Bulletstorm and Killzone 3 kick-start another strong year for first-person shooters
The first-person shooter genre is one of the most dominant of this generation. The success of Call of Duty alone is staggering. Back in late December, Activision announced that Black Ops had surpassed $1bn in sales and that over 600m hours had been logged playing the game. The game is still topping the charts today. Call of Duty isn’t the only franchise flying the flag for first-person shooters either; there is also much fanfare for Killzone, Battlefield, Medal of Honor and Resistance, to name just a few of the big hitters.
If you are suffering FPS-fatigue, you will not be pleased to know that first-person shooters are set to dominate again in 2011, and probably more so than in any year before. There are many on the way, but – and this is the important part – the line-up is both strong and diverse. All the games may share the same camera perspective, but that is about all they share.
This week, with the release of Killzone 3 and Bulletstorm, the year of the first-person shooter truly kicked off. As well as being terrific games, they are also a perfect example of the diversity of 2011’s line-up. Sure, they both feature foul-mouthed space marines on alien planets, but you do not have to spend much time playing either to conclude that they are very different types of games.
Guerrilla Games’ Killzone 3 is a great showcase for the PlayStation 3. It is going to be one of the best looking and sounding games of the year. The environments are rich in detail and look fantastic in crisp high-definition. Also, it is unlikely that you will find a better game to demonstrate your new 3D television. Thankfully, Killzone 3 is as good to play as it is to see.
Killzone 3 makes you feel every visceral movement. You feel heavy, but never so much that you cannot turn and fire like an athlete. You feel like you have momentum, but not so much that you end up missing your mark. It makes you feel involved in the action, as you play through the exciting singleplayer campaign.
Its multiplayer is possibly the best of any first-person shooter around. It should satisfy both the lone wolf and the team player – however, while this is the case, we suspect the team player will get more from the game, thanks to its objective-based gameplay and solid clan support. Guerrilla Games has not revolutionised the genre but there is genuine progress here. Don’t forget to check out DolphGB’s review.
Bulletstorm is something completely different. If you find Killzone 3 a little poo-faced, Bulletstorm is the game you have been crying out for to play. With the exception of Duke Nukem, maybe, Bulletstorm is likely to be the most ridiculously over-the-top shooter of the year. It is essentially a very big toy box filled with many toys, and you are encouraged to play with them all, and in the most creative ways that you can think of.
An electric grapple hook is one of these toys, and it is a great one. It allows you to chain-up some interesting moves. You can pull an opponent towards you, kick him into the air, lasso him back, kick him in the nuts, before propelling him towards a cactus-like plant while his head is being blown clean off. A bright, colourful title will then pop up on the screen, calling you a sicko or something similarly apt. Naturally, this happens in slow motion so you have time to carefully plan your sadistic assaults.
It sounds brutally violent, and it is in many ways, but it is closer to the cartoon-violence of Itchy and Scratchy than Hostel. It is funny – very funny – even though People Can Fly clearly sourced the Internet Insult Generator for much of their curse-heavy dialogue.
Tammy Schachter, VP of Public Relations for EA, summed up the game quite succinctly in a chat with Game Informer:
“As you know, Bulletstorm is a work of entertainment fiction that takes place in the 26th century on the abandoned fictitious paradise planet Stygia, where our heroes fight mutants, monsters, flesh-eating plants and gigantic dinosaurs.
It really is that ridiculous, and we are surprised that the “fair and balanced” Fox News ran a story suggesting games like Bulletstorm cause an increase in rape – actually, we’re not surprised. Their headline read, “Is Bulletstorm the Worst Video Game in the World?” Not by a long shot.
We suspect Homefront, releasing next month, will give Fox News more reasons to get angry. Homefront is set in the near future, when a United Korea has invaded a weakened America. America is now the battleground, and you are fighting as part of the resistance to free it from its occupiers. It is a setting that people can relate to (there are no flesh-eating plants), and we think some people will be shocked when they see atrocities happening in such a familiar setting.
We cannot recommend Homefront to anyone looking for a jolly experience. You will see soldiers shooting civilians in the back and rounding them up to put them into camps; you will even have to hide in an open pit, amongst the dead, to avoid capture. While People Can Fly use the extreme violence in Bulletstorm to make you laugh, Kaos Studios is looking to shock us with Homefront.
Homefront is an interesting title; they have thought through the history, and it is refreshing to see a studio trying to tell a story. They have succeeded so far in getting out attention, but it is too early to say whether the story will fall flat on its face – and that is a real possibility. Nevertheless, none of this will mean much if the gameplay is not up to scratch. Sadly, we are not in a position to say, but we will know soon.
The other major release in March is Crysis 2. Crysis made its name on the PC because you needed a top-spec PC to run it. It set the benchmark for graphics, and its gameplay was solid. It lacked an interesting setting though; it was set on undiscovered tropical island no. 1403. It was instantly forgettable. The sequel, however, will be set in New York; hardly original, sure, but it is certainly a far more distinct setting. The studio hopes that the familiarity of the location will draw gamers in. This is clear from the latest trailer.
Crysis 2’s large, detailed, environments will be one of the game’s biggest assets. Maps cover large areas and the CryENGINE allows for a lot of environmental damage. Crytek has designed the maps in a way that allows you to explore them vertically as well as horizontally. Verticality is one of the buzz words surrounding this game.
