Continuing in our trek back through the Wii’s library of games, we come to a touchy subject. While our previous duo of motion control role models were both unappreciated (and somewhat misunderstood), this week we’re onto the big dog of this generation: first-person shooters. There are more controversial subjects about the white brick, but there is perhaps no other genre that so many feel was done so wrong by motion controls.
To be fair, this sentiment isn’t without a firm basis in reality. While the PS3 and 360 were treated to standout shooters early and often, it took a long time for developers to get properly acquainted with FPS motion controls. Look no further than the Wii’s holiday 2006 launch, with Call of Duty 3 (which on the Wii, didn’t feature an online multiplayer component at all) and Red Steel (although it was part slasher, it was all suck) headlining for the genre. It’s no wonder some quickly wrote the Wii’s potential off.
It took over nine months for a healthy dose of mouth wash to come along and wipe the taste of Red Steel out of our mouths, and even then, we weren’t getting an FPS. While some may wish to group Retro Studio’s trio of first-person perspective games into the FPS genre, shooting was always a supplemental portion to their formula. Exploration, adventure, platforming and puzzle solving were all just as integral to the Retro template, and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption was no exception. However, it certainly did do shooting correctly, something not lost on critics. However, it also had the misfortune to be advertised in a manner that showcased the worst possible way to perform shooting on the Wii:
Standing up. For some reason, this image stuck with a lot of people. ”I just can’t play FPS standing up.” I’ve seen that comment, or a variant of it, all over the web (on here, at IGN, at N4G, you name it). There is only one way to play FPS on Wii, and it’s sitting down with a finely-tuned control scheme that allows you to aim by pivoting from the wrist (prop your hand on your, leg, knee, lap, or chair’s arm rest, it doesn’t matter). And although Corruption’s scheme was perfectly suited to the Prime series, it wasn’t exactly perfect for FPS at large – only three control presets were offered, there was no way to fine-tune the bounding box, and 180-degree turns took just a breath too long. It seemed that more customization would be needed, which arrived later in 2007 with Medal Of Honor: Heroes 2, and also in 2008′s Call of Duty: World at War. But it would take a fully customizable scheme to fully exploit the potential of the Wii, and full customization would take yet another year for a developer to get right.
Sadly, that might be all that it got right. High Voltage Software pushed the console’s graphical envelope, but couched their efforts in a derivative and vanilla art style. They pushed the boundaries of what could be achieved online with the Wii, but did so at the expense of eliminating game-breaking bugs (it was not uncommon to spawn into walls when entering matches) and locking down a fluid frame rate. But they nailed one thing perfectly: shooting action with the Wii remote’s infrared pointer. HVS nailed down the control template that all developers have copied from ever since. Not bad for a small developer who took a big risk on an original intellectual property (which makes it all the more maddening that Conduit 2, released in 2011, was a somewhat wonkier affair).
It took until 2010. Four whole years after the Wii’s launch. At that point, the gates opened, and the little-box-that-never-did became the little-console-that-finally-could indeed handle FPS. Eurocom’s GoldenEye and Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops both delivered the type of action the console deserved back in 2006.
GoldenEye tipped its cap to the past without being tied to it. Black Ops gave the Wii an online experience that was as close as you could get to XBox Live on the console, with Friend Codes finally dying off. And more importantly, both nailed fully-customizable schemes, ones that let tinkerers nail down control settings that facilitated pixel-perfect shooting.
But now, the crucial question: were these games worth the wait?
As we’ve already touched upon, perhaps not. The wait was excruciating, the killer app never materialized, it took years to develop a workable scheme for customization, and the hardware limited what third parties could achieve through porting (although Treyarch deserves enormous credit for upping their game with each iteration of COD).
The potential of the Wii remote wasn’t quite realized in FPS, and it took so long to fully right the ship that many gamers simply lost patience and tuned out the Wii as a console for shooting action. However, it still had FPS games that were worth playing for dozens (if not hundreds) of hours.
In the end, FPS controls were done right on the Wii. It just took a bloody long time to get there.