Arguably, FPS is now shorthand for “First Person Spectator”. It used to be about exploring, solving puzzles, slaying an endless horde of enemies and having loads of fun in the process. You were given a world and tools with which to bend its denizens to your will.
Knee deep in awesome
In fact, I fondly remember Doom and the raw feeling of power it provided. There was no narrative or character building, except those you made yourself. The protagonist didn’t have a name or a voice, because they were completely irrelevant to who he is. Doomguy was defined by what he did, and that was turning monsters into gibs. The story is as simple as it gets: the unholy horde is pouring in from Hell and threatens the entire humanity. There will be no cavalry to save the day, no backup. There is only you.
But today, it’s all about set pieces and waiting for the AI to finish its exposition and unlock the door to the next section, where you will be drip fed a bit of action, maybe get some meaningless collectible and an achievement or two. Whoops, I just spoilered Bulletstorm. I will let Total Biscuit sum up this sad state of affairs:
Of course, it’s easy to claim that single player campaigns don’t even have to exist in the first place, because everybody plays video games in online multiplayer mode anyway. It’s true that competition is alluring at a primal level and playing against a human is always a unique experience, but it’s simply lazy to neglect those who want an interesting story or an action-packed adventure that can be savored at a leisurely pace. Besides, anything can be turned into a competition, as proven by the Gloucester cheese race, but that doesn’t mean you would have fun tumbling downhill and breaking your shins:
That kind of laziness is akin to selling someone a box of shiny rocks and saying: “Create your own fun”. You can do that already, just find some rocks, paint them and pretend they are something else. Woah, you just got fun for free. This condescending attitude towards gamers can actually be traced all the way back to John Romero and his legendary flop, Daikatana. After splitting ways with John Carmack, with whom he worked on Doom and Quake, Romero formed his own studio, got truckloads of cash and dreamt up the most ambitious video game ever, Daikatana.
Everything was fine and dandy and the project was stumbling along, until one day a Daikatana ad appeared which stated that “John Romero’s about to make you his bitch“. This is when the gamers felt a disturbance in the force, so to speak. If GamerGate had a definite point of origin, then this would be it. Game developer studios have gotten so big that they had lost all respect for the customer. Now, let’s take a break and enjoy some nice and relaxing Battlefield 3 campaign gameplay:
It wasn’t always like that. Pre-Daikatana, making and playing video games were completely nerd-dominated hobbies and therefore mostly power fantasies. Only when the video games industry became a huge success and a legitimate field of work did it become infiltrated by artsy hippie types, who not only didn’t play video games, but loathed them and people who played them. What kind of video game will they produce when put together? Overhyped and gorgeous pieces of shit, where you don’t do anything but observe.
Gone Home, a lesbian diary reading simulator, is a first person spectator game that got perfect scores and glowing praises from games journalists. Nothing in the previous sentence is an exaggeration or a sarcastic attempt at being funny. Just let that sink in. Are things starting to make sense now?
Well, are there any FPS games that avoid the tired trope of being just a glorified tech demo where you’re strapped into a baby car seat? Oh, yes there are. Here are two that aren’t completely infected with the SJW attitude.
Fear the F.E.A.R
F.E.A.R, along with its two expansions, Extraction Point and Perseus Mandate, draws heavy inspiration from Japanese horror. In short, little girls are scary. You are an operative who finds himself against a mad telepathic commander and his legion of cloned soldiers. The enemy AI is exceptional and will always react differently to your presence, flanking you when given the chance. You can use bullet time (explained as heightened reflexes) and kung fu, alongside railguns and assault rifles. Yes, you read that right, kung fu.
Your kicks and tackles will instantly kill any unarmored enemy, sending him flying across the room and splattering his remains on the wall. When you eventually meet invisible cyborg ninjas who also have heightened reflexes, you can engage them in majestic hand-to-hand battle. In slo-mo, the sparks will fly everywhere, the dust will rise, making the action even more frantic and your grenades will glide in a low arc towards the enemy who will exclaim: “Ooohhh ssshhiiiii…” before going KABLAAM! While F.E.A.R, does suffer from pacing issues and leaves the story completely open, its peaks are well worth your time. Just wait until you enter the office complex…
When everyone thought that massacre for massacre’s sake was already passé, we got Serious Sam. Meant as a parody of Duke Nukem, Serious Sam will comment on things around him and make fun of cliches. These do tend to become grating after a while, but hey, it’s self-deprecating humor!
The strong suit of Serious Sam is the game engine and its ability to maintain a smooth framerate with the entire screen filled with enemies, along with drawing massive distances. This usually means that you will first see tiny specks in the distance that will come charging at you while you pepper them with rockets or lasers. While you will soon come to despise its linearity, outdoor action in Serious Sam is unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a FPS and the sole reason to play it.