I was sitting in the Orpheum theatre in Los Angeles at EA’s press event when the company first showed Overstrike, the new multiplayer IP from traditionally PlayStation-centric developer Insomniac Games. It looked like a quirky, delightfully refreshing game – because the characters seemed to have…well, character. I was excited.
A four player co-operative, third person shooter with interesting tech, gadgets and importantly, a unique and edgy style? Sold.
Unfortunately, all the enthusiasm seems to have been for naught. Just two weeks ago, Insomniac revealed that the game would be getting a new, terribly generic action-game name to replace its old terribly generic action-game name; Fuse. With that announcement, they released a new trailer showing the game’s overhauled visuals, and they made me a sad panda.
While the tech and gadget use is still there, Insomniac seems to have removed the soul out of everything, replacing the stylised caricature protagonists with a buncha soldiers as generic as the game’s name – making it nearly visually indistinguishable, after a precursory glance, from other relatively realistic modern combat shooters like Call of Duty, Ghost Recon or Combat Manshoot 17. The game has, as far as I’m concerned, lost its identity – and with it, its soul. the only thing that still keeps me marginally interested is the interesting weapons; something Insomniac’s a master of (Go play Resistance 3 and you’ll see what I’m talking about.)
Funnily enough, Insomniac’s decision to go the realistic route comes through focus testing; originally the game was to be even more cartoony than we originally saw.
“The game started out with a much more stylized and campy direction. We were actually going for something on the level of Ratchet & Clank, except with humans,” Insomniac Creative Director Brian Allgeier told IGN.
“Maybe it was going to appeal to gamers who, we thought at the time, might be in their late teens. The industry’s changed quite a bit… We would focus test the game in front of a lot of gamers, and get their opinion. These are people that regularly play PlayStation 3 and Xbox games. We started to discover that everyone thought this was a game for their younger brother. We would hear this from 12-year-olds. So we decided that we needed to make a game that had an older appeal.”
The biggest problem? Them actually giving a damn what 12 year olds think. I have a nephew who’s 13 – and Call of Duty is his idea of what constitutes a perfect game. Any game with visuals even slightly less realistic than that and he refuses to play them. 13 year olds are idiots.
I don’t think real gamers – the older ones – really care for, or want photorealism in games anymore. I think we’ve mostly had our fill of that sort of thing, and happily embrace games that try to do – or at least present – things differently. honestly, I think Insomniac should have the confidence to release the game they want to make and not pander to the requests of pre-pubescents. The game now (beyond the fantastic weaponry) looks dull and uninspired, and will likely drown in the sea of other realistic shooters, while the 12 year olds will just go back to playing Call of Duty anyway.
Funnily enough, Borderlands is famous for going the other way; Originally much more realistic, it adopted a cell-shaded cartoon aesthetic quite late in its development – and look how that’s worked out for Gearbox.
Last Updated: October 1, 2012