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First-person shooter video games

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First-person shooter video games (also known as FPS video games) place the player in control of a character from a first-person perspective. The primary type of action in these games is combat with weapons; from fists and swords to firearms and lasers. Usually, the player can see the weapon they are holding, but some games do not include this feature. It is a sub-genre of 3D shooter games.

The first major influential FPS was Wolfenstein 3D (1992), which has been credited with creating the basic archetype upon which subsequent titles were based. This game popularized the genre and lead to the next major FPS hit, DOOM (1994), which broke many of the boundaries in Wolfenstein and set the bar for several years worth of games. It was the progenitor of the genre's wider mainstream acceptance and popularity, and is perhaps the most influential first-person shooter. DOOM was so popular that many subsequent games in the next few years were referred to as "Doom clones" rather than "first-person shooters". GoldenEye 007 (1997) was the first landmark first-person shooter for home consoles, with the Halo series heightening the console's commercial and critical appeal as a platform for first-person shooter titles. Metroid Prime (2002) further expanded the genre's potential by popularizing action/adventure elements in the genre.[1]



Gameplay from the first-person-shooter Halo 3. Notice the weapon in hand, as well as the heads-up display (HUD).

First-person shooters are a type of three-dimensional shooter game,[2] featuring a first-person point of view with which the player sees the action through the eyes of the player character. They are unlike third-person shooters, in which the player can see (usually from behind) the character he is controlling. The primary design element is combat, mainly involving firearms.[3]

FPS games are often categorized as being distinct from light gun shooters, a similar genre with a first-person perspective which use light gun peripherals, in contrast to first-person shooters which use conventional input devices for movement.[4] A more important key difference is that first-person light-gun shooters like Virtua Cop often feature "on-rails" movement, whereas first-person shooters like DOOM give the player more freedom to roam,[5] though some games such as GoldenEye 007 have attempted to combine both styles.[5] This distinction is slowly beginning to blur with recent, more linear, first-person shooters such as the Call of Duty series.[6][7] Incidentally, one of the earliest known uses of the term "first-person shooter" was in reference to the light-gun shooter Virtua Cop 2, in the August 1996 issue of GamePro magazine.[8]

There is sometimes disagreement regarding exactly what design elements constitute a first-person shooter, for example, Deus Ex or BioShock are sometimes considered first-person shooters, but may also be considered role-playing games as they borrow from this genre extensively.[9] Some commentators may extend the definition to include combat flight simulators, as opposed to characters on foot.[10][3]


Precursors: 1960s–1970s

The origins of first-person shooters can be traced back to first-person shooting arcade games which predate the video game industry. Early first-person arcade shooting electro-mechanical games include Namco's Periscope in 1965 and Nintendo's Wild Gunman in 1974.[11]

Prior to the rise of video games, SEGA produced several arcade electro-mechanical games that resemble first-person shooter video games, but were in fact electro-mechanical games using rear image projection display moving animations on a screen.[12] Sega's Missile (S.A.M.I.) in 1969 had a moving film strip projecting enemies on screen, and a dual-control scheme where two directional buttons are used to move the player tank and a two-way joystick with a fire button is used to shoot and steer missiles onto oncoming planes.[13][14] Sega's final first-person electro-mechanical shooter was 1972's Killer Shark, featured in 1975 Steven Spielberg film Jaws.[12]

Origins: 1970s–1985

In 1970, Sega's Jet Rocket was the earliest first-person shooter game.[11] It was an electro-mechanical combat flight simulator arcade game with cockpit controls that can move the player around a landscape displayed on screen and shoot missiles at targets.[15] It featured shooting and flight movement in a 3D environment from a first-person perspective, laying the foundations for first-person vehicle combat video games such as Battlezone and Hovertank 3D, and the first-person shooter genre.[11]

