Non-linear gaming is nothing new. Games like Tomb Raider and Super Mario 64 long ago changed the way that people play and enjoy video games, largely in part because these games featured worlds that were more interactive and free of captivity than their traditional counterparts. The enhanced freedom that came with a non-linear environment led way to sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto III that took it even one step further, allowing for truly immersive environments. Recently, however, the ever-increasing amount of options and choices that shape a gameplay experience have really begun to shine, with games like Heavy Rain, The Elder Scrolls Skyrim, and countless others being predicated on the decisions a player makes throughout the experience.
Upcoming titles like the The Last of Us, Dishonored, and even Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 have all shown gameplay where the amount of choices is staggering. In The Last of Us gameplay from E3, there are numerous instances where there are multiple ways at tackling a scenario, from the different paths that can be taken, to the way enemies respond, react, and are ultimately disposed of. While this on the surface might not seem like something new, the way it seemingly directs the outcomes and storyline are noteworthy. Similarly in Dishonored, recent gameplay footage has revealed a staggering number of ways to perform the delicate missions of an assassin, from possessing creatures like a fish to gain entrance into an area, to the number of ways a target can be eliminated, be it by a direct assault, an “accident,” or other elaborate means.
Dishonored features multiply ways to handle situations.
Even the tried and tested Call of Duty series is looking to expand their next title Black Ops 2 by introducing a brand new strike force mode where the story progresses win or lose. Including such a game mode means entering new territory for Call of Duty, and should add a layer of freshness to the series. Will these increased abilities to make decisions be something gamers come to expect, or is it necessary to sometimes force players down a single path? The sophisticated AI systems in the present systems and next generation consoles should only allow for a greater array of possibilities, and give the player even more power to shape the game to their preference.