10 years ago, we were bombarded by World War II themed First Person Shooter Games. Medal of Honor, Day of Defeat, Shell Shocked, Wolfenstein, Call of Duty, Battlefield 1942, it seemed like all there were was some spun story surrounding World War II. Counter-Strike was really the only other means presented of a modern-day war that players could get to play and still is enjoyed by thousands today continuing to be a strong competition driven game within the MLG (Major League Gaming). While there were a few attempts to make games out of that era, it wasn’t until Call of Duty: Modern Warfare that players really saw weapons in full detail as they appear and are used in today’s military.
It was previously frowned upon to make such a modern-day war game because publishers had felt that it would be difficult for players to see something more realistically relatable to something that not only could happen, but also see what soldiers today might appear wounded in combat. The only games that really put on that kind of display were the Command & Conquer games pulling off a subtle appearance of violence where ground troops would more or less disappear in a small splat of blood then quickly fade away and the appearance of vehicles being destroyed in small explosions. Vehicles blowing up have been a staple in video games as long as it doesn’t involve the gruesome nature of a torn and mangled bodies within its destruction. But Call of Duty: Modern Warfare introduced us to the war style of today. Kevlar, Military Grade Weapons, Predator Missiles, Drone Strikes, AC-130s, and full on nuclear blasts, we ate it up because this was a marvel at the modern age of today’s weaponry.
I can’t say that this boosted weapons sales, but I’m certain that it might have sparked significant interest in those would be weapons collectors and shooting enthusiasts that enjoyed these games and maybe gained some new fans that never really fired weapons in their own personal experiences. We jumped into the modern age of war with both feet and we really haven’t looked back since. So much now that in the stories of many of today’s modern based warfare games that we have gone into the future with games like Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and the soon to be released Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, that it makes me raise the question, are we getting sick of the modern age of war in games?
Personally, I was never sick of World War II themed games. Return to Castle Wolfenstein was one of my favorites on PC. I still marvel over the way the flamethrower would hit walls and curve around corners and I rather enjoyed the multiplayer of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. While it may sound gruesome, seeing my targets fall from my sniper fire as the legs kicked up and their helmets fly off was invigorating. The Resistance: Fall of Man series was a great new spin on the outcome of World War II where it took it away from the idea of an alternative universe to a more of Sci-Fi element but I don’t believe they exploited the story for what it could have been leading to its end. Call of Duty: Black Ops took us back in time a little bit to the point around the Cold War, placing a modern edge on a real life point of history.
Perhaps this is the drawback in future based games that they are more or less unrelatable to what we see and hear in our everyday lives. Perhaps players prefer that the idea of the future is complete different and more unusual than a supposed ‘possible’ future as we’ll see in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Advanced Warfare could be a real hit though and change this dynamic. Halo is the obvious superpower of futuristic shooters being the first solid first person shooter to appear on game consoles. Until then, it was always seen if you wanted to play a great first person shooter, nothing could beat a PC with its precision control via mouse and keyboard.
Halo jumped the console player in the world of first person shooters placing future shooters in the trio of themes for shooter games. The theme trio for shooters can be designated as simple as the Past, the Present, and Future but these games have to be very distinct otherwise the formula seems to breakdown, but that’s where Modern Warfare broke the mould. It started as past but pushed us into the future. And this is where the question resides as a number of critics as well as seasoned players begins to question whether or not if Call of Duty has worn out its welcome.
Activision has been criticized for churning out the Call of Duty franchise year after year like the Madden Franchise, as if it was just a mild shell of its previous installment. Madden has fallen under the same scrutiny where players start to skip generations in the franchise because they feel nothing much has changed to warrant the purchase of the newest version or that the integrity of the game was hurt with the new installment having taken away functions in the version they liked. Call of Duty now joins the criticism that Madden receives forcing Activision to change their methodology for developing the franchise. Infinity Ward set the bar for the way modern war based games are presented. Then they added TreyArch to the production with the Black Ops series in order to mix up the variety and presentation. And now we have Sledgehammer coming forth with the next series of Advanced Warfare giving all 3 studios 3 years between their projects. While the E3 presentation of Advanced Warfare looked very exciting, I still have my reservations about the series. I feel almost that UbiSoft found a good formula with Assassin’s Creed with their manipulation of history in order to tell a different story in time. It has a great level of familiarity and has something fresh to give players though it may not be before long that Assassin’s Creed receives the same level of scrutiny that games like Call of Duty receive.
In regards to shooters however, Ubisoft catered to the modern war theme as well with their popular series, Rainbow Six and will bring about a new installment of their own sub labelled “Patriots”. Ghost Recon Future Soldier was a solid title as well but did not sell well which gives more to the premise that perhaps players don’t receive future war themed shooters well. Electronic Arts tried their hand at taking to the top ranks of shooters by changing their Medal of Honor series. It too was not received well though Battlefield has jumped into the top tier shooters taking much of the fire from Call of Duty. These games are always hot sellers each year as players want to be in on the latest and greatest in competition, yet the criticism grows at the same rate which makes me believe that perhaps the time of the modern war theme shooter is not what players want anymore. But what else can be extrapolated into a war themed game?
As I mentioned before, Resistance: Fall of Man brought forth an enjoyable new spin on the outcome of World War II. It wasn’t just Nazis anymore. Wolfenstein: The New Order returns in this new generations of consoles doing well and pulling some high review rates from various critics within the industry. It’s not necessarily World War II anymore but it is where the story started from. I believe the Medal of Honor series would do well to return to that area as that is where it flourished the most.
Sony’s much anticipated exclusive The Order 1886 developed by Ready at Dawn Studios will try to take us back to the past placing a supernatural theme to it with the Undead, Werewolves, Vampires, and so on. Ubisoft’s The Division, also another much anticipated next gen title comes into the fight on an post apocalypse idea. These games bring forth new ideas into shooters though time will tell how they will be received by the masses. Personally I’m anticipating The Division, but because it pulls on the more realistic style of shooters that Ubisoft pulls from their wheelhouse, more players appear to gravitate to Call of Duty and Halo style of play because its more of a ‘run and gun’ style of player.
Ubisoft has placed great emphasis on a more realistic style of play where a player can die from just a few hits instead of the Call of Duty and Halo style that seems to give players a greater ability to endure damage and make their escape. It is unclear where Ready at Dawn will stand on this style of play with The Order 1886 or where they will take the series as they take a large chance on the theme of their game. World War II is the only era that enjoys popularity within shooters. So do players want it to come back? Would it be welcomed to once again to blast away at Nazis? Do players want to have ‘another shot’ at Hitler?
I myself cannot recall any game in history that ever made a direct depicted of Adolf Hitler within their game or gave players the chance to kill him even from a subtle perspective. It would seem to be an aspect to explore, but perhaps it is a taboo thing within the business as to why it has never happened. It may be the next level in that era of games to give players the incentive to jump back into a World War II game. So do players want to go back to the Fuhrer? Perhaps… they just might.