Two early documented first-person shooter video games were Maze War and Spasim. Maze War features on-foot gameplay that evokes modern first-person shooter games; development of the game dates back to the mid-1970s, but its exact date of completion is unknown. Spasim had a documented debut at the University of Illinois in 1974; the game was a rudimentary space flight simulator, which featured a first-person perspective.[3] They were distinct from modern first-person shooters, involving simple tile-based movement where the player could only move from square to square and turn in 90-degree increments.[16] Spasim eventually led to a tank simulator, developed for the U.S. army, in the late 1970s. It was not available to consumers and it was not until 1980 that a tank video game, Battlezone, was released in arcades. A version was released in 1983 for home computers, the first successful mass-market home video game featuring a first-person viewpoint and wireframe graphics,[17] presented using a vector graphics display.[18]

In 1975,[19] Interceptor used an eight-way joystick to aim a crosshair and shoot aircraft that can move out of range and scale in size.[20] In 1980, Sega's Space Tactics had a crosshair that remains centred, mobilizes the screen when moved, and shoots lasers into the screen with a 3D effect.[21] Other early arcade examples include 1981's Space Seeker,[22] and 1982's vector space combat sim Star Trek[23] and stereoscopic 3D game SubRoc-3D.[24] The same year saw the release of Apple II computer games Horizon V, which featured an early radar mechanic, and Zenith, which allowed the player ship to rotate, both designed by Nasir Gebelli,[25][26] who would later influence id Software's John Romero.[27]

1984 saw the release of MSX mecha games Gundam: Last Shooting[28] and Ginga Hyoryu Vifam, which featured open space exploration with a radar displaying destinations and player/enemy positions as well as a physics engine where approaching a gravitational field pulls in the player.[29] The same year also saw the release of Kidou Senshi Gundam Part 2: Tobe Gundam, which featured segments where the player mech navigates around a maze-like city and shoots at enemies, with the camera occasionally changing between a first-person view and a behind-the-mech, third-person view.

Star Luster, released for the NES console and arcades in 1985, featured free-roaming open space exploration with six degrees of freedom, a radar displaying enemy and base locations, the ability to warp anywhere, and a date system keeping track of the current date.[30][31][32] Another game released in 1985 was the NEC PC-8801 game Dimensional Fighter Epsilon3, which more closely resembled later FPS games than the aforementioned games above. It combined first-person RPG dungeon crawling with first-person arcade-style light-gun shooter combat, and is possibly the first shooter to use 3D polygon environments. It also allowed the player to aim the weapon, but due to the lack of a mouse, this meant the player would have to be stationary during combat. Also, like other first-person dungeon-crawlers at the time, the player could only move in four directions, in 90-degree increments. [1]

Early first-person shooters: 1986–1992

In 1986, the NES shooter Z-Gundam: Hot Scramble[33] displayed the player's gun on screen, allowed aiming and locking-on to enemies, and gave the illusion of six degrees of freedom in its open space levels.[28] The same year, flight sim Lock-On also featured locking-on.[34][35] Another 1986 release, SeeNa, introduced an advanced polygonal 3D graphics engine, which rendered 3D environments at a fast pace, and (compared to earlier first-person games limiting movement to 4 directions in 90-degree increments) allowed the player to move with full 360-degree movement.

Seibu Kaihatsu's 1986 game Empire City: 1931[36] and 1988 sequel Dead Angle[37] for the arcades and Master System utilized a crosshair to target enemies and to move the player character by aiming to the sides of the screen.[38][39] Empire City: 1931 also had a defense button to deflect bullets, while Dead Angle allowed crouching to dodge enemy attacks while displaying the character's silhouette on screen.[38][39]

MIDI Maze, an early first-person shooter released in 1987 for the Atari ST,[40] featured maze-based gameplay and character designs similar to Pac-Man, but displayed in a first-person perspective.[41][42] Later ported to various systems - including the Game Boy and Super NES - under the title Faceball 2000,[43] it featured the first network multi-player deathmatches, using a MIDI interface.[42] It was a relatively minor game, but despite the inconvenience of connecting numerous machines together, its multi-player mode gained a cult following: 1UP called it the "first multi-player 3D shooter on a mainstream system" and the first "major LAN action game".[43]

Arsys Software's Star Cruiser was an early first-person shooter[44] released for the NEC PC-88 computer in 1988[45] and ported to the Mega Drive/Genesis in 1990.[44] Star Cruiser was an innovative game that introduced the use of fully 3D polygonal graphics, action RPG elements, free-roaming open space exploration allowing six degrees of freedom,[45] and gameplay mechanics such as strafing. [2]  It a unique dual control scheme that anticipated the standard keyboard & mouse controls, with the direction keys used to move and strafe, while the numpad keys are used to turn around and aim.

