What was once just another gaming genre has grown to become one of the most dominant genres in games today. For better or worse, with games like Titanfall, Destiny, Wolfenstein: The New Order on the horizon, and Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts still selling millions, the first-person shooter isn’t going anywhere any time soon. As such, we decided this week’s Top 5 would celebrate the genre by presenting The Top 5: first-person shooters of all time!
First person shooter games aren’t necessarily my favorite genre, but I’ve played enough of them over the years to have a formulated opinion of which ones I hold in high regard. Here’s my contribution to this week’s Top 5!
5. Catacomb 3D – My first foray into first person shooters wasn’t Wolfenstein 3D. It was another game id Software made called Catacomb 3D that, for all intents and purposes, was practically the precursor to Heretic and Hexen. The game wasn’t particularly amazing, but it showed me that 3D gaming was coming and of course, a year later, id would release Wolfenstein 3D to the critical acclaim of many critics at the time. Without this game, I would never have been open to the idea of first person shooters in the first place.
4. Clive Barker’s Undying – There’s been plenty of horror first person shooters over the years, but none as terrifying or as interesting to me as Clive Barker’s Undying. It was once slated to come out on the PlayStation 2 and was canned due to low sales on PC, but thankfully I had an awesome PC that could run this bad boy. It’s unlike most FPS games released at the time in that the developers weren’t constantly trying to flood your screen with a ton of enemies. The enemies existed just long enough so that they could maintain the suspense and action that the game was supposed to convey. It also gave me a glimpse into the possibilities of a future that’s filled with Unreal engine based games. If you get a chance to play this game, do it!
3. Doom 2 – I don’t know if any of you know this, but I was into modding games around the time Doom 2 came out. I was so hooked on it that I had practically replaced the entirety of the whole game with my own levels and learned how game design, level design, and balancing works hand in hand with creating a fun game. It’s because of this book that I bought a huge book about Doom, learning much about how to create textures, replace music, and create some of the more memorable levels in the game. And how could I not be inspired? They had an Aliens Total Conversion mod (that was better than Aliens Colonial Marines. That’s right, you heard me) that was incredible and inspiring that I just HAD to try my hand at it! I think I made more levels in Doom 2 than I actually played, now that I think about it…
2. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – The snappiness and precision of control that Call of Duty 4 afforded us is unparalleled to this day. It gave us a frenetic first person shooter experience that’s set in modern day military conflicts and its twists, surprises, and variety of mission types are ingrained in my brain as some of the best this industry has seen in a long time. Its revolutionary Perks system redefined multiplayer games and I’ll always be fond of those times when I would play this game online with my college buddies and my friends from work. Amazing.
1. Medal of Honor: Allied Assault – Before Infinity Ward existed, its founders created a company called 2015 and this game was their initial offering. To be clear, there’s nothing really revolutionary about this game, but the one thing that I do recall that really stuck with me was its rendition of the Omaha Beach landing which, at the time, was never recreated in a video game. The scene was so popular that this prompted EA to create a smaller version of the same experience in Medal of Honor: Frontline. But the scale and brutality of the Omaha Beach scene is merely one of the few things that Medal of Honor: Allied Assault did right. I’ll always credit Medal of Honor: Allied Assault for providing me first hand with an immersive experience that made me feel like I was in the trenches with allies, defeating an evil empire that wanted to impose its twisted ideals across the globe. And, of course, born out of the lessons they’ve learned from developing this game, 2015’s founders would later go on to create Infinity Ward and the rest, as they say, is history.
This week’s honorable mention goes to Goldeneye 007. I’ll be the first to admit that Goldeneye on Nintendo 64 has not aged well over the years, but that does not change the fact that this was THE first person shooter to play in 1997 and well into 1998. While the single player campaign was great, it was the multiplayer that really gave Goldeneye its legs. Everyone I knew that was interested in the genre was completely addicted to its split screen multiplayer mode for up to 4 players. The gunplay was deep, the levels were varied and there were tons of options to keep things interesting. Goldeneye deserves its place in history alongside the greatest first person shooters.
5. Doom – Why did I include Doom on this list and not Wolfenstein 3D? The answer is simply because Doom was the first person shooter that introduced me to the genre. Granted, by today’s standards, it is primitive, but back in the day, it was innovative and addicting. Not only that, but the levels were designed well, with lots of secrets to discover and reasons to play through the game again and again. It was also pretty scary for its time. Castle Wolfenstein 3D and Doom are basically the games responsible for how the FPS genre developed over the years, and they each deserve a lot of credit.
4. Halo 2 – The original Halo deserves a place on this list as well for having a great campaign and excellent multiplayer options, not to mention for singlehandedly selling millions of Xbox consoles. But Halo 2 gets the spot for not only being a worthy sequel, but for how fun its multiplayer mode was. Unlike Halo—which did not officially support online play (though it was possible via a few technical tricks)—Halo 2 took the series online in a big way, and made a strong argument for Xbox Live. It became the best-selling game on the system and was the subject of countless LAN parties and fierce competition. It also introduced a matchmaking system that kept track of player rank for determining matchups, and a playlist system that kept things moving along. Between these “quality of life” improvements and addicting gameplay, it’s no wonder that people continued to play Halo 2 for years to come, and that it would remain the most popular game on Xbox Live until Gears of War.
