Category Archives: first person shooters

Fanboys, Killzone 2 and the Fabric of the Universe

Recently, I made the tragic mistake of trying to determine what makes gamers fanboys, in the vain hope of explaining why they are helpless to write crap like this. Like peering into the darkest recesses of the human mind, what I discovered was both confounding and terrifying. Logic, reason and common sense abandoned in favor of cheap laughs, rational thought traded for casual profanity for it’s own sake and seemingly-normal gamers driven to such piteous depths of fanboyism by a single video.

Whilst his allegiance to Microsoft’s product is never openly declared, the implications of it are somewhat obvious. He manages to raise a genuine point in that, from this gameplay demo of Killzone 2, the title doesn’t appear to add anything to the genre, before digressing to schoolyard vulgarity and dismissive ranting that “…it doesn’t even look as pretty as Epic’s Gears of War,“. Whilst such a well-crafted argument to dismiss a game based on a side-by-side visual comparison to another shooter in the same genre is both unusual and impressively persuasive, I have to beg to differ.

I had asked in a previous post whether gamers even wanted innovation in the FPS genre, and it appears my question has been answered with a resounding ‘yes’ – as long as innovation equals more polished graphics and a few extra game assets like weapons and vehicles. It would seem that, to this fanboy, significant improvements to such minor aspects of a game such as character animation are to be ridiculed in favor of a few extra multiplayer maps, or some equally-daring feature. I’m helpless to speculate as to whether his response to the video would have been different were it an Xbox 360 exclusive title, as opposed to a Sony product.

We’ve all been waiting for Killzone 2 for a long time. It seems that we’re a step closer, which is quite obviously a good thing although I’m still somewhat skeptical of the release date in place at the moment. Whilst it would be nice if we could see a better-quality video of the gameplay, I felt that this sequence bridged the plot mechanics and gameplay elements almost seamlessly, and that the action was immediately engaging. I’m liking the visual style, too – the characters and vehicles reminded me quite powerfully of the production design of James Cameron’s Aliens, and the atmosphere, of this level at least, looks to be far more immersive than Crysis or Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Guerrilla have done a great job with the character animation, and the physics look well-implemented – although I’m sure we’d have liked to have seen greater demonstration of the extent of the enemy AI, which I’m sure will feature more predominantly in future videos. I’m sure we’d all like to see more of Killzone 2, and my only hope is that we can retain some sense of rationality and impartiality when we do, regardless of which platform it’ll end up on. Can’t we all just get along?

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Lightgun Renaissance – The Next Big Thing?

Despite having failed to realize my childhood ambition of becoming a private investigator, my keen deductive abilities have not dulled over the years.  Since it launched, the Nintendo Wii has sold over 10 million units globally.  That’s a lot of units.  Let’s face it – waving things around is quite fun, especially with the range of games available that make full use of said waving.

Combine this with the increasing number of promising first-person shooter titles promised over the coming months, and what conclusions can you reach?  That sooner or later, these two factors will inevitably meet – hopefully with more success than Ubisoft’s Red Steel, the memory of which still hurts like an old scar.  But what then?

It’s no secret that gamers are becoming increasingly fickle, and flex a considerable amount of financial muscle.  It’s also common knowledge that developers are striving to create ever-more engaging and realistic experiences in games, especially within first-person shooters; EA in particular are aggressively pushing the boundaries of realism in their sporting franchises, and surely it won’t be long until we see this in other genres – so where do the developers turn next?

Peripherals.  Ever since Nintendo released Duck Hunt back in 1984, we’ve been forced to endure all manner of ill-conceived and poorly-realized peripherals – but that doesn’t mean that things can’t change.  We can rebuild them.  We have the technology.  We have the capability to make the world’s first gaming peripheral that doesn’t suck.  And it doesn’t have to cost $6 million.

Just like desert skirmishes between insurgents and elite military units, production costs versus quality has always been an issue for gaming peripherals.  However, even this doesn’t have to be a barrier to peripherals adding to the overall experience of first-person shooters.  Imagine playing Rainbow Six: Vegas with a decent automatic rifle peripheral?  Or, perhaps even more enticing, playing Left 4 Dead with a nice, solid shotgun accessory?  Developers could look at paintball guns for comparison, as the weight and overall appearance of the lightgun would be crucial in adding to, and not detracting from, the gaming experience. However, with titles like Time Crisis 4 heading for the PS3, the time is right for a decent lightgun peripheral.

