Shooters have seen a heavy presence across the industry for many years. Quake dominated the late 90s, the Halo series kept the original Xbox alive for years, and the Call of Duty franchise has been bringing millions upon millions back with each entry. And now-a-days, first-person shooters play the biggest role in the industry, probably closely followed by third person shooters. But, in many cases, gamers' aren't picking up these titles for an epic single player campaign, they're picking it up for the multiplayer.
Ever since 2007, the Call of Duty franchise has remained not only the king of the first person shooter market, but also left almost every other shooter in the dust. The series has continued to push forward with yearly releases. Each release not only pulls in the existing fanbase, but also brings in friends and family join in on the fun. The original Modern Warfare revolutionized the online multiplayer scene with kill streaks, perks, the streaming-lining of customizable load-outs, a rank system and plenty of other online goodies. But ever since Modern Warfare, the online multi-player scene has become a bit stagnant. Developers are constantly trying to play catch-up with the franchise and, in many cases, rarely catch on.
Multiplayer shooters have gone for significant periods of time without innovation in the past. 1995 through the early 2000s relied heavily on domination of the map and weapon spawns to build yourself arsenal to fit every situation. After that, online shooters saw a step by step transformation as titles like Halo 2, the original Call of Duty and Battlefield 1942 took the scene. It feels like we're due for some sort of big mix up in the online shooting realm. To a certain extent, that may be the Battlefield franchise. The concepts may not be new, but it is a refreshing change from what Call of Duty has been bombarding us with each year.
Recently the Uncharted 3 multiplayer beta launched on PlayStation Network. Having not played Uncharted 2, it is a bit hard for me to say where the multiplayer has or hasn't improved. But there was a single stand out feature. One of the stages has a Power Stone 2-like multi-level system. For the first few minutes of combat, you're jumping from truck to truck trying to take control of a plane while fighting the opposing team. After that, the match moves to a hanger where where players duke it out until the timer hits zero. It's a small change, and who knows, maybe in the final product that will be one of only a couple levels that pull this sort of structure. I don't expect this feature alone to mix up the scene, but it still offered something fresh that reminded me how little has changed over the last handful of years. Sure, most shooters have slight changes in terms of play-style, but they aren't different enough to shake-up the market. Well... Outside of the pseudo-single player and multiplayer found in MindJack, but that was so bad there was absolutely no hope of it innovating anything. At least it was trying.
The whole scene almost reminds me of the MMO market and how most titles are shooting for a comfort zone within World of Warcraft's formula. And while from a game design perspective that's definitely a safe bet, it almost back fires as the the titles don't differentiate themselves enough to outweigh the majority's invested value into World of Warcraft, or in this case, Call of Duty. It's important that a developer tries to change the scene, while not completely leaving out features that just flat out work. With the right mix and the right budget, a new player may come on the scene that could shake-up the online shooting realm. But Battlefield 3 is probably the safest bet in the foreseeable future.