Just when the genre seems to run aground, a truly great game comes along revitalizing the space and reminding gamers the reason they love shooters to begin with. First person shooters have long been a gaming staple, with hundreds of shooters released over the last three decades. This is a collection of those games.
- Halo 2
Besides being one of the best multiplayer first-person shooters of all-time — loaded with classic maps, great weapons, fun vehicles, and endless player customization — Halo 2 was the killer app for online console multiplayer. Throw in an epic story (minus that ending, anyway), gorgeous graphics, and one of the best game soundtracks in the history of gaming, and Halo 2’s place in the FPS pantheon is unquestionable. Halo 2’s party system was the first time friends could group up and STAY together after each match.
And Quake is where FPS games made a bigger leap into online action, and the entries that followed pushed that point even harder. The grim, gothic look was massively appealing, despite the very sharp angles everywhere, while the Nine Inch Nails. After a double dose of Doom, id Software made the huge pivot towards Quake, its first shooter to use a proper 3D engine – and the results were spectacular. The soundtrack was even more brilliant.
Extravagant kills mean more points and more points mean more ammo to kill with. A vast, stacking, interconnecting roster of named killing methods (which cover everything from shooting an enemy in the balls to lassoing him and then kicking him into a murderous plant), that can be combed near-endlessly, to create gloriously brutal takedowns. On Bulletstorm’s surface, you’ll find a brash, knowing, sitting on a layer of the most gloriously creative cursing you’ve ever heard in a video game.
- Battlefield 1
This game works so well as a multiplayer shooter because of how finely it’s balanced – there’s no class, weapon, or tactic that gives an unfair advantage over others. By their very nature, WW1 weapons lack true precision and make up for this via brute force and close-quarters effectiveness, so this really levels the playing field online. It’s got all the familiar BF modes that we’ve grown to love, including Conquest, Rush, and Domination, but this game adds the formidable Operations mode that takes the push and pulls of war to new heights.
- Team Fortress 2
The heavy for example with his massive health pool and bullet spewing minigun was in stark contrast to the spy, who took up the visage of other classes in an attempt to infiltrate and sabotage the enemy team. This dichotomy created strengths and weakness in each class that was only offset by communication and team play. Gone was the concept of deathmatch and in its place a plethora of objectives designed to facilitate interactions between the game’s two teams and nine crazy classes. Picking up where the original left off, Team Fortress 2 shattered the conventional tropes of competitive team-based.
- Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
And yes there was a time when the words groundbreaking and innovative were associated with a Call of Duty game. The formula of arcade military action, killstreak rewards and perhaps most importantly RPG loadout and perk progression all started with the groundbreaking, innovative and excellent Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. An immaculate single player campaign paired with a robust multiplayer suite set a new bar for what a sixty dollar console purchase should offer. Love it or hate it, there is no denying that Call of Duty is the most successful FPS franchise in gaming history.
It’s impossible to divorce Overwatch’s winsome characters from the game’s appeal, but don’t let them overshadow the endless smart design choices that Blizzard made for its first foray into action gaming since, er… Blackthorne. Leave it to Blizzard to instantly restore my faith in a genre that I was ready to give up for good. Starting with the fundamentals of a class-based multiplayer shooter, the studio proceeded to sand off every little rough edge left over from games like Team Fortress 2. Seriously, if you’ve been on the internet at all since May 2016, you’ve almost definitely seen at least.
- Half-Life 2
Just compare popular games from before Half-Life 2 and after Half-Life 2 and its influence will be made immediately clear. It feels trite to praise the many individual advancements of Half-Life 2 (physics-based weapons, keenly intelligent enemies, and characters that feel like more than walking quest-givers, to name a few) because pretty much every video game ever has tried to do the same ever since. It’s the one that lets you fight alien fascists by launching toilets at their heads.
- DOOM (1993)
It was the first such game to serve up proper 3D, or at least to do so in a smooth, playable way; it standardized the FPS weapon set of pistol, shotgun, machine gun, energy, rocket launcher and totally-insane-last-resort weapon; it made blood and gore key parts of the FPS experience; it birthed the idea of varied baddies who needed to be taken down in different ways and possibly with different weapons; it basically set the tone for everything that followed for years after.
- Counter-Strike 1.6
To master this game is to master the essence of what multiplayer first-person shooters are at their core, and what makes them rewarding. Counter-Strike’s balance of sublime weapon mechanics, precision movement, deep strategy, and an endlessly high skill ceiling were and are the gold standard to which all competitive FPS games are compared. The gameplay of Counter-Strike 1.6 is perfect — or so close to it — that in the 17 years since it debuted. Not classes, nor loadouts, not perks or progression… just pure skill, strategy and teamwork.