How Story has ruined FPS campaigns - Vurtax Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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How Story has ruined FPS campaigns

I'm not saying story isn't important in campaigns. But too often in today do we see such tight-nit story arc's in FPS campaigns that it kills the one thing they used to be so great at; and that greatness was replay value.

Before I go on, note that Warbuff did a blog similar to this a while back

I couldn't help but be upset when I watched the new Battlefield 3 12-minute video. All I saw was scripted scene of narrow corridor shooting after another. And when they finally get to the open battlefield that you'd think to expect from DICE, the guy in command tells you to get up on the bridge and open fire with the LMG. 

I'm sorry, what happened to the FPS that let me do things the way I WANT to do it? Why is it that Homefront, Call of Duty, Killzone, Medal of Honor, and now Battlefield are all making me wait for my squad mates to open the door? Why is it that the tower me and my resistance members in Homefront are on is going to fall over and I can't do a thing to remove myself from the situation? Why must my gun be lowered as my squad walks at a turtles pace to the next set piece? Why can't i just play the campaign the way I want to?

It's story, regardless of how little, story in FPS campaign has been taken to a level where the sake of replay value takes a back seat to the large explosion that I have to stare at because my E-VAC just got taken out. Or my squad has to have this minute long talk before I can proceed to move along the battlefield towards our objective. And I'm tired of it. 

Luckily, there are some games over the last couple years that have avoided this bland trend. Left 4 Dead while still a corridor shooter keeps itself fresh by the 4 player co-op and the director system making sure no two encounters with a zombie horde on the same part of a level feel the same. The recent Crysis 2's linear-sandbox level design offers you dozens of ways to approach each scenario as well as activating cloak ability of silently kill every enemy in your path. And I've praised Halo a thousand times before for this so if you've read nearly any of my past blogs you already know what I'm going to say on that subject.

So what should be done about it? What can fix this problem?

I have a few things in mind.

Keep quicktime sequences to a minimum

I don't need to be in some fist fight with every Nazi or Taliban that appears around the corner like they're some ninja just waiting in the dark. Let me just knife them or blast a shotgun into their rid cage. 

Crysis 2 did a great job at limiting quick-times to very specific parts. If Alcatraz was about to fall of a ledge I'd have to quickly press the X-button before he fell to his death and then work the triggers to climb back up before regaining his footing. There were probably only four quick-times throughout the campaign (two were defibrillators) and considering the length of the campaign I'd put it as 1% of my time spent playing.

Make me the Squad leader or stop making the squad leader so bossy

If I have to obey the orders of Captain Price, Connor Morgan, Rico, Sarge, or whatever that guy was in Medal of Honor one more time... Let me make the choices, even if it's something as small as in Halo Reach's mission: ONI Sword Base where Kat let me make the call whether we went to reestablish COM's or get the AA turret back online. Let me decide how me and the other Black Ops soldiers approach the launch site of a Russian nuclear warhead. I'm tired of being told what to do by the developers so I play the game exactly the way they want me to. This isn't a movie, it's a video game.

First Person perspective cinematics are terrible, and lighten up on set-piece moments

Too many times do I walk at a snails pace with my gun lowered as two characters talk about how much their situation sucks and how they plan to go about solving it. Just stop interrupting me in the middle of a game and leave the cinematics that I HAVE to watch for only the beginning and the end of the campaign. If I want to stare at a rock while a nuclear bomb goes off then **BRAAAHHHH** I should be allowed to stare at that rock.

Games like Crysis 2 and Gears of War allow me the option to eyeball the setpiece moment by offering me the option to hold down the Y button as a Reaver crashes into a building or a Skyscraper in New York falls into a gorge caused by an earthquake.

Less silent characters

For the love of god you think that every marine in the world is a silent guy with issues. Homefront's Robert Jacobs doesn't even contact Rianna and Connor when he falls off the side of the Golden Gate (when they believe he's dead) but ends up landing on the catwalks below. He has a perfectly working radio which he could said "I'm fine, I landed on the catwalks below, I'll make my way back up to you guys". I understand the characters who are silent for a reason, but a Spec Ops soldier like Soap Mactavish shouldn't keep his trap shut only when I play as him. And Alcatraz shouldn't have remained silent when Nathan Gould put a gun to his face when he found out he wasn't Prophet.

 Lastly, wider levels

The epitome of issues in the FPS campaign. Every firefight ends up being a game of patience than one of tactical thinking. I should be allowed to flank the enemy from the sides if I want to, I should be allowed to avoid the main path of the game instead of being blocked by these pointless and annoying invisible walls or obvious pieces of obstruction just so I end up in the right place for some set piece moment. This isn't the Fuschia gym, there isn't some poison type gym leader in the middle of Afghan while Tier One operators are performing a rescue mission.

 

It's time for the replay value of FPS's to not just be some stupid collectable that gets you nothing more than 50 gamerscore. I don't want to blow up M-COM stations, I don't want to find enemy intel, I don't want to pick up newspapers that explain the overly-complicated backstory that changes about my current scenario. I just want to play the game my own way, this isn't a rail shooter. Stop putting in so many scripted scenes and stop making the story so non-flexible.

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