Opinion: Five Sequels And Reboots That Will Completely Divide Gamers
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.