The Problem with Sequels - Article

By Tom Hunt, September 23, 2012
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You know what, selective people who waste their time reading my below average articles? I believe I’m the Cal Lightman of the videogame review biosphere (considering I’m British, dress like I’m going to a funeral and, most importantly, I can tell when someone’s lying). Back in 2008, when Metal Gear Solid 4 was released, folks assumed this would be the end of the sneaky stealth Metal Gear Solid franchise. Then Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance was slapped on the table, which only fuelled the depressed Snake and/or Big Boss fans out there. However, like I said about the Halo franchise after Halo 3, and the God of War franchise after God of War 3, developers and publishers are never, ever going to pull the plug on a series that is taking money hand over fist. Of course, no-one listened to me. Even when Metal Gear: Peace Walker came out on the PSP in 2010, people were still arguing that I was wrong because, inter alia, handheld sequels don’t count as real games (to a degree they had a point, if I’m being honest).

And only now, in 2012, with the somewhat recent news of Metal Gear Solid 5 (Ground Zeros) have people come up to me and said “Oh yeah, Tom, you were right”. Being a gamer, I live my life by such tiny insignificant victories.



I use Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeros as an example because it’s the most recent game that backs up my argument. However, before I spend any more time typing away I’d like to address the obvious fact that yes, I know why companies squirt out sequels to such a depressing extent. Nevertheless, there must be a place down in the blackened heart of said companies where a bright eyed young soul brimming with new ideas can create a single, stand-alone title, rather than being forced to stretch out his story until the inevitable snap. But, like everything in this world, it’s hard to stick to your principles when a truck load of money parks itself on your driveway. So, before you know it, you’re the abusive father of a whining, screaming, pant-wetting franchise. Franchises are perhaps the best and worst thing about the gaming industry. You could argue that, because of franchises, the videogame industry has become a dominant business in the entertainment market, but what pulls it down like a concrete block is the fact that the games industry relies far too heavily on their established fans; companies are too afraid of taking a chance with a new concept and would rather add a number on the end of a title. This is why the indie market is so well received by the gaming community; developers don’t have that incessant need to create sequel after sequel and would rather create new and inventive experiences, even though most games in the indie market seem to be about some form of cute, big-headed child wandering though some nightmarish hell.



There are people, like yours truly, who want brand new experiences, with new and exciting worlds and settings, but that - in today's market - is incredibly hard to find. The summer games drought has ended, but when you look forward to the Christmas holiday releases I kind of wish we were still in it. Every other game coming out has a number hanging off the end of its title like an infected limb: FIFA 13, Dead or Alive 5, Assassin’s Creed 3, Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, Far Cry 3, Resident Evil 6, and the list goes on. Even when it’s a "new" release, it’s often just a shameless copy of another game (see Sleeping Dogs and PlayStation: Battle Royale for examples). Luckily, there are a select few titles that manage to break through the mould and actually surpass their predecessors with such flying colours that it’s like two rainbows smashing together, the obvious choice being Silent Hill 2. With its unparalleled storytelling and pacing, it completely outweighs the first in every category. It’s as if Silent Hill is a corner shop bottle of wine, whereas Silent Hill 2 is a 1997 Dom. Romane Conti. Unfortunately, every attempt at trying to recreate that fantastic flavour has ended up being piss in a bottle.

Maybe sequels need a number cap.

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