This should otherwise be known as the year of threequels, at least when looking at the games that generated the most attention. Going down the list, we have Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Killzone 3, Resistance 3, and F.E.A.R. 3. Despite the sheer number of threequels, sequels, and first attempts that came out this year, the FPS buzzword for 2011 was “innovation,” or in other words, who could do Call of Duty better than Call of Duty. Ha!
Say what you will about the Modern Warfare franchise, but you cannot deny the fact that it has permanently changed the landscape of the FPS. Now video game development has become a contest of who can out-innovate the innovators. Unfortunately, like the console wars with their ridiculous motion sensor controls or disappointing hand-held platforms, the FPS war has become shallow and gimmicky. Apparently, trying to beat Modern Warfare has become synonymous with being Modern Warfare. For my money, the biggest players in the FPS war this year have been Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, and Homefront.
Homefront may have been one of the year’s biggest letdowns, but it had the best of intentions, and more importantly, it got people talking. The game’s strengths are few and far between, but they are at least attempting to make some changes to the scene. The story was weak at best, and the player had little to no investment in the wellbeing of the characters (especially the playable protagonist), but it was a story we haven’t seen yet in an FPS. A west coast invasion of the US by a unified Korea is a refreshing change from Russians and unidentifiable Middle Easterners and a plot revolving around nuclear weapons. Also, while the multiplayer could benefit from more map options, it is genuinely fun, especially when you make effective use of the vehicles.
Homefront’s failed attempt at doing something different was certainly better for the industry than the battle between Modern Warfare 3 and Battlefield 3 to see who would be better at delivering more of the same. But nothing good will come from absolute pessimism. While these games could have tried harder in the innovation department, that doesn’t take away from the fact that they are fun to play, and provide an epic storytelling experience. There is always a lot of dirt to sift through before you find the gems, but that’s not to say the digging through the dirt can’t be fun.