Nexuiz came out recently for the Xbox Live Arcade service and was received with mixed criticism and vastly varied scores. Section 8 Prejudice was released previously and received a similar reception to Nexuiz, as did the futuristic shooter Blacklight Tango Down and Breach. These games are all first person shooter games that were released via digital distribution. They all received similar mixed receptions but it is safe to say that none of them in particular made the impact they were created to, or intended to make. I want to attempt to understand why these games failed and why Xbox Live Arcade is such a difficult place for first person shooters to achieve success.
Battlefield 1943 is the exception to this rule because it received high scores and generally was a turning point and shift in perspective for many gamers who could now see exactly how good (and how far) games for the Xbox Live Arcade service had come. Visually Battlefield 1943 was a stunning game compared to it other Arcade counterparts. BF1943 played out it’s action across a few maps and focused it’s gameplay on vehicle combat as well as the traditional first person shooter aspects of the gameplay. An objective based game mode involving capturing flags, a choice of three different classes to play for your team and some engaging vehicle play (and control) meant for the true first person shooter experience as a downloadable experience via the Arcade service.
Why did Battlefield 1943 (Metacritic 83) succeed where Nexuiz, Section 8 Prejudice, Breach and Blacklight failed? It is no secret that the Battlefield brand has more clout and weight behind it than the other games combined. The Battlefield brand is easily recognisable and branches off to the more popular games of Battlefield Bad Company and the ever popular Battlefield series of games from the PC. However, I don’t believe that this is the sole reason that Battlefield 1943 succeeded. Battlefield 1943 was a scaled down version of a game play and style similar to actual full retail release titles. The maps were still of considerable size, the vehicles worked well and the shooting mechanics were solid.
Nexuiz (Metacritic 66) felt as though is was trying too hard to be Halo or Unreal Tournament and why would one play a Halo/Unreal clone if they can play the real thing for a much cheaper price?
The actual gameplay mechanics of Breach were sluggish and off kilter and the actual feel of the shooting simply felt wrong. I do not need to explain the glaringly obvious fact that if the shooting does not feel good in a first person shooter, then the game is probably not very good.
Section 8 Prejudice (Metacritic 76) was not a bad game but it too was simply a clone of the earlier Section 8 game that released as a full priced retail release and gathered little attention or sales.
Blacklight: Tango Down (Metacritic: 61) was a game that looked promising but delivered on hardly any of it’s promises and¬†ultimately¬†it did not live up to its potential. The mechanics were solid and the gameplay was fun and engaging albeit a little repetitive at times.
Gotham City Impostors (Metacritic 71) released to an odd mix of high positive and low negative reviews. ¬†This blend of¬†humorous¬†Batman styled characters married to the¬†Team¬†Fortress styled gameplay, offered gamers a fresher and more original style of play than previous Halo¬†(Nexuiz) or Call Of Duty (Blacklight) clones. Some reviewers welcomed the change of setting and atmosphere while other reviewers hated this deviation from what they were previously used to and expected.
The problems of first person shooters that are produced for downloadable services such as Xbox Live Arcade and PSN does not lie solely with the quality of the game. The audience is partly to blame for their short lived and often unsuccessful endeavours. There are two main types of first person shooter players; The type that are faithful to one first person shooter game and will only buy further iterations and future instalments of their chosen series (e.g Call Of Duty, Halo, Battelfield). The second type of first person shooter player is one who moves on and is always looking for their next shooter game, they will purchase the Call of Duty’s and Battlefield’s and then buy up games like Homefront, Crysis and other shooters. They will play the game for around several weeks and then move on to the next shooter. The market audience for first person shooters is moving so quickly that the genre has become over populated with shooter games and this is both a positive and negative factor for gamers. Positive because we have a lot of choice between the first person shooters we have available to us but negative because the community’s and active players for these games is divided and sadly many of the first person shooter games that are available on the Xbox Live Arcade or PSN services have servers as empty as Keith Vaz’s ‘Why Games Are Evil and Will Destroy Your Brain’ seminars.
First person shooter games sell and they continue to sell well but for the Xbox Live Arcade and PSN services respectively I predict a decrease in the amount of first person shooter games that we shall see released for the service. As for the age old debates on what is the best first person shooter… I think they are all good and offer me something different in their own ways. Battlefield, Call Of Duty and Halo are all fantastic games and it does not matter which one is better than the rest. I’ll be on my fence if you need me so feel free to throw a comment up at me in attempt to knock me off.
I’ll see you on the battlefield gamers, but it most likely wont be a digitally distrusted one…