Gam­ing: Shaun Prescott

A new breed of shoot­ers is in­ject­ing life into a genre we thought had de­clined into stag­na­tion long ago...

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

For the last eight years, the way we shoot at other play­ers from a first-per­son per­spec­tive has not changed dra­mat­i­cally. Usu­ally we do so in grim apoc­a­lyp­tic set­tings, and with few spe­cial abil­i­ties be­yond the power to run and kill. The tem­plate set by Call of Duty has de­ter­mined the way many of its pre­tenders and com­peti­tors have ad­dressed mul­ti­player shoot­ing, and no amount of mar­ket­ing guff can hide the fact that, dur­ing the last gen­er­a­tion, big­ger maps and ve­hi­cles (Bat­tle­field) and space sci-fi pre­ten­sions (Kil­l­zone, Re­sis­tance) aren’t enough to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo.

Could that be chang­ing now? A genre as suc­cess­ful as the first-per­son shooter can only dare change glacially, but re­cent it­er­a­tive changes seen in games like Ti­tan­fall and Evolve are start­ing to dull some of the lus­tre of the ‘ol trusty genre hall­marks.

Look at the shoot­ers we have con­firmed for 2014, and few of them rest on the for­mat’s lau­rels. Ti­tan­fall in­tro­duced park­our so suc­cess­fully that it’s of­ten more fun to move than to shoot, and Tur­tle Rock’s Evolve, due later this year, re­con­fig­ures the co­op­er­a­tive shooter into an on­go­ing se­ries of 4v1 boss bat­tles.

What do these shoot­ers share in com­mon? Their in­no­va­tive ap­proach to move­ment. Dur­ing a hands-on ses­sion with Evolve in Fe­bru­ary, I was as­ton­ished by the free­dom and fun that the game’s jet­packs pro­vided. It was fun to just move around. Mean­while, as a player tra­di­tion­ally averse to mul­ti­player shoot­ers I’ve sunk hun­dreds of hours into Ti­tan­fall be­cause again, merely mov­ing around is fun.

On paper it’s not a dra­matic change, but al­ready the thought of boot­ing up a shooter which al­lows com­par­a­tively slow move­ment, squat jump abil­i­ties and the need to ac­tu­ally walk around wais­theight walls is a spe­cial kind of hell. Re­turn­ing to Bat­tle­field, or Call of Duty, or Halo af­ter long ses­sions with Ti­tan­fall’s beau­ti­fully ag­ile pi­lots is like for­sak­ing three-di­men­sions. I think, if you were to show a gam­ing new­comer Ti­tan­fall next to Call of Duty, they’d eas­ily reach for the for­mer, be­cause even if you suck at it it’s fun.

Of course, as a Mi­crosoft exclusive and new IP, Ti­tan­fall does not and can­not have the in­stall base and in­flu­ence that Ac­tivi­sion’s shooter boasts, nor can it, at this stage, claim to be a cul­tural phe­nom­e­non. Like­wise, the odds of the 2k pub­lished Evolve dis­man­tling Call of Duty’s reign are very low, be­cause new IPs rarely have that power: it took the fourth in­stall­ment in the CoD se­ries for it to prop­erly hit mass mar­ket.

But the seed has been planted. For so long we’ve be­lieved that first-per­son shoot­ing had reached its apex (or dead end) but its most ex­cit­ing change was hid­ing in one of its most mun­dane in­gre­di­ents. Hope­fully we see this new fo­cus on breath­tak­ing tra­ver­sal be­come the norm in five years - enough so that we’ll be­gin to com­plain that it’s a cliche.

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