In a world where media companies are too content to endlessly regurgitate their greatest hits, one company has stepped out from the shadows to bring forth something different, something original, something amazing. Overwatch, Blizzard's first new intellectual property in almost two decades, is here. Hell, it's about time.
How do you follow up on the shooter that re-defined shooters for an entire generation? How do you capture lightning a second time and make it bigger and better this time around?
Blizzard's name is an aptly-chosen one; this titanic game company is famous for its glacial development pace. New Blizzard projects usually have lengthy gaps between them, with release dates rarely getting mentioned until the product is finished and ready to ship. While it can be frustrating for fans to have to wait interminably long, this relaxed speed brings with it a creative atmosphere and quality games— as Shigeru Miyamoto so famously said, "A delayed game is eventually good. A bad game is bad forever." Overwatch marks the newest entry in the Blizzard library (and their first all-new intellectual property in over a decade), so let's take a moment to go back through the brightest points in the history of these legendary game-makers to better understand why their newest game garners such eager anticipation.
After finishing Wolfenstein: The New Order back in 2014 I put down the controller and thought to myself, “That was great, but when’s Doom’s turn?” The answer it turns out was “almost exactly two years later” as a new Doom has been unleashed from the team at id Software. Previous attempts to bring the classic shooter to the 3D space were not great, so I went into this new game with a slight sense of dread. Thankfully those previous games can’t hold a flashlight to this new Doom, as this is the return to glory that the franchise deserved.
With Blizzard’s Overwatch Open Beta wrapping up, many players have gotten the chance to try the anticipated team-based shooter. There have been billions of bullets fired, thousands of objectives seized and more than a few saps knocked into the death pit in the center of the Grecian Ilios map. Between the 21 heroes, 12 maps, and four game modes that have been available, Overwatch is shaping up to be well outside Blizzard’s norm in many ways and yet wholly familiar in others.
The first-person shooter has ventured a very, very long way from its roots. Commonplace practice these days in any large scale FPS is a blend of fast-paced action, cinematic set pieces and integrated story told throughout a player’s lead-emblazoned escapades. Even Doom has seemed to go the way of this trend, blending a hellish cornucopia of environmental and active storytelling with it’s classic run n’ gun formula. That said, you don’t get any of it without the innovative granddaddy of the whole genre. Even before there was Doom, there was Wolfenstein 3D and today we celebrate its release on May 5, 1992.
Imagine having to follow up a legendary piece of media with something better. Can you put yourself in a place where fans ask you to take the thing you made that revolutionized a genre and make a follow-up that’s not only on par, but continues to push the envelope? That’s where Portal 2 was as it entered the gaming community’s collective radar. The game had an enormously high bar to clear with the original Portal, which was renowned for its excellent design, ingenious mechanics, and bizarre and somber, yet cynically humorous themes. Fortunately for all of Valve and Portal’s many fans, Gabe Newell’s team was well up to the task and years later, we celebrate the amazing sequel that was Portal 2.
Far Cry Primal takes place in 10,000 BCE, thousands of years before modern music was even conceived, but I still expected Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” to come bursting on during the mammoth hunting intro in true Far Cry fashion. Licensed music aside, Far Cry Primal is still very much a Far Cry game. Taking over outposts and enemy camps, finding bonfires to uncover more of the map and gathering crafting items, it’s all here. Far Cry Primal seeks to put you in the shoes, or rather, hunting furs of a primitive human trying to survive and secure a place for his people, but it seems to get in its own way at the worst times.
SUPERHOT is a title that tells you very little about what you’re getting into. The description just barely gleans it. It’s a first-person shooter where time moves only when you move. The art style exposes only minimalistic qualities. None of it seems like pieces that could come together to form a coherent and full game, so it was hard to expect much going in. However, as the game played out, inviting us in and expanding, SUPERHOT quickly became something more than a funny name and a quirky mechanic. SUPERHOT is actually an impressive and interesting puzzle where the solution just happens to be shooting strange red enemies.
Two decades ago, 3D Realms revolutionized the first-person shooter genre by releasing Duke Nukem 3D for MS-DOS. After years of controversy and being used as a scapegoat for critics asking for stricter handling of Mature games, Duke 3D is remembered as the highest point of the character's history. Based on the ups and downs the Duke Nukem video game franchise has experienced, that isn't exactly saying much. Nevertheless, Duke Nukem 3D moved the genre forward for all the right (and wrong) reasons.