The first-person shooter, or the FPS, has evolved from humble beginnings into the juggernaut genre of modern gaming. An FPS is experienced through the eyes of the protagonist, and exists in three dimensional spaces. Despite technically being a sub-genre of the much broader ‘shooter’ genre, I believe the diversities and iniquities within FPS games lends itself to it’s own genre. FPS games often include aspects of platforming, puzzle mechanics and RPG elements, some FPS games defy the title and omit combat entirely (Portal). To reiterate, the FPS genre (like all genres) possesses multitudes of variety, and is more complex in its description than the title would imply.
The origins of the FPS can be dated back to the early 70’s, titles such as Maze War and Spasism introduced the perspective, though received little to no public attention. Battlezones, a first-person tank combat game featured wire-frame graphics was given an arcade release in 1980, the game was popular enough to then be given the console treatment three years later, 1983.
MIDI Maze was released in 1987, and can be credited as the first multiplayer FPS. Due to the limited multiplayer capabilities of the time, MIDI Maze received little commercial success, despite this, the game accumulated a devout cult following who praised it for it’s innovative, never-before experienced multiplayer model.
That model would evolve over the next 30 years to become the most practised, over-exposed feature in modern gaming, period. Series such as Halo, Call of Duty and Battlefield immediately come to mind. Incredibly huge first-person shooter franchises which all made their name based on their addictive multiplayer experiences.
There was a time though, when multiplayer in FPS’s took a back seat to the single player modes, largely thanks to American game developer Id Software. Id are credited for not only popularizing, innovating upon and practically inventing the FPS genre, but also for radically pushing forward the boundaries of video-game design and technology. Starting with their 1992 release of Wolfenstein 3D, Id transported players into a new world with unprecedented graphical fidelity, and violence yet unseen in gaming.
Finally, with Id Software at the helm, the FPS had reached the forefront of popular gaming. Only a year later, Id followed up Wolfenstein’s success with Doom, again they set new standards for graphics and gameplay. Doom became an unprecedented cultural phenomenon, its legacy is undeniably huge. Doom challenged people’s conceptions of what was possible in gaming, from both a gameplay and conceptual perspective. Doom is famous for the controversy it generated following its release. Said controversy was due to the graphic nature of the game, and the satanic imagery featured in the world of Doom.
Following the release of Doom, and it’s sequel Doom II, all other FPS games were given the title of ‘Doom Clones’, such was the influence that Doom had on the industry.
Not until the late nineties did Id Software find a worthy competitor in Valve, Half Life released in 1998 is often referred to as one of the best and most influential video games of all time, as is it’s sequel Half-Life 2 (2004). Not only did Half-Life breathe new energy into the genre, but it’s huge influence spawned a multitude of player-made mods that with time evolved into enormous titles in the FPS genre. Counter-Strike and Team Fortress both originated as Half-Life mods, and both of them later became juggernauts in multiplayer, even today, over a decade later, these titles are still being refined and are incredibly popular.
With the advent of consoles such as the PlayStation 2, and the Xbox, multiplayer gaming found new life in the form of console shooters like Halo: Combat Evolved. Gamers were able to interact with their consoles in ways they never were before, Halo defined the Xbox and created the console FPS culture that is evident in today’s gaming successes. The next generation of consoles (PS3, Xbox 360) brought this idea of connectivity and expanded upon it exponentially. Players could connect to each other wirelessly from across the world, competing against each other in games of skill, reflex and cunning. Here the multiplayer FPS experience found a new and enormous audience – having previously existed predominantly on PC, console users became the main consumers of multiplayer FPS games.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) was the first Call of Duty to truly become a huge blockbuster, it’s multiplayer was praised universally for it’s addictive, dynamic nature. The franchise has now become an annual affair and is often met with criticisms of franchise over-exposure. Despite this, each annual entry breaks the last’s sale records. Whether for good or evil, Call of Duty is the modern FPS franchise.
Many people woefully remember the ‘golden age’ of FPS’s, believing games such as Doom, Duke Nukem and Quake to be the pinnacle of the genre, yet to be surpassed. I implore you to take a look at the FPS’s of the last decade and tell me that amongst them aren’t some of gamings brightest jewels. BioShock, Half-Life 2, Portal, Halo, Call of Duty, Borderlands… the list goes on. The FPS may have changed, but it’s far from worse off.
Whether you come for the single, or multi player modes, the FPS genre definitely has something to offer you, irrelevant of your gaming preferences. The genre is broad, and its games are often mesmerizing. Sure, it’s probably the most over-used genre in gaming today, but don’t let that deter you, choose your games wisely and even the FPS can surprise you.