Staff Editorials

A Few Short of a Shooter
Posted: 03.04.2009 11:56 by Comments: 10
Last year I played Half-Life for the first time. I was on a bit of a spending spree at Gamestop and passing through the used games section I spotted a copy of the PS2 port for twelve bucks. It wasn't the best port I've ever played, precision aiming was almost impossible thanks to some control problems, but overall it was still a good console based shooter and thanks to the still solid build of the single player campaign it kept me occupied for a good ten to fifteen hours. I remember playing Operation: Flashpoint; I would spend entire days just going through the same missions over and over again, looking for different ways to play through them. It's been a long time since I've played a shooter that occupied me like that, or rather a single player FPS campaign that inspired me enough that I wanted to play it over, and over again.
Half-Life's great solo game...

Point in case, I recently played Killzone 2 and to its credit, it is a fantastically fun game. I've never been more engrossed by a multiplayer game in my life. That said, if you were to subtract the multiplayer campaign there wouldn't be much else there. The single player game is woefully short and forgettable. There have been an epidemic of games like this lately. Battlefield: Bad Company, Resistance 2 and even Call of Duty 4, with its rightfully acclaimed single player campaign are all titles that simply would not be worth the price of admission if you weren't interested in taking them online. As mind-bending as the nuke sequence was in Modern Warfare, would you have really considered spending sixty dollars if it hadn't been backed up by an addictive and fun multiplayer mode? I know I certainly wouldn't have.

Killzone 2 is just the latest in a long line of disappointments for me. Even though the trend lately is shifting more and more toward the online play in FPS games, I am still a firm believer that there are simply some things that a single player game can do better than a multiplayer game. Half-Life for instance is still a remarkable example of a game that used the first person perspective to put you in the center of a dynamic story. I was able to experiment in Operation: Flashpoint in a way I would never be able to if it had been all about scoring kills against blood hungry teenagers over the web. While Call of Duty 4 was short, it is the perfect example of game that used the linear, constructed nature of a good single player campaign to evoke intensity not from frenetic fragging, but rather, from a story. It drew you in and affected emotionally, something few, if any online shooters have managed to do.
...or Killzone 2's awesome multiplayer?

Killzone 2 had the potential to be more too. The game shined in so many ways, and to its credit the single player campaign was solid to play It just lacked the sort of ambition that defines a really great solo experience. The story was utterly disposable and ended right as the momentum really began to pick up. Essentially, it was lazy, which is shameful considering the obvious level of polish that went into the rest of the game. Even Resistance 2, despite the poor execution of its single player campaign had more ambition. I genuinely think Insomniac tried to do something great and distinct with the story of Nathan Hale and simply failed, which in my book puts them a step higher than the countless developers that try to do nothing and succeed.

It just strikes me lately how utterly generic the first person shooter genre is becoming. When you really think about it, the way things are going, developers aren't giving us much reason to buy shooters anymore. What are they offering us really? Slightly better graphics? A bigger player cap? Granted some games do add worthwhile depth to the multiplayer experience, but if you consider it, all you really need anymore is one solid shooter. I was lucky enough to get Killzone 2 for free, but if I had been confronted with the burden of paying for it myself, I probably would have just kept playing Resistance 2. Why should I shell out money for a game that is basically offering me a slightly different take on the same concept? If there's not a story to latch onto, nothing of real note outside of the same-old same-old, why should I buy it when I'm already perfectly happy blowing people up in a game I already have?

What I want are games like Bioshock. Games like The Darkness and Condemned 2 where the main draw isn't mindless destruction, but rather giving me an experience that afterward will stick with me. One of the best shooters I've bought in recent years is a port of the original Half-Life. That's saying a bit too much for comfort I think. That said, I can't see this changing. After all, why should a developer invest their time and money into a Bioshock when they could pump out something more generic for less effort and still make a profit? Why should we expect more effort if the majority of people are willing to buy half a game? Check on most any message board and you'll see a retinue of gamers espousing how little single player campaigns mean to them in shooters anymore. Games only change as people want them to, and it seems the people have spoken. Perhaps I'm just out of touch.
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Comments

By Evmeister (SI Newbie) on Apr 04, 2009
Evmeister
You're not out of touch, I've noticed the same thing with fps, I hadnt played one in ages and then i played left 4 dead, and sucked at it but at the same time there was no story to it, same with far cry i couldnt get into it and sucked at it as well, but you're right it seems everything is heading towards multiplayer and it seems that the era of true solid fps is dying out.
By Revan (SI Elite) on Apr 05, 2009
Revan
I'm glad you mentioned The Darkness. I thought that was a briliant game (extremely under-rated though). I was also a bit dissapointed in Killzone 2. Not over the story, or the single layer, but over it's wonky controls. Why does it take an hour to line up your gun sights to get a simple head shot?! I know it's not me, I've played other FPS games on the hardest setting without running into any control problems. It's pretty low if they have jack up the difficulty by making the controls crappy.
Right now I'm waiting for the sequels to Half-Life, The Darkness and BioShock. Hopefully they don't screw them up...
By Stew (SI Member) on Apr 05, 2009
Stew
I'm pretty sure a Darkness sequel will never happy unfortunately.

I think the control issues in Killzone 2 were supposed to represent how hard it would be in real life to to that. The guns in most FPS games are unrealistically accurate.
By Stew (SI Member) on Apr 06, 2009
Stew
Hmm...

One must wonder what you could possibly mean by that...
By Revan (SI Elite) on Apr 06, 2009
Revan
I think what Zerk is saying is that he didn't actually read any of that. :)
By Revan (SI Elite) on Apr 09, 2009
Revan
??? :S
By lichlord (SI Core) on Apr 11, 2009
lichlord
ah the good old times i played half life 1 :)
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Apr 22, 2009
herodotus
I bought HL1 on Steam for $0.99c and had a ball re-visiting Black Mesa. HL2 equally had me thoroughly hooked as I too had become jaded by generic shooters. Not since CoD1 had one vaguely raised my interest, until the inevitable CoD sequels. I've played a lot of FPS's, and while the one recent stand-out being Crysis, it too collects dust on my shelf. With the games getting shorter, the 'baddies' often extreme, I look forward to Virtual gaming to resurrect this once great genre (Castle Wolfenstein 3D" FTW!
By Hamarik (SI Core) on May 03, 2009
Hamarik
How old are Half-Life series?
By Wowerine (SI Elite) on May 13, 2009
Wowerine
200 years last time I checked. :P