California-based THQ might be meandering through Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, but that hasn't stopped it from speaking out on current trends in the video game industry, including the unprecedented popularity of rival Activision's "Call of Duty" series.
"I think it's probably very true to say that there's reaction to what used to be a small subset of the genre of a military shooter" said Huw Beynon, THQ's head of global communications, in an interview Friday. "Which has ballooned and mushroom-clouded to almost define the genre, and kind of stamp out memories of what I remember being great about first-person shooters, whether that was 'Half-Life,' 'System Shock' or 'GoldenEye' -- where a first-person shooter didn't necessarily have to involve military material. It just meant an invitation to a fantastic other world, which to me was always the point of video games in the first place."
Following the explosive popularity of id's "Doom" and "Quake" franchises in the early 90s, the genre greatly expanded in multiple avenues as the decade went on. Twitch arena shooters like "Quake III" and "Unreal Tournament" lived alongside more deliberate and tactical games like Ubisoft's "Rainbow 6" series and more fantastical games like the aforementioned "System Shock." With the rise of shooters on consoles following the release of "GoldenEye" and "Perfect Dark" on the N64 and "Halo: Combat Evolved" on the Xbox, the genre expanded even further. Although many games began to copy "Halo" mechanics such as two-weapon carrying limits and regenerating health, there was still a healthy balance.
But in recent years, that variety has begun to dwindle as everyone chases the "Call of Duty" cash. THQ is no better than many other publishers, shelling out the most money the studio has ever invested in a game for "Homefront." Despite its interesting, albeit "Red Dawn" derivative premise, the game played like a straight "Call of Duty" clone with narrow Michael Bay-inspired set pieces. Though with the publisher putting the finishing touches on 4A Games' "Metro: Last Light," it seems THQ is trying to expand its horizons once again. Other publishers are following suit with new titles, such as the open-world "Far Cry 3" and Bethesda's recently released "Dishonored."
"I think there are definitely trends in gaming that can come from the audience themselves, driven by the media in poart, or something can be seen as a success and then people do something similar," Beynon said. "I can't speak for 'Far Cry' or 'Hitman,' as I've not played either of those, although I am looking forward to playing both of them. I have had a chance to play around with 'Dishonored,' which I've hugely enjoyed and I'm thrilled that they've had success with that. It's probably the game that's interested me most this year and am glad to see it get the critical and hopefully commercial success that it deserves."
Cash-strapped THQ is putting a lot of its eggs in the basket of "Metro: Last Light," not unlike their hopes for the doomed "Homefront." A more slow-paced and intimate shooter, Beynon said it could scratch an itch that many people have had for a long time -- one that puts them in the shoes of a regular person fighting for survival, rather than being some type of super-soldier involved in a global conflict.
"I think for people like them, and for 'Bioshock Infinite' on the horizon, it's the desire to do something a little bit different -- and I think we've each explored what that different thing is in our own way," he said. "'Metro' has a very strong stealth element to it, but that's more because that kind of gameplay suits the narrative, and it makes sense that you're a single, vulnerable person. You're not this super soldier, you don't have this squad of marines at your back at any one time, we don't do these combat levels where you're just relentlessly forging your way up the beach through wave after wave of bullet fodder just flinging themselves at you."
Yes, I know that the notion of COD having a negative impact on the genre is pretty obvious, but I still thought it was a good article. At the very least, it's nice to see other people in the industry, echo the criticism.