Another 1988 console game, Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode for the NES, featured various first-person shooter levels. It was one of the first video games to place importance on accurate shooting and introduced the sniper rifle, used to assassinate enemies from a long distance by aiming an unsteady sniper scope, a weapon later to become a mainstay of the FPS genre.[46] In 1990, SNK's The Super Spy for the arcades and Neo Geo console was a first-person shooter with beat 'em up elements where the player character's arms and weapons are visible on screen.[47][48] In early 1991, Data East's first-person shooter Silent Debuggers for the TurboGrafx-16 console allowed players to aim the gun sight when shooting at enemies.[49]

Id Software's Hovertank 3D pioneered ray casting technology in 1991 to enable faster gameplay than 1980s vehicle simulators;[17] and a later advance, texture mapping, was popularized with Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, a 1992 action role-playing game by Looking Glass Technologies that featured a first-person viewpoint and an advanced graphics engine. When shown a demo of Ultima Underworld the year before, id developer John Carmack remarked that he "could write a faster texture mapper",[50] and would feel motivated by Looking Glass's example to do the same in Catacomb 3-D (which was released in late 1991).[17] Catacomb 3-D also introduced the display of the protagonist's hand and weapon (in this case, magical spells) on the screen, whereas previously aspects of the player's avatar were not visible.[17] The experience of developing Ultima Underworld would make it possible for Looking Glass to create the Thief and System Shock| series years later.[50]

In 1992, Taito attempted to introduce free-roaming first-person shooter gameplay to arcades with Gun Buster.[51][52] It was an innovative first-person shooter released in 1992 for the arcades. It featured on-foot gameplay and a unique control scheme where the player moves using an eight-direction joystick and takes aim using a mounted positional gun. It was also unique in allowing two-player cooperative gameplay for the mission mode, and also featured deathmatch and team deathmatch modes.[53][54] Its controls were similar to later first-person shooters for the Wii.[51][52] The player could also carry multiple weapons, each with different recharge rates and movement speeds, and the game's maps included walls, glasses and columns that could be used for dodging and shootouts.[54] The graphics were also dynamic, with players able to shoot out windows, for example.[52] It featured multiplayer deathmatch modes for up to four players, between two teams, on a dual-monitor arcade cabinet.[51] It also introduced the circle-strafing gameplay technique. It also had features such as breakable glass, and more advanced graphics than PC shooters at the time.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.[3] It built on the ray casting technology pioneered in earlier games to create a revolutionary template for shooter game design, which first-person shooters are still based upon today.[10][3][55] It introduced a fresh formula to the personal computer game market that successfully combined the fast pace and quick reflexes of arcade action games (such as Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Altered Beast) that pit the player against multiple enemies that come in increasing waves of speed and complexity, with the first-person perspective of traditional computer role-playing games (such as Wizardry) that attempted to provide players with an immersive experience.[56][57] While previous computer shooter games were most often scrolling shooters, Wolfenstein 3D helped move the computer market towards first-person shooters instead.[58] Despite the violent themes, Wolfenstein largely escaped the controversy generated by the later Doom, although it was banned in Germany due to the use of Nazi iconography;[59] and the Nintendo version replaced the enemy attack dogs with giant rats.[60] Apogee Software, the publisher of Wolfenstein 3D, followed up its success with Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold in 1993. The game was initially well received but sales rapidly declined in the wake of the success of id's Doom, released a week later.[61]

