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THQ: Call of Duty has "stamped out memories" of what made the FPS great

"It's probably very true to say that there's reaction" against COD

It's important to treat claims that Call of Duty has "peaked" with a measure of suspicion. Everybody loathes the top dog, after all, and Call of Duty isn't so much the top dog as a gargantuan, howling dog-shaped mass in the sky, blocking the sun and dooming the Earth to a second Ice Age. That said, Black Ops 2's recent fortunes do suggest that Activision may have to work harder in future. While impossibly successful, the game has struggled to equal Modern Warfare 3 sales in the UK, and according to NPD figures crunched by Gamasutra, it won't rollover Black Ops 1's launch month sales in the US.

I've been pressing developers for their thoughts on the contemporary military shooter genre at large in recent interviews. One of the more interesting responses comes from THQ's head of global communications Huw Beynon, who's the go-to guy for the handsome, intricate and refreshingly low-bombast Metro: Last Light.

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Metro is one of several recent or upcoming first-person releases (including Far Cry 3 and Dishonored) that restore a little of the science ground out by Call of Duty's much-copied campaign style. "I think there are definitely trends in gaming that can come from the audience themselves, driven by the media in part, or something can be seen as a success and then people do something similar," Beynon told me. "I can't speak for Far Cry or Hitman as I've not played either of those, although I'm looking forward to playing both of them.

"I have had a chance to play around with Dishonored, which I've hugely enjoyed and I'm thrilled that they've had success with that - it's probably the game that's interested me most this year and am glad to see it get the critical and hopefully commercial success that it deserves."

Beynon reckons first-person shooter fans are ready for a change of tune. "I think it's probably very true to say that there's reaction to what used to be a small subset of the genre of a military shooter," he went on, "which has ballooned and mushroom-clouded to almost define the genre, and kind of stamp out memories of what I remember being great about first person shooters, whether that was Half Life, System Shock or GoldenEye - where a first person shooter didn't necessarily have to involve military material, it just meant an invitation to a fantastic other world, which to me was always the point of video games in the first place."

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It's also possible, he suggests, that audiences are falling out of love with the fantasy of becoming an all-conquering force of destruction. Players want to feel intimidated, rather than like Hugh Jackman on speed. "I think for people like them, and for Bioshock: Infinite on the horizon, it's the desire to do something a little bit different - and I think we've each explored what that different thing is in our own ways.

"Metro has a very strong stealth element to it, but that's more because that kind of gameplay suits the narrative, and it makes sense that you're a single, vulnerable person - you're not this super soldier, you don't have this squad of marines at your back at any one time, we don't do these combat levels where you're just relentlessly forging your way up the beach through wave after wave of bullet fodder just flinging themselves at you."

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