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Contributors: Charlie Barratt, Henry Gilbert
Every time a game is successful, critically or commercially, folks start speculating about sequels. Will there be a sequel? How many sequels? When will we see the sequel? What will happen in the sequel? Who shows up in the sequel? Sequel?
That’s too obvious. A truly compelling game deserves the exact opposite. If the story is masterfully written, players will want to see how it actually started. If the world is deeply designed, players will insist on seeing how it first formed. And if the characters are fully realized, players will demand to know how they grew into their now beloved personalities and roles. In other words, the existence of a prequel – not sequel – is how you judge a game’s real impact and staying power. Look at Halo: Reach, Metal Gear Solid 3, Street Fighter Alpha or Super Mario World 2 for proof.
Some famous franchises, however, still lack that badge of honor. They may have prequel novelizations, prequel multiplayer or prequel rumors, but we want the actual game. These beginnings can definitely support one.
How the story begins: After four long years in an extraordinarily dark and grimy prison, Marcus Fenix is freed by his BFF, Dominic Santiago. No gentle reintegration back to society for our butter-faced protagonist, however… humanity still needs saving from the creepy crawly Locust and, despite being incarcerated by military leaders, he is apparently now the only man who can now pull of their half-assed plan.
What the prequel would cover: The beginning of the war, rather than the end. The novel Aspho Fields covers some of this, but we want to see what the world of Sera looked like before it was ravaged by battle. We want to experience the terror and panic of Emergence Day for ourselves. We want to know why Marcus would be incarcerated for simply trying to save his father, as well as how he got all those hideous, hideous scars (teenage acne?).
Really, though, we’re just tired of watching our heroes screw up over and over. In the first game, they deployed the Lightmass bomb and everyone got sick with “rust lung.” In the second game, they destroyed a big radioactive monster… and humanity’s greatest city in the process. Both times, the Locust survived and we were left questioning the good guys’ motives. For just one game – the prequel – it’d be nice to believe you were fighting for the right side.
How the story begins: “Soap” MacTavish, a young and inexperienced member of the British Special Air Service, shows up for his first day of training. After proving he is capable of murdering a watermelon, commanding officer Captain Price whisks him away on a thrilling around-the-world tour of hijacked cargo ships, nuclear silos and disabled arms dealers.
What the prequel would cover: Call of Duty 4’s best dialogue comes from Captain Price: he calls you a “muppet” and likes throwing the word “arse” around a lot. Call of Duty 4’s best missions are the ones in which you play as Captain Price: sneaking through the grass in a ghillie suit, sniping a dude’s arm off from a hotel window and outrunning a crashed helicopter are the greatest and most defining moments of the single player campaign. Heck, even Call of Duty 4’s best fashion is displayed by Captain Price: who else could pull of that cigar, that bush hat and that awesomely unapologetic mustache with such grace and lack of irony?
You can see where this is headed. We want more than those two flashback missions - we want a whole game starring Captain Price. Since he’s obviously not available after Modern Warfare (spoiler?), a prequel will have to do; fortunately, his previous life could be the perfect time period for Infinity Ward to tackle. They’re clearly exhausted by World War II, and it’s only a matter of time before they’re tired of going ultra high-tech, so why not use the adventures of Captain Price to cover conflicts in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s? Why not build an entire game of flashback missions, diving into different wars and different countries? We’d play for the different styles of mustache alone!