First Person Shooter Campaigns Are Like Michael Bay Movies
Military shooters. You almost know where this article is going just by that statement alone, but hear me out here. Throughout my time with gaming I have probably played most of the military shooters out there. All the Call of Duties, Medal of Honors, Homefront, BlackSite, Blackwater (oh God), Brothers In Arms, Operation Flashpoint, Army of Two, Ghost Recon and all the loosely defined shooters such as Halo, Bulletstorm, Crysis and what have you. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve had my fair share of “generic shooters”. But it somehow doesn’t bother me all that much because for some reason I enjoy them, even if I know they are over-saturated blockbuster games.
I see military shooters like I see Michael Bay films. The writing is absolutely horrible and riddled with cliche, there is an abundance of over-the-top, gigantic explosions, the characters are one dimensional and there is no real point to it. But it is still somehow entertaining to watch and they make ludicrous amounts of money. Michael Bay movies carry almost the same mentality as modern military shooters, for short.
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I believe they have a place in our gaming landscape, however. Amazing military games such as Spec Ops : The Line will not sell nearly as much units as a latest Call of Duty game, but that happens for good reason. Spec Ops is a psychological game that tests your intelligence and muddies the line between good and bad while Call of Duty has you mindlessly running around shooting foreigners and saving the day. The general populace wants the latter because it’s easy to palette and there isn’t much in the way of effort. Call of Duty is safe, comfortable and enjoyable while Spec Ops takes bold leaps and takes a player out of their comfort zone.
Some people don’t want to have their mind be put to the test when they play a videogame so they choose something familiar and predictable. Because of the vast numbers that these games ship, they can even potentially lure new people into the deeper side of gaming, away from the generic and the popular. Hell, I got started with playing Counter Strike on a crappy PC back in my larval phase of gaming. They are a gateway game to better experiences. One of our columns discussed this.
Back to military shooter campaigns. I feel like they are given more flak than what they deserve. I recently played Battlefield 4’s campaign and while it still featured all the common military FPS tropes, it was rather enjoyable and surprisingly engaging. Then I saw a few people telling me that the campaign sucks and I should just play the multiplayer, but they didn’t even play it for themselves. It’s now widely accepted that if a game is a modern military shooter that the campaign will suck, but sometimes it doesn’t. I even enjoyed Medal of Honor Warfighter’s campaign to an extent and even went against the grain by calling it a positive in the review I did.
But admittedly, military shooters have started developing a formula. It goes like this: establish new location, give once-off piece of military hardware to use, initiate setpiece, fill blanks with corridor shooting and perhaps throw in a betrayal or twist somewhere. It has started to become predictable to the point where it starts to become worrying. If this trend continues then I fear for the health of gaming in the future. But somehow, I don’t really mind it.
Military games are like Michael Bay movies. Fun to watch, mindless, don’t require a lot of attention, entertaining and is popular with dudebros. I still enjoy my annual Call of Duty Veteran campaign blow out (even if it has become easier and easier) and I still enjoy those random military games with the tons of explosions and people saying oohrah. It’s a conflicting relationship for sure as you can see from the bashing I gave military shooters, but it’s one I’m fine with having. We don’t need innovation all the time and sometimes we just want to sit back and enjoy a mindless blockbuster while enjoying ourselves.