each other and feel too much like the same thing, varying only in quality and a few minor differences. Then you get déjà vu and it feels like going through the motions.
Shooters seem to come in waves much like movies. Someone comes up with a successful concept and then everyone wants in. At first it seems different and exciting, but after awhile you wish they would just space them out and vary the concept. The issue is not with the shooter’s setting or theme, it’s with the repetition all at once of the same setting or theme.
Let’s look at some examples. In the beginning there were Castle Wolfenstein, Doom, and Heretic on the PC. One was a World War 2 spoof, one was a Sci Fi horror fest, and the last was medieval fantasy mayham. Poles away in concept, setting and design but still shooters. With the N64 and Playstation you started to get games like Goldeneye, Armorines, Medal of Honor, Turok and Perfect Dark. All with different philosophies and design. Goldeneye was a movie based licence (that worked!), Armorines was a Starship Troopers like game, MOH was a World War 2 game, Turok was a jungle/ancient civilization/dino /Sci Fi mix, and Perfect Dark was a Sci Fi spy game. They looked and felt different.
Enter the Playstation 2, more advanced PCs, and Xbox and you start to see a deluge of samey shooters. The first focus seemed to be on Sci Fi. Games in this genre include Halo, Brute Force, Red Faction, Half Life, Doom 3 remake, Quake, Deus Ex, Area 51, Star Wars Jedi Knight series, Metroid, Star Wars Republican Commando, and I’m sure you can name more I’ve not listed. These games continue to a somewhat lesser extent today with Resistance, Prey, Halo 3, Metroid again, Bullet Witch, Earth Defence Force, Area 51 again, Half Life 2, Timeshift and Gears of War. It’s an alien invasion, or a space crusade.
Then there is the much criticised flood of World War 2 shooters. I really like these myself, but they all seem to take place in burnt out towns in Normandy or fields in Holland, with the occasional Russian or African mission. Games in this genre are all the many Medal of Honor shooters, Call of Duty series including Big Red One up to COD 3, Brothers in Arms series, Hour of Victory, Sniper Elite, Combat Elite, etc.
Less packed but still done at basically the same time (end of last gen and beginning of this gen) are the Western Games. From Red Dead Revolver, Dead Man’s Hand, Gun, Darkwatch, to Call of Juarez and even an Oddball game set in the Wild West, there was a real fetish for these.
Last gen also saw a run of Vietnam games at the same time. Conflict Vietnam, Vietcong Purple Haze, and Battlefield Vietnam all came out at around the same time.
Then you have jungle setting games: Far Cry, Crysis, more recent versions of Turok ….and probably more on the way.
Do you see where I’m heading? And the worst culprit of all at the moment is the focus we now have on modern warfare or near future warfare games. We have the GRAW games, Call of Duty 4, Conflict Denied Ops, Army of Two, Battlefield Bad Company, Frontlines Fuel of War, Rainbow 6 games, America’s Army and no end in sight to the terrorist-dictator-future catastrophe fight. Yawn.
I’m not saying these are bad games; calling Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter or Call of Duty 4 bad games would be to deny the very significant achievements each has brought to the shooter genre as a whole. Nor am I saying that each of these games is exactly the same in their execution. But shooters do seem to follow trends and so what started as a fresh or interesting setting and concept starts to get overdone to death. We the gamer then feel like we are doing the same over and over with slightly different variations and look for something new and different. Then the cycle starts again. The ‘flavour of the month’ only lasts so long when constantly rammed down our throats.
Instead of playing follow the leader, cloning or tinkering with someone else’s ideas, developers should make games with an original vision. Sure you have to supplement such creative risks with some sequels, which is why I, unlike many of you, like what Activision is rumoured to be doing with Call of Duty (alternating between World War 2 and Modern Warfare versions). Hopefully they still will also branch out in the future with something new.
In the end focusing on a new concept can pay great dividends. Games like the Darkness, Bioshock, and Condemned have shown that breaking the mold can still bring success. And keep things fresh for the gamer too.
©2008 David Hilton