Crysis 2’s best feature, however, is the nanosuit our hero wears. You can change the properties of this super high-tech suit at any time on the fly. If you see many enemies coming and expect to have bullets flooding at you, you can toughen up your armour. You will move slower, but you will be able to take more damage, and your melee attacks will be more powerful.
Alternatively, you could hit the other shoulder button to activate stealth mode. You will be invisible in this state. The enemies will spot you once you start firing, but, in theory, you will have moved to a better tactical position by then.
The suit is a game changer because it opens up so many tactical options. It will be interesting to see how players take advantage of its many features in the multiplayer. The multiplayer is deadly fast, but we think it will please strategists.
Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution is out in April, and it is smarter than your average first-person shooter. Unlike every other game on this list, killing opposition NPCs is not the main objective; in fact, you can pretty much play the entire game without killing anyone. That is if you choose to.
There are multiple ways to get through each situation. You can use your dialogue skills to talk your way past an awkward bouncer, you could use brute force or you may use your stealth skills to sneak around.
Deus Ex is a role-playing game, and like all good role-playing games, you can customise your character’s skill set. In Deus Ex, you do this through augmentations. Augmentations are modifications that you apply to Adam Jensen (the semi-biotic lead character); for example, you can buy augmentations from the “limb clinic” which will improve his visuals or make his defences stronger.
Many PC Gamers still consider Deus Ex 1 to be of the greatest games of all time. With Human Revolution, Eidos are looking to get back to those roots. If you are tired of trigger-happy first-person shooters, watch out for Deus Ex 3: Human Revolution. It is going to be huge, rich and rewarding.
Duke Nukem Forever, releasing in May, will not be quite so smart. Duke Nukem is, after all, the original steroid-filled action hero. Expect crude gameplay and crude insults – Duke Nukem fans will not tolerate anything less (or more). They will want the same mindless fun they had over a decade ago, when Duke Nukem last appeared. It has been a long wait for a sequel, and it is great that it will finally see daylight. We just hope it does not suffer under the weight of expectation.
Speaking of expectations, we are excited about Brink, the upcoming shooter from Splash Damage. The studio is doing many interesting things with this title. Firstly, its SMART button will make Brink more dynamic than any other first-person shooter around. It is essentially an all-in-one run, jump and slide button, which asks the computer to get you to where you need to get to, and it magically does it. Expect to see characters scaling walls and containers.
Brink is a class-based multiplayer. You will have three body types – light, medium and heavy – and each of the classes have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of movement and ammo loads. On top of this, you have your soldier class (medic, engineer etc.). Therefore, there is a lot of depth here for a rich tactical experience.
The people at Splash Damage are fully paid-up members of the squad-based first-person shooter club. In Brink, players are expected to behave as a good teammate should, and if you do, you will be rewarded for doing so. To make it easier for you, there will be several objectives within each mission, such as guard the com station, and by doing these you are helping your team. Normally, we would only find this multiplayer experience on a PC so we salute Splash Damage for bringing it our consoles.
We have only mentioned new releases up until May and we are already looking at a long list, and following Brink there are more to come. In May, there is F.E.A.R. 3 and in spring, we will see the release of Bodycount and Operation Flashpoint Red River. The first is perfect for psychological horror fans, while the latter is undoubtedly the best game for anyone looking for a realistic tactical military shooter. Sadly, we have some concerns about Bodycount, which looks decidedly derivative in amongst some of the titles on this list.
September will bring two more massive hitters in Rage and Resistance 3. The latter needs no introduction. The Resistance franchise is one of the biggest exclusives on the PlayStation 3, although we do not believe that the first two lived up to our expectation, especially the second – but we are getting excited about Resistance 3. The footage we have seen so far suggests that Insomniac has stepped up a gear.
Rage may be a game you will be less familiar with though. It is being produced by id Software, the company credited with creating the first-person shooter genre with Wolfenstein 3D. That was a long time ago, 1992 to be exact, but id are still thrilling us today.
Rage is running on id Tech 5, the company’s own game engine, which allows them to create incredibly detailed and distinctive textures across all their assets. The results are stunning.
The gameplay itself is not doing much new, but it was looking very refined when we saw it running a few months back. It looked very smoothly and the weapons sounded menacingly raw. It has a Mad Max feel about it, especially as vehicles will play a key role in the game. Definitely keep an eye out for Rage.
No doubt, there will be more unannounced games in production ready to land before the end of 2011. If there is, we would advise publishers to hold off until early 2012. If you still haven’t had your fill of first-person shooters by autumn, we cannot imagine you having any room for more once Battlefield 3 and the inevitable Modern Warfare 3 arrive. Neither game needs an introduction – they will sell. Activision has just started a countdown for Modern Warfare’s announcement, and you can already see gaming sites getting excited (understandably).
If there is one thing that is certain, it is that we are going to be hearing a lot about Battlefield and Modern Warfare 3 from now until their release. Much of the debate will involve people taking sides, and we will probably join in on the debate ourselves (it is hard not to!). Nevertheless, we just hope people do not forget to enjoy the many other great games on the way. If you are a first-person shooter fan, your pockets will soon be empty.