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TeeniestChaos Blog

How the Wii-U Could Become the Best Console for FPS Gamers, and Why it Won't.

First person shooters on consoles are unfortunately predictable. When I pick up a game on 360, I know what to expect in terms of a control scheme. I can guess, with almost perfect accuracy, what function each button will do. And there is very rarely a function I miss.

 

This is a problem. Yes, there have been new styles of gameplay brought to consoles - such as the horde modes that became popular in the later life cycle of the 360. But the experimentation found on PC in terms of controls - of how the game is played, which can lead to more innovative experiences - isn't there. In short, I have come to believe that the traditional gamepad - and the expectations for it - actually limits first person shooters quite a bit. To prove my point, lets take a look at the battlefield series:

 

On PC, battlefield 2 and 2142 were known for the level of coordination between players made possible through a command system - a squad leader or commander could pull up a map, draw circles or arrows, and cause objectives to appear on other player's screens in real time that were extremely complex (ex. hold position briefly, then fall back and permit arriving forces to pincer enemies in so we can surround them. One circle, three arrows. 5 seconds.). This was unheard of, and allowed players to send commands in seconds -arguably faster than they could communicate over voice chat- even to players that didn't speak the same language. But when Bad Company appeared on consoles, these features were phased out: traditional console controls don't allow for the level of precision needed to draw an arrow, or even a circle. Titan mode failed to make the transition to consoles, in part because expectations for AAA console games limited the setting to modern combat, but perhaps also due to the need to constantly be aware of a minimap and the trouble with vertical fighting at long distances that may have been difficult with console control limitations.

 

In short, the Wii-U's gamepad could solve these problems. Art assets for next-generation 720/PS4 titles are going to increase development costs, and higher costs mean lower risks for AAA shooters. That means companies will likely put out more moder-era shooters with prettier graphics and maps, that largely play the same way. In contrast, existing art assets from this generation could be employed on the Wii-U to reduce costs, while access to more flexible and precise control schemes afforded by the gamepad - in addition to a second screen - could help spur on innovation. Pehaps if the interest was there, DICE could release a battlefield where field commands and PC-like minimap features that have been unfortunately cut from consoles could make an appearance, or fully programable buttons (allowing more commands than currently possible with a 360 controller) could make an appearance on consoles. And asyncrous multiplayer has a ton of potential for ONLINE play (show me some RTS/FPS hybrids!). Lower deveopment costs means less risks to a company if a game fails, which means developers could someday look to the Wii-U instead of the PCas a platform for testing features that could make innovations in AAA FPSs.

 

However, that won't happen.

 

For all of Nintendo's focus on the Wii-U, the obvious advantages of developing cheaper games without traditional console limitations haven't been successfully communicated to western developers. In fact, the Wii-U is a punchline to these companies - the successor to a children's toy their grandma enjoyed bowling on; or at best a console whose core gamers are interested in platformers and game genres that are less than popular on Sony and Microsoft's consoles.

 

It's unfortunate. I see potential in the FPS genre in the Wii-U for gameplay innovartions that go beyond graphics and destructable environments, but it's potential I believe will never be realized.