I miss the days of games like UT3, Warhawk and even Resistance: Fall of Man. These stand out as some of my favorite games! I hated using the rocket launcher in all those games... but they were a favored weapon and I still remember a friend who used to love shooting me in the ass with the rocket launcher then yelling "how'd you like your rocket launcher enema??"! I even miss that. People complain that shooter games are all the same and I guess right now we're seeing a lot of class-based or perk-based shooter games. Essentially these games don't reward skill as much as they reward time spent playing the game. They usually have a rank-based unlock system to reward the hours you play with better guns, better armour, better perks. I miss the days of the arena shooter where everyone was equal. Where's my arena shooter for the PS3? On thinking back to those games, what I specifically miss are the following aspects:
1. Weapon pickups.
Rank meant nothing in these games. It was a number or symbol next to your name that simply indicated hours of play and that you may know the maps better. You got no special perks, armour or weapons. Everyone started the game with the same gun and if you wanted a different gun or piece of special armour you had to compete with others to get it. In UT3 I used to love picking up the rocket launcher... not to use it myself because I sucked at it, but to prevent others from using this favored weapon! I liked the addded competitive edge of resource management (or resource denial) that weapon pickups offered. I often had to use a gun I didn't like simply because I spawned near it, but I liked having to change up my gameplay and deal with what I was given. I also had to often fight someone else for a favorite weapon... rather than just put the hours into a game so you can spawn with it. In Warhawk even the vehicles were pretty much weapon pickups. They were parked in various locations and it was first come, first get. I guess in some ways there is a larger strategy to having various loadouts for specific purposes, but the weapon pickup system was more frantic and simply more fun. It was an entirely different stategy and mindset.
2. No camping.
These games are fast. There is little in the way of cover and standing still generally meant a quick death. I kind of miss running around the map at breakneck speeds constantly looking over my shoulder and knowing that there really weren't any safe hiding spots. Even Warhawk had this pacing. While the game had vehicles as well as on-foot action, it still played more like an arena shooter because whether you were in a plane, in a tank or on the ground you had to constantly be moving and very aware of what was going on around you. These games tend to be reactionary rather than strategic. They relied on fast reactions and were more hectic than many of the shooters on the market today. There was still some camping... generally around the weapon or health pickups, but there was little or no cover, so campers were more easy to spot than that guy hiding in the tall grass of today's more realistic shooters.
3. A sense of winning.
I miss feeling like I actually "won" the game. I occasionally see my name at the top of the Homefront leaderboard at the end of a game, but I'm level 59 while most everyone else is lower level. I've unlocked better guns and the night vision goggles and have a definite advantage. Until everyone else is a similar or higher level it's really, really hard to gain any sense of satisfaction from being on the top of that list. When winning a game in Warhawk or UT3 or Resistance:Fall of Man - it just felt so awesome! We were all equal, we all had the same chance to win... so I honestly felt that I was just better than everyone else for that particular game.
4. Customizable games.
All of the games I named had the ability to create custom games. Weapons could be included or excluded, various maps could be added or deleted from the rotation, private games for just your friends could be created. I still remember playing all-laark games in Resistance: Fall of Man, or creating an ideal map rotation in Warhawk. UT3 had too many customizations to even mention! They all used the old lobby system for picking/finding games, but most also had a quick-match feature if you just wanted to jump into a random game. Nowadays most games seem to insist on using matchmaking systems that simply never work as well as the old lobby system and games can't be truly customized because of the weapon unlocks and the power of ranks in current games.
On looking over the landscape of upcoming shooter games for the PS3 I don't see much on the horizon for arena shooter games. Most every upcoming shooter game seems to have the words "killstreaks" and "weapon unlocks" emblazoned on their boxes. Is the arena shooter dying? Why didn't I at least get a chance to go to the funeral? Is it time for it to die? I don't know, I just know that I miss these games. I guess the argument could be made that shooters evolved. Ranking up, rewarding players with better "stuff" ensures that players do play the game a lot in order to get better stuff, and it also allows less skilled players to eventually have better equipment giving them the sense of being good, even when they may not be (provided of course that there are always lower level people for them to kill!) There are constant rewards in newer games that give players new scopes, new perks, new things that can be used in the actual game. Resistance really had no rewards at all and Warhawk had cosmetic unlocks such as new outfits for your little guy. In UT3, the only reward for a killstreak was that awesome announcer voice! I guess gamers want something tangible and useful, something that they can try in the game to add a new aspect to their gameplay. It keeps the game interesting until you've unlocked and tried everything. There is also a strategic depth in choosing weapons and loadouts or choosing to play a specific class that was lacking in those early games... but in some ways I miss the simplicity of the arena shooter and I do hope it makes a comeback!
Ironically, on looking at previews for Twisted Metal, I noticed the mention of "powerups" which is what made me remember back to those old days of playing arena shooters. Provided Twisted Metal doesn't have a complex ranking system to unlock vehicles... this "vehicular combat game" might well be my next shooter game. Odd, given that I've never really taken an interest in driving games before... but this one has guns! I'll hold out hope that the tides change and maybe the arena shooter will make a comeback - maybe as a PSN downloadable game. It just needs to be something simple, something fun, something with crazy weapons - but something that doesn't include rank, unlocks, perks or classes. Starhawk (a successor to Warhawk) seems more imminent, and I'm trying my best not to get overly excited until they start making more offical announcements about the game, but I hope they retain the feel of an arena shooter and don't get all COD with it and bring in rank related weapon unlocks.
... oh, and it absolutely must have rocket launchers... in space!!! I really do kinda miss getting shot in the ass and having someone yell something about a rocket launcher enema!
So, arena shooters... time to die and are unlockables the future... or bring them back? I figure that in the gaming landscape, there is room for both! I just really, really, really hope that Starhawk follows on the success of Warhawk and doesn't ruin it by going away from the classic feel of the arena shooter!
LOOK WHO CAME:
Lord Death of Murder Mountain 1