Opinion: Five Sequels And Reboots That Will Completely Divide Gamers

They say you can’t please all the people all the time – and that’s certainly the case with some of 2013′s most talked-about sequels and reboots. With controversy already brewing over the change of direction in a number of famous series, Mark Butler looks at five high-profile releases that seem certain to split opinion.

When creating a sequel to a highly successful game, the biggest challenge faced by developers is undoubtedly deciding what to change – and how to change it.

Alter too little, and you’ll be accused of playing it safe and failing to evolve the series. Alter too much – or change the wrong things – and you risk angering and alienating the fans who made it popular in the first place.

Reboots, on the other hand, are even more fraught with danger. There’s a clear incentive to take a fresh and distinctive approach to the franchise, but many die-hard fans won’t thank you for taking liberties with an experience that they know and love.

Indeed, there are currently a number of upcoming successors and revamps generating a polarised mixture of heady excitement and disgruntled fury in gamers – with opinion on their relative merits likely to be totally divided at launch.

Games like…

 

Dead Space 3

When EA began teasing the third outing for long-suffering space engineer turned kick-ass survivor Isaac Clarke, there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air. And why not? The first two games were terrific exercises in unbearably tense action-horror, offering stressful jolts and gory dismemberment in equal measure.

But then the first footage and details began to emerge, and the picture looked slightly less rosy – at least to some.

"What the hell IS this?!"

Cover-based shooting? Check. Human enemies? Check. Co-op action with a tough-talking ‘bro’? Check. There was even going to be universal ammo, apparently, until the devs decided that was one step too far down the Call Of Duty-aping, Gears Of War-cloning dumbass shooter route.

Fan fears that their beloved horror franchise has mutated into a fear-neutered profit-hungry monster are ripe. And that’s before we even get on to the more outlandish changes that seem half-inspired and half-bizarre, such as optional RPG-style ‘dungeons’ to explore.

That said, many have pointed out that there still seems to be plenty of hair-raising treks down claustrophobic spaceship corridors and installation hallways in the style of ‘classic’ Dead Space. And some have actively expressed enthusiasm that the series is getting a fresh change of direction.

When these two contrasting groups get together for a discussion after launch, it ain’t going to be pretty. And that will be even more extreme in the case of…

 

DmC: Devil May Cry

Death threats. Yep, that’s right. Death threats.

So strongly did certain unhappy fans feel over the shift in tone and style suggested for the seminal hack-and-slasher, that developer Ninja Theory found themselves on the receiving end of the kind of hateful abuse usually reserved for mass-murderers and people who put cats in wheelie bins.

Wanted: For crimes against gaming humanity

This image highlighting the transformation of much-loved protagonist Dante into a gaunt, moody-looking Emo teenager was the source of much of this fiery ire, with subsequent revelations reinforcing detractors’ views that Dante was now seemingly more likely to slam his bedroom door and whine about how people don’t understand him, rather than tear demonic foes limb from limb.

Added to this is a sense of anger that Capcom have outsourced the reboot to a Western developer, raising fears that Devil May Cry will become another once-great Japanese series that becomes thoroughly ‘Westernised’, abandoning its roots and losing its very soul in the process.

And yet, many people who have got hands-on with the title at conventions have spoken with genuine enthusiasm of its apparently thrilling combat system, while plenty of others have seen fit to credit Ninja Theory for trying to take the series in a darker, more gritty direction.

Even aside from this contrasting optimism, a fair few fans are simply tired of listening to all the shit-flinging and outrage from their furious brethren, and argue that gamers should actually wait until trying it for themselves before passing damning judgement. It seems clear that there will be love and hate in equal measure when the game finally lands.

 

Command & Conquer

Originally planned as a sequel to 2003′s Generals, this new installment in the classic real-time strategy series will move away from the much-maligned gameplay changes of Tiberian Twilight, and take the franchise back to its base-building, resource-gathering, army-massing roots. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that BioWare Victory’s project will be free-to-play. And the really bad news is that the game was apparently going to be multiplayer-only until fan outcry led to the confirmation of a campaign mode. Something that should really have been a given from the start.

Mainly because it means there's a chance of Kane returning

It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the project, and there is a genuine feeling amongst much of the series’ fanbase that the once-great juggernaut has now been reduced to a cheap online title with the single-player experience – previously such a strength of the franchise – nothing more than an afterthought.

But hey, a small but significant crowd have pointed out that the benefit of free-to-play is no-cost entry into the latest sequel, at least at first, while those aforementioned intentions to return the game to its roots could prove to be an inspired, back-to-basics approach.

Maybe.

 

Tomb Raider

Starring a young Lara Croft plunged into a nightmarish battle of survival on a remote island, this origin story for gaming’s most famous heroine has attracted an awful lot of initial praise – as well as some rather skeptical criticism.

