Ever since the booming success of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, FPS games everywhere felt the need to mimic the modern setting in the hopes to capture that successful spark. While some games have certainly delivered awesome experiences in the boots of a modern soldier, the focus on modern shooters has led to a degree of stagnation. Is it time for the FPS genre to go to their roots and go back in time to World War 2? Let’s discuss.
Let’s have a brief history lesson in WW2 shooters. Before the last-gen consoles came around, World War 2 FPS games were the be-all and end-all of shooters. Medal of Honor, Battlefield and Call of Duty were considered the champions of the genre, releasing multiple games on nearly every platform as well as inspiring other series like Brothers in Arms and Red Orchestra. So from 1999 onwards, the FPS genre was practically saturated with these WW2 shooters. Gamers were begging for a change and they certainly got as Call of Duty changed the genre completely when they released Modern Warfare in 2007.
With the addictive level of progression akin to an MMO, brand new modern weapons and locations and a new “kill-streak” system that allowed for players to be rewarded for how well they played, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare took the world by storm and caused a Renaissance in the shooter genre. The surge in interest in modern shooters meant that the majority of interest in WW2 settings was ebbing away fast. Developers realised that the hot ticket was not in old wars but rather in modern shooters, so Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Call of Duty began to phase out their focus on WW2 and by 2010, there was no more triple A WW2 FPS shooters from the three most recognizable developers. WW2 was left buried in the past as the new age of modernity was ushered in.
The migration of interest from old school battles to modern tech warfare has left many people divided. Some gamers want a return to classic “primitive” World War 2 shooters while others feel that the progression from old to modern to future is something we should willingly accept. Whatever your opinion, you can’t help but notice that modern shooters have gotten a lot easier. The ability to call in outside (and often overpowered) support coupled with upgradeable/customisable high powered weapons has certainly made playing these games much more manageable, often at the sacrifice of difficulty. Sure, you can raise the level of difficulty but that just makes the game frustrating with one shot kills, grenade spams and tougher enemies. It doesn’t always make the game more of a challenge and more often than not makes the game excruciatingly discouraging to play; the game feels tough but very unfair.
That’s why I believe a migration back to WW2 might aide this issue. The use of high-tech weaponry and support is a mixed-blessing as it simplifies the rules of engagement too much. Instead of thinking of a focused and detailed way to advance or suppress the enemy with your rifle, you can simply use a grenade launcher to flush them out or rain down hellfire with a Predator missile. Sure, it’s fun and satisfying but it feels like you’re missing out on formulating a solid plan of attack. Instead of executing your enemies in a way that makes you think “we won because of my actions”, you feel like you rely on others to do things for you, making you think “we won because of their support but at least I helped… kinda.” This was certainly evident in the campaigns of Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 and Battlefield 3 where you could pass through missions without even pulling the trigger because well, everyone else did you job for you but the game think that’s okay because you still get the gold medal at the end.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the majority of FPS campaigns are poor. With a throwaway attitude to the single player campaign in favour of making addictive multiplayer, it’s glaring obvious that many FPS developers are not here to tell a story but rather make an over-the-top, set piece filled action extravaganza that tries to cram as many explosions in a 5 hour campaign as possible. While this might be okay for some gamers who would simply hop on to the multiplayer, other players (especially us single player lovers) would like to have an epic war story along the lines of Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers, not just a meager story that simply acts as the framing device for the multiplayer.
One of the most prominent things I’ve noticed about WW2 shooters is that there is so much untouched territory that’s ripe for potential stories. Such battles like The Battle of The Bulge, the North African Campaign and Pearl Harbor provides big variations of environments as well as possibly providing different, more uncommon points of view in the war like the Nazis, the French Resistance or the Japanese. While a modern setting is usually limited to a “America/British VS. Russian/Middle-Eastern” type of war, a WW2 setting sets up a less “topical” type of warfare with more variations. The plot of WW2 games could rely on our knowledge of history more than the scriptwriter’s own ability to craft over-the-top almost cartoon like levels of “bad guys”, like we see in modern shooters. I think there’s a lot more territory in WW2 for FPS games to focus on before we consider completely packing away that setting.
Don’t get me wrong, I very much did enjoy the fresh setting of Modern Warfare and I certainly rank it high as one of my favourite shooters. However, I think there is a point now where the modern setting has become over saturated (ironically, like the World War 2 setting before it), too copycat and also too simplistic. There’s just not as much challenge with FPS campaigns anymore, just more resistant bullet sponges for you to mow down with your improved tech. I would like to see a triple A campaign that doesn’t treat you like a simple gamer but rather challenges you to take initiative or perform risky techniques, instead of pushing a button to win. The over-reliance on technology feels rather gimmicky and bringing FPS games back to World War 2 could give us a streamlined simple experience where it’s all about your wits, your brain and your gun.
And this is where you come in. We want your opinion and to see just what do you think of the state of First Person Shooters. Is there way too much focus on technology in your shooter games and would like to see a revival in World War 2 shooters? Or would you like to see a completely different focus for the genre? Or should we just leave the genre as it is? Let us know your opinions below in the comments.