OPINION: Nick Cowen says we should forget Back to the Future 2, as these games are more on the right track to predict our future.
In case you didn’t know, this week was a rather special week for Back To The Future fans. This last Wednesday – October 21 2015 – is the date that Doc Brown and Marty McFly arrived in the future in which Director Robert Zemeckis promised fans we’d have flying cars, hoverboards and TAB would still be a popular drink.
A lot of sites have run features on what Back To The Future 2 got wrong and what it got right but no one has really taken a good long look at the fact that it’s pretty damn hard to predict what tech will be trendy 30 years into the future.
So with that in mind, we’ve decided to have a look at which videogames are set in a near future that are more plausible – or as plausible – as the California 2015 in Back To The Future 2.
For some reason, none of them are as inviting….
Prediction: Humankind returns to the dark ages after World War III
Really you could include pretty much any game set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland made in the last ten years on this list – well, those where the end of the world hasn’t been brought about by zombies or the invasion of an alien race. But we’ve chosen Mad Max since, if the world is reduced to a radioactive wasteland, George Miller’s vision of it remains the most plausible.
Here, humankind pulled the trigger on itself before renewable resources powered most cars, resources (water, food, ammo) are scarce and there are no mutants (Fallout, R.A.G.E.). That having been said, we’re hoping that if WWIII does occur, no one is going to be stupid enough to pick the nuclear option even as a last resort.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Prediction: Man melds with machine
Corporations that wield as much power as governments. Injured soldiers who are augmented with robotic limbs. Privately owned media that spews a pro-authoritarian line in bite-sized chunks. Technology companies that sap consumers’ humanity the more they buy their products. Does any of this sound familiar?
Okay, so Detroit has yet to be revitalized as a technocratic hub and rank-and-file consumers aren’t embedding cybernetic implants under their flesh…. yet. But one of the strengths of the world presented to players in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is how plausible it looks. It may riff heavily on the superb sprawl series by William Gibson, but Deus Ex presents a chillingly possible vision of the future.
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Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Prediction: World War III breaks out over dwindling oil reserves)
The not-too-distant future is a popular setting for military shooters – mainly because it gives developers loads of real-world tensions to amp up their game’s plot and loads of new guns and gadgets to kit players out with. However, the narrative that usually runs through these games is usually preposterous. Really, what are the odds of North Korea conquering the USA (Homefront) or Russia invading the USA minutes after a terrorist attack (COD: Modern Warfare 2?
Hardcore shooter Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising, however, opens with a scenario that is all too terrifyingly plausible. The game imagines a situation where tensions escalate between China and Russia over the real-world island of Skira when a vast reservoir of oil is discovered there. As the two oil-hungry nations’ armies converge on the disputed territory, the United States becomes involved on Russia’s behalf, thanks to a series of treaties it signed at the end of the last World War. Sure, OF: DR occurs in 2011 so it’s four years out of date, but as civilisation comes ever closer to the end of oil, the game’s premise seems far more plausible than most. Lets hope they don’t find oil in Skira…
Related: Best PS4 Games 2015
Tom Clancy’s The Division
Prediction: Epidemic shuts down major cities
When The Division was unveiled at E3 in 2013, it caused as much of a stir with its horrifying premise as it did with its pretty visuals and tactical co-op play. With a series of graphs and animations accompanied by twin voice-overs seemingly devoid of emotion, The Division’s announcement trailer calmly informed us that modern civilisation is precariously balanced on a knife-edge. It only needs a big enough crisis to bring it all crashing down.
Seems like a conspiracy theory right? Well, as the trailer above notes, the notion of a complete breakdown is based on a simulation called Dark Winter which isn’t a fictional exercise – the US government tried it out in 2001. Furthermore Directive 51 isn’t fictional – it was signed into law in 2007 although it doesn’t mention government sleeper cells across the US.
Oh Ubisoft, how the hell do you sleep at night?
Related: Best Xbox One Games 2015
Call Of Duty: Black Ops II
Prediction: Advanced or autonomous military
Okay, so let’s leave the barmy plot and oversized characters to one side for a minute and just look at the tech. In a lot of ways, Call Of Duty: Black Ops II is starting to mirror the present we live in now.
Drones are now a part of everyday military operations. The most technologically advanced weapons and gizmos are given to those soldiers that operate off the grid. Hacking is as much a military tool as a Glock or an Uzi 9mm. And right now some of the most intelligent people in the world are pleading with the UN to issue a ban on autonomous weapons.
Sure COD has big dumb storylines, but one of its most appealing aspects is that a lot of its tech and weapons have more than a toe-hold in reality.