FPS games have remained a staple of the gaming scene since Wolfenstein and Doom made it cool to blow people (and hell-beasts) away with absurd weaponry and the arbitrary ability to jump. But seriously, FPS games have long been the focus of the ongoing "video games encourage violence" debate – well, FPS games and Grand Theft Auto – and as such, provide many of the top selling games of recent generations. Though hardcore FPS multiplayer deathmatches might not be everybody’s cup of tea, I challenge you to find me a gamer that hasn’t enjoyed some time behind the killing stick.
While the gameplay mechanics of Doom II are nearly identical to that of its predecessor, this is the game that wins the spot on our list due to its diversity in monster types that were available for your nameless BA space marine to blow to bits. Literally the only new weapon was a new Super Shotgun, which simply allowed you to hold more bullets. The real innovation of Doom II was the support of a limited number of dial-up modems, allowing you to challenge your friends at breakneck 28 Kbps speed and even play co-operatively. My, how far we have come.
I won’t lie to you. I’ve been playing this game since I was ten and still don’t know what the f*ck "mein laven" means, but it’s still awesome to hear those Nazi bastards scream it when they die. This game is hailed as the originator of the genre, and with a difficulty level named "Death Incarnate", it wasn’t exactly an easy act to follow. The game did catch some flack in its day for its portrayal of swastikas and other Nazi-isms (even some levels are in the shape of a swastika) and had to be removed from shelves in Germany and edited when ported the Super NES. Even though the goal of the game is to kill Nazis. Regardless, this is a game that’s still enjoyable nearly 20 years later and is enjoying a new success on the iPhone, XBLA, and PSN, assuring its role as the fuhrer of the FPS genre.
Before you all bitch and moan about how the Metroid Prime games aren’t first person shooters, but first person adventures, I present this thought: are these games played from a first person perspective? Does it require you to a shoot a weapon multiple times to kill someone or something? Okay, then.
A game like Mirror’s Edge is a first person adventure, where shooting a gun, or even combat in general, is completely arbitrary. Metroid Prime shut a lot of mouths when it came out, as people reveled in the realization that not only could Metroid be translated to the first person, but more could be done in the first person shooter genre than simply killing people and completing puzzles on the skill level equivalent to a puke covered infant. Prime was a wild success, one of the few among the GameCube’s relatively brief existence, giving way to two direct sequels, a DS sequel, and a remake with Wii-specific controls.
Why is this on our list? Because it’s the only thing close to an FPS that you can play with your mom. And I love my mom.
Though the gameplay itself is relatively in-depth – there are RPG elements for character building, multiple paths to complete objectives, and added post-release, multplayer – the real sucess of this game is in its presentation and plot. Here’s an exercise (don’t worry, it’s only a mental one) for you: rack your brain, and compile a list of every game that includes the following. Literary references (including Shapespeare’s Richard III and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War), cyberpunk themes, references to Greek mythology, DC comics allusions galore, and a Star Wars shoutout (Jedi, specifcally)?
Answer: Deus Ex.
It’s hard to believe that Modern Warfare came out two years ago already. Take a peek at a used copy of the game on the shelves of GameStop and you’ll find that its price has yet to drop, a used copy still runs about $50. Just when everyone stopped giving two shits about the Call of Duty franchise and its constant retelling of the same wars over and over, Infinity Ward had to go and glorify a new kind of warfare: modern warfare. Though Modern Warfare really didn’t push the genre forward in any way, the presentation of the story was so immersive, the multiplayer so intense, and the overall experience so fluid that it quickly flew off shelves and surely brought thousands onto Xbox LIVE.
And now, as you are likely somewhat aware, Modern Warfare 2 has been unleashed and is on track to be the surefire hit of this holiday season. Is the War on Terror the new (old) war to end all war (video games)?
Unreal Tournament holds a place in my heart as not only one of the few PC FPS games that I played consistently online (until at least 2006), but the one I could destroy you six ways from Sunday in. I was f*cking good at this game. Now, those who know me know that I’m one of the least competitive gamers around. I don’t typically play video games for the multiplayer or the challenge of beating other players. For me, it’s more about the solitary experience, the innovation, and the storytelling. Regardless, this is one game that brought out the monster inside of me with a desire to master every weapon’s primary and secondary function, learn every nook and cranny of every map, and get the longest kill streak possible.
Even the single player mode got me hard.
Ah, 2001. ‘Twas an era of an intense battle for console supremacy, and more importantly, an era where the Halo name inspired a sense of wonder and excitement, as opposed to predictability and a low-level gag reflex. Halo reinvented the console FPS much like GoldenEye before it, bringing a next-gen sensibility to the control scheme which, let’s be honest here, everybody and their mother copied following Halo‘s enormous success. From the ability to only have to manage two primary weapons (plus grenades), to the physics and integration of vehicles, Halo brought a new fluidity to the genre that had never been felt before.
Plus, system link Halo was the shit. Before all this Xbox LIVE $50/year nonsense, friends could hook up multiple consoles (with a "special" $25 ethernet cable) and trash each other face to face instead of anonymously through a headset. God damn you, 12 year-olds.
Despite being tied into a movie that was released two years previous, GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 was a monster success and brought the FPS genre to its new domain: the home console. The game bleeds pre-Die Another Day James Bond coolness, before Pierce Brosnan’s stellar portrayal of the character was butchered by a series of increasingly awful movies. More importantly, GoldenEye adapted the genre to the console, incorporating a Z-trigger fire button, strafing controls, analog stick support, and even came packaged with the innovative and exciting Rumble Pak.
There were gadgets, there were hidden secrets, there were cheat modes, and most inticingly, there was a killer multiplayer mode. In a time where the PlayStation not only lacked rumble features but still had a primitive two ports for controllers, playing a four-way deathmatch in GoldenEye was innovative as hell. I still play GoldenEye to this day; the multiplayer may feel outdated in this day and age, but 12 years after its release, the main campaign is just as fulfilling as it was in ’97.
With all of the narrative (aside from maybe two scenes) taking place entirely while playing, the presentation of BioShock is where its success truly lies. It is able to fully immerse you in the world of Rapture without ever making you stop playing to become an observer, thanks mostly in part to the incredible voice work (see: 10 Games with Oscar Worthy Voice Acting). Though the narrative is the game’s strongest selling point, the very customizable plasmid/weaponry system provided plenty of fodder for action nuts, and the certifiably scary environments gave graphics lovers something to gawk at, nearly every second of the game.
BioShock 2 has quite the legacy to live up to, and it shall be judged harshly.