Doom, released as shareware in December 1993,[55] refined Wolfenstein 3D's template by adding improved textures, variations in height (such as stairs the player's character could climb) and effects such as flickering lights and patches of total darkness, creating a more believable 3D environment than Wolfenstein 3D's more monotonous and simplistic levels.[62] Doom allowed competitive matches between multiple players, termed "deathmatches", and the game was responsible for the word's subsequent entry into the video gaming lexicon.[62] The game became so popular that its multiplayer features began to cause problems for companies whose networks were used to play the game.[55][62] Doom has been considered the most important first-person shooter ever made: it was highly influential,[62] and has been available on most video gaming systems since.[55] Multiplayer gaming, which is now integral to the first-person shooter genre, was first achieved successfully on a large scale with Doom.[10][62] While its combination of gory violence, dark humor and hellish imagery garnered acclaim from critics,[62][63] these attributes also generated criticism from religious groups, with other commentators labelling the game a "murder simulator."[64] There was further controversy when it emerged that the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre were fans of the game; the families of several victims later unsuccessfully attempted to sue numerous video game companies - among them id Software - which the families claimed inspired the massacre.[59]

On the Macintosh, Bungie's 1994 release of Marathon, and its subsequent sequels, set the standard for first-person shooters on that platform. Marathon pioneered or was an early adopter of several new features such as vertical aiming and freelook, dual-wielded and dual-function weapons, versatile multiplayer modes (such as King of the Hill, Kill the Man with the Ball, and cooperative play), friendly NPCs, and a strong emphasis on storytelling in addition to the action.[65] Star Wars: Dark Forces was released in 1995 after LucasArts decided Star Wars would make appropriate material for a game in the style of Doom. However, Star Wars: Dark Forces added several technical features that Doom lacked, such as the ability to crouch or look up and down,[66][55][67] Apogee's Duke Nukem 3D, released in 1996, was "the last of the great, sprite-based shooters"[55] winning acclaim for its humor based around stylised machismo as well as its gameplay. However, some found the game's (and later the whole series') treatment of women to be derogatory and tasteless.[55][59][68]

Rise of 3D graphics: 1995–1999

In 1994, SEGA's 32X release Metal Head was a first-person shooter mecha simulation game that used fully texture-mapped, 3D polygonal graphics.[69] That same year, Exact released the Sharp X68000 computer game Geograph Seal, a fully 3D polygonal first-person shooter that employed platform game mechanics and had most of the action take place in free-roaming outdoor environments rather than the corridor labyrinths of earlier first-person shooters such as Wolfenstein 3D. The following year, Exact released its successor for the PlayStation console, Jumping Flash!, which was similar but placed more emphasis on the platforming rather than the shooting.[70] Descent (released by Parallax Software in 1995), a game in which the player pilots a spacecraft around caves and factory ducts, was a truly three-dimensional first-person shooter. It abandoned sprites and ray casting in favour of polygons and six degrees of freedom.[10][55]

Shortly after the release of Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, id Software released the much anticipated Quake, originally envisioned as a sort of fantasy online world (the name Quake originally referred to a Thor-like character devised in the developers' earlier D&amp;D sessions), where armies of players would fight each other in large persistent battles—much as would be seen in later MMORPGs like Lineage and Dark Age of Camelot.[71] Like Doom, Quake was influential and genre-defining, featuring fast-paced, hellishly gory gameplay, but used 3D polygons instead of sprites. It was centered around online gaming and featured multiple match types still found in first-person shooter games today. It was the first game to have a significant following of player clans (though the concept had existed previously as a story element in the Mech Warrior series, and guilds had already become common in MUDs by that time), and would help spur the growth in popularity of LAN parties such as QuakeCon.[71] The game's popularity and use of 3D polygonal graphics also helped to expand the growing market for video card hardware;[10][55][72] and the additional support and encouragement for game modifications attracted players who wanted to tinker with the game and create their own modules.[71]

