When Sony Almost Conquered the Shooter Scene
It certainly seems that a mantra of this generation was that the “360 was better for shooters.” The reasons for this ranged from both the triggers and shape of the 360 controller, to the Xbox having Halo and Gears of War. But whatever the reason, if you enjoy FPS games and other types of shooters, the popular opinion seemed to be that 360 was clearly the better choice and the PlayStation 3 simply wasn’t a console if you wanted shooter action—especially for online play. But the truth of the matter is that Sony nearly stole the show from Microsoft when it comes to shooters. Some of these games ended up doing pretty well, a few struggled, and one fell flat on its face.
The Trilogy That Could’ve Been So Much More: Resistance
Resistance is a fantastic series of shooters. If you own a PS3 and lack at least one of these titles, go repent your sins by picking up one of them—they’re cheap enough anyway that you can probably pick up all three games. Great single player campaigns, awesome multiplayer modes (particularly the co-op in Resistance 2), and some of the coolest guns ever designed in a shooter are the hallmarks of Resistance. These aren’t just great first person shooters, they’re great games. And so it seems odd, then, that this series didn’t rival that of Halo, Gears, and Call of Duty.
Trying to figure out why something was or wasn’t commercially successful is often a guessing game and there aren’t always clear answers; but what Resistance really lacked in the long run was a core/commercial identity and various thematic aspects that would’ve turned the game into something much bigger. It also could be argued that some of the gameplay changes in Resistance 2 shot down any momentum the series was building anyway.
An iconic main character would have done these games well. The character of Nathan Hale was no Master Chief, but with a bit more characterization and a more defined image, he certainly could’ve been a more marketable character—and one that players would have been more enthusiastic about. It also would’ve been nice to play as him in Resistance 3. Instead, we close the trilogy playing as Joseph Capelli: a supporting character from the second game whose likeness in the third game almost seems at times to be a totally different person then who he was in the previous title. These aspects don’t really take away from games themselves too much, but it makes a thematic consistency in the games a little difficult to accomplish.
Sadly, it seems the series isn’t going anywhere for a while as Insomniac as more or less decided to leave the IP to work on other games. This leaves behind three great games and the hope that perhaps another studio will revisit this world later on.
Once The Underdog…Almost No Longer: Killzone
Excitement for Killzone: Shadow Fall seems to be pretty positive and along with Killzone Mercenary, there looks to be a turning point for this series. Starting on shaky legs on the PS2 with the first Killzone, Guerilla Games has since created two great titles for the PS3 with Killzone 2 and 3. With the hardware under the hood of the PS3, it seems the developers finally had the horsepower they needed to create their vision and the results are impressive. Fortunately, Killzone seems to be the only one on this list of games that has a certain future and is perhaps the most populated exclusive shooter on PlayStation Network. But even though they came back from the dead in their debut on the PS2, Killzone still isn’t the household name that other shooters have come to be.
For one, Killzone is not your average shooter. Guerilla has seemingly been interested in crafting a grittier, slower, and slightly more realistic shooter experience than other games out there. And while there have been those who have embraced and loved this aspect of the series, it’s been a somewhat off putting experience for some gamers. Additionally, the feel of the guns and aiming is very different from other, more popular, shooters. This too contributes to attracting a select crowd of gamers, and sadly, not the majority.
But it seems Killzone may finally have its day. The upcoming PS Vita title and launch title on the PS4—with what looks like a great multiplayer setup—all show good signs so far. Like Resistance, if you have a PS3 and don’t have Killzone 2 or 3, you are sorely missing out.
Tactics, Men’s Magazines, and Cardboard Boxes: Metal Gear Online
For those who were either regulars in Metal Gear Online, or played it a little bit, the impression no doubt was that this was a unique game. After the chore of having to two separate accounts from your PSN username, the multiplayer portion of Metal Gear Solid 4 offered a very tactical and customizable multiplayer that for its three year run was highly popular—if you were a Metal Gear fanatic.
Since Konami pulled the plug on Metal Gear Online last year, it’s difficult to say how popular it would be today. As anyone who played regularly could tell you, there were always games you could get into and many people who took the game pretty seriously. Though it had more in common with early SOCOM games than it did with Call of Duty or Halo, some of the quirkiness and humor of the game was perhaps a too much for some players. Distracting your opponent with men’s magazines, running around in a cardboard box, and some of other oddities primarily appealed to those who are already in love with Metal Gear Solid and accepted these traits already.
There was some great tactical fun to be had in this game and thankfully Metal Gear Online will return with the release of Metal Gear Solid V and will hopefully see even more improvements this time.
What the Hell Happened? MAG
MAG had its 15-minutes of fame back in 2010 when it was released and while we were all still salivating over the idea of playing a shooter with 256 players online. After this, the title began to slowly wilt away, retaining only a core base of fans.
