Non-Sequel Sequels – Buyer Beware?
Gaming loves sequels. This is more of a rule in the current console climate than ever before. This is because when you throw down $30 million on making a new game, it’s much easier to justify something like Halo 4 than it is to justify a brand new project like Remember Me – Halo 4 has an audience, a fan club and millions of people waiting to buy it; Remember Me has an interesting concept and a cool trailer I watched a few months ago.
Sequels are definitely here to stay. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that next year there will be a new Fifa, a new Assassin’s Creed and a new Call of Duty – because there is a new version of these games every year, and they always go down well. It probably would take a genius to name a few companys that were willing to take a risk on a new franchise next year – the equivalent of Naughty Dog launching The Last of Us this year.
So when the power of that additional number following the title is so strong – it makes you wonder why people would deliberately avoid it when promoting a new game. And this year is showing this more than any other in recent history.
Let’s take a quick look at some of the popular games which have come out recently or will come out soon which follow the trend:
- Gears of War: Judgement
- Tomb Raider
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
- God of War: Ascension
- Bioshock: Infinite
All of these games have come out over the last few months or will come out shortly (Bioshock: Infinite), and despite coming from well known game franchises they have all neglected to pick up the number from the previous instalment.
So, is there a concrete reason why Gears of War: Judgement isn’t called Gears of War 4 (or Gears of Four? Actually I think I can see why they didn’t use that one) or Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance isn’t just Metal Gear Solid 5?
Well generally people ditch the number for one of two reasons:
- Because it it’s not a “sequel” to the last game, but takes place in a similar universe. Call of Duty: Black Ops isn’t a sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
- Because it’s a “reboot” or reimagining of the series and so they want to start fresh. Deus Ex: Human Revolution came 11 years after Deus Ex and is set a few decades before the events of the original game.
Now those two are fairly solid reasons. And looking at the list above you can mark down the games quite easily as reason 1 or 2.
For discussions sake I’ll do it quickly:
- Gears of War: Judgement - 1
- Tomb Raider - 2
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance - 1
- God of War: Ascension - 1
- Simcity - 2
- Bioshock: Infinite – 2
So if the reason is a good one, what are we even talking about here? And why did you say “Buyer Beware”?
Well that’s a good question Timmy. The reason we are even discussing this at all is because reason number 1, is getting to the point where it isn’t a “real” reason at all. It’s a trap.
Games like Gears of War: Judgement and God of War: Ascension use the fact that it’s not a direct sequel to pass off a game which might not be up to the same standard you are used to from similar games in the series (Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed practically invented this). Your internal dialogue goes something like “well it’s a different name, it’s a different game and I should judge it differently” the game creators dialogue goes “well I didn’t slap a 4 on it, so it would be unreasonable for them to expect Gears of War 3 quality from this game”.
Now that’s not to say Gears of War: Judgement and God of War: Ascension are bad games, or don’t live up to their franchises (I’ll let their mediocre review scores say that) – but it’s more of a warning to potential fan boys out there about expecting a certain level of entertainment from your favourite franchises. Sure, you’ll probably get your Call of Duty hit from whatever the newest multiplayer build is every year – but nobody really expects them to have the complete overhaul and ingenuity that was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
So buyer beware, if you aren’t buying a sequel then you really are not buying a sequel. You are buying a game which might look the same, feel the same but wind up substantially less than what you are expecting.
General rule – if it’s not a reboot then they probably would have used a number if they wanted to convince you that the game was going to be great.
That’s not to say that games which are reboots are always good (like Tomb Raider), they can also be fraught with issues and disappointments (like Simcity) but that’s on a more case-by-case basis.