This will be my first blog post on Destructoid so excuse me if this blog feels a bit unpolished and whatnot.
Gearbox Software is steadily becoming one of my favorite video game developers in the current generation of gaming. They have maintained a growing cult fan-base with their "Brothers in Arms" series of WWII-FPS games, developed wonderful expansions for the classic "Half-Life" game, ported the classic "Halo: Combat Evolved" to the PC, and have recently became more famous (and infamous) for their inclusion of off-color and perhaps politically incorrect humor in games such as Borderlands and Duke Nukem Forever (along with 3D Realms and everyone else involved). On top of that, Gearbox is venturing into 'licensed territory', with "Aliens: Colonial Marines" slated to become a major hit among science-fiction geeks like myself when it releases in early 2012. Simply put, Gearbox has got it made, delivering high-octane experiences and intense action into most, if not all, of their games, and have consistently reminded me after having played so many first-person shooters over the years just how much fun a game could be. So what is there to possibly complain about Gearbox Software?
Well, let's rewind back to where I mentioned "a growing cult fan-base with their 'Brothers in Arms' series." The latest game in the series, "Brothers In Arms: Furious 4" was announced recently by Gearbox Software's CEO Randy Pitchford at Ubisoft's E3 press conference. Unfortunately I had a university class to attend so I had to miss it, but I watched the trailer as soon as I got home. After watching it through and through, I was extremely surprised at the direction the series would be taking but was also really excited at the same time. I thought that the video game market was long overdue for a silly WWII shooter, since there are already enough "Call of Duty" games and "Brothers in Arms" games to fill that void. Up to that point, the only BIA game I played was Hell's Highway, but with the trailer and my previous experience with Hell's Highway, the game had, and still has, me excited to see more of it.
So after having been excited about the next game in the franchise, I wondered if everyone else who considered themselves fans of Gearbox and the franchise would be excited as I was. Unfortunately, the answer was a resounding no. I was absolutely shocked to see so many hateful comments directed at Gearbox on the YouTube trailer, I almost wondered if some of them were going to commit suicide right then and there. In a similar manner, the Facebook page has garnered even more negative backlash, with some going as far to say that it doesn't belong in the "Brothers in Arms" franchise. Even Gearbox Software's own forums are getting a lot of heat, with so-called 'lifelong fans' declaring they were leaving the forums forever after the direction the series...no sorry, the game would be taking. I was, and still am, in utter disbelief at the level of immaturity some of these 'fans' have to say for themselves for hating the new game and, ultimately, Gearbox Software.
First off, I think it's fair to say that Furious 4 is something completely different from what people were expecting, even for myself. But you know what? This is the exact same thing that people were complaining about with "SSX" at the Spike Video Game Awards of December 2010, then under the working title of "SSX: Deadly Descents." Back then, every person and their dog had their panties up in a bunch over a trailer that ran for only 30 seconds, had no gameplay whatsoever, and appeared to take the 'series' into a much darker tone in contrast to the bright white and snowy mountains we're all accustomed to. Fast-forward to EA's E3 press conference and VOILA! Everything is bright and cheery again! That wasn't so bad now, was it? In fact, I would have to correct myself by saying Furious 4 is the opposite case of "SSX"; in stark contrast to the more darker portrayals of the World War II-era, we are presented with a more flamboyant, perhaps even cheesier, portrayal that resembles more of a comedy like Inglorious Basterds than your traditional war film such as, say, Saving Private Ryan. But is that really a bad thing? Look how successful a cartoon-ish game like Team Fortress 2 is on the PC; that game is completely silly and 'fun' at the same time!
