Under The Influence: Kill.Switch

This is an article I wrote a little while back about semi-obscure games that had a big influence on the industry. I may make more of these articles in the future if demand is high enough.

Chances are in the last 5 years you have played a 3rd person cover based shooter, unless you have been in a coma (in which case you have missed a lot of important stuff like they made a sequel to Tron!). It is sometimes hard to remember when 3rd person shooters involved running and jumping guns ablazing while soaking up bullets like some sort of guy who runs around a lot and is impervious to bullets. But one game turned the genre on its head and made you have to avoid bullets so you wouldn't be ripped to shreds in a second by ducking behind dumpsters and wait for an opportunity to strike making you more like an actual soldier than a secret super soldier... even though you were playing as a secret super soldier. That game is Kill.Switch.

Developed by Namco in 2003 and released for PS2, Xbox, and PC, Kill Switch released to little fanfare and critics gave it lukewarm reviews. Jeff Gerstmann summed it best when he call it an “... otherwise ordinary-to-a-fault action game... given a shot in the arm by its relatively cool gameplay techniques, which--atleast--make the games short ride interesting.” The “cool gameplay techniques” Jeff refers to are the cover system and the ability to “blindfire”, which originated in Kill.Switch. The cover system, which took inspiration from Namco’s own Time Crisis series but allowed players to move and take cover in 3rd person, influenced Cliff Bleszinski and Epic’s work on Gears of War and the Lead Designer on Kill.Switch was even hired by Epic. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Lead Designers Amy Hennig and Evan Wells have also said to have been inspired by Kill.Switch’s cover system when designing the cover system for Uncharted. “Blindfire” is a staple of the genre which allows players to fire over cover without aiming but at the expense of being wildly inaccurate. While a relatively minor thing, the ability to “blindfire” is something vital to cover based shooters and it is impossible to imagine ,as a player, not having the ability to freak out and waste all our ammo on a single guy. 

Kill.Switch was not without it’s faults. The game was horrendously short, clocking in at about 5 hours, and once you beat it there was not much else to do. The story was equally bad and made little to no sense. The game lacked variety and got repetitive fast as you pretty much fought the same enemy encounter throughout the whole game with only the occasional lackluster boss fight to break up the monotony. Also the game suffered from a terrible name and an equally terrible tagline “Take Cover. Take Aim. Take Over.” Combine all this with a generic look and its easy to see why this game has been dismissed by most people.

Many games have come along and have done what Kill.Switch aimed to do bigger and better, but that is no reason to dismiss it from history. Beneath the terrible story, short campaign, generic graphics, stupid name, and numerous other problems lies a seed of awesome that has sprouted into one of biggest genres in gaming. Without Kill.Switch the gaming world would be a much different and sadder place. Kill.Switch helped make the gaming world what it is today and its influence can be seen in many projects that are coming out this year. How many other games can claim that?
   
8 Comments
8 Comments
Posted by BackpackKat
This is an article I wrote a little while back about semi-obscure games that had a big influence on the industry. I may make more of these articles in the future if demand is high enough.

Chances are in the last 5 years you have played a 3rd person cover based shooter, unless you have been in a coma (in which case you have missed a lot of important stuff like they made a sequel to Tron!). It is sometimes hard to remember when 3rd person shooters involved running and jumping guns ablazing while soaking up bullets like some sort of guy who runs around a lot and is impervious to bullets. But one game turned the genre on its head and made you have to avoid bullets so you wouldn't be ripped to shreds in a second by ducking behind dumpsters and wait for an opportunity to strike making you more like an actual soldier than a secret super soldier... even though you were playing as a secret super soldier. That game is Kill.Switch.

Developed by Namco in 2003 and released for PS2, Xbox, and PC, Kill Switch released to little fanfare and critics gave it lukewarm reviews. Jeff Gerstmann summed it best when he call it an “... otherwise ordinary-to-a-fault action game... given a shot in the arm by its relatively cool gameplay techniques, which--atleast--make the games short ride interesting.” The “cool gameplay techniques” Jeff refers to are the cover system and the ability to “blindfire”, which originated in Kill.Switch. The cover system, which took inspiration from Namco’s own Time Crisis series but allowed players to move and take cover in 3rd person, influenced Cliff Bleszinski and Epic’s work on Gears of War and the Lead Designer on Kill.Switch was even hired by Epic. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune Lead Designers Amy Hennig and Evan Wells have also said to have been inspired by Kill.Switch’s cover system when designing the cover system for Uncharted. “Blindfire” is a staple of the genre which allows players to fire over cover without aiming but at the expense of being wildly inaccurate. While a relatively minor thing, the ability to “blindfire” is something vital to cover based shooters and it is impossible to imagine ,as a player, not having the ability to freak out and waste all our ammo on a single guy. 

Kill.Switch was not without it’s faults. The game was horrendously short, clocking in at about 5 hours, and once you beat it there was not much else to do. The story was equally bad and made little to no sense. The game lacked variety and got repetitive fast as you pretty much fought the same enemy encounter throughout the whole game with only the occasional lackluster boss fight to break up the monotony. Also the game suffered from a terrible name and an equally terrible tagline “Take Cover. Take Aim. Take Over.” Combine all this with a generic look and its easy to see why this game has been dismissed by most people.

Many games have come along and have done what Kill.Switch aimed to do bigger and better, but that is no reason to dismiss it from history. Beneath the terrible story, short campaign, generic graphics, stupid name, and numerous other problems lies a seed of awesome that has sprouted into one of biggest genres in gaming. Without Kill.Switch the gaming world would be a much different and sadder place. Kill.Switch helped make the gaming world what it is today and its influence can be seen in many projects that are coming out this year. How many other games can claim that?
   
Posted by Skullo

Great blog post.

I remember X-Play reviewing Kill.Switch (3 out of 5, I believe) and looking at that game play and thinking "Wow, if only more games would do that."

and guess what happened next?

Gears of War happens and now everyone is copying it

It grinds my gears (pun intend) when people reference point to the cover based shooting is Gears of War. I'm like yeah, but then there was Kill. Switch.

Great post.

Posted by Guided_By_Tigers

Yeah a lot of people forget about kill.switch and its cover system that influenced Gears of War....too bad the game surrounding the cover system wasn't nearly as good as Gears.

Posted by the_r0n1n_named_47

it's true :D and i think its funny how people credit GOW (love the game btw) for being the first to do the cover thing that is standard today...no one mentions kill.switch in the slightest. i am sure it's not because it's a BAD game, no, i liked it, i think it's because it is a forgettable game, probably because there wasn't much to it idk, but still it should at least get a shout out in credits....just my opinion :P

Posted by Napalm
@the_r0n1n_named_47: For what it's worth, I believe they plucked one of the influential game designers from the company who were pivotal in developing the cover system, to come work on Gears Of War.
Posted by kingzetta

Kill.Switch is the reason Gears of War and really the modern 3rd person shooter exists.

Posted by Akrid

Operation Winback did it first.

Posted by kingzetta
@Akrid said:
Operation Winback did it first.
winback did not have bindfire