Is The FPS Genre Boring? Generic Shooters
The FPS genre is an ever dominant presence in gaming. To some, it is the very face of gaming and often at the heart of controversies. Immediately, the Call of Duty series comes to mind. It’s a series that grosses billions worldwide and its success shows no sign of slowing. When most of us think of the FPS genre it’s hard not to think of Call of Duty. Despite this popularity, I can’t help but wonder if the traditional arcade FPS is growing stale. Every year the market is saturated with FPS games that look and feel the same. Am I just starving for innovation?
The FPS Appeal
Personally, I find the appeal of shooter games to be in the flow state. That groove when I’m not really thinking too hard and just get to blow away a few bad guys. I’m pretty sure these games are popular for their simple to play hard to master styles. Yet, when I pick up the controller and find I can switch between pretty much any FPS without trouble I sigh. Sure, it’s accessible, it’s also incredibly stagnant and generic. A game shouldn’t be so repetitive as to be barely indistinguishable from any other in its rank.Sometimes the only difference I find is the colours of the characters and their fantasy races. Other genres are successfully innovating all the time, why can’t the FPS genre do the same?
Well, when you find a formula that works why change it? As the old maxim goes, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Not to mention that when FPS games do try and change things up they are often met with sizable backlash. Let’s think back to the Call of Duty Infinite Warfare trailer which became one of YouTube’s most disliked videos. Its crime? It decided to take a more sci-fi oriented lean rather than its usual gritty realism. A smart move considering you’ll quickly run out of relevant past wars that won’t tread on people’s toes to discuss. To give credit where it is due, the CEO had this to say about the scandal:
“We’ve seen this in the franchise before. The reveal trailer for Black Ops II, which took the franchise into the future for the first time, had the most dislikes of any reveal trailer we had ever made at that time. And that, of course, went on to become our most successful game ever,”
A Victim Of Their Own Success
In a way, the FPS genre is a victim of its own success. There are thousands upon thousands of jobs and dollars on the line. This leaves very little space to screw up, forcing developers to stick with what they know. That isn’t to say that the shooter genre is the only victim of this. Think of RPGs! Certain developers love to fill their worlds with collectables and endless questing focussing on killing mobs and the ever-present catch and retrieve. Our friend at Blackshell media was able to break down MMOs into 6 main types of quests. It’s simple and formulaic and one cannot fault companies for falling back on what they know.
Do We Need Innovation?
Sure, the indie development scene is bursting with innovation. It comes with varying degrees of success and numerous risks. It is the latter which holds the AAA industry from leaping in. The constraints on developers are clear especially when you think of recent cases like the whole Kojima debacle. Simply put, innovation is difficult due to the oversaturation of the market. The industry already covers most of the ideas that the traditional gamer has probably thought of over the years.
That doesn’t mean that the likes of Activision and EA can’t support improvements to the trends that they create. This brings forward another point of the copycats that follow the same formula. Games such as Homefront which leave a bitter taste in your mouth from the same corridor shooting. A mechanic which only promotes so much satisfaction after playing what seems to be the same game over and over.
There are games that try to innovate and mix up the genre. Army of Two had a brilliant array of arcade-style mechanics and customisation with a hint of subtle humour (Diamond encrusted grenades were my personal favourite). The aggro system made for a brilliant co-op experience, choosing whether to be stealthy or inconspicuous depended heavily on how much equipment you are carrying at the time.
Vanquish is another example of a game that took a new approach to the shooter. Combining an array of combos and acrobatics that make the game as badass as it is fresh. Developers should be focusing on the new and exciting rather than the tried and tested, a great game may come out of a decent experiment. Of course, there is a big risk to innovating on a popular genre, but there is a wider market for more niche players.
I know I may well sound biased. There is much to say about a formula that just sticks to a well-known algorithm developed to death albeit minor changes per franchise or within iterations of one. For many, the shooter was the starting point of their journey into the magic of the video games that we love. Having said this, arcade shooters burnt a lot of us out over the years. Luckily, there will always be players new to the gaming concept that will keep the developers developing.
Maybe having the opinion that shooter games need a revamp is an unpopular one, but many people share the same view. Whole communities oppose Call of Duty and Battlefield alike. Nearly all of Reddit is quickly dismissive of arcade shooters through and through. There is a large community that doesn’t care for change and innovation within the games that they play. Some people even dislike change in any activity that they enjoy. It’s nice to not have to learn new mechanics every year or sift through the saturated market for a game similar to what they played beforehand. Personally, I like being able to have a change of scenery with the games that I play in order to refresh the experience, but ultimately the mass market decides the outcome of the latest releases.