Next Gen has arrived and with it a world full of excited gamers looking for the next big thing in Multiplayer gaming. As to be expected in year one with any console generation we received the usual assortment of previous gen ports and of course the inevitable sequals across old and new generation hardware. This is all and fine but what that really means is that we get next to nothing in the way of fresh new ideas and envelope pushing game experiences. Developers tend to play it safe on launch.
Well that was last year and even though the annual Call of Duty was….meh , Battlefield 4 still blows the eyeballs from my sockets and hearing ” Stand by for Titanfall” never gets old; I am still waiting for that true Next Generation game experience.
The FPS category is off to the races with sequel mania running wild in all of the various Developer houses but there are a few that are taking some time to rethink the direction we have all been pushing them to the past 5-8 years. Thats right I said the direction WE have been pushing them towards.
The shooter Genre has become populated with games that have large environments , hundreds of weapon customization options, dozens of game unbalancing perks and streaks rewards that teeter on game breaking at times. Maps are large and expansive and at their worst cause players to get lost within minutes of running out of spawn. Forget trying to use map call outs these days and good luck developing a strategy around the insane amount of variables that are present in any given game.
There was a time when shooters where simple in concept but required more from the player aside from choosing what shade of pink he/she wanted their preferred weapon to be covered in Call of Duty!
It was callled; The Arena Shooter.
So what exactly is an ” Arena Shooter” ?
The term refers to a type of shooter that was created in the early to mid nineties and was the standard for the genre leading up to the early 2000’s. Titles such as Quake, Unreal Tournament, Counter strike, Half Life,Goldeneye, Perfect Dark and Halo.
Arena games are defined by certain traits .
- Small to mid sized maps with an emphasis on equality between the two teams.
- Uniform weapon selection at Spawn ( Unique player unlocked weapons)
- Balanced weapon selection
- Emphasis on twitch reflexes and movement mastery ( Strafing, mid air shooting etc..)
Games like Call of Duty and Battlefield while delivering their own style and flavour have chosen to give gamers a smorgasbord of content that allows a vast amount of both customization and progression. The gameplay is bolstered by this level of customization but at the cost of balancing. Some guns may start off on equal footing but in the hands of your opponent it may have received modifiers and upgrades that you don’t hence giving him a leg up when the two of you cross paths on the map.
Call of Duty has taken this to another level by not only allowing gun modification but layering on player perks and unique bonuses that your in game avatar can utilize to tip the scales your favor. Perks and bonuses that your opponent may not possess.
To put this in perspective lets look at a game like HALO. To be fair this franchise has evolved over the years and tested the waters as far as bringing in aspects of newer franchises but at its core it still remains a balanced and true ” Arena Shooter”.
Players do not have ” Perks” that can be unlocked through play and although ” Armor Abilities” are considered similar, the fact that they are not as plentiful and can be accessed equally by everyone in the game balances them out. Weapon procurement is also a finely tuned aspect of the game with all of the potentially OP weapons spawning on the map in some shape or another for all players to have access to and your starting tools of destruction being the same regardless of your level of progression in the game. There is no weapon customization of any kind and the game is better for it.
Map layout is clean and tight with every hallway and open area given careful thought by the developers. The maps have been crafted with balance in mind as opposed top graphical flair and theme. Its almost as though the developers created a ” lego block version” of the map to ensure fair play and balance then wrapped a thematic skin over it to give it flavor. Each map plays like a true arena for your virtual selves to wage war like two teams hitting the Ice in a hockey game; albeit with Assault rifles instead of Hockey sticks.
Arena Map design at its finest
Arena gameplay also tends to skew more towards the methodical and premeditated versus the crazy run and gun that you see with a lot of the new modern military shooters. With this in mind Ubisoft is poised to bring Arena gameplay to the fore forefront of modern military shooters with its upcoming release of Rainbow Six Siege.
Rainbow six has a long history in the competitive community and has garnered huge accolades for its tactical, tight and steep skill requirements to master. While that franchise fell from grace last gen with the Rainbow Six: Vegas instalments Ubisoft is looking to return to its roots with Siege.
Rainbow Six Sige is a tactical Military shooter that shares a lot in common with its Arena based brethren ;from what we have seen of the game so far). Map design that serves to affect gameplay and not just look good. Limited Respawns to ensure a slower more methodical pace and an emphasis on teamwork over run and gun gameplay. This could be the perfect amalgam of the Military Shooter and the classic Arena gameplay that started the FPS boom.
No matter what your tastes are this generation is sure to deliver something that you can enjoy and I for one am glad to see that some developers are taking a moment to pause amidst all the fanboy screams and craft some experiences that harken back to a time when multiplayer gaming required a certain amount of skill and not just a battle of ” Who has the bigger gun”.
Dwayne” EVO Knight” Morash