All in all, MAG did pretty much what it promised: it offered a massive shooter experience. Believe it or not, lag wasn’t a common issue even when you had a full game going. Perhaps it was the slightly odd feel of the game compared to most shooters, the issue of having three different factions properly balanced in terms of weapons and making sure the community evenly distributes itself, or an often long wait for a game to fill up with 255 other players that held the game back.
What was often the case, in my experience, is that more people would play the smaller game modes to skip the longer wait times; this cut down on the amount of people looking to get into a 128 v. 128 player match. And unless you had gotten to experience the riot of seeing that amount of players on screen (which was very impressive and a whole lot of fun) the game itself was somewhat lacking. It felt too much like a one-trick pony in that regard and it’s truly a sad thing seeing how much greater this game could have been—and in all honesty, how good it was.
With Sony shutting down the servers for MAG in January next year, due largely in part to the closing of Zipper Interactive, the loyal following this game still has will be greatly disappointed. Anyone looking to get into the action and possibly experience the last 256 player game MAG will see should hurry up—if they want to spend money on a dying game that is.
How the Mighty Have Fallen: SOCOM Confrontation and SOCOM 4
Some of the early adopters of online play on the PlayStation 2 had the pleasure of getting to experience SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs and its sequels. If you weren’t on Xbox Live and enjoyed shooters, this was the game to be on. With its loyal following and a better network service on the PS3, it would have been a no-brainer to guess that SOCOM was set for success in this generation. But that didn’t happen.
Taking the initiative to release the first SOCOM game on the PS3, Slant Six Games (makers of some of the PSP SOCOM titles) released the multiplayer only SOCOM: Confrontation. The reception of this game wasn’t the most enthusiastic.
There were a number of problems on launch. A mess of bugs and graphical hiccups really held the game back. But even when it was working smoothly, or after they released patch after patch to fix it up, the game was still very disappointing to a lot of SOCOM veterans. With the new over-the-shoulder camera placement—probably due to the success of Gears of War—the feel and pace that helped to build a following for the first SOCOM games was mostly absent and many fans had felt that once the developers of the first games (Zipper Interactive) came back from their experiment with MAG, they would deliver a true SOCOM experience on the PS3 and save the day. That didn’t happen either.
SOCOM 4 isn’t necessarily a terrible game; it’s simply a game that was perhaps even farther removed from the feel of the originals than Confrontation was. Despite the colorful responses from the community, Zipper kept the over-the-shoulder camera and—because no one asked for it—a cover system. Overall, SOCOM 4 was not the saving grace of the series everyone had hoped for and was possibly one of the leading factors in the demise of Zipper Interactive.
It’s quite sad that a series that had the momentum of SOCOM died out like it did this generation. With Sony also shutting down the multiplayer components of both these PS3 titles in January ‘14 (leaving only the single player aspect of SOCOM 4 alive and rendering Confrontation inoperable) this sad chapter will be closed and with Zipper gone, SOCOM may very well fade away entirely.
The Horror: Haze
There’re a few reasons I’m mentioning this game, so bear with me. Like Lair and SOCOM: Confrontation, Haze was one of those hyped PS3 games that was destined to improve the console’s overall image—Haze importantly being called the “Halo-killer” (back when that term was still relevant). And similar to some of the other games that flopped on the PS3, Haze came from a well-respected developer: Free Radical, makers of Time Splitters and Second Sight, with a history going back to GoldenEye 007.
Published by Ubisoft, this was to be the start of a new series of shooters—but somewhere along the way, this went south. Whether it was a rushed development schedule or the struggle of developing for the Cell processor, Haze ended up being a very sloppy with unimpressive gameplay and awful voice acting.
Haze had a lot of potential however. Aside from being made by developers who seemingly knew what they were doing, the game was set to be a commentary on the nature of war, the identity of an “enemy,” the powers of drug addiction, and the dangers of what could happen if global corporations start getting too much control over military powers. The entire concept of switching sides in the war and waking up from the addiction of the game’s drug, “nectar,” could have made this game something very unique. It’s a concept that gets me excited about the power that games can have in conveying a message—it’s just a shame that this title completely dropped the ball and caused Free Radical to eventually close its doors.
Had some of these games enjoyed more marketable success and if some others had turned out better in the end, the PS3 might be recognized as more of a shooter-friendly console. Still, with 3 great Resistance games and 2 Killzone titles (3 if you count the greatly improved HD version of the first Killzone), Sony has enjoyed some unique and inventive FPS titles on their console. And if you could tolerate SOCOM: Confrontation, along with Metal Gear Online when it was still running, the PS3 offered a wide variety of shooters alongside the various multiplatform titles available; and hopefully Sony and their developers learn enough from this generation to offer some even greater shooter experiences on the PS4.