One of the most viewed posts on my site is entitled “Will the next big competitive FPS please stand up?” in which I waxed nearly-poetic about how I thought that either Infinity Ward or EA were going to reclaim the FPS estate with Modern Warfare 3 or Battlefield 3, respectively, only to find out that neither title lived up to the competitive goal they had set for each other.
A few other games have also come out into their own set of successes and failures that might have had an effect or two on the FPS genre as a whole. A little retrospective is in order, I’d imagine. A word of warning: I am incredibly ignorant when it comes to actually rating a game, but I have a reason for blasting through these games like I have. Just keep reading.
Oh yeah, this is a rant. I don’t even want to claim that anything following is factual, because I am dumb. This is just, my opinion, maaan.
Some good games, some bad games
Battlefield 3 enjoyed some success in its reboot of the famed name, thanks to the massive new vistas it created in both its single-player and online components. Seeing a radio tower collapse from ground level as an infantryman onto a tank driven by an enemy player right in front of me is one of those first-time experiences you don’t forget, even if I was playing the game 800×600. However, EA was not able to carry that momentum forward into its follow-up title, Battlefield 4. The latter is an exercise filled with game crashes and network issues that is so poor their Premium content calendar is open-ended, compared to the stable beat of content provided for Premium members in the previous title.
Fake Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare 3 gave way to Treyarch’s Black Ops 2, a Call of Duty franchise addition which, in nearly every way, advanced the series forward with the focus being placed on keeping the experience at a fluid framerate while pushing the bounds of graphics on console systems. While dedicated servers and PC-specific support failed in this release, everything else about it felt great. I have to say, it reminded me so much of how good the original Modern Warfare (made by the true Infinity Ward) felt online. To this day, I have registered Black Ops 2 as one of the finest online experiences I’ve ever had with the Xbox 360.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has been the only FPS game that I can really think of that has found its own success in not being like the others. Embracing a few of the new tricks that Valve and series co-developer Hidden Path have picked up from other multiplayer development and experimentation, CSGO has become a premier competitive title that isn’t only proven to be entertaining for spectators, but has become the pinnacle of what showcasing professional-level talent is all about in its high stakes format. I’ve been recently trying to give this game a serious go and I think that I am almost well enough versed in what to do that I could soon start playing competitive modes and get ranked. It’d be interesting to see how far I could get. Just another reason why this game has found success–and it’s not even a free-to-play game.
Activision’s truckload of money addiction made eventually allowed Fake Infinity Ward’s turn came back up to try to ship a title that people would buy en masse. Their Ghosts product certainly changed a few things. Instead of Treyarch’s easter-egg-turned-puzzle zombies game mode which eventually rated its own executable, Fake Infinity Ward decided that a future-looking design could be paired with aliens. This is just the co-op feature. Forcing a meta game shift into all other game modes while defacing or removing staple game modes helped turn off the most amount of vocal Call of Duty fans who keep YouTube channels or prop up the game’s competitive scene.
Thanks for the history lesson, but what am I supposed to grasp from all of that?
The trend one should notice is what types of FPS games have not really achieved any progression: the mainstream shooters. And it’s killing them.
That’s not to say that skill-based shooters aren’t worth investing in time into, but it’s just that there is an audience behind each game that is exclusive to that franchise or series. My thinking is that they more bells and whistles that they add to make the game more fun for casual players and players who have grown up with a particular series (fake-Infinity Ward, I’m looking at you, you sorry bunch of sellouts) increases the likelihood that the developer will miss the mark and eventually drop competitive-friendly features and support from future iterations in the series.
This was the case in the removal of a realistically usable spectator mode from Call of Duty in favor of the lobby-based multiplayer experience that crawled over to PCs from the booming consoles. When it takes a mobile television studio worth of HD A/V switchers and so on to effectively broadcast a game, of course the only realistic broadcasters for that title are going to be bigger competitions with a lot of money and capital behind them—MLG and Activision’s own million dollar competition.
Call of Duty, the proverbial titan of the genre, introduced meta gaming elements into a more traditional ruleset—chase after a player and they drop free points you can have for doing something completely stupid that forces you to play differently. Oh, and how about those killstreaks, man? I could give you a free one just for running around with a knife and playing Rambo for a split second.
Titanfall will have an impact on the level of what Modern Warfare brought to FPS
Forcing 6v6? Two roles for players? Proper balancing? No extra bullshit? Good matchmaking?
All of these are things that Titanfall will bring to the was-next-hen-now-current-gen table. Will the Call of Duty folks will be waiting for Treyarch to fix their series or Halo: The 343 Trilogy: Episode 2 to right the wrongs? Perhaps the Call of Duty faithful, but overall, the imting of Titanfall’s upcoming release is perfect. A late Q1/early Q2 release window for the title across several platforms ensures that only naysayers and legitimate EA boycotters (of which there are probably none, but just for the sake of suggesting all of the angles here…) will undoubtedly be wishing they didn’t have to drop another season’s pass worth of money on a game that appears to be more fun than Call of Duty or Halo—even though Halo 4 wasn’t really a step forward for the arena/hybrid shooter.
With a delayed Xbox 360 launch coming up, an on-time release for the Xbox One might be enough of an incentive to get the Xbox faithful, like myself, who are waiting for the right time to step up to the current generation console to decide that the right time is at Titanfall’s release. It might just be, speaking for myself, but that’s not the biggest reason that Titanfall will bring about a huge swing for the competitive FPS that isn’t Counter-Strike.
The biggest reason is that, thanks to League of Legends and other Dota-clones, small-team matchmaking is making a serious comeback into mainstream gaming culture. Forcing 6v6 into Titanfall is going to make the game become an even bigger deal in such a way so that the game could only become a genre-shattering title of even greater importance if it were free-to-play, pay-to-customize title akin to League of Legends. However, this is a EA joint, so I’m guessing that won’t ever happen in a million years to a title that will be released on console platforms because guaranteed money is better than free-to-play money for consoles.
I can’t think of any other FPS title that could see a release at this point that could dethrone a series like Call of Duty… but thanks to the lackluster attempts from EA’s DICE team to repair a broken-at-launch title and Activision’s fake-Infinity Ward group’s efforts to make a good game full-stop, Titanfall has the biggest chance to steal the industry’s spotlight away and run off with it.
At least until Treyarch gets up to bat again. Then we’ll have an old-fashioned one-up contest.