In the shadow of Black Ops • Page 2

What hope for Breach and the downloadable shooter?

Borrowing military ken from their range of military training simulators, meanwhile, another of Atomic's concepts is to introduce a suppression system – meaning that if there's heavy fire on the steadily degrading cover you're hiding behind, you'll find it harder to aim and your screen will shake.

It's all good stuff, but more than anything it feeds into an awareness of just how stale the downloadable shooter market is – so fearful are developers of the competition. It's perhaps understandable when interesting games like Bloody Good Time appear then worryingly begin to circle the plug-hole, and a game like MAG's praise-worthy ambition sadly over-reaches itself.

When creating a downloadable game that'll tumble out into the same birthing pool as Call of Duty or Medal of Honor, there's also the risk that some will see it as an ugly baby.

"When EA or Activision make their shooters they put three hundred artists on it," says Tamte. "I can't afford to put three hundred artists on it! So we're trying to make a game that's aesthetically pleasing, but I can't compete head to head against the graphics of those games..."

Seemingly, the only proven FPS victors over XBLA and PSN are retro remakes and re-releases: Duke Nukem 3D, Doom, Perfect Dark and BF1943.

3
Falling masonry damages you, but won't hurt as much as bullets.

"BF1943 became the fastest selling digitally downloadable game. It sold great on PS3, it sold great on 360," agrees Tamte. "But BF1943 was still just a stripped down version of a retail game... and that's consistent with the strategies of all the big publishers. They're all telling their investors that their strategies are built on selling expensive games that are mostly sequels.

"Our goal is to do exactly the opposite of that. Our goal is to disrupt the way that videogames are priced, and to contribute to an environment where original content can flourish."

However, perhaps it isn't just the fear of creating a shooter without the vast resources and art teams of an Activision or EA that keeps original content away from those dusty virtual FPS shelves.

As Gabe Newell highlighted recently with his comments about working with Xbox Live being 'a trainwreck', there is simply no way, with the current set-up, that a shooter can truly evolve: console downloadable titles still live and die in the traditional cut-and-thrust retail market.

If a game like Team Fortress 2 on 360 had been given oxygen through updates that went beyond Microsoft's download framework, then right now we would perhaps be looking at a very different picture.

4
Breach will let you shoot out individual bricks, letting you make your very own sniper's nest.

With the format as it currently is then 'a Counter-Strike' (in terms of its spread and its evolution, if not its initial creation) cannot happen on console – and that really is something that both Sony and Microsoft will have to look at as their online services continue to expand.

Without that room for experimental and ever-changing shooters it's no wonder the FPS market is entirely dominated by triple-A military monoliths, the ones that descend on a yearly basis with expensive map-centric care-packages dropping in beside them at regular intervals to crush the resistance.

In truth, a game like Breach might win its place and a loyal following, but it won't dent a world obsessed with midnight launches, adverts on during the football and coverage on BBC breakfast news.

There is, however, a whiff of a shooter under-current that I dearly hope will show itself as tenable against the might of the big boys. I'll be the first to admit, however, that before the revolution begins we need a few more downloadable shooters that a) are good and b) someone actually dares to make. Who's up for that?

Breach is currently planned for simultaneous release on PC and Xbox 360 in January 2011.

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About the author

Will Porter

Will Porter

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Will ‘Velvet Owl’ Porter is a roaming freelance writer who most recently worked with The Creative Assembly on Alien: Isolation. You can find out how cold/hungry he is by following @Batsphinx on Twitter.

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