It's hard to complain about 'hero shooter fatigue' when Concord looks this good

I was on vacation last week, so I got to experience the reveal of Sony's new multiplayer FPS like everyone else: forgetting a State of Play stream was happening, tuning in 15 minutes late, then rewinding to the beginning thanks to the magic of modern live streaming.

Sony only had two big games of its own to showcase—not unexpected, since "slowly" seems the permanent pace of big-budget game development—but I was surprised that while everyone around me was hooting and hollering about Astro Bot, I was the only one who wanted to see more Concord. I keep seeing variations of the same three reactions to Firewalk's debut game: That it's an Overwatch clone, or another dead-on-arrival service game, or a multiplayer game that should be singleplayer.

That's not what I saw. The cynicism around service games is earned, but when I look at Concord, I see heroes that I don't recognize from other games, intricately designed guns I want to shoot, and a format of FPS that we rarely get outside Call of Duty these days. We've barely gotten a glimpse at Concord so far, but I have some thoughts about the reveal:

The ex-Bungie folks at Firewalk know a thing or two about shooters

There's a reason Concord's cosmic mysticism and floaty characters ring a bell: Firewalk was founded by Bungie vets who worked on Halo and Destiny. Pedigree only goes so far when we're talking about a newly-formed team, but I believe design director Josh Hamrick (who was also a gameplay designer on Halo: Reach and both Destinys) when he says Firewalk is focusing on "building a strong gameplay foundation of tight core movement, tight, visceral shooting, and expressive abilities."


(Image credit: Sony)

Concord's heroes remind me of Overwatch, but Firewalk is clearly making an arena shooter

It's natural to see a plucky crew of characters with varying heights and one-word names and think Firewalk is making Sony Overwatch, but my gut says that impression won't hold up once we've actually played it. Everything I saw in that gameplay trailer—circular maps, haphazard movements, three-to-four shot kills—suggests Concord is an arena shooter. In the trailer and in a PlayStation Blog post, Firewalk describes both round-based modes and modes with respawns.

In other words, Concord doesn't appear to be a "shooter MOBA" in the Overwatch style, with its prolonged group fights, strict role adherence, and linear maps. We should expect something closer to Call of Duty or Destiny's Crucible—a mix of traditional FPS modes both casual and competitive. This is a core reason Concord has my attention. Firewalk seemingly understands that there's no more room for battle royales, extraction shooters, or Overwatch clones (we'll see how Marvel Rivals works out), but there is an opening for arena shooters to make a minor comeback. 

The early success of XDefiant, Ubisoft's free-to-play Call of Duty alternative, is indicative that people are in the mood for casual shooters again. I'm definitely among them. 


(Image credit: Sony)

That big vacuum robot gives me hope that Concord's heroes will actually feel different

If there's one aspect of Concord that I hope does feel like Overwatch, it's kit design. The easiest way to kill my buzz for a hero shooter is to give me heroes that mostly play the same (sorry Apex Legends, Valorant, and XDefiant). It's encouraging that Firewalk wants to embrace the "asymmetry" of its Concord heroes.

"We're influenced a lot by fighting games and even strategy games in the interesting way the asymmetry of their characters makes every matchup feel really different," said lead gameplay designer Claude Jerome. 

"Leaning into the asymmetry of the characters, really pushing the possibility space of two different characters colliding, it's all about creating opportunities for improvisation," said lead character designer Jon Weisnewski. "That's where we can get out of the way and let players find their own magic."

It's good talk, and it's backed up by moments in the trailer. 1-OFF, the yellow cylindrical robot from the cinematic, literally towers over every other hero on the map. He clunks around the arena like a beacon, placing jump pads and serving as mobile cover for teammates, and his only "gun" is a vacuum. I want to try it out so badly.

Concord has a huge day one roster

Concord is launching with 16 Freegunners (what it's calling heroes). That's a pretty strong start, landing on the higher end other hero shooters: Apex Legends launched with eight, Overwatch with 21, XDefiant five, Rainbow Six Siege 20, and Valorant 10. I have some friends who find it overwhelming when they have to learn a dozen-plus characters right out of the gate, but as someone who gets bored when I don't switch heroes every few rounds, I enjoy the options.


(Image credit: Sony)

Concord isn't free-to-play (that we know of), and that's very exciting

Did you notice that at no point in the Concord reveal did Sony say "free-to-play?" I had to watch it back again to make sure, but it sounds like Concord will be a rare paid multiplayer game. That's potentially great news. Paying for Concord from the jump would hopefully mean Firewalk won't be inclined to nickel and dime players with glitzy battle pass ads and $40 skin bundles at every turn.

The standardization of free-to-play (along with old fashioned greed) has led to games that are best described as storefronts that happen to have videogames attached to them. It shouldn't be lost on Sony that Helldivers 2 (a $40 game) earned a lot of goodwill by prioritizing free updates and making its premium skin store an afterthought. Its 12 million sales suggests that people want to pay for multiplayer games if it means they're actually getting a complete game.

If Sony learns the right lessons from Helldivers 2, I'd love to see a few things from Concord:

  • A price between $30-$40
  • Every character unlockable at a reasonable pace for no extra money
  • No randomized cosmetics
  • A distant store tab
  • Progression trees that never expire (battle passes)

That fancy cinematic trailer backfired hard

In retrospect, the Concord reveal was never going to set fans ablaze, starting with that fancy cinematic trailer. Firewalk was probably going for a Blizzard-style cinematic that tells a self-contained story and sets the stage for Concord's world, but that's not what fans thought they were watching. The hundreds of thousands of people who tune into Sony streams were waiting for its next singleplayer open-world adventure, and what they saw in Concord was a trailer for a game they're not getting.

Concord's week-by-week storytelling sounds ambitious (in a bad way)

Firewalk's has a novel plan to tell stories within the PvP confines of Concord. Every week, Firewalk will release "brief cinematic vignettes" that "feature ongoing narrative arcs that grow the characters’ stories, relationships, and unpack the broader Concord galaxy." Sounds cool, but hard to pull off. Producing 52 cinematics a year is a big task for an ongoing game where schedules can shift, and if they're as short as one or two minutes, will fans care?


(Image credit: Sony)

Is "hero shooter fatigue" real?

Before we dismiss Concord as a shooter conceived in an era that's long passed, I'd challenge just how "over" hero shooters we really are. Apex Legends and Rainbow Six Siege are consistently in the top 10 most-played games on Steam. Valorant has millions of players, and even Overwatch 2 still draws a crowd.

All of these games manage to coexist without rubbing shoulders, and that's because, despite sharing a character design methodology, they're entirely different flavors of FPS. Apex Legends and Overwatch 2 both have heroes who turn invisible, create bubble shields, and mark enemies through walls, but we don't consider one a clone of the other. That's the lens I'm viewing Concord through, at least for now. It's applying heroes to a flavor of shooter we don't get often, and I really want to play that beta in July to see how it shakes out.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.