On the face of it, it’s a fascinating idea. Crystal Dynamics have taken Tomb Raider open-world, with the player exploring an expansive and rich range of environments, brutally taking down enemies by stealth and cunning, and hunting for food with bows-and-arrows. Throw in the whole notion of the protagonist transforming from terrified victim into resilient killer, and you have a really interesting mix of earthy survivalism and gritty drama. In short, it’s pretty much Lara Croft: First Blood.

Only with Deer instead of fat, bigoted small-town cops

However, some detractors have taken aim at the experience for being too similar in style and feel to the Uncharted games – arguably aping a high-profile series that it originally inspired – while the shift from stylised, epic Indiana Jones-style daring-do to a much darker tone has been criticised for moving too far away from what Tomb Raider is all about.

Some players would simply rather spend their whole time solving puzzles, figuring out how to navigate cavernous chambers, and searching for treasure; rather than hunting to avoid starvation, slaughtering harmless animals, and being brutalised by sinister thugs.

 

XCOM

No, not Firaxis’s excellent modern re-imagining of the seminal turn-based strategy game (which, I have to say, should certainly be in the running when those Game Of The Year awards start flying out).

Nope, we’re talking about the other hotly-debated new take on X-COM from 2K, who have intriguingly transplanted the alien-battling action to a satirical, B-Movie version of the 1960s – and not-so intriguingly rebranded the whole enterprise as a shooter. Doh!

Pictured: A light-hearted Q&A session between X-COM fans and 2K's boss

But wait, it gets weirder. After being repeatedly delayed, and swapping hands between various development teams (most recently landing in the lap of BioShock 2 creators 2K Marin), the squad-based first-person shooter is now rumoured to be getting something of an overhaul into a third-person shooter.

Not only that, but there’s also been whisperings that it could even become a digital-only downloadable title, rather than a full retail release. Clearly, something isn’t right.

Those who expressed disgust at the project’s FPS approach, and the infuriating claims from 2K that strategy games are “just not contemporary”, will probably feel quite smug at this turn of events. But there’s also plenty of gamers who see the prospect of this take on X-COM’s fabulous world as pretty damn compelling.

“Look,” these people say, “if you had the chance to play X-COM through the actual eyes and ears of the operatives you send out to fight the aliens, wouldn’t that be kind of cool? You wander about your base between missions – interacting with your team and doing cool research to get better weapons and equipment just like before – but this time you actually get to be the agents who go out to tangle with extraterrestrials during terror attacks, or at downed ships.”

Plus, there’s no doubting that the Cold War setting and belt-and-braces FBI aesthetic give it a thumbs-up in style terms at least. In any case, whatever shape or form the game eventually lands in, its pros and cons could provide a battle of words to rival that of any alien base-assault.

 



Comments
5 Responses to “Opinion: Five Sequels And Reboots That Will Completely Divide Gamers”
  1. Bronchus says:

    Actually, the TBS X-Com “remake” is kinda controversial, too, at least between two camps that seem mostly composed of fans of the originals on one side, who find it too “streamlined” (some would say “dumbed down” or “consolised”), and newbies to the series on the other, who regard the originals as too “tedious”.

    It originally seemed mostly slanted in favour of the newbies upon release, when everyone raved about it, but as the weeks went on and hype died down more and more of the classic series fans jumped that ship in favour of the S.S. Too Streamlined. The general verdict would appear to be “Does a fair job of imitating the old games until you notice how short, linear, restrictive and lacking in replayability it is”.

    • Mark Butler says:

      Interesting. As a huge fan of the original who has been playing the remake pretty much non-stop for a few days now, I’d say I’m absolutely loving the experience so far. All the changes I thought I’d hate (the smaller squad-size, no time units etc.) actually work very well in my opinion. It’s one of those titles where ‘steamlined’ can probably be used as a compliment, rather than a criticism.

      That said, it’s intriguing to think that a lot of fans have become disgruntled with it as a long-term proposition. Perhaps the more focused approach of the campaign takes away some of the flexibility/randomness that made the original the kind of game you could play over and over again. I’m certainly interested to see whether my own enthusiasm wanes at any point.

      • Bronchus says:

        Can’t say I felt the same way about, well, any of the changes, personally. Especially since so much of it just rubs right up against my sense of verisimilitude. I find it extremely annoying that the game design blocks me from being able to do things I feel I should be able to (such as firing AND THEN moving, or having more than one Skyranger, or having more than six troopers, or not being able to control which class my troopers become, or how much and what types of equipment they can carry – especially when it comes to retrieving things from fallen dudes).

        I also find a lot of the simplifications (such as the 360 degree viewfield, the probability-based rather than trajectory-based hit chances, the ultra-chunky action phase with its highly-questionable pathing system, lack of a spectrum of damage types (leading to a pretty linear weapons progession) and the lame inventory system rather sad and boring – like a peanut butter sandwich, as opposed to a triple-decker bacon and egg butty with salad rocket and sauce. Both arguably taste nice, but I’d personally find the latter more interesting and filling that the former, especially if that’s what I expected from my eatery.

