Apart from the constant discussions of “will they or won’t they” with their popular franchises staying multiplatform, what makes me really interested about the Microsoft acquisition of Activision Blizzard is the mountain of intellectual property that comes with it. This is a company that has OVER FORTY YEARS of games under its umbrella, including those from early industry luminaries in Infocom and Sierra. There is a massive opportunity to revisit old games and franchises, something which even Xbox’s boss Phil Spencer was excited at the prospect of (he gave Hexen a shout out) so there might be the possibility that in the future Microsoft will go all in on leveraging what they can.
Certainly I have my own wish list of what might be good to see again… I’ve tried to avoid any of Activision’s arcade conversions from the 80’s which I admittedly liked a lot (good memories playing on my ST) but are also properties they have no control over.
Spun off from Sierra’s Police Quest adventure games, S.W.A.T. in it’s later incarnations could be looked at as being comparable to Rainbow Six and that alone might make it worthy of revisiting. The law enforcement approach could add further twists to tactics in missions as not everyone has to die, something that was experimented with in Battlefield Hardline, and that could make it a viable alternative to one of the champions in the tactical shooter sub-genre.
Rescuing trapped miners underground with a helicopter backpack seems like a recipe for disaster if you tried that in real life but in H.E.R.O. it’s a fun, challenging game that excels at keeping players busy. I think the concept holds pretty well as-is and could work as a smaller game that takes the original and adds more levels and obstacles to mix it up further.
Regardless of how much I think the original River Raid is perfect the way it is I do wonder why no one has ever tried to tackle it in a “modern” way. Having an Ace Combat style perspective with the players travelling down an endless canyon would certainly work well as an arcade style game and it’d be one that would also fill the void left by the delisting of the excellent Afterburner Climax.
The original Hacker I think fits in well with many modern adventure games thanks to the clever way it pulls the player along from the start. The idea of breaking into a computer network and subsequently getting dragged into a global conspiracy still works while the mechanics of trading with spies for evidence doesn’t need to change much at all. Throw in some minigames and a lot of randomness and it could become a fun small scale game. Add in multiplayer with everyone playing hackers vying for the same objectives and it becomes a race.
I did joke about turning David Crane’s classic into an Uncharted style third person action game but I think that might deviate a little too far from the original… and that’s coming from someone who just suggested turning River Raid into an Afterburner clone. The game did undergo a reboot back in 1994 with Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure and maybe that’s a direction they could continue along but take it into the “Metroidvania” space with a massive map and lots to do. In some respects it’s actually not straying too far from what the original Pitfall! and it’s sequel were trying to do within the limits of the Atari 2600, just now there’s a whole lot of technology there to make big worlds happen.
Anything from Infocom
Bringing back a text based adventure game has been done before, Zork had a few sequels in the CD-ROM era for starters, but maybe someone could have a bit of fun with these and replace the text parser with voice recognition or add a narrator. It could be an interesting experiment in not just accessibility but changing player expectations on what games need to be with a retro flair. Also having Stephen Fry narrate the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, just as he did for the movie, would be awesome.
The Great American Cross-Country Road Race
Yes, that is actually a game’s title! Take a game like The Crew but focus on one long race with a lot of random/alternate routes and maybe more Cannonball Run and less bad impressions of extreme sports types and I could be up for that. These big open worlds are impressive but maybe having one very large, linear world could be just as effective in getting armchair racers a fix. Worth noting that Enduro Racer would also fit in this spot too.
A vehicular combat game set in an alternate history version of the 1970’s is definitely one way to make a game stand out from the crowd and had a sequel in Interstate ’82 plus a console spin-off in Vigilante 8. It had a great visual style – cutscenes used the same engine (based off that used for MechWarrior 2) for rendering as the game which in its own way doesn’t age it as much as you’d think.
Soldier of Fortune
My memories of this are tied to the gratuitous violence and controversy that came with this game and I will happily admit to enjoying the chunky explodiness of it all back then. In the years since then that kind of violence has become a big part of games like Gears of War so it’s not like we’ve dialed back on that kind of content despite the early complaints. From there I think a new Soldier of Fortune could find it’s place again but take it it a slightly different direction with a more comical bent and some of the “gun porn” of Black. It could become the shooter version of The Expendables and be a fun alternative to the more serious military shooters on the market.
True Crime: Streets of LA
The success of Grand Theft Auto drove a lot of publishers to come up with their own take on the formula. Activision would produce two games in the True Crime series, with the second set in New York City, and though they did not hit the same heights as the games which inspired them they did have a decent following and considering the excessive wait for Grand Theft Auto 6, alternatives in the genre do have an opportunity to step up again.
There’s no shortage of games that could be in a list like this – you can look for yourself right here – and I’m surprised that this conversation was pushed aside so easily because of the “will they or won’t they?” arguments for Call of Duty. Maybe when the dust settles and the acquisition happens (or not) we’ll see if Activision FINALLY starts digging through their IP and giving us more games!
Some box art images found via Wikipedia.