This week sees the release of EA, Epic and People Can Fly’s Bulletstorm, a shooter that actually threatens to do something a little bit new in a tired but incredibly popular genre. So what other innovations have there been in the history of gaming’s favourite violence simulators?
Charge Shield (Halo)
Single-handedly changed the concept of health in gaming, and completely altered the flow of the FPS. Skirmishes were now won through thought and tactics above attrition. The only downside? Not many games have giant floating rotisserie chickens any more. Oh well, you can’t have it all.
Iron Sights (Operation Flashpoint, Medal Of Honor)
Question. Do kids playing ‘army’ in the playground now hold their twigs up to their eyes with the butt stump pressed into their shoulder? If they do, then their parents shouldn’t be letting them play COD. Anyway, before Op Flashpoint, FPS games used to make you spray your load from the hip like some sort of hyper-accurate Fonz. Halo still does. Makes you wonder who really is in that suit.
Snap To Enemy (Call Of Duty 2)
To compensate for the lack of accuracy that comes from wielding two thumbsticks instead of a mouse, console FPS developers have sneakily made your gun ‘snap’ to an enemy when they’re in your sights. It means pop-and-shoot brain-funk like COD’s single player is that much easier, and that much more satisfying. Less good when your sights start following an enemy around a corner without you pressing anything. It makes you feel possessed. By a demon who is crap at shooters.
Free Look (Duke Nukem 3D, Dark Forces, Quake)
Before this holy triumverate, shooters pretty much aimed for you. Remember that Imp on the ledge on Doom’s first level? Yeah. He should have known better than standing on that ledge. Higher ground was about as worthy as an Amiga platform game. Suddenly, when Quake allowed you to look anywhere, the concept of real FPS aiming was born, and the multiplayer scene exploded. Not literally. This also led to a second analogue becoming standard on console controllers, and an entire generation of non-gamers who will now never be able to circumnavigate a 3D world. Sorry guys.
Skill Shots (Bulletstorm)
Time will tell what sort of influence this one will have, but Bulletstorm’s ‘kill with skill’ is a fantastic twist on an increasingly dull genre. The fact that it actively forces you to be creative in order to unlock the best gear is a masterstroke too. Helps if your sense of humour finds relentlessly creative dick jokes funny. You dick-fisher.
Levelling Up (Counter Strike, Call Of Duty 4)
Also known as ‘what you did with your life’. It shouldn’t be as compelling as it is, but getting those little numbers is like fast food for the brain; constant and never-ending rewards for basically doing very little. If real life was so thankful for us existing within it, we’d never stay inside. As it is, we never go outside. And when we do, we see numbers everywhere. Like Hurley from Lost, but thinner and poorer.
Gravity Gun (Half Life 2)
Or Portal Gun. Or at a stretch, Plasmids. Anything really innovative in an FPS that’s used for something other than murderisation. At the time, the Gravity Gun was the greatest thing ever because it allowed us to play with these new ‘physics’ things that were all the rage. And it let us play a game of catch with a giant robot-dog-bear-robot.
Weapon Limiting (Halo)
Back in the day, FPS characters could carry all the weapons on earth on their backs, or in their pockets. Halo’s 2 weapon system forced you to be selective with your death-dealing, and also limited certain sections to specific loadouts. Almost every game does it now, and it feels fresh to play something that gives you back the power of infini-pockets.
Destruction (Battlefield Bad Company, Red Faction)
This one is still in its infancy. Red Faction’s blastiness was good to look at but didn’t really change the battlefield (pun, unfortunately, intended). Bad Company’s, though, really did. There’s no use taking cover in a house if that house is about to fall down. Makes you think on your feet in a way no other FPS has managed.
Running in FPS games is good, apart from the fact that most soldiers in these games can only run for about 4 seconds without coughing up a pancreas. The aforementioned tubbington Hurley-From-Lost can run for longer than that. And he doesn’t even need a special perk. Just fries.
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