I'm Tired Of Hero Shooters
Lawbreakers' first Closed Beta weekend just ended and while I enjoyed the FPS quite a bit, it stirred up my nostalgia for older shooters. Every modern multiplayer game with a gun—at least the ones from the last couple years—have incorporated the same ingredient: characters, singular choices that have abilities or weapons that only they can wield. It's a page from MMORPGs or MOBAs. Instead of a weapon dictating how you rack up frags, a character/hero-class decides how you play. And you know what? I'm tired of hero-based shooters.
Maybe I'm just old. I don't understand the newer generation of gamers and their insatiable appetite for zany characters spouting one-liners.
Does anyone know what happened to games where every player, regardless of their avatar model, starts a match with the same gun and has to collect new weapons scattered about the map, along with health packs and maybe a shield buff? I'm not sure why the style fell out of favor. It was my favorite.
Back in high-school I took a Tech & Design class, and my teacher—bless his heart—had no control. We sat on computers and played Quake 2 every period, every day. The kids in Java class across the school had a similarly disposed teacher and also played Quake 2. It was some of the most fun I had in an FPS. Everyone was on equal grounds: rushing across maps, collecting weapons, and climbing the leaderboard to brag for the rest of the day. It was good, wholesome, fun, where your skill defined your character, not a character defining how you play.
The only game that hearkens back to the old days is Epic Games' Unreal Tournament, but last time I hopped on it felt like a tech demo for Unreal Engine, rather than a title being pushed to market. Which is fine. I have options. But why are so many studios following the same formula?
I started this article with Lawbreakers because it was great fun to play as a deathmatch, and you could see glimmers of the past through its gameplay. Yet, it's ultimately—as of the Closed Beta test I played in—another hero-shooter orbiting around objective gameplay.
Speculation suggest that studios looked at the success of MOBAs and thought, "how can we take these team-based elements and bring them to the FPS. Everybody loves MOBAs right?" So we get Overwatch, and Battleborn, and Lawbreakers, and Paladins, and First Assault, and Gigantic. And even though Randy Pitchford thinks his team was inventing a genre, what I see is a natural progression, that multiple people at multiple studios all had the same wattage light-bulb shining above their head simultaneously.
And I don't mean to say I don't like those games. I like them for what they are. I just wish the genre was a bit more expansive, rather than jumping from one trope to the next, until its dried up and the next formula proves it's a successful bandwagon.
There are a handful of shooters that tried to bring back the past, but they ended up with modern elements like perks that detract from what made the past great—looking at you Doom multiplayer. Even Quake Champions is going to have a character roster, a pool of characters with abilities, strengths, weaknesses.
Maybe the classic arena shooter is dead. After all Toxikk tried to bring back "Fragging like its 1999," and didn't manage to attract a substantial playerbase—which may have been due to its monetization model and rush to Early Access. Maybe I'm old, drunk on nostalgia. Maybe the correct answer is for me to just play Quake Browser with the other tired players.
Then again I don't think I'm alone. Which is why I wrote this article. Are you tired of hero-shooters? Or are they here to stay, the right formula for the 21st Century FPS?
Other Gaming Tropes I'm Tired Of: