With the release of Battlefield 3 I think it’s safe to say we have entered the next generation of FPS; not that BF3 has done anything remarkable for the genre outside of making it look sexy as hell. However, with this latest release I started to realize just how absent the power up is in today’s FPS games. This obviously isn’t true for many indie games, in fact there are still quite a lot of fairly new games released today that feature power ups but when it comes to major releases you rarely see things like this anymore.
I refer to the days of Unreal Tournament, Quake III Arena, Serious Sam, Tribes, Halo etc. Those games all feature power ups and weapon drops that you have to pick up since you don’t necessarily spawn with any. Nowadays in the typical warfare shooter you spawn fully loaded with whatever arsenal you’ve chosen to spawn with.
Let me be the first to say, that is ridiculously half-assed. I give some leeway to titles like Battlefield since they are centered around player roles who have to have their own set of gear going into battle but that series has always featured things like med-kits and ammo kits that can be dropped anywhere and supply the players with something to seek out despite the game not actually having fixed weapon and health spawns.
Power ups give the player something to seek out other than the enemy. It provided strategic choices to be made during what would otherwise be a match filled with just running and gunning. That is just one of many things missing from today’s flat plane linear shooters of the mainstream market. Even though their absence hasn’t prevented FPS titles from still providing quality gameplay, there isn’t that fast paced variation of tides that power ups and weapon placements bring. In Call of Duty you all have the same bland recoil-less laser pistols and in Unreal Tournament you have, well, anything but. One minute you could be trailing an opponent with a minigun and the next moment he’s picked up a redeemer and nuked you. You could also frag an opponent if he happens to have a particularly powerful arsenal and he would start back at his respawn with nothing, thus setting him back from coming out victorious. That kind of thing can’t happen in CoD or BF because you are stuck with what you spawn with.
Developers, please take notes.