Recently we have seen a surge in first person shooter games when not so long ago it looked like a one way street towards extinction. The recent trend in part is greatly attributed to major titles such as BattleField: Bad Company 2 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and their predecessors before. Of course the main contribution is the multi-player aspect which has pushed the genre along; with its advancements far beyond what kids had back in the days of Quake. We are seeing complete customisation in multi-player and ranking systems that was only seen in Role Playing Games and Massive Multiplayer Online titles. This is all great and you are probably wondering at this point what the hell I am getting at? This is not the first time that we have seen first person shooters ride the wave to reach the crest and then dip again in popularity. How long will this last and are we heading back down that one way street. When it comes to first person shooters it’s the setting of theme that is of major importance to set the base foundation of the game and that’s what we are here to discuss today.
As all gamers are aware, there was a time when the hit theme on the streets was the World War II era. The previous mentioned franchises played a major role in this theme as well, the Battlefield and Call of Duty games, there was also Medal of Honor, Brothers in Arms, Hidden and Dangerous, and the list goes on with all of these franchises releasing multiple sequels set in the same theme. The World War II environment was done to the point where gamers everywhere had an outcry of wanting something different. The alternative theme that was also popular and saw a decline in interest was the space aliens theme, your Dooms and Quakes, but one theme that did not see as many releases was the war of today.
Sure it’s a touchy subject that holds a lot of controversy with arguments on both sides, but being the fence sitter I am, I will not go into the details of this. In any case, todays first person shooters have the theme of now, whether people like it or not, be it fictional based stories where the cold war never ended, or North Korea unmasks its army and unleashes them on the world to real events such as the war on terror played out in Afghanistan. The modern theme is in and we are sure to see plenty more releases of it, and one of the strongest pieces of evidence is the Call of Duty series releasing Modern Warfare, jumping back in time with World at War, and then going back to the original successful recipe of Modern Warfare 2, and if you have been AWOL for the last several months then you may not have heard that the next in the series again will be held in the slightly modern day theme — Black Ops. I use the term slightly modern as it be would skewed to call this release modern, Black Ops is based in the Cold War era. It is a brave move but not exactly a grand leap into the unknown.
Not all will agree that this theme is enjoyable, but the mob has spoken and it is todays trend theme with the majority in favor of the modern battleground, but when will we grow tired of it and begin our outcry again as it will inevitably occur. There are already subtle hints here and there with factions already questioning the release upon release of Call of Duty set in the same theme, but who can blame Activision. The sales figures speak for themselves and a game developer as much as we like to think are listening to the gamers needs, are also there to profit. I must admit admiration for the latest Call of Duty release, Black Ops, and Bad Company series venturing into unknown waters with its next release set in the Vietnam War and Cold War, although there have been several games released with this theme in the past that have not been as successful as we would of liked. Is the next two big hit releases a possible sign that we are starting to stray from the modern theme, even if it is only slightly into a different time period?
As mentioned, there will come a time when the current trend of the modern theme will feel over used and flavorless. The concern here is where do first person shooters go after the modern theme? Do we stumble our way back to previous themes that have already been overused? I will be the first in line to stand up and say that I have no idea where we should go and have no ideas to bring to the table, but I am willing to try something radically different. I have been interested with the direction that Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon is heading with the future warfare theme, be it a careful step in a different direction they have tried not to leap to far from the success of the current modern theme by keeping most of the scenarios plausible. Crysis is another successful title that has gone down this same path and Crysis 2 looks to bring that same formula back, even though it does have that hint of the space aliens theme in it.
It’s food for thought, but I am very interested to hear what other gamers are interested in seeing with future releases of first person shooters, what are your ideas of a completely new and radical theme? If it were possible, what would you choose for the theme of a new Call of Duty or Battlefield game?