Around these parts Super Mario World has been a staple in my household’s video gaming diet. My Super Nintendo with it’s yellowed and aged plastic chassis has sat proudly on our bedroom dresser not collecting an ounce of dust given that we frequently fire up the ancient console.
Few games from the 16 bit era have truly survived the tests of time as far as I’m concerned: Super Mario World, Secret of Mana, and Chrono Trigger to name a few. Even fewer have been successfully reinvented for this new generation of gaming despite all the advances in video game technology.
The very first Splinter Cell game on the original XBox console was an excellent departure from the more fantastical super spy gameplay of the reigning king at the time – a little franchise we all know as the Metal Gear series. Splinter Cell came in offering a refreshing, and much more realistic, take on the the stealth action genre we had come to know.
While the appeal of lurking in the shadows and surveying an area before executing your take down plan was fun enough, most folks couldn’t stop thinking about how awesome Splinter Cell could be online. After all, console owners were getting their first real taste of multiplayer in those days courtesy of a newfangled thing known as Xbox Live, and the drive amongst many was to see just how cool things could be with more than one player involved.
Most fans of Splinter Cell thought that some simple spy versus spy action would have really been great. But Ubisoft, being the innovative developers they are, did us all one better. They introduced something that took the fans by storm with the sequel – Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow – by meshing two different game styles into one awesome online experience. On the one side, you had the spies controlled from a third person perspective, relying mostly on stealth, distraction, and deception as their weapons, much like in the campaign mode. And opposing those spies were some well armed, technologically advanced, and extremely combat-ready mercenaries who were controlled in a first person perspective.
Understanding how this was even possible at the time was mind boggling. Everything we knew about multiplayer (on consoles) before then was in the vein of Unreal Tournament and Quake-style competitive shooting. Everyone played in first person – that’s just the way things were. But this meshing of two entirely different genres and gaming styles into one cohesive online experience was nothing short of breathtaking, and players quickly found themselves excitedly addicted to Ubisoft’s ingeniously constructed gem.
Valve has something special in the Left 4 Dead series. Before the original Left 4 Dead hit the scene, the classical zombie horror theme didn’t really have a mast to fly it’s flag from. Such a strong pedigree deserved to be brought into the light where video games are concerned.
While one could argue that Resident Evil on the first PlayStation may have been a pioneer in this regard, I’m alluding to something more in line with the old school George Romero horror flicks of the days old as well as the modern remakes movies. This is precisely the idea Valve was shooting for with the first Left 4 Dead.