The first landmark, best-selling console first-person shooter was Rare's GoldenEye 007, based on the James Bond film and released on the Nintendo 64 in 1997. Highly acclaimed for its atmospheric single-player levels and well designed multiplayer maps, it featured the ability to aim at a precise spot on the screen, a sniper rifle, the ability to perform headshots, and the incorporation of stealth elements.[10][55][73][74] Alongside Doom, the game's director and producer Martin Hollis credited Sega's 1994 on-rails light gun shooter Virtua Cop as a strong influence on the GoldenEye developers' adoption of features such as gun reloading, position-dependent hit reaction animations, penalties for killing innocent characters, and an alternate aiming system that is activated upon pressing the R button of the Nintendo 64 controller.[5] Time Crisis was also an influence on the game. [3]

Valve's Half-Life was released in 1998, based upon Quake's graphics technology.[75] Initially met with only mild anticipation, it went on to become an unprecedented commercial success.[55][76] While previous first-person shooters had focused on visceral gameplay with comparatively weak plots, Half-Life had a strong narrative; the game featured no cut scenes but remained in the first-person perspective at all times. It featured innovations such as non-enemy characters (featured somewhat earlier in titles such as Strife)[77] but did not employ power-ups.[10] Half-Life was praised for its artificial intelligence, selection of weapons and attention to detail; and, along with its sequel Half-Life 2 (released in 2004), is consistently reviewed as one of finest examples of the genre.[78]

Id's Quake III Arena and Epic's Unreal Tournament, both released in 1999, were popular for their frenetic and accessible online multiplayer modes; both featured very limited single player gameplay.[55] Counter-Strike was also released in 1999, a Half-Life modification with a counter-terrorism theme. The game and later versions (the latest being Counter-Strike: Source, released in 2004) went on to become by far the most popular multiplayer first-person shooter and computer game modification ever, with over 90,000 players competing online at any one time during its peak.[55][75] That same year, the shooter-based stealth game Metal Gear Solid: Integral included a first-person mode that allowed the whole game to be played from a first-person perspective.[79] Also that year, SEGA attempted to introduce the genre to the arcades with Outrigger, which allowed the player to switch between first-person and third-person perspectives. It was ported to the Dreamcast almost two years late and was still considered one of the best-looking FPS games at the time. [4] The arcade version also featured a unique control scheme, where an eyeball controller gives the player free and real eye moves. [5] Atlus also attempted a unique take on the genre that year: Maken X, a "first-person slasher" game.

21st century developments: 2000–present

At the E3 game show in 1999, Bungie Studios unveiled a real-time strategy game called Halo; at the following E3, an overhauled third-person shooter version was displayed. Later in 2000 Bungie was bought by Microsoft Corporation; Halo: Combat Evolved was revamped, and released as a first-person shooter, becoming one of the launch titles for the Xbox. It was a runaway critical and commercial success, and is considered a premier console first-person shooter. It featured narrative and storyline reminiscent of Bungie's earlier Marathon series but now told largely through in-game dialog and cut scenes. It also received acclaim for its characters, both the protagonist, Master Chief and its alien antagonists. The sequel, Halo 2 (2004), brought the popularity of online-gaming to the console market through the medium of Xbox Live, on which it was the most played game for almost two years.[55] Deus Ex, released by Ion Storm in 2000, featured a levelling system similar to that found in role-playing games; it also had multiple narratives depending on how the player completed missions and won acclaim for its serious, artistic style.[55] The Resident Evil games Survivor in 2000 and Dead Aim in 2003 attempted to combine the light gun and first-person shooter genres along with survival horror elements.[80] Metroid Prime, released in 2002 for the GameCube, a highly praised console first-person shooter, incorporated action/adventure elements such as jumping puzzles and built on the Metroid series of 2D side-scrolling platform-adventures.[55] The game is credited for popularizing "exploration, puzzle-solving, platforming and story" in the genre, for "breaking the genre free from the clutches of Doom," and for taking a major "stride forward for first-person games."[1]

DOOM 3, released in 2004, placed a greater emphasis on survival horror and frightening the player than previous games in the series and was a critically acclaimed best seller,[81][82] though some commentators felt it lacked gameplay substance and innovation, putting too much emphasis on impressive graphics.[9] In 2005, a film based on DOOM emulated the viewpoint and action of a first-person shooter, but was critically derided as deliberately unintelligent and gratuitously violent.[83]

