Fifteen years ago, games were still coming into their own. They were still a newer entertainment medium, but they were gaining mainstream traction. Back then, there was a large variety of games that looked and felt entirely different from each other. Games like Crash Bandicoot, Tomba!, and Final Fantasy all looked and played entirely different. The lines between genres and artistic styles were much more solid. Today, those lines are beginning to blur.
Upon watching the E3 2012 press conferences, I started noting some startling patterns. Franchises that I have known and loved for many years are all starting to melt into an indistinguishable soup of Call of Duty-style action games. Games like Tomb Raider, Dead Space 3, Resident Evil 6 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist are all prime examples. If you were to compare the original incarnations of all four of these celebrated franchises, telling the difference between them, in terms of gameplay was easily done. These new versions, due out this and next year, are starting to blend together.
Of course, there are strong stylistic differences; you won't see Lara Croft running around in a glowing space-suit and you won't see Leon Kennedy marking and executing terrorists, though I wouldn't be surprised at this point. It seems that these "new" games, sequels all, are trying to fit into the cookie-cutter patterns of two of this generation's must successful franchises, Gears of War and Call of Duty. The best example of this is Resident Evil 6. Long time RE fans will note that the franchise has been changing significantly ever since 2005's Resident Evil 4. Admittedly, that was actually the first RE game I had ever played. I have seen the previous incarnations played, but never interacted with them myself. The evolution from RE 4 to RE 5 was mainly a location and character change. Sure, there were bigger and more bombastic cutscenes, Chris was a steroid-laden jarhead and you fought many more enemies than ever before seen in the franchise. Also, playing a large portion of the game in the sunlight was a jarring switch. But RE 6 seems to be changing a lot more than that. Now that you can move and shoot, take cover, and dive roll onto the ground, it seems that the line between survival horror and 3rd person shooter is getting even more blurred. Originally, I was quite excited about Resident Evil 6, but the trailers and gameplay presented at E3 quickly changed my opinion for the worse. I felt like I was watching some strange off-shoot of Gears of War. The world looks the same, the shooting and action looks the same, and even some of the enemies looks similar. I don't want to play Gears of War with zombies. I want to play Resident Evil 6.
These complaints and observations can be leveled at the other franchises displayed proudly at E3. Dead Space 3 now has drop-in co-op, which has the potential to entirely ruin the atmosphere that was so important and well done in the previous games. Splinter Cell: Blacklist and the latest incarnation of Ghost Recon, Future Soldier, are becoming almost indistinguishable. The least of the offenders, though, is Tomb Raider. I am happy that they are making huge, sweeping changes to a series that has sat stagnating for nearly a decade. All I would like to see is more color and variety in environments. Not everything has to be brown and grey.
Lastly, I would like to clarify that I love these franchises a lot. The reason I'm ranting about them is because I care about their future so damn much. I want to see them succeed and watch their continued evolution into the next generation. I simply just don't want them to all become Gears of War or Call of Duty clones. Those games have their many merits, but that is no reason for other unique franchises to model their sequels and new ideas around them.
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