DAR Games: The FPS Genre

By @Peagle05

In gaming, like other forms of entertainment, there are legends. Specifically when it comes to speaking of a particular genre. The platforming genre, starting with the original Super Mario Bros is considered to be the start of the modern console gaming craze, and while the RPG has many games synonymous with it, Final Fantasy chief among them. But there is one genre, relatively new compared to the other two at least by modern gaming standards and that is the First-Person Shooter or FPS as it'll be known throughout the rest of this article because no way in hell am I typing that out over the length of this post.

In 1992, id Software released Wolfenstein 3D, considered the first step in what we see today as far as the FPS is concerned. With its tight corridors and (for the time) twitch based gameplay, it cleared a path for developers and gamers alike to find stories and gameplay possibilities in another genre. id Software then doubled down on that gameplay style and created the game that would surpass Wolfenstein in popularity, DOOM. It was with the release of this game that the FPS really took off and came into its own; and what an explosion it was. 1997 saw the release of Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 and multiplayer gaming was never the same, as split screen competition with up to 4 friends created some of the most intense gaming sessions ever seen to that point in the gaming world. It was with this game that terms like "No Oddjob" entered the gaming lexicon. Now let's  pause for a second so I can say: If you were the type of jerk to select Oddjob in Goldeneye 007, you don't deserve nice things and I hope all the bad things in life happen to you, and nobody else but you. Getting back on track, in 1998, Half-Life was released and was really the first of the narrative based FPS games. That is to say that the story and why you were shooting things actually mattered. Soon after, Counter-Strike followed and paved an even bigger lane for competitive FPS gameplay and even to this day remains a mainstay in the FPS and E-Sports communities.

Then in 1999, we got the first entry in the Medal of Honor series and it was here that gaming's love affair with historical war shooters began. However, we'll come back to this section of the genre because Medal of Honor had its run at the top but it was shorter than...well you know the rest. In that same year, we got the iconic Unreal Tournament and it was here that the arena shooter was born. It was the first FPS where multiplayer was the selling point, with large maps and game modes that supported those game modes and it became one of the more popular shooters of the era before suffering a bit of a fall off later on.

It would be the end of 1999 and the beginning of the new millennium that brought the biggest change to the FPS genre, as relatively unknown studio Bungie was bringing a game called Halo to the forefront and in '99 it was a real time strategy game, but it was later changed to a third person shooter. Then in 2000, Bungie was bought by Microsoft and Halo was changed yet again...this time into a FPS. And it was here that the genre would never, EEEEEEEVER be the same...AGAIN (Y2J). So here we were, 2001 and Microsoft's Xbox console was released with Halo as a launch title and it became one of this most critically acclaimed games of the generation. In 2004, Microsoft gave us the sequel, Halo 2. The biggest thing here? Internet. As developers and console makers learned from the mistakes of Sega and their Dreamcast, online gaming was finally set to take off and did it ever with the Xbox and Halo 2. This is the true starting point where online gaming really took off. Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag and Kill/Death Ratios really became integral parts of the gaming experience and now we didn't have to go to someone else's house with our controllers to jump into battle.

Now I'm ending the history lesson here because at this point, the genre became a sea of sequel-itis with the occasional innovative jump. But mainly because I want to focus on a couple major FPS games, including one of the most controversial franchises in this genre, a franchise that has a game set to release in the next few months. That's right, it's time to tackle Call of Duty. I'll spare you the history lesson on this franchise because that's not what this section is about. Consider this probably the calmest and least inflammatory discourse on the COD franchise you're gonna see.

First things first, I unashamedly enjoy the COD games (Except Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3. Screw those games). There's a level of scale in many of the set pieces on the games that is absolutely mind blowing and these games nail "moments" better than quite a few games. I defy you to find a more impactful moment than the Shock and Awe level. However, I also recognize that the COD franchise is EVERYTHING wrong with gaming and the FPS genre. When the focus became mostly multiplayer and a shoehorned campaign, the games suffered and continue to do so. Multiplayer remains fun and that's fine, but a lot of the fun in these FPS games was found in tightly woven, smart campaigns that made you feel like a badass and COD took some of that away with wave triggers and gameplay that made it obvious you were just going from one trigger box to the other. For those that don't know what that means, think of how many times you've been forced into an area to kill waves of enemies and only being allowed to progress when the last man was killed only to find yourself in that same predicament a few minutes and a few player quips later. In 2017, however, we're set to get Call of Duty WWII, a return to the time period that gave us some of the best FPS games from that franchise and there seems to be an emphasis on story again. So one can only hope that Sledgehammer and Activision knocked it out.

The FPS genre has evolved quite a bit over the years and hasn't been limited strictly to shooting. One of the franchises that took off with a bigger focus on exploration as well as shooting was Retro Studios' Metroid Prime. Nintendo trusted one of its Big 4 franchises to a western developer based in Texas and the results were amazing. Retro took all of the exploration elements of the side scrolling Metroid games and implanted them into the FPS genre and it was immediately apparent that they had something special. This eventually led to two other games in the mainline series as well as a few, less well received entries in the series. With the release of the Nintendo Switch, fans of the Big N (myself included) wondered if we would ever get another game in the main series, especially considering the Marvel-like end credits scene we got at the end of Metroid Prime 3. Well, at this year's E3, we got our answer, Metroid Prime 4 is in development for the Switch with one major change...Retro Studios will not be working on it. What this means for the game remains to be seen but one thing is for sure, it'll be another great addition to the FPS world.

This is only a small bit of what the FPS genre has brought to the gaming world but it's easily one of the most impactful genres in gaming. It has literally changed the way we play games, the way we experience them and the way we compete in gaming. It's time we look at it the same way we do RPGs and Platformers.



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