PS3 corner The Genres
A Farm production
Any game where you shoot enemies with a gun (or some other projectile launching weapon) in a 3D environment (typically 2D shooters would be included within either platformers or shoot-em-ups), but without a significant adventure or role-playing game element. Despite the generally prolific use of guns, there is also often a strategic role for non-projectile weaponry (such as knives, baseball bats, crowbars, etc).
The genre can be further subdivided between first-person shooters (or FPS), where the camera angle is from the eyes of the shooter and third-person shooters (or TPS), with the camera angle from some raised vantage point behind the shooter; and between action shooters, with no specific aim other than run around and kill, kill, kill, and tactical shooters, where you are required to complete a series of strategic tasks and generally use stealth rather than constantly keep moving and shooting. That said, there will always shooters which blur such distinctions or for which the above definition doesn't quite cut it.
History (all formats)
Shooters, like driving games, have been a staple feature of gaming machines over the years, whether they are set in the future, present or past; involve humans vs humans, aliens vs aliens, or the classic humans vs aliens; encourage access to vehicles or insist you solely roam around on foot; the list goes on.
In spaceman's mind, shooters started off (like many classic genres) with arcade coin-ops in the late 1980s, subsequently converted to mighty Spectrum (obviously losing the graphical quality but crucially retaining the playability). The two that spacemen most remembers that era are Operation Wolf, a first-person shooter since included in the Taito Legends pack on multiple formats, and Cabal, a third-person shooter which introduced more tactical elements such as stunt rolls for cover as well as two-player co-op mode. However, both games' environments were fairly limited, with each level limited to one screen, with no scrolling (although Operation Thunderbolt, the sequel to Operation Wolf, had a scrolling effect).
The next key event for spaceman in the history of shooters was the release of Doom 2 in 1994 on PC (or, to give its full title, Doom II: Hell On Earth). Whilst the scene was really set by Doom in 1993 (itself preceded by Wolfenstein 3D in 1992), it was Doom 2 that captured spaceman's imagination. There were no fundamental changes in gameplay between Doom and Doom 2, it just got bigger and better, with larger maps and more monsters. And, of the two, it was the game that spaceman first played. (Wolfenstein 3D spawned a sequel in 2001, the atmospheric, World War II-based Return To Castle Wolfenstein.)
The combination of sprawling maps with vast amounts of ever larger alien baddies (the visceral slaying of which, particularly with the double-barrelled shotgun, or Super Shotgun, never failed to disappoint) and the addition of local network multi-player deathmatch capabilities ensured that Doom 2 would remain in the upper echelons of shooters for years to come.
Having hit such success with the Doom series (a third in the series, naturally titled Doom 3, was belatedly but successfully released in 2004), it was unsurprising that id Software moved on to attempt bigger and better things (if only to take advantage of the perpetually more powerful PC platform) with the Quake series. Their next (first-person) shooter release was Quake in 1996, which introduced a more genuine 3D element (i.e. you could look up and down, a feature not available in Doom or Doom 2. There followed a number of follow-ups: Quake II (1997), Quake III Arena (1999), although this is not really a sequel given its multi-player focus, and Quake 4 (2005).
However, the Quake series never really got spaceman hooked, with the more raw, basic set-up of Doom 2 more appealing. This changed, however, with the release of Unreal Tournament in 1999, which cut out the single player storyline aspect of Unreal (1998), focussing purely on multiplayer action (with the now ubiquitous deathmatch mode, plus team deathmatch, capture the flag, domination, last man standing and assault). And if you didn't have a network connection, or didn't fancy getting trashed by random faceless players, you could play the single player version against AI bots, which was actually very effective. One key feature was the inclusion of alternate fire method for each weapon, but ultimately it was a very slick and addictive game.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Unreal Tournament was out at around the same time as Quake III Arena. Apart from the above two, the Unreal series comprised Unreal Tournament 2003 (2002), Unreal II (2003), Unreal Tournament 2004 (2004), and Unreal Tournament 3 (2007), more of the latter later.
Spaceman would at this time like to confess to never having played Half-Life (1998) or Halo (2001), or their sequels, and appreciates that these have also been seminal shooters of their time. Ah well, this was never advertised to be a balanced viewpoint. However, spaceman did have a brief experience of some four-player split-screen Goldeneye (1997) action on the N64 (before it got, um, stolen from a house in Leeds). Despite not having a clue what was going on, it did appear to be very fab indeed, although this was probably partly the excitement at having four-player capabilities (which every game should have).
Present day (PS3)
The modern yardstick for (action) shooters is undoubtedly the FPS Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007), aka COD4. It combines visceral realism (set in the Middle East in a fictional near-future) with head-thumping, adrenalin-fuelled war-based shooting action. There are no power-ups, death occurs with few direct hits (although non-fatal shots can be recovered from), and it pays largely to be stealthy in the shadows, watching intently for the peripheral movement of dark figures. It boasts a breathtakingly cinematic single player mission game (which, although reported to be relatively short, is deep enough to provide a decent slab of entertainment).
But the online multi-player world is where it's at. With progressive earned experience unlocking weapons and perks, it has a slightly RPG feel, but all the standard game modes of multi-player shooters are there (survival mode being a particular favourite - it's like a game of rugby with guns). In short it's brill and it inspired the COD4 Night.
An alternative to the gritty realism of COD4 is the more fun, third-person shooter Warhawk (2007), a remake of the 1995 PlayStation version (which spaceman never played). Whereas COD4 has you creeping around on foot in the shadows, Warhawk encourages you to charge around and gives you the option of hopping in jeeps, tanks, gun turrets or planes (known as Warhawks). It is very much an arcade shooter - health power-ups can be collected, as well as an array of different weapons, all of which can be carried, unlike COD4's limitation of two guns plus grenades). Whilst COD4 is the more successful, critically acclaimed of the two, Warhawk will always be close to spaceman's heart; partly because it was spaceman's first game on the PS3, but also because fun is a welcome alternative to intensity.
Call Of Duty: World At War aka COD5 was the follow-up to COD4, although it was not strictly a sequel (Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, or COD6, is out later in 2009). The setting was World War II, but this led to the reliance on lesser technology (i.e. worse guns), plus the lack of real development from COD4 did it no favours. Other PS3 shooters in spaceman's possession are Resistance: Fall Of Man (2007), Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas (2007) and Unreal Tournament 3 (2008).
These games and others are considered in more detail in The Games section.
"Doom, Doom 2, Duke Nukem 3D (for the boobs), Quake 3Dfx / Open GL, Quake II, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, Max Payne and F.E.A.R. all ace. Oh aye... and Unreal, UT and UT2004. Halo was a bit shite really. Mega slow on a PC compared to other games which were graphically more superior. It was rubbish on the Xbox as most FPS's are on a console. And it was childish. Goldeneye was okay."