Online multiplayer shooters have been my thing since my parents first got a 14.4k internet connection in the 1990s. It allowed me to play Half-Life Deathmatch and Team Fortress Classic, the latter of which remained my most-loved game for years.
Counter-Strike then arrived and, while it was an impressive step forward in team-play, there was something about waiting for the round to finish before playing again which just didn’t sit well with me (I’ll talk a bit more about this later). The early 2000s were a rich time for multiplayer shooters and my personal list of favourites goes on for a while: you’ve got Unreal Tournament, Quake III Arena, Natural Selection, Wolfenstein and PlanetSide, and that’s to name only a few.
The last one was massive for me and is probably my most played game of all time, as every day was a different experience in a persistent world. You could be stuck in stalemate for hours, take a break to eat, and then come back an hour later to find the same battle still raging. It’s the only massively-multiplayer-online (MMO) title I’ve actually played enough to become known as a regular among the community on my particular server, including the politics. Yes, I could spend the rest of this post about PlanetSide and how much I enjoyed it.
But let’s move on. Next came the battle between Call of Duty and Battlefield for the number-one spot in the genre. They’re equally matched in popularity but vastly different in gameplay with the latter, my personal favourite, featuring larger environments, vehicles and aircraft with a greater focus on team-play. Battlefield 2 in particular introduced persistent player statistics and strengthened the class system.
Since then, I’ve played almost every release in the series. I’m keen on Battlefield 2142 because of the epic titan assault mode which combines the traditional capture-the-point objectives with an assault on a floating battleship. As a soldier, you could take the fight to the enemy’s titan and destroy it from the inside, or continue to capture missile silos on the ground that slowly chip away at the hull.
Considering my history with the first-person shooter, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d like everything that battle royale games have to offer. The popularity of the genre today is staggering but there’s something all entries share in their design that I struggle to enjoy. I’ve tried each of the most popular including Fortnite, Apex Legends and Fallout 76 (but not PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds). It’s not one single title that’s the problem: it’s more about the core gameplay loop, and I just don’t feel the same attraction a significant of other gamers do.
In case you didn’t already know, battle royales consist of between 50 to 100 players who are dropped onto an island with the aim to kill everyone else to become the last one standing. Some games include team-play aspects, with small groups pitted against each other in the same way. Weapons, ammunition, armour and sometimes vehicles are scattered throughout the map and must be obtained to compete after you arrive empty-handed. I can understand how this aspect appeals as it adds chance to what gear you’ll find, but it takes still to use the equipment effectively and win the match.
If you lose in battle royale you’re out until the next round. Whether you’re outgunned by a better player, struck by a moment of bad luck or make a silly mistake, there’s no second chance. With each in Counter-Strike being quite short it wasn’t much of a problem. But I found myself getting frustrated after only one round of something like Fortnite, having spent quite some time finding some quality gear and planning my next move – before being destroyed by another player. I’m left in no mood to jump back in and repeat the whole process once again.
Don’t get me wrong: the quality of these games is high, and I appreciate that the feeling of winning after being up against 99 other people must be thrilling. I don’t think winning a match would encourage me to have another go; and even the battle royale mode in my favourite games, Battlefield V and Fallout 76, haven’t made the difference. Is it possible I’m becoming an older gamer that doesn’t quite get it?
And except for Hideo Kojima, who made it clear he doesn’t want to make this kind of game, does anyone else share my experience? Or do you completely disagree and want to shed some light on what fuels the battle royale addiction?