Gamers are increasingly playing shooters with better graphics, more advanced enemy AI and more realistic physics on larger screens – so perhaps re-examining the validity of lightgun peripherals is the next logical step towards the nirvana of FPS experiences.  The path ahead is fraught with danger – previous forays have been less than successful, but imagine if they got it right.   

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Red vs. Green

Microsoft want Halo 3’s initial launch-day revenues to exceed that of $155 million, thus besting the last instalment of the popular Spiderman franchise, which only mustered a measly $151 million.  Since the Master Chief is a better actor than Tobey Maguire and more attractive than Kirsten Dunst, I don’t think this is an overly-optimistic objective, and neither do the analysts

Since Microsoft don’t seem to concern themselves with minor details such as the fact that games cost significantly more than movie tickets, let’s ask a more pertinent question; is Halo 3 even deserving of the hype?  Microsoft’s marketing campaign could be likened to a full-scale military campaign, drafting in support from allied forces such as Burger King, Pepsi and Pontiac to name but a few, in an effort to smite us with Halo’s considerable promotional artillery; ‘Halo 3 Mountain Dew – now with 30% more market penetration!‘ 

However, whilst I have no doubt that Halo 3 will prove to be entertaining, I’m skeptical that it will be worthy of the degree of hype that has been heaped upon it.  Other titles, such as Bioshock, have received much attention in the media, although the huge majority of this seems well-deserved and, more importantly, has been generated by the gaming community as opposed to the might of Microsoft’s marketing dreadnought.  Bioshock not only offers something different in terms of visuals and the production design itself, but also in terms of gameplay elements and the extent to which these elements can be customized according to player preference and the situation the player finds themselves in.   At least from the pre-release marketing, Halo 3 doesn’t seem to advance the genre or the franchise much at all, instead favoring better graphics and a handful of new vehicles, environments and weapons to differentiate itself from it’s predecessors.  Is this enough to warrant the scale of the marketing assault?  Do gamers even want innovation in high-profile franchise sequels?

Whilst I’m most definitely in favor of games being taken more seriously as an entertainment medium, the games that garner such attention as this have to be deserving of the hype, and as of right now I remain unconvinced.

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First Person Shooters: Our Demands Will Be Met….

In the not-so-distant future, we will be under relentless, proverbial siege from the onslaught of tantalizingly-appealing slew of first-person shooter titles heading our way like an intercontinental ballistic missile launched by some crazed Communist villain intent on world domination or some other equally-unlikely career ambition. So far, to list but a few, we’ve got the zombie element covered by Left 4 Dead and Dead Island, we’ve got the more traditional military aspect handled by Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the long-awaited Crysis, and we’ve even got a supernatural contingency in the shape of Clive Barker’s Jericho – and let’s not forget Unreal Tournament 3 and the behemoth that is Halo 3 approaching rapidly.

With so many titles engaged in hostile maneuvers for market share, this can only be a good thing for fans of the genre. However, with commercial success and market saturation comes the inevitable counter-strike from poorer, imitation titles. It is with this in mind that I propose that we, the gamers, in the long-honored tradition of guerrilla tactics, hold the industry hostage financially with our considerable spending power until the following demands are met:

* In addition to the beautiful graphics, advanced physics and sophisticated sound promised to us by the aforementioned titles, all FPS titles should feature decent voice acting – terrible voice acting is the gaming equivalent of a friendly-fire incident and is, unfortunately, just as frequent. This will no longer be tolerated.
* All playable characters will demonstrate at least a modicum of non-combat intelligence – in addition to carrying an entire militia’s worth of weaponry single-handedly, the ability to wage entire military campaigns with no food, water or rest and the ability to reload magazines of ammo in under four seconds every time without fail, deductive reasoning, logical thought and common sense will be defining characteristics of our protagonists and will result in fewer needlessly-captured-by-the-enemy situations.
* All FPS games will feature well-crafted, convincing storylines and plot-arcs – for no other reason that they can and should. To emphasize: merely blowing stuff up with gigantic weapons is not enough, no matter how realistic the physics behind said explosions are.

Game developers, in a display of our considerable generosity and benevolence, you have until 2009 to comply with these basic instructions. Failure to do so will result in the execution of your respective intellectual properties, financial gains and the loss of valuable credibility.

Do not disappoint us, for we mean what we say.

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