Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Critical Rocket's gaming genre breakdown 1


Gaming is a big part of my life, well not a big part really, it's more like the only thing in my life.  Incredibly sad I know but it keeps me from going insane and helps the time pass by and if nothing else it gives me plenty of things to talk about.  Today I thought I would talk about what gaming genre's I like and those I do not like with example games that put me off or turned me on to that particular genre.  Hell I will even talk about games in a genre I like that sucked.

Survival Horror

Redi 6 did little to improve Capcom's image for fans
Certainly a genre that has piqued many a gamers interest over years.  When this is done right it works brilliantly as it appeals to that part of our brains that crave the kind of tension and excitement but without the horrible outcome should we accidentally die in game.  Resident evil is probably the series most recognised as being the original mass market survival horror title, but earlier games such as Alone in the dark did it earlier and better in some areas. 

I myself am a massive coward so the idea originally of playing a game where monsters attack you unexpectedly and you have limited ammo, movement and health didn't initially appeal.  I wouldn't worry watching someone else play of course since I like horror movies despite my jump scare cowardice.  The first game I fully dived into that had some elements of survival horror was F.E.A.R and awesome shooter at the time.  Nowadays F.E.A.R has become something of a parody of itself but the original was pretty tense and had some genuine scare moments.  I remember playing the demo and actually trying to work up the courage to move along a corridor after seeing Alma briefly for fear of being jumped again.

Alan Wake is a great survival horror game with a fun story
Dead Space was another blood soaked boot in another terrifying realm, but I did sort of have the advantage of seeing my brother play a good section of that before completing it from scratch myself a week or so later.  Dead Space was great because it was claustrophobic, mature, atmospheric and tough.  The sequels have been less frightening but still fun and really that is my issue with the survival horror template.  Everyone loves the original but hate the sequels because they change them from what the original did.  This is inevitable with game development as making the same thing repeatedly never works unless it's called Call of duty or Farm Simulator.  Fans of survival horror always want to be scared but after playing several times and then jumping to a sequel the game just isn't scary anymore.  It's not the developers fault, it's the players because you get used to jump scares, pitched orchestral strings and loud noises to the point where it becomes a cut down over the shoulder shooter.

Obviously there are some real scare titles out there still with titles like Amnesia the dark descent and it's upcoming sort of sequel a machine for pigs.  These are the real horror games because you play someone who really shouldn't survive these events.  You have no gun, no health packs, no armour and no way of telling where and when a freakish monster will attack you.  You have to use your wits and the environment to survive and that is why I won't play it.  Not because it's bad but because I would be bricking it the entire time.  The recently greenlit Routine is a game of a similar vein I would possibly have a go of because I like the setting and the aesthetic, but again I know I would be shitting myself at every bump and noise.  Still these games are good unlike the crap Capcom puts out these days with the likes of Resident evil 6 and friends.

As it is the survival horror genre is in a little slump.  The big developers are playing it safe while the indie and smaller developers are the ones bringing the horror back to gaming.

First Person Shooter

The biggest genre in the world and I have watched it grow from humble beginnings on PC and explode into the multi billion pound enterprise it is today.  There are hundreds of FPS titles out there from developers world wide covering every subject from military shooters, brawlers, espionage, stealth, action and more.  The biggest games in the world are in this genre and it's unlikely to ever stop being the biggest either.  We as a species love to shoot things with a wide variety of weapons and powers.
Some FPS games are still story focuses which is good

I remember playing DOOM and thinking it was the shit until Quake hit the market and brought full three dimensional combat to our screens.  Quake was so good it had Nine inch nails doing the music, I mean no other game has ever had such a badass soundtrack in the history of shooters.  First person shooting is all about immersion, being there in the moment, seeing the explosions and the bullets and bodies as if you were really there.  It's all about excitement but there are problems with the genre.

Back when PC gaming technology was on a massive high as new bigger and better games hit the shelves that utilised the current bleeding edge of graphics and chipsets you saw innovation.  Minor things like level interactivity such as pushing buttons, destroying scenery or hearing realistic sound reverb from weapons is all taken for granted these days.  But back in the day these things where amazing and you could see developers trying to one up each other with more and more fancy techniques and game features.  One of the best of the genre was Half life, a title that is still a work of art to this day which featured some truly amazing set pieces and level design.  Other games such as Quake 2, Unreal, Battlefield 1942 and more continued to change the way we played.

Battlefield 1942 allowed us to finally fulfill those what if dreams of playing a game online with dozens of players and also drive tanks, fly planes and captain ships.  Counter strike would allow us to bring out our inner tactician with matches that had no respawns and a heavy emphasis on team coordination.  Medal of Honor allowed us to storm the beaches of Normandy and beyond with a singleplayer campaign that at the time kicked the crap out of any other FPS for singleplayer. 
Borderlands 2 is currently one of the biggest FPS games around

The genre did start to go downhill with the advent of Call of Duty.  The original game was very good as it challenged EA for it's crown of #1 world war 2 shooter.  It won spectacularly with a brilliant singleplayer campaign that had epic set pieces, huge battles and a tremendously fun multiplayer component.  In fact the multiplayer was so good it pretty much took over the franchise and became the main purchasing factor for any player.  Sadly Call of duty has since become a massively overblown hype factory that churns out the same game with slightly better graphics and more gimmicks.  The player numbers online have actually gotten smaller as maps became tiny rats nests with narrow shooting alleys and camping spots.  The emphasis switched from tactical movement and teamplay to run and gun madness with airstrikes and helicopter gunships.  In essence Call of duty became what it had originally dethroned, a slightly lazy game with some good elements but nothing special.

There are still some FPS games that harken back to the olden days of the genre.  Bioshock and it's recent spiritual sequel Bioshock Infinite are prime examples of a first person shooter that doesn't need multiplayer to be popular.  The recent trend of multiplayer being the biggest selling point has unfortuntaely diluted the genre overall.  Gone are the days of storytelling where a simple experiment gone wrong could lead to a truly epic adventure or roleplaying as a cyborg agent for a near future cybernetics company.  Sure Deus Ex and Half life are still around, but these kinds of games are so few and far between it's slightly depressing.

Nowadays the FPS genre is heavily populated with all manner of games waving at you for your attention and there are some great games out there worthy of such, but a majority now are simply playing it safe until a third party brings out something that truly kicks the genre up the arse, then they will all jump on it and claim it for themselves.

That's it for today, come back tomorrow for my next two genres.  Thanks for reading.


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