WTF, TPS? Third-Person Shooters Taking Over
A small few of us remember the epic, mindblowing, constant explosion that was Red Faction II. If you’re like me, the first “Nano” was not an MP3 player, but a bright orange, semi-automatic death launcher (that screenshot makes my heart swell with joy). The first two installments of the Red Faction series were classic, story-based, first-person shooters which could very well have provided some idea-fuel for the booming Killzone franchise (Red Faction II was released two years before Killzone) with their propaganda-dishing totalitarian enemies and sci-fi-bordering-on-realistic weapon sets. When trying to convince friends to pick it up, I often used the comparison “It’s like halo for the PS2, except you can explode walls.”
Red Faction II’s developer, Volition, has announced a third installment in the series: a multi-platformer under the title Red Faction: Guerrilla. I should be pumped, right? Yeah, I was. Then I read the blurb about its release only to find that it’s coming out as a “third-person, open-world action game.” Sorry, what? Excuse me while I wipe the tears from my keyboard. This sucks! I have never had a more frustrating experience in single-player gaming than with third-person shooters. Let me remind you of 50 Cent: Bulletproof. I can only say that controlling 50 Cent in this game is about as hard as controlling him in real life; it’s not gonna happen.
I’d like to be ragingly angry with Volition for this decision, but that’d be a little unfair. Why? These games sell. Fallout 3 is in the top 5 of just about every 2008 games list and the Grand Theft Auto franchise has defined the phrase “third-person, open world action game.” I don’t mind Fallout 3 or GTA IV, they’re great. (Except maybe for the extended periods of time wandering aimlessly in the Capital Wasteland.) They’re fun, you get to shoot things and watch them go boom and even see the occasional neck-geyser after a headshot. My problem is that a great FPS franchise has left “FPS” behind. Just as Microsoft decided Master Chief should retire to be replaced by real-time strategy hit Halo Wars, Volition is limiting us to a third-person view of the cherished Nano GL. It’s starting to look as if FPS might go the way of VHS.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to put out a good third-person shooter or real-time strategy game. All I’m saying is that (to quote a great man [click the link, it’s hilarious]) there’s nothing like the thrill of huntin’ people down and killin’ ’em, and in a TPS or RTS, it’s very hard to forget the fact that it’s not actually you that’s doing the hunting or the killing. The disconnect from the character is impossible to ignore and (I’m speaking for myself here) takes the user out of the game.
Maybe with the more upscale game design technologies as well as more able controller interfaces, the controls will be a bit less glitchy, and maybe with some thought in the studio, I won’t be bored and in need of Prozac after an hour of play (if you’ve played Fallout 3, you know what I mean.) We’ll see what Volition has in mind soon enough; a demo is set for release on PSN and X-Box Live April 23rd, but for the full game, we have to wait until June 9.