        Outside of that, there’s the bizarre issues with the aliens – like the way they have basically no AI when they’re out of view, to that cheaty move they get whenever you’ve seen them (which precludes sneaking up on them) to the way they suddenly glitch right on top of your team occasionally. As many people have mentioned, the AI setup makes the game very focused on carefully controlling the “aggro-ing” of mobs of aliens, which makes it feel unpleasantly like an MMORPG. There’s also the fact that the UI feels *very* consolish to me, when they promised the PC version would be PC-focused.

        And oh, boy, do I miss the randomised maps. This is the most common complaint I’m hearing about the game, actually – the “You won’t see the same map twice in a single playthrough” was a flat-out lie. Not only that, but the maps themselves are way too obviously designed as combat playspaces – they feel… unreal. Additionally, they’re incredibly samey, especially when it comes to having different terrains.

        I suppose the main issue for me is well summed up by this recent Gamasutra article: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/EricSchwarz/20121116/181726/Why_XCOM_Didnt_Work_For_Me_Simulation_vs_Strategy.php

        Basically, bugs and lack of content aside, I don’t much like the new game because it feels like a digital Planetary Defense Boardgame, not a Planetary Defense *Simulator*, which is sad for the series that actually started the PDS genre. And I dislike that the series has turned in this direction, because as we’ve seen with, say, Fallout, it’s unlikely for a franchise that makes a format-change under new management that turns out to be profitable to return properly to its roots, no matter how many people would like it to. I wanted a faithful HD remake of X-Com with modding capability, I have for over a decade now, and this sadly wasn’t it, and likely precludes the release of any HD remake for the forseeable future, I’m afraid, because this is the series’ “identity” now.

        On a side note, I also feel weirdly like Firaxis tried to keep any criticism from old-time fans assuaged with distraction tactic crap like the nostalgia-hook “Guile-do” while making overtures behind our backs to the COD players and their action compadres – they don’t trust strategy fans to be a profitable market for their AAA game, and the hardcore X-Com fans basically blocked any chance of success that their AAA-budget FPS had, so they’re quietly trying to transition the series to a new console-based and action-focused audience that will let them do whatever they want with the IP, hence all the “We want to get action fans interested in our game/ we want to appeal to COD players” jazz from one of the project leads in those interviews he did. The light at the end of the tunnel there is that, against their expectations/hopes, X-Com apparently sold far, far better in digital PC format than it did on consoles.

        I also get annoyed when the dev team try and play off things that obviously arose from limitations in their jury-rigged version of the shooter-oriented Unreal Engine – such as the horribly rigid and error-prone pathing (obviously using one of Unreal’s node systems), the non-destructibility of roofs (destroying them would require recalculation of nodes) and the non-random maps (Unreal engine can’t generate maps on the fly, they have to be compiled) – as “design choices”, because they don’t want to admit they just went with the engine they could scrounge the largest number of experienced employees for.

        • Mark Butler says:

          You make some very valid criticisms. I can’t deny that there are certain restrictive things that I have found a little frustrating at times, such as the inability to fire and then move, or the way in which your equipment loadout options are so limited (not being able to carry a scope AND a grenade, for example).

          However, I would say that the only issue likely to be a big problem for me in the long-run is the lack of randomised maps. I’m with you there. I just got to the final mission last night, after maybe 20 hours of gameplay, and I am beginning to think that the replay value will be significantly less than the original due to this issue. Of course, most of the randomised maps in the first X-COM and Terror From The Deep were still very similar to one another, but I reckon there could certainly have been more variety this time out.

          Anyway, my overall verdict would still be that I love the game to pieces, but I definitely hear where you’re coming from.

          Also, kudos on your use of the word ‘verisimilitude’. ;)

          • Bronchus says:

            Yes, it’s a pity they chose an engine with such a rigid map system – apparently even the series’ creator, Julian Gollop, is sad they didn’t try to improve on the original’s randomly generated maps with enhanced procedural systems. Hopefully he can show ‘em how it’s done with his new sequel to/remake of Chaos: The Battle of Wizards, which he says is going to have a procedurally generated campaign map for single player mode.

            Anyway, fair do to you if you enjoy it, but I think ultimately we’re due for another decade of playing the first three games, with Jake Solomon’s opus being relegated to the status of “Game everyone plays once”, which up ’til now has been the domain of Interceptor (which I actually like) and Enforcer (which I don’t). It’ll be interesting to see if any sequels refocus on being PC-oriented (and if they are, will they restore missing features and broaden gameplay?), or if 2K and Firaxis continue chasing what may be an entirely imaginary console audience.

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