Are single-player first-person shooter campaigns a lost cause?

Half-Life 3, if you’re out there, you’ve got a lot of hopes resting on your shoulders.

There’s no doubt about it, first-person shooters equal cash to games publishers. Just look at the clockwork (some might say cynical) production of sequels of established franchises year after year.

Activision lead the way with their Call of Duty games, smartly staggered between developers Treyarch and Infinity Ward, next comes the EA leviathan with Battlefield and Medal of Honor, then on to Microsoft via Halo and Sony with a side of Killzone and Resistance.

Each series named has a minimum of four games released for it already (and many more in most cases) and none show any signs of being retired any time soon – after all, it’s in IP where the money lies these days.

All of the titles have many features in common beyond their genre, featuring as they do a cavalcade of multiplayer modes designed to keep punters enthralled into the next in the series, and, perhaps more interestingly, each also features its own single player campaign. The question I’m left pondering more and more is: why?

If asked to pick out any of the above in order to say ‘now there’s a developer looking to push the boundaries of what the FPS can do in term of single-player gameplay.’ I’d struggle. Indeed, it’s arguable that since Half-Life 2, not one developer has looked to push forward the genre, and with Valve’s seeming reluctance to follow up their classic shooter it’s a trend that seems set to continue.

The thing is, in the wake of the likes of Dishonored, BioShock and Portal 2, non-standard first-person adventures which I wouldn’t do the disservice to as referring as ‘shooters’, regular FPS design just doesn’t seem to pass muster any more.

It’s a feeling I’ve had that’s been simmering away for a while now, but one brought to the boil by Medal of Honor and Halo 4 which are seemingly intent to let their single-player campaigns follow the path of least resistance at every turn. Insipid narratives, the same action as their 10-year-old forebears, nothing we haven’t seen before in competitor’s games and worse, attempts to kid us that they do offer something new. See those brief moments of Master Chief climbing, ripping doors open, etc. in Halo 4 and the infamous door breaches of Warfighter.

It’s as if FPS developers have been content to churn out the same game for ten years at a stretch and to be honest who could blame them? First they sell, but second, developers tend to have a rather large and unsympathetic publisher pointing at their yearly bottom line and demanding that their coffers be filled. How much progression can we expect when a studio has a year, two at most, to script, animate, program, polish and balance both their solo and multiplayer experiences?

The bigger question is where would traditional shooters be today if developers were given carte blanche to take them to their ultimate form? Perhaps Crysis points the way, offering a glimpse into the beginnings of a sandbox environment where players can tackle objectives at their own pace and even in their preferred order. Something that Bungie implemented way forward to way back in 2001 with Halo: Combat Evolved but never really progressed.

By now shouldn’t we have moved beyond waves of hapless grunts throwing themselves in front of our crosshairs? And then there are those cover systems which have started to resemble the old carnival rifle ranges, as enemies who might as well be garbed in shooting targets beg us to shoot them in the few seconds they decide to put their heads up above the parapets.

Further annoyance are games which pit eagle-eyed hostiles against us. We’ve all been there, positioned in thick cover and sniping from a county mile away, only for an enemy to spot us despite our chosen protagonist’s so-called expertise in stealth. Indeed, playing Halo 4 the other day I had that exact experience as the green Master Chief, crouching amid greenery, was gunned down from across the map by a lowly jackal prompting much gnashing of teeth.

I’m not asking for too much. Realistic AI which can be surprised and which doesn’t immediately retreat into repetitious cover – it’s OK to run away and re-group you know? A grounding within the in-game world so that we feel truly connected to environments, objectives which require more than us being funnelled down a corridor with no alarms and no surprises, and how about flexible objectives? Something Dishonored manages within a set of limits so why not regular shooters?

Perhaps Palmer Luckey’s ‘Oculus Rift’ headset might go some way to making us feel integrated, certainly surveying the scene with a twist of the neck, rather than a flick of the thumb, would help. But ultimately it’s the gameplay that must evolve. Gordon Freeman, if you’re out there, you’ve got a lot of hopes resting on your shoulders.

Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

    £17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Support Analyst / Helpdesk Support Analyst

    £16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is the UK's leading ...

    SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

    £20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there