Owners of current generation consoles have been enduring a bit of a shooter drought that has existed since launch day for any platform. Aside from the yearly iterations of the now stale Battlefield, Far Cry, and Call of Duty franchises, shooter fans didn’t have anything to sate their bloodlust. The PS4 had Killzone Shadow Fall, Sony’s latest mediocre attempt to ape the Halo series, which might as well not exist for anyone looking for a quality experience. The Xbox One, on the other hand, had the Master Chief Collection, and while having online multiplayer for some of the greatest titles in franchise sounds like a steal, it was hampered by embarrassingly bad network errors that continued to persist months after release. The only genuine hit was Splatoon on the Wii-U, a console that has never been a serious venue for the shooter-genre. So what’s a shooter fan to do?
Relief is on the horizon in the form of a wave of AAA shooters flooding the market for the next few months. Major series are coming out with new entries and reboots. By the end of the year alone, we’ll see The Nathan Drake Collection, Halo 5, Star Wars Battlefront, Rainbow Six Siege, and a Black Ops III that swears it’s reinventing it’s formula. No matter who you are or what platform you play on, you’re going to be taken care of.
Or not. There will certainly be a smattering of games to choose from this Holiday season, if the selection above is anything to go by. But how much will you be getting out of these games? Whichever title you pick, it won’t be what previous entries in their respective series would have lead you to believe. In fact, it will be less. Let’s take a look at what exactly you’ll be missing out on in upcoming games.
The Nathan Drake Collection includes gorgeous, HD, 60FPS versions of Drake’s Fortune, Among Thieves, and Drake’s Deception. With none of their multiplayer features. Naughty Dog reasons that this is because they don’t want to draw people from the servers of the PS3 version of the game. Except that the game is exclusive to a console that lacks backwards-compatibility, meaning that the U2/U3 community will be migrating to PS4 anyway to play the collection, if not to pick up Uncharted 4 next year. Further confounding is that Naughty Dog’s other hit facelift, The Last of Us Remastered, did include the original’s multiplayer mode, which is (bizarrely) probably the best competitive shooter on the PS4 right now. Maybe Sony wants to avoid ending up with another Master Chief Collection-esque server snafu, unlikely as that is, or maybe they really want people ready for A Thief’s End’s multiplayer when that game comes out next March. Either way, Naughty Dog has proven they’re capable of porting a competitive experience from one generation to the next, but for whatever reason don’t feel like including a key part of their series in this reissue.
Halo 5 continues 343 Industries’ take on the Halo series. The game will sport a lot of new features, including revives, squad orders, dual campaigns, and PVE multiplayer. Conspicuously missing from the list is split screen capability, a feature present since 2001’s Halo: Combat Evolved and one of the keys separating Halo from other, homogenized modern shooter franchises. 343 explains that split screen’s exclusion was a tough decision, but necessary to include other features, such as 60FPS and the massive new 12v12 Warzone maps. This may be true, but it also goes to show that 343 isn’t interested in including what makes Halo, well, Halo. 8v8 Big Team Battle was hectic enough in previous Halos, and 12v12 is a bit much given the survivability and versatility of Spartans. Halo was able to stand out from the crowd by being one of the last AAA arena shooters, a trait that made it a perfect match for splitscreen. By removing these characteristics, 343 is gradually turning Halo into another Battlefield clone. The inclusion of killstreaks in Halo 4 was already a sign that the series would be losing its identity under the new developer, but Halo 5 may prove to be the final nail in the coffin for the Halo that you used to know.
Rainbow Six Siege will not have a singleplayer campaign, and Black Ops III’s won’t be included on PS3 and 360 editions of the game. Both franchises were built and thrived on singleplayer experiences, and while Call of Duty has since put its chips in its online features, the campaigns in each remained bombastic affairs that while not always replayable, were certainly worth their time in each installment. Siege’s omission of a narrative experience is far more devastating, given how promising cancelled predecessor Patriot’s campaign seemed. But it’s also more serious from a fiscal perspective, and it forces Ubisoft to rely solely on the game’s online longevity to turn a profit. But like Titanfall and Evolve, Siege simply lacks a wealth of options, and both of those titles died within a month of release. Of all the upcoming releases, Siege seems to have the narrowest breadth of options, which makes me worry just how survivable it really is.
Lastly, DICE’s reboot of Star Wars Battlefront is set to play into the fantasies of Stormtrooper cosplayers worldwide this November. Like Siege and Black Ops, Battlefront will lack a campaign, but the Battlefront series never really spent much care on that front regardless. With the Battlefield developer at the reigns of their one-time competitor, using the latest game technology, the new Battlefront will surely surpass its predecessors in every way, right? Wrong, as it turns out. The new Battlefront will lack space battles, a class system, and even Clone Wars content, features all present in earlier releases. The original Battlefront featured 10 planets, and its sequel had 15 (17 if you have a loose definition of planetoids and include the Death Star and Tantive IV), along with several orbital engagements. The new Battlefront launches with four planetscapes, three of which are the long exhausted Tatooine, Hoth, and Endor. No explanation has been offered as to what happened to the rest of a galaxy far, far away, but I can’t imagine it would be a good one, since Battlefield (minus Hardline) has always featured a diverse range of environments.
So where did all your games go? Why are developers pumping out half-products, and, more importantly, why do we as consumers settle for them? The answer is simple: saturation. If a developer spends less money making a game faster, rather than better, they can release a franchise title each year. Gamers will be spending little enough time on one game by the time its sequel comes out a year later that they won’t notice how little content it really has. In a sense, less is more. It’s a business strategy that relies on milking a fanbase that is drawn more to brand recognition than the games themselves.
Of course, other methods exist as well. Online behemoth Valve has only released a handful of multiplayer shooters in the past decade, namely Team Fortress 2, a pair of Left 4 Deads, and Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Rather than churn out sequel upon sequel, they focused on making the games as lasting as possible, releasing updates as time went on. Each title remains strong years following release, with CS:GO and TF2 still making sizable returns through optional in-game microtransactions.
And it’s more than just Steam titles. As detailed in our earlier article, Bungie’s Destiny has been launching campaign expansions consistently since release, in addition to multiplayer updates, and shows no signs of slowing down. The third iteration of Metal Gear Online just launched on October 6th, and seeks to live to a similarly ripe old age as its predecessors. In addition, just about any game with a local multiplayer focus, from brawler Mortal Kombat X to the frenetic Rocket League, are guaranteed to far outlast their online communities.
It’s not impossible to release a fully developed game. Most publishers just don’t want to. If you would rather see a market full of games that you’d want to play, rather than overflowing with garbage, there are things you can do. Play and support games with long term goals, and don’t waste $60 a year on each Call of Duty, Battlefield, Far Cry, Madden, FIFA, or any other franchise where playing one is playing them all. You’d only be fueling the machine and dragging other series into the cogs, and only you have the power to pull the plug.
What do you think about upcoming releases? Getting tired of the same game every year? How about getting less with each offering? Share your thoughts in the comments.