From the moment we got our hands on that Halo Assault Rifle, we never wanted to put it down. No matter how many times we’ve annihilated noobs on Call of Duty’s Carentan, we’ve always felt the need to defile more. With every crate we destroyed with Half-Life’s crowbar, the closer we got to obsession. Great games all have one critical emotion in common, we want more. As fans, we wish these moments could last forever as they dig their way into our hearts. Developers try to appease these feelings by re-introducing old weapons, remaking classic maps, and continuing expected features. As good as it feels to cash in on this nostalgic service, it’s killing the very thing that captured our attention in the first place.
At the end of Halo: CE, it was assumed any sequel would at least bring back the Chief’s signature weapon, but Halo 2 launched in 2004 with a complete replacement of the Assault Rifle. The Battle Rifle was a burst fire gun and played very differently than its fully-automatic counterpart, yet it was forced upon us as the new go-to firearm. As the community prepared to kick and scream about this injustice, forum posts were already in an uproar about the game’s online matchmaking. It completely took away everyone’s ability to peruse a long list of specifically custom games, like most PC shooters, and replaced it with a default playing field, offering only a handful of gametype categories to choose from. However, what was seen as an aggressive community uproar, eventually became a temporary complain fest that weeded out those who couldn’t see the beauty of a brand new addiction and increased online efficiency.
The new “Assault Rifle.”
Halo 2 made $125 million dollars within its first 24 hours on sale (a record at the time) and was almost exclusively the number one played game on Xbox Live until Halo 3 came out. The day one sales could be attributed to good marketing and the success of its predecessor, but the breadth of its online prosperity was no illusion. Despite the betrayals of some major pieces of content and features, people were logging on every night to get their fix from an experience they loved and didn’t want to end.
2005 welcomed the Xbox 360 alongside Call of Duty 2, which was quickly becoming a critical and commercial darling with 77% of 360 adopters owning the World War 2 shooter. Of course there wasn’t a whole lot of competition on the newly launched console, but the game went on to sell 1.4 million copies in its first 6 months and continued the [now] multi-billion dollar franchise. So, you can imagine the confusion some might have felt when the game’s developer, Infinity Ward, was interested in taking their widely successful brand and changing almost everything about it.
Widely Successful. Drastically Changed.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare saw the light of day in 2007 sporting an impressive, brand new aesthetic, collecting fans who never gave the originals the time of day. As clear as the differences were, it didn’t ruin the fast paced, infantry gameplay loyalists knew and loved. The spirit of the game was intact. The alienation of past Call of Duty purists was barely a blip in the sea of praise that also proved to be one of the best financial decisions ever made in the industry. Even though it was possibly seen as the death of historical shooters, it’s hard to imagine gaming without the good times offered by the original Modern Warfare and a few of its successors.
That same year ushered in one of the best deals of this generation with The Orange Box. Valve had crammed a disc full of experiences any nerd would want while featuring a few titles with a unique spin on first person gameplay. One of the package’s “safe” inclusions was Half-Life 2: Episode 2, the continuation of a series many gamers knew and loved with a weapon seen as one of the simplest, and most versatile, tools in gaming. As millions of prospective Gordon Freemans trekked across the outskirts of City 17, blowing everything out of their way with their precious Gravity Gun, some might forget, the original Half-Life did not include this beloved device.
Before the Gravity Gun…
Recently, these same examples of innovation have been the biggest offenders to the success that created them. Halo 4 featured only one new multiplayer vehicle and an all-encompassing, nostalgic approach to their weaponry. We’re already on our 3rd Modern Warfare with no signs of it slowing down and even Half-Life hasn’t seen a new signature weapon in years. Gamers think they don’t want to see it all go away, but it’s important to remember our history. Franchises come and go. The “go” sounds like the part we don’t want, but it is absolutely essential to enjoy the next big thing. Change should be embraced in gaming and not met with an outrage. We may think the anger is justified but the acceptance of these differences is the only way to break out of a barrage of repeated experiences.
Every little thing to be loved about a video game is held very near and dear to a point of obsession for gamers. One little change, and the developer is flooded in threats. Companies are scared to do anything different with their titles and suffer through criticism from the same people complaining about sequel-itis. If it weren’t for these changes, we wouldn’t have many of the cherished experiences we enjoy today. Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse.'” When I get my hands on something I like, of course I’m not going to want it to end. Of course I think I just want more of the same. Of course I want all my favorite weapons to make a comeback. But for the same reason I fell in love with that initial experience in the first place, please, give me what I want, and don’t give me what I want.
Little David Galanter grew up in Orange County, CA loving videogames and anything else that repelled girls. After getting his Bachelor's Degree in Theatre Arts, David decided to start contributing his soft silky words to the world via online media. He currently owns a website with a weekly podcast (www.drgman.com) and is a reviewer for Default Prime!
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