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Should The FPS Genre Return To World War 2?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Nathan Hughes
Follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/OnlySP_Nathan) for more nonsense.

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13 Comments

  1. The problem with the “modern” setting is that creating scenarios where American soldiers are at an actual disadvantage requires inventing more and absurd and unbelievable plot twists (see MW: Ghosts). And playing as the other side is a big no no. Currently the plots of FPS games are somewhere around the level of 80’s action flicks. Going back to WWII would at the very least stop that stupidity.

  2. I disagree with going back to WWII, but I am personally a proponent of moving forward in time. I personally cannot get enough GOOD sci-fi shooters. My reasoning behind this is actually quite simple: with sci-fi, developers get as much flexibility as they want.

  3. D day landings in glorious next gen would be epic I do agree sometimes u have to move forward but a dip in the ww2 pool with the next gen machines would be worth a go some much history an battles that would really hold up well on next gen an visually pulling u in would be teaching the masses the history of war

  4. How about just don’t make one for a couple years that’s what’s really needed.

  5. The reason why COD and other shooters have stayed in the timeframe of the modern/near-past and near-future is because they can make the gunplay and gameplay so much easier. Think of all the gun attachments, killstreaks, etc. I wish some of these games would be a throwback and do one of the World Wars. Imagine having to aim without having a heat-seeking guided shot.

  6. Would be great, cod 1 and older MOH games were lot better than they are today. I wish they remake cod 1 with today graphics.

  7. Bring them back, hell why not even remake some of the classics in HD, Allied Assault, Return to castle Wolfenstein. I remember the multi player not being to bad and single player was great

  8. This article read my mind and ive been saying since mw2 that modern war is too focussed on computer technologies to be nearly as stategic or fun as 20th century warfare (i would even like to see someone try world war 1)

  9. I would buy a new WWII fps in a heart beat. I’m so sick of the sci-fi bullcrap. Evertyhing is too repetitive and over the top and i find myself putting these games down after the first week. I can’t even begin to count the amount of hours i put into moh allied assault when i was young and i didn’t get bored of it for years. Some of the best FPS’s i’ve ever played were WWII. Now with next gen, i think it would really bring more realism and excitement into these historic battles. If DICE/battlefield were to make us one, and not just a DLC, i’d shit myself.

  10. +1

  11. I don’t know why, but the WWII era is one which I find totally uninteresting, especially for fps. Maybe because I’m a medieval fantasy / sci-fi nutcase and WWII can have neither. The only WWII-themed (somewhat) fps that I’ve played was Resistance from Insomniac, and even then it felt weird to see WWII soldiers go toe to toe with freakin aliens.
    Still, diversity is the spice of life, and I totally understand people who miss the setting. Me, I never get bored of generic medieval fantasy (that is, anything which rips off Dungeons and Dragons to a T) or generic sci-fi (space marine ftw).

  12. look at medal of honor “airborne” !! innovation and creation that doesn’t exist in the crap of modern products now. you hope okay im hoping with you!! but the real things of the actual industry is completly a mess.even if we observe somthing in the horizon there is no light at the end of tunnel. also there were rarely a campanies outside of the USA to developpe a ww2 game.otherwise we could see another vision of the war.

  13. couldn’t agree more on the ‘push a button to win’ part of this article. although Predator missle, flash grenade, holographic sight and plenty of new tech in COD AW which I haven’t played yet are so much fun when we use them to eliminate our enemies, they just make me recognise myself as an operator rather than a soldier. really looking forward to the next 3A WW2 FPS game from any of those producers. well I personally expect Activision could make the first step. coz it really has been a long time since the last time we heard that ‘bing’ from M1 in video games, let’s bring the old day back.

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