Speaking of fun, that is another thing I have to bring up. FUN! Gearbox has achieved the factor of fun with Borderlands using it low-brow humor, will achieve the factor of fun with Duke Nukem Forever by covering various pop culture references and more mature humor, and are going to eventually achieve that factor once again with Furious 4 (well, assuming we get gameplay matching the trailer :P) with hopefully all of the above. In his popular series of online videos, Destructoid's own Jim Sterling calls out Gearbox Software's Anthony Burch (spelled right?), formerly a colleague of Destructoid, who said fun isn't enough, countering that fun is paramount. No statement has (arguably) been made more pinpoint about the state of video games (not the industry, just the games) than the one made by Sterling. Going off-topic for a minute, in the last 5 or so years we have been seeing annual installments of the "Call of Duty" franchise, whose attempts at a dramatic, or at least serious, storyline has, in my honest opinion, failed miserably. The shoddy attempts to create a memorable flawed character, such as Mason in "Call of Duty: Black Ops", have only had me rolling my eyes over to no end, and the idea of Russians invading the United States of America without any knowledge whatsoever of their plans just seemed like a lousy excuse to make a sequel to Call of Duty 4. To me, the storylines of both Modern Warfare and Treyarch's overall timeline transcend themselves into the gameplay, and this is where the Call of Duty games fall flat for me, at least after Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; the addictive and intense action the series is known for is quickly hampered by an utterly nonsensical attempt at a dramatic storyline.
In the same way, "Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway" attempts to tell the story of the lead character Matt Baker across different games, though granted Hell's Highway does a much better job in providing depth into character's personalities and the overall narrative is a lot more coherent. But again, it seemed to me as though Gearbox preferred to focus more on the authenticity and narrative of the game and less on how the game played. In this regard, it wasn't the gameplay of the single player mode that fell flat for me so much as the multiplayer did. I can't explain why, but there was something about it that kind of put me off; maybe it had to do with the unbalanced nature of some of the territory games, but I digress. My point is, I was shocked, surprised, and even disturbed by some of the more realistic elements of "Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway", but overall, I didn't feel any real sense of entertainment. There wasn't really anything in the game that made me giggle gleefully due to some overly and intentionally ridiculous situation. However, I think "Brothers in Arms: Furious 4" will set out to bring back the fun factor once more, judging by the sheer style and attitude presented by the recent trailer.
Finally, I have to talk about some of the people who call themselves 'fans' of Gearbox Software, the 'fans' of course not being real true fans (like me and countless others) but rather complete babies who whine and cry when they don't get what they want. This issue has become commonplace in the video game industry: Sonic the Hedgehog, Fallout, Diablo, Ninja Theory's DmC, the list goes on and on. At one point or another, every developer has had their fair share of criticism, whether it's due to the art style or some design decisions or some other miscellaneous issue. But there is a difference between criticism and just plain nitpicking (who complains about the eye color of a protagonist?). It's perfectly fine to criticize Furious 4 as being too cartoon-ish, as dumb as that is; it's a completely different thing to go and say that Brothers in Arms does not belong in the title, or even go further and say that Furious 4 is not part of the franchise. That's exactly what Brothers in Arms is: a franchise. Brothers in Arms wouldn't be Brothers in Arms without a spin-off here and there; in fact, no franchise would. Gearbox Software is going out of it's way to do something fun, weird and off-beat in an attempt to revitalize an otherwise increasingly stale series of first-person shooters, and instead of celebrating the revival, 'fans' are complaining about it non-stop. It simply sickens me to see long-time, mature fans of the company rewind their mental capacity to that of an infant who cries because his/her favorite toy got taken away from him/her. If you watch the trailer directly on YouTube and look at the comments, or visit the Facebook page, or pretty much any other gaming news site (here as well), you'll see exactly what I mean.
Nobody is forcing 'fans' to buy the game. If a 'fan' does not want to play an offbeat, cartoon-like game that happens to have the name they so desperately love, they don't have to buy it. Simple as. Besides, 'fans' already have several other Brothers in Arms games to try or replay. We already have enough common experiences set in World War II, whether Brothers in Arms or otherwise. But now, I say it's time for something completely different. Bring on the Furious 4!
I welcome any sort of criticism, so long as it is polite ( it's my first blog so don't be too harsh! :) ).