If you love video games, then autumn is always an exciting time of year. It’s the season in which the year’s big gun AAA titles hit the shelves in time for the impending holiday season, and 2016 is already shaping up to be a real corker. Particularly so given that we’re about to witness a showdown of epic proportions; a face off between the industry giants, and this time they’re battling for supremacy amid the most popular genre in gaming.
The fall is a fiercely contested space for publishers and developers, a window reserved for the big fish of the industry, and in particular, hugely popular annualized franchises. That isn’t to say there aren’t outliers, though; we’ve seen IPs such as Metal Gear Solid or Fallout 4 to go head to head with giants like Call of Duty, but rarely are those of the same genre.
Fall 2016, then, is a bit of an oddity, a fascinating duel between 3 massive IPs competing for the largest slice of the FPS market. In what will be a frenetic 2 weeks, COD: Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, and Titanfall 2 are all set to release, and while each game is offering something a little unique, even the most hardcore of video game enthusiasts are unlikely to snap up all 3, making this an especially hotly contested showdown.
The FPS scene has certainly copped a lot of flak in recent years, slandered by many as lacking in innovation and rinsing repeating the same tired formula. Despite the complaints, though, the FPS scene still remains firmly ingrained in video game culture, and that doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon. But, the collective groans of the video gaming community have not gone unnoticed, and what makes this year’s FPS bout to enticing is that each of these mega franchise are under a fair amount of pressure to deliver a new experience.
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Interestingly, despite the fact that multiplayer is by far and away the most popular component to FPS titles, the lack of solid single player campaigns has been a source of frustration that has been most vocally echoed by fans. Arguably, it’s this focus on single player campaigns that has dictated the direction of all three of these upcoming titles, and may well be the battleground on which this war of the shooters is one or lost.
For too long, the FPS scene has been trapped in a generic cycle barren of innovation, as the publishers have stuck too closely to the zeitgeist of the times, playing safe to avoid financial repercussions. Certainly in COD titles, and to a lesser extent Battlefield, the move toward near future/future combat often felt like a predictable evolution of what had come before rather than an entirely fresh concept, and that wasn’t helped by single player offerings that were utterly predictable and uninspiring.
Titanfall, with its mech combat, too, which at least injected some creativity to its gameplay, was heavily criticized for its lack of campaign. The onus this year for the developers/publishers this time, then, is to provide a point of difference and a well rounded experience through the game’s narrative premise and single player campaign. And, indeed, this has been biggest factor that each respective publisher has been keen to impress upon gamers. DICE, though, have made the biggest statement of intent with Battlefield 1, hitting the reset button on near future combat and taking a leap of faith by rewinding back to WWI.
Battlefield has been crying out for a solid single player campaign for years, mostly because its large scale multiplayer combat has always been its trump card. Indeed, the single player has always felt a little B grade, a sideshow to the online play that has forged the franchise’s reputation, and while that’s understandable, it was nonetheless disappointing. The WW1 theme, however, might just force DICE to up their game because, as exciting a narrative setting as it is, WWI was an especially inhumane and barbarous war, one that still proves a sensitive topic today, and a conflict that demands a compelling narrative if used as a basis for entertainment.
We just don’t see WWI referenced across many popular mediums, and indeed, it’s a period of history unknown to many. Building a campaign around this emotionally weighted setting will be a challenge for DICE, but the pressure of responsibility to do it justice means gamers might well be in for the best Battlefield campaign ever made.