First and third person shooters are the most popular genre in the video game world right now. Call of Duty and Halo have the charts on lock down, and games like Battlefield and Crysis are extremely popular in their own right. On the PC, shooters have been around for a long time, with important first person shooters like Unreal Tournament, Doom, and Half Life really bringing the genre to the forefront.
The common theme with all of these shooters is, well, shooting. However, there are some occasions where a shooter breaks the mold and adds some kind of innovative gameplay mechanic. Sure, the core of the gameplay will remain pointing a crosshair at an enemy and blowing them to smithereens, but it’s amazing how much a little change to a mechanic can make a game feel like something completely new.
Today, we are going to look at some FPS games that offer something new to the genre. Of course, many of the items these games offer have been copied and are not so new anymore, but at the time, it was something new and special.
If you’ve played any modern shooter, you are probably familiar with the concept of regenerating health. You get shot a few times, go hide, and come back ready to go. All too often, Halo is wrongfully given the honor of being the first shooter to bring this to the table, but the origin actually goes all the way back to a Super Nintendo game.
The incredibly odd Faceball 2000 had regenerating health long before Halo, and all of today’s modern shooters, were even in a glimmer in the eyes of their creators. Love it or hate it, this is the game that started it all (well technically Hydlide did, but it was not a shooter).
Call of Duty
At this point, most gamers think of Call of Duty as the tired franchise that releases a new game every year that sells millions of copies. When Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare hit store shelves, no one thought that. Instead, we were blown away by the leveling and unlocking system offered in multiplayer. Never before have gamers had so many reasons to stick with a game for such a long period of time.
Call of Duty actually gets a double mention here. COD was the game that pioneered the “summer blockbuster” movie kind of game. The single player in Call of Duty feels like a nonstop roller coaster ride, which is a big shift compared to the pacing of most games. It may be done to death now, but when the original game hit, it was like nothing we’ve encountered before. Not bad for a game that many gamers feel is overstaying its welcome.
Winback is a shooter released by Koei for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. It’s actually a third person shooter, but still, the idea of the game is pointing your crosshair at bad guys and kill them. Winback, while not remembered by most gamers, is actually the first 3D game to feature a cover system, a mechanic that’s featured in many shooters today like Gears of War and Uncharted.
Soldier of Fortune and Metal Gear Solid 2 deserve mention for bringing cover systems to the forefront, but it was Winback that really got the ball rolling.
Team Fortress is the game that really popularized the idea of players having a role in the battle. Instead of everyone just trying to get the most kills, players in Team Fortress choose a class, and the class has certain abilities that can help the team win the battle. This has led to franchises like Battlefield and all of its games.
Battlefield 2 is my favorite shooter ever made, and it was Team Fortress that paved the way for games like it with its awesome class system. Both Team Fortress and Team Fortress 2 are still played today, and that is certainly an impressive feat.
Hexen II was the shooter that popularized adding “RPG Elements.” Instead of shooting simply to make it to the end of the level, in Hexen II, players actually gained experience points that made their character more powerful. Essentially, everything you find in a game like Final Fantasy or any other classic RPG is in Hexen II, except, instead of casting spells, you are shooting people in the face.
It’s not the best game ever made, but it paved the way for games like Borderlands, and I love me some Borderlands.
Most of the mechanics these games bring to the table are a little played out now. We’ve seen hundreds of shooters with RPG elements, and even more with progressive unlocking systems in multiplayer, but at the time, these flipped the genre on its head.
Will shooters continue to evolve with new mechanics like the ones brought forth with these games? Only time will tell, be we most certainly need to hope they do, or the shooter genre will have a limited shelf life, even if it’s already been around for a long, long time.