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Call of Duty: Black Ops is being backed by Activision’s biggest ever marketing spend. But can it top Modern Warfare 2?

But in the face of challenging trading conditions, confidence on the High Street remains high says HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo.

“I think [the number of new shooters] could actually lead to a pretty interesting period, where consumers are getting really excited about games more, and come in to buy in greater numbers. “Of course, you’d generally prefer to see a more balanced release slate,” he notes, “but I’d rather be in a position where there are too many good titles to sell than not enough. “For specialists such as

HMV, this presents a real opportunity, as

supermarkets and the like aren’t always that well

placed to manage a load of quality releases at the same time.”

“The whole ‘Whack-a-mole’ thing where enemies pop up and down, I mean that’s just boring!” he blasts. “I said that all console shooters are fucking boring and whatnot – and I did say that – but I didn’t expect it to get pulled out as a headline, but I do stand by it. That’s not to say they’re all shit. There are loads of great shooters out there, and it’s perfectly valid to have that kind of gameplay, but just not in every one.”

I said that all console shooters are fucking boring, but that’s not to say they’re all shit.

Stuart Black, Codemasters

So even if the short-term future of the FPS is on solid ground, there are a few unwelcome question marks hanging over the creative direction of the genre, and it’s a subject that many industry commentators are lining up to answer. One such figure who thinks the scene badly needs a kick up the arse is Codemasters’ outspoken Stuart Black, the creative lead on the publisher’s upcoming blaster, Bodycount.

It’s a view that garners a lot of sympathy within the gaming community, with long-term fans complaining of feeling “burned out” with a scene often littered with sequels and me-too newcomers.

Long-time FPS scenester Rob Fahey reckons that the FPS market is “dull” and has already reached saturation point. “I would readily have described first person shooters as my favourite genre a few years ago,” reveals Fahey. “Real leaders such as Modern Warfare have

emerged in the market, and everyone else seems to be playing catch-up rather than trying out new things.” Meanwhile, even the numerous FPS hardcore within the Eurogamer fold find the predictability of modern first person shooters hilarious, according to editor Tom Bramwell: “It’s a running joke in the office that all modern games are about shooting monsters in the face in post-apocalyptic American cities. “But that doesn’t mean these games aren’t fantastic fun,” he concedes. “And it doesn’t mean they aren’t innovative and original either. “It’s fashionable to look back and say the golden age of FPS games is behind us, observes Bramwell. “But I

think this is complete nonsense. “There will be more fantastic ideas in Halo: Reach – hell, in Halo: Reach’s multiplayer menus – than there were in all the FPS games released in the year after Quake 2 was put together.”


Indeed, with such a glut of wantonly experimental titles having been released in recent years, perhaps talk of the genre’s decline into wearisome predictability is more than a little premature.

Mirror’s Edge boldly took the FPS into free-running platforming territory, while the likes of BioShock, Borderlands and Fallout 3 wowed millions by cross- pollinating traditional FPS action with RPGs. We’ve also had titles as diverse as Left 4 Dead and Portal emerge, bringing incredible co-op survival alongside stunningly original puzzle mechanics. As with any entertainment niche, the important thing to acknowledge is that you can never please everyone. Someone out there will always think a certain game is ‘teh suck’, no matter how strong the critical acclaim, or how many copies it shifts. A lot of people found BioShock and Portal pretentious and annoying. Most are completely content with the comfortable familiarity of noisy, linear, brain-optional military shooters, or another game spent shooting monsters in the face in post-apocalyptic American cities. No-one’s right or wrong. Happily both camps are well catered for. It’s also important not to lose sight of the fact that the industry as a whole gets better at making these games every year. Go back only four or five years and compare the quality with what’s being served up now. It has come a long way. Take the forthcoming Medal of

Honor, for example. I predict a lot of people who are currently rolling their

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