Classic updates: It's first-person shooters or nothing

Opinion: Andy Kelly explains why rejecting FPS updates isn't smart...

It's easy to get precious about the past, whether it's George Lucas mutilating the Star Wars films with his CG nonsense, or brainless Hollywood 'reimaginings' of classic horror films aimed at witless teenagers.

Videogames garner much the same reaction when it comes to modernised remakes of established series. Just look at the reaction to the Syndicate and XCOM remakes.

These archaic isometric strategy games are being brought back to life by Starbreeze and 2K Marin respectively in the form of first-person shooters, to the dismay of many fans of the originals.

But if the purists had their way, these games would never get made at all. It's FPS or nothing. No publisher is going to give a studio millions of dollars to develop a top-down, turnbased strategy game. Imagine your average games buyer scanning the back of the XCOM box in a shop and seeing screenshots of an isometric strategy game: they'd snort with derision and pick up the nearest Call of Duty.

XCOM is weird-looking, but still rooted in familiar first-person gameplay

If you're reading this you clearly take gaming seriously, and have discerning taste, but the bulk of the games-buying public is made up of people who don't want to risk fifty quid on an unfamiliar game, let alone one with a name like 'XCOM'.

They will, however, at least consider it if they look at the box and see that it's an FPS. "Oh, it's a shooty game!".

And in this case, the masses aren't completely wrong. Strategy games belong on PC, and they have a large, loyal following there. Blizzard's StarCraft 2 was one of the best-selling games of 2010, and Half-Life developers Valve are releasing Defense of the Ancients 2 next year. But on console, they simply don't work.

Games like Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 and, more recently, From Dust, prove that moving a cursor with an analogue stick is imprecise and clumsy. Nudging tiny units around a map might be alright with your nose pressed up against a monitor at a desk, but it's no good if you're sprawled on the couch five metres away from your television.

If Syndicate and XCOM were revived as strategy titles, they'd need a mouse and keyboard, and they'd need to be exclusive to PC.

This goes back to the cruel reality of business. Why would a publisher release a PC-only strategy game, when they could make a market-friendly FPS and release it on two major consoles, making three times as much profit?

It's a shame that money takes precedence over art in this industry, but hey, that's capitalism for you - the reason you're wearing shoes, reading magazines, surfing the internet and not dying at 20 with no teeth. It's unavoidable.

Men with futuristic guns will always sell more than an obscure strategy game

If you think a big budget game is developed purely as an artistic endeavour, you're staggeringly naive. It's all about the money, and that's exactly why Syndicate and XCOM have to be first-person shooters. Remember: the biggest game in the world, Call of Duty, is an FPS.

The sad thing is that while both of these games are criticised for being shooters, the truth is that they incorporate many of the strategy elements of their forebears. In XCOM you can manage a squad of characters, harness alien tech to make your own weapons, and outsmart enemies with tactical play - all things that were a part of the original XCOM.

Your average gamer would snort with derision at an isometric strategy game

In Syndicate you can use hacking, upgrade your character and activate a brain-implanted chip to unleash special abilities - again, all reminiscent of the original game. Even the four-player co-op mode is directly inspired by the PSone sequel, Syndicate Wars.

Of course they're nowhere near as deep or tactical as the hardcore strategy originals, but they are at least staying true to their roots - albeit in the modern guise of an FPS.

As much as we'd love to play another isometric Syndicate, with up-todate visuals and optimised for a controller, it was never going to happen. We should be thankful that these games are being revived at all, and by teams with a genuine love for their predecessors.

When it's a toss-up between having no sequel at all, or sequels in the form of a first-person shooter, we'll take the latter with no complaints.

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