The first person shooter genre has evolved vastly over the past few decades, moving from a quirky type of game to a global phenomenon. Many of the most successful games of recent times have been FPS games, with series such as Call of Duty, Battlefield and Halo, all going on to sell millions of copies and be played worldwide. While many of the features that are present in modern titles have been stalwarts of the genre since the very beginning, others have been gradually introduced over time from important titles that have become hugely influential. These games not only contributed to shooters becoming so popular, but also had an important effect on the gaming industry as a whole, establishing new standards and features. This article will look at those types of games, as it explores the 10 most influential first-person shooters.
While Doom is largely cited as the game that brought the first-person shooter genre to the forefront of gaming, other titles released before were equally as important. The game that can be attributed with establishing 3D shooters was id Software’s Wolfenstein 3D, that released in 1992 for PC. It introduced many of the elements that would go on to be standard in first-person shooters, such as the fast-paced action and the ability to see the game from a first person perspective – essentially making it the founder of the entire genre. While it is far from the best FPS ever made, it had a huge influence on the gaming industry by ushering in the new genre.
Battlefield 1942 introduced the world to the Battlefield series in 2002, when it released for PC and Mac. The title placed a much bigger emphasis on teamwork and co-operation than most other first-person shooters, by requiring that players not only try to get kills, but also work together to ensure that they could keep certain points on the map. It also had a major influence on the inclusion of vehicles in FPS games, by combining usual infantry warfare with the ability to battle with enemies in tanks and other vehicles. Last of all, it paved the way for games to include destructible environments. While the destruction in Battlefield 1942 was not as advanced as in later games, it still showed how such environmental features could be used to enhance gameplay.
Before the release of Modern Warfare in 2007, the Call of Duty series had only ever been set in World War II and had dropped in popularity, in comparison with other more successful shooters. This release from Infinity Ward changed all that though. Modern Warfare was the catalyst for a completely new way for online first-person shooters to work online. Rather than simply taking the standard single player experience to the multiplayer arena, the developers introduced a deep unlock system to reward players for playing the game, in addition to their action-packed gameplay, to create a game that is now used as a comparison for other future console FPS games.
Quake III Arena was not a normal first-person shooter. It abandoned all pretense of having a single player campaign and instead, focused on what many PC players wanted – online multiplayer. The explosive run and gun mechanics, detailed terrains, enjoyable level designs and expertly balanced weapons, made the shooter insanely addictive for those who played it. It popularized the deathmatch game type for the vast majority of gamers and set the bar for others who wanted to create multiplayer focused games. It also had a large part in establishing playing FPS games as a competitive sport across the globe.
Unreal proved influential, thanks to its advanced graphics and finely tuned mechanics. However, the most important feature that Unreal introduced was the large open terrain maps. This allowed players to explore the area and discover their own way to complete the missions, rather than simply following a linear path.
The other huge influence that Unreal had on the gaming industry as a whole is that it introduced the world to the Unreal Engine. This game engine has since evolved to become the industry standard and has seen numerous iterations over the past decade, being used in thousands of games, including high-profile titles such as Batman: Arkham Asylum, Splinter Cell, Rainbow Six: Vegas and BioShock.
Halo had a huge effect influence on the first-person shooter genre and the gaming industry as a whole. It was a system seller for Microsoft, helping them popularize the Xbox console and set many of the standards for console FPS games that are still in use today. But it is its sequel that had a bigger effect. Halo 2 pioneered the use of online multiplayer on home consoles, with seamless matchmaking, a community atmosphere with clans and online forums, and a deep system for custom games that allowed players to come up with their game types. It set the way for other developers on how to create the best online experience possible for their own games.
Id Software took everything that they had learned from creating Wolfenstein 3D and crafted a first-person shooter that many consider to be perfect. Doom may not have been the first game of the genre, but its influence is still huge. With expertly designed levels, fast-paced action, fun gameplay and trailblazing graphics, it was a huge hit with fans and set the bar exceptionally high for other games in the genre. Not only that, but its huge popularity and success showed other developers that FPS games could make it big and eventually, led to others going off and creating their own games based on the same formula.
While Irrational Games had already created a first-person shooter with a deep story and role-playing mechanics in the form of System Shock 2, they did not find commercial success with the concept until the release of BioShock, in 2007. Set in a terrifying underwater city, the game oozed character, with horror elements playing a key part in telling the story. It also effortlessly gave players the abilities to progress their character with upgrades and other enchants, as well as the ability to perform special abilities with plasmids. However, perhaps the biggest influence that BioShock had was with its art style and visuals, which were able to fully immerse the player in the world and show how first-person shooters could tell meaningful stories.
When GoldenEye 007 was in development, there was little expectation that it would be anything other than a mediocre game. It was a licensed title based on a movie, developed by a team that had never worked on a video game before, and was going to be released on a console. Before then, FPS had only ever been a success on PC’s, due to the need for precise controls. That didn’t stop Rare from creating what many consider a masterpiece. Featuring a very strong single player campaign, excellent controls, realistic gameplay and a local multiplayer mode, it proved that the genre could also be as good and just as popular on consoles, as on PC. A critical and commercial success, GoldenEye 007 opened up the path for other games to make the transition from PC to consoles, giving birth to titles like Perfect Dark, TimeSplitters and more modern FPS games.
Half Life was revolutionary in the first-person shooter genre. It brought a completely immersive experience, along with a compelling story and an interactive environment together, to create one of the most successful games of all time. It told its plot without the use of distracting cutscenes and contained a variety of difficult puzzles that challenged gamers without frustrating them. Almost every FPS released today now has the honor of being compared directly to Half Life, thanks to its influence and the fact that it was so good. Half Life also had the unintended consequence of leading to the development of hundreds of mods, some of which have ended up being hugely popular games in their own right, such as Counter Strike and Portal. It also led indirectly to the creation of Steam, a distribution service that has brought numerous innovations to PC games.