Postmodern Warfare: The Next Generation Of Shooters

From London to Pripyat and the dust swept streets of Kabul, modern military shooters have taken us around the world and back over the past several years. What was once just another sub-genre propelled itself into the mainstream with the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare back in 2007.

Of course, military shooters existed before then in the form of series such as SOCOM, Conflict, and Battlefield. However, none of them were as accessible or as well timed as Activision’s power-selling behemoth. Within the space of a few months it had become one of the most talked about video games on the planet and would soon prompt an incoming barrage of imitators, all wanting their share of the pie. The rest, as you probably already know, is history.

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Today, however, the era of the modern military shooter is finally drawing to an end, at least temporarily. Out of all the big announcements made at this year’s E3, none of them revealed an upcoming shooter set against the backdrop of a contemporary warzone.

When the time came for EA to show its hand at this year’s press conference, the publisher was more or less snookered. With Medal of Honor seemingly put to rest (again) after the mediocre Warfighter, it couldn’t even fall back on its long-running Battlefield military series. With the fourth numbered instalment having just been launched and subsequently torn apart by fans and critics, EA desperately needed some else, something new.

As luck would have it, Visceral Games was already at work on a new first person shooter. Though it still carries a familiar name, Battlefield Hardline strikes us a genuine attempt to break free from convention. Working alongside DICE, Visceral is doing this by completely changing the setting and tone of Battlefield while only slightly altering the gameplay focus. Instead of pitting US Marines against Russian or Chinese insurgents, the line between good and bad is much more clear in Hardline, a game centred around the war on crime.

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EA isn’t the only one spicing things up in 2014, however. Whether looking for that next big thing or simply tiring of modern conflict, Activision’s next shooter will be Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Catapulting itself into the near future, the differences between this latest entry and its Battlefield rival are already strikingly apparent. In Advanced Warfare the focus is on private military corporations and how technology is constantly changing the war between nations.

For those who remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Ubisoft jumped on the overcrowded modern warfare bandwagon with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. In truth, with its focus on third person shooting and squad-based gameplay, it wasn’t a direct imitation though Ubi’s intentions were clear. This year the publisher may have moved slightly closer to the mark yet still far away enough to avoid being branded as a run-of-the-mill military shooter.

Having canned Rainbow Six Patriots, Ubisoft has now filled that gap with Siege, a highly tactical first person shooter leaning heavily on realism and multiplayer interaction. Out of the three upcoming games mentioned, Siege is perhaps the one that intrigues me the most, personally. Ultra-destructive environments, tactical planning and a strong emphasis on teamwork give it much more of an angle over its competitors whose changes are mostly cosmetic.

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Elsewhere during E3, we saw similar movements. Microsoft continued to strengthen its Halo franchise, announcing a four-part remastered anthology alongside new details on its long-awaited Xbox One sequel. Meanwhile Sony touted The Order 1886 once again with hardly a first person shooter in sight.

Also bucking the trend, at least in part, is up and coming publisher Deep Silver. For a long time we’ve been waiting for the company to unveil a follow up to THQ’s Homefront. However, after viewing the announcement trailer and a handful of initial screenshots, its clear that developer Crytek UK isn’t going for a traditional military theme. Revolution is clearly the order of the day and it will also be interesting to see how the sequel adopts an open world structure. Elsewhere in the Deep Silver stable, we have Metro Redux, an enhanced compilation of both Metro 2033 and Last Light.

For now the modern military shooter has been put to rest or at least dolled up in a variety of different disguises. Many will argue, however, that it wasn’t the setting of these games that was becoming tiresome but the gameplay itself. Either way fans of the genre will find themselves spoilt for choice over the next couple of years whether they love sci-fi, steampunk, or playing cops and robbers.

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6 Comments

  1. I dunno, there’s only so many ways you can re-hash the same thing. And I’m well aware that I’ve been saying that since the transition from doom to quake (and then to half-life).

    Personally, I think the true innovations are coming from the games that are trying to blend together the single and multiplayer experience (with varying levels of success). Seen in dark/demon souls. Ubisoft seem to be all over it with Assassins creed and watch underscore dogs. With The division seeming to go one step further. Destiny also looking to get in on the action, giving the player the choice of going PvP or PvE whenever they want. Very keen to see how Destiny gets on.

    Still, I guess none of that changes the core gameplay of an fps/tps. But it does add to the immersion provided by the game by not forcing you to go to a specific menu to select an option for what you want to do. Also allows character progress to be universal, rather than having PvP and PvE progress to be separate things.

    Good for me, because after all these years, I find the current competitive PvP environment to be a little toxic.

    • I can’t stand enforced coop though. I like to play the game on my own without people running around in my save file screwing around.

      • Agreed. Depends on the game really. But thats why I’m interested to see what Bungiee can do to marry up the differing styles of play.

  2. Ah, the simple and excellently balanced CoD 4. Good memories.

    I would also say that we probably won’t see Battlefield 5 till 2016 or later, with DICE making Mirror’s edge reboot and Star Wars Battlefront. Would personally like a bad company 3 after that as well. Although there is the formed-last-year DICE Los Angeles.

    Thanks for that article, a great roundup of shooty games coming soon!

  3. In most cases I dislike the sci-fi setting, and would much prefer revisiting WW2, but taking with it the innovative features most modern shooters have. I think there’s also a wealth of other conflicts that would be interesting to explore, e.g Vietnam, Korea, The Suez Crisis, The Falklands or perhaps WW1.

  4. I’m glad that devs seem to be at least cognizant of the fact that consumers are getting tired of the same thing – the last couple years have been awful for the FPS- but the audience for CoD is much like the audience for war movies – it will always be there, even if their time spent with the game is dwindling. There is a huge market for mindless shooters, and hey, if that floats your boat – shoot on! Bungie et. al. are taking risks though, at least, and giving us shooters with a lot of depth, freedom and story (and they’re not just about shooting people from other countries who have different political beliefs – does that not bother anyone else about COD story-lines?)

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