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First-person shooters (or FPS) have long been a genre that is based around competition. Ever since the invention of multiplayer gaming, it only made sense to have shooters as a key genre. I once wrote an article about the best multiplayer shooters here on MakeUseOf, and while I stand by my choices, I think some shooters get lost in the shuffle. Not all first person shooters are about connecting to the Internet and shooting people with your friends. Some FPS games remember that story is a key element in games.
FPS games that remember the story element are sometimes even chastised for leaving out multiplayer modes. Some are showered with praise for actually writing an interesting story involving shooting. Shooters are a genre that can be used for so much more than competitive gameplay. Literally being in the view of the protagonist offers a certain level of immersion that other viewpoints cannot match. Today, I am going to talk about some first-person shooters that I think got the story right. These developers did not worry about multiplayer, and they focused on making a game with an interesting, and compelling story.
Bioshock, from the creators of another FPS with a fantastic story called System Shock, had players enter the dystopian world of Rapture. Rapture was an underwater city that was supposed to be the perfect society, but of course, it failed. You find yourself thrust into a world filled with Big Daddys, Little Sisters, and plenty of creepiness. It meshed solid gunplay with a story that could best be described as riveting.
Bioshock’s story had a twist that was met with some disagreements. Some gamers thought it was the best thing ever, and others hated it. Regardless, this was a first-person shooter that had people talking about the story. No one who played Bioshock talked about how cool the guns were, and how their clan went online and owned newbies. No, with Bioshock, they discussed the deep, engrossing story, and that is something you don’t see often from an FPS.
Half Life 2
Not including Half Life 2 would be an absolute travesty against gaming. The original Half Life had a good story; Half Life 2 had an amazing story. Gordon Freeman is one of the most iconic characters in video games, and it’s not because he is good with a gun (although he is, in fact, good with a gun). He’s iconic because of the story he’s mixed up in. Gordon and his encounters with G-Man during Half Life 2 are some of the best in FPS history, bar none.
There’s a reason everyone is begging Valve for more Half Life. (Is Half Life 3 ever going to be released?) They want more of the engaging story. Sure, the game is fun to play, but that’s not why people are clamoring. Gamers want more Alyx, Gordon, and G-Man goodness. Without question, Half Life 2 is one of the best stories ever told in a first-person shooter, and we need more!
Picking one Halo game for its story is impossible, so I am including Halo as a whole (except Reach, that story was kind of blah). The Halo series has some incredibly deep lore surrounding the iconic Master Chief. The stories are well thought out, and back stories for all the characters and enemies fit together as part of a deeper universe; one that expandes even beyond the scope of the game. Halo is a rare case of what many consider to be a multiplayer game having an amazing story that is just as compelling and enjoyable as the multiplayer.
Halo’s story is so good that much of the marketing is actually focused on the story. Sure, some gamers disregard the tale of Master Chief and go straight to fragging with their friends, but those people are missing out on what may well go down as one of the best stories ever told in video game history. Of course, with Bungie no longer involved, it remains to be seen where the story of Halo will go, but at least for the Bungie era, it is hard to argue with the quality of the Halo fiction.
These games prove that a first-person shooter can be deeper than simply going online and killing other players. Don’t get me wrong, I love multiplayer as much as the next guy, but sometimes, I am looking for something a little deeper from my video games, and these shooters offer that experience.
I considered including games like Fallout 3, Mass Effect, and Deus Ex, but those games are not pure shooters; they are RPGs with shooting as a core gameplay mechanic. While their stories are fantastic, they are not just shooters, and thus, were not included in this list. These three games are pure shooters, and their stories rival that of even the best RPGs.
What shooters do you think have the best stories? Let us know in the comments!