It may have seemed that the true test of a gamer is a simple statistic; the K/D Ratio. While some FPS fanatics have already expressed the desire for a gaming environment that is more interested in teamwork than actual killing machinery, most gunner games still hold to the idea that the best way to determine a winner is to see how many heads were sifted. However, it seems that even the mainstream is now seeking a move into more than just pulling the trigger.
This fall sees the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The Activision release sees developer Treyarch creating a sequel, as Infinity Ward has been doing with the Modern Warfare series. However, where IW has mostly been playing off of their own previous games and concerning themselves mostly with the arcade-shooter aspect of the CoD series, Black Ops 2 is shaping up to be a little bit different. The game will display the same type of gunmanship we’re used to from the series, but is taking to heart the criticisms of its base, and will try to siphon discontented gamers back from their adventures outside of the series.
Last year’s Modern Warfare 3 already made some allowances for the preferences of users – mostly intending to cut back the phenomenon known as ‘Camping’ in the game. MW3’s push was to replace its old use of the kill streak system with a points system, with which players were rewarded for more than just killing enemies. Playing the objective in objective-based games became a way to build towards the heavier firepower, motivating players to try harder to get at those objectives. The 2011 release Homefront, created by now defunct Kaos Studios, also enjoyed moderate success with this setup.
On the other side of the spectrum is the Battlefield series. Developer DICE completely does away with rewards for streaks or points – instead making it harder for the player to achieve new ranks with high EXP requirements. The player then unlocks equipment for use in classes and vehicles by using them more often, leading to increased possibilities after prolonged use. It is always the case that supporting your team and capturing objectives scores the player (a lot) more points than a simple kill. This approach means veteran players will usually have an advantage over beginners, purely based on the load-out available.
Black Ops 2 is looking to combine at least the basic philosophies of both series. Objective-based play is rewarded at a greater rate than your basic slayer mentality. As the information rolls in, kills while carrying a flag in a CTF mode will score maybe twice as many points as kills on the edge of the map, away from the objective. This compensates for the greater risk of a death, though MW3’s Support set, or ‘strike package’, let players carry over their points past their deaths – perfect for those who high-risk areas. Whether BO2 will adopt those strike packages is unknown, but the basic premise of the Score Streaks will be upheld.
With Call of Duty being the cash cow that it is, we can all be assured that, at the very least, it will reach a very wide audience. It’s enlightening to see that Treyarch is taking this call so seriously, because it means the attitude in FPS-gamers is changing ever so slightly, and maybe the genre can start earning more respect as full-fledged projects, instead of just a quick way to kill 10 minutes (or trying to become a YouTube millionaire).
We’ve already seen heaps of progress in single player modes, with additions like Nazi Zombies in World at War, and recently Chaos Mode to Modern Warfare 3, and the writer for Black Ops 2 has said the script is better than a Hollywood feature (I speak of David S. Goyer, co-writer of The Dark Knight). It’s been long overdue by now that the multiplayer experience evolved in a greater scale than just making more awesome ways to blow peoples’ heads off. Just imagine a CoD game where you’re not ducking for cover from an AC-130, but instead are gunning down 7 guys rushing at your flag with your team mates supporting you. It makes the community tighter as a unit, and encourages you to play with and make new friends to put more of yourself into the game.
So the future of FPS games (perhaps not so ironically) can be measured by the reception and performance of Black Ops 2, a game set 25 years in the future. As the Beta period for Battlefield 4 starts somewhere in the spring of 2013, is befalls on Medal of Honor: Warfighter this fall to compete with the beast that is Call of Duty in the holiday season, though the details on that effort are much slower in their surfacing. Whether EA is nervous about it or is just playing the waiting game is uncertain, but their responsibility at this point seems to be to join in on the innovation – because at this point, just pulling a trigger simply is not good enough anymore.
Written by Chris Bakker.