In 2005, F.E.A.R. was acclaimed[84] for successfully combining first-person shooter gameplay with a Japanese horror atmosphere.[85] The Crytek games Far Cry (2004), Crysis (2007) and Far Cry 2 (2008) would break new ground in terms of graphics and large, open-ended level design,[55][86] whereas Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007), Resistance: Fall of Man (2006) and its sequel Resistance 2 (2008) presented increasingly refined linear levels and narratives,[87] with the fast pace and linearity of the Call of Duty games bearing a resemblance to rail shooters.[6][7]

In recent years, first-person shooters have adopted elements from other shooter sub-genres. An example of this is the linearity of rail shooters that has been adopted to a certain extent by first-person shooters such as the Call of Duty series to provide a more fast-paced and cinematic experience.[6][7] Another example is the cover system, which was previously used in light gun shooters such as Time Crisis (1995),[88] stealth games such as Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001),[89] and third-person shooters such as WinBack (1999)[88] and Kill Switch (2003).[90] In 2006, Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas introduced the cover mechanic to first-person shooters, where initiating cover leads to the viewpoint switching from a first-person perspective to a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective,[91] a viewpoint similar to the third-person shooters Resident Evil 4 (2005)[92] and Gears of War (2006).[91] In 2007, Time Crisis 4 introduced a first-person shooter mode that incorporates the first-person cover system of its predecessors.[93] In 2008, Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway used a similar approach to Rainbow Six: Vegas, switching from first-person to third-person view when taking cover.[94] On the other hand, Killzone 2 in 2009 implemented a cover system that always remains in first-person view.[95] That same year, Call of Juarez also featured a cover system.[96] A more recent third-person shooter element adopted by first-person shooters is the slide-boost mechanic, introduced by the third-person shooter Vanquish in 2010; since then, several first-person shooters released in 2011 have incorporated similar slide-boost mechanics, including Bulletstorm, Crysis 2,[97] and Killzone 3.[98]

Recent developments include the addition of 3D television and stereoscopic games designed specifically for 3D systems, such as games like Killzone 3. With stereoscopic 3D, first-person shooters take on a new feel during gameplay due to the increased visual effects created from the 3D screen.[99] The Nintendo 3DS handheld takes this concept further with autostereoscopic 3D, which doesn't require the use of 3D glasses and can be used in conjunction with the device's touchscreen and motion sensing capabilities.[100]

The use of motion detecting game controllers, popularized by the release of the Wii in 2006, is considered an evolution for the genre due to allowing greater precision than conventional input devices. However, despite the Wii Remote's greater precision (for which it is widely used with light gun shooters), its limitations when it comes to camera control remains a challenge for developers that has prevented its widespread use among first-person shooters.[101] The GunCon 3 peripheral used with Time Crisis 4 s first-person shooter mode attempts to resolve this by featuring two analog sticks for moving and camera control in addition to aiming with the gun.[102] This is also no longer an issue for the Nintendo 3DS, which uses a gyroscope and motion sensor to change the viewpoint on screen as the handheld is moved around,[100] as has been demonstrated for the upcoming 3DS first-person shooter remake Galaga 3D Impact.[103][104] Other upcoming first-person shooters for the 3DS include Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D[105] and The Conduit 3DS,[106] both of which allow switching between first-person and third-person perspectives.[105][107]

A recent unique take on the genre is Second Person Shooter Zato, an experimental "second-person shooter" released by Japanese indie developer Himo in 2011. It uses a "second-person perspective" to display the game from the viewpoint of the enemies looking at the player, rather than the other way around, and makes use of a split screen to show the perspectives of multiple enemies. The game's perspective was inspired by surveillance cameras, while the title takes its name from Zatoichi due to the player character's inability to see.[108]

List of popular FPS video games


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External Links

  • History of games blog about history of video games (from 80's to 2010's)
  • provides an alphabetical list of First-person shooters, as well as screenshots, videos, demos, soundtracks, and full games.

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