3. Half-Life – This was a difficult decision for me, because Half-Life 2 could have easily earned this spot for its advancements in storytelling through the use of advanced facial expressions and its physics based gameplay. However, I decided on the original Half-Life for its more significant place in history. Half-Life proved that there was more to first person shooters than space marines and aliens. It brought players into the game through a slow, methodical introduction that introduced both character and conflict. It manipulated the setting in ways that were both frightening and engaging. It challenged the player with not only monsters and enemies, but with difficult puzzles. It could be argued that the game’s greatest obstacles had to be overcome by using one’s intellect as opposed to one’s trigger finger. But most importantly, it changed the very thought process behind the design of a single player campaign in a first person shooter for every game that followed.
2. Counter-Strike – In terms of team based first person shooters, there can be no arguing that Counter-Strike raised every bar and set a ton of standards that exist in the genre to this day. Despite its humble beginnings as a mod for Half-Life, Counter-Strike turned into a phenomenon, and now stands on its own as one of the greatest first person shooters of all time. With an increased emphasis on realism, a variety of objectives, fantastic maps (de_dust could be the most played map of all time for all I know) and a dedicated base of players, Counter-Strike grew in popularity virally. Even an “RPG-guy” like me got completely hooked.
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – I had a difficult time choosing between Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty 2 for this list, but in terms of the more fully featured product, Modern Warfare inched ahead. Both games had absolutely incredible single player campaigns. I played through each of them on Veteran, and found the experience to be both painfully challenging and incredibly rewarding. I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of my accomplishments as a gamer as when I completed Call of Duty 2 on Veteran or earned the Mile High Club achievement in Modern Warfare. What I love about the difficulty of those games is that it never feels unfair. It’s hard as heck, but when you die, there’s a good reason, and it’s not something dumb like infinitely spawning enemies. Where Modern Warfare excelled ahead of Call of Duty 2 was in the multiplayer mode. To put it simply, the game modernized playing first person shooters online on consoles, and many of the game’s innovations are still being implemented in the latest first person shooters. The series might be growing stale, but there were two very good reasons it became popular in the first place: Call of Duty 2 and especially Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
5. Star Wars: Republic Commando – This game came out during the PS2 era and seemed to either go unnoticed or was missed by the video game community. Regardless, Republic Commando was the first game based on Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, and 3 that didn’t suck. It’s also the first game that turned storm troopers into heroes instead of villains. The game used squad based tactics that allowed the player to order the squad mates to perform certain functions including reviving the player.
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warefare – This game changed the first person shooter genre. It’s the first game I wanted to play the multiplayer. The single player captivated my attention from the very first commercial. Once I finished, I jumped into multiplayer and never looked back. The perks system made the game fun to play and actually gave beginners like myself a fighting chance and something to strive for.
3. Quake 4 – I never played any of the Quake games until Quake 4. I always saw the game as a multiplayer only title until the release of Quake 4. The story in the game follows the invasion of the Strogg home world by space Marines. The game throws the player up against an unrelenting Strogg hoard in a bid to end the war. Quake 4 isn’t designed to be scary but there were several instances where the lighting in the game gets dark and there are different types of Strogg that will jump out at the player. It’s unfortunate Quake 4 is only playable on Windows XP, I really want to play this game again.
2. Metroid Prime – The first new Metroid game that is released in nine years and it happens to be a first person shooter. I was shocked and impressed with Metroid Prime‘s gameplay. I liked being able to switch between new weapons and the different visors. The level design was excellent and the map the game had did a good job of letting the player know where to go next. The game stayed true to its original series even if the perspective changed.
1. Halo 4 – I really liked Halo 1, 2, and 3 for their single player story but there always seemed to be something missing. Once I played Halo 4, I realized it was the story. Halo 4 told a more cohesive story with a lead character that actually spoke more than four words a chapter. I hated multiplayer in the other Halo games but I loved it in Halo 4. The newest addition to the multiplayer is a mode called Spartan Ops which is a story oriented hoard mode. The thing I loved best about Spartan ops was the new story cinematics that were released with new mission based objectives.
5. Red Faction – The original Red Faction for the PS2 was the first FPS I played on the console and I played it over and over again a dozen times. While the story was derivative of movies like Total Recall and even games like Half-Life, the shooting was fun, the violence was brutal and Geo-Mod technology was incredibly impressive for its time. Hell, it’s still impressive because no games have even tried it since. You would think with the technology being as good as it is today, someone would try to ape it. Instead we get destructible buildings like in Battlefield, but nothing beats blasting a hole clear through a whole wall through the corner then setting up and aiming for your opponents as they walk by unsuspectingly as you fire a rocket at them and watch their split-screen as it careens towards them, exploding their body into bloody bits in multiplayer.
4. The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay – If anyone would have told me that a game based on the Riddick film series would not only be good but also one of the best games of the generation, I would have laughed in their delusional face. That is, until I played it. Cinematic, innovative, violent and offering several games worth of gameplay variety, Butcher Bay remains to this day one of my all time favourites of any genre. It’s really that good.
3. Half-Life 2 – What can be said about Half-Life 2 that hasn’t already been said a millions times across hundreds of outlets? It’s an amazing game with an amazing story, and introduced amazing physics-based puzzles. Episodes 1 and 2 are more of the amazing same and I too, like millions of others are waiting for the words “Half-Life 3, confirmed” to become a reality.
2. Rainbow Six: Vegas – To this day I have never seen better teammate AI than in Rainbow Six: Vegas. Giving commands to “breach and clear” or “smoke and clear” always, without fail, sent your AI teammates into a room and they would flashbang, smoke, grenade the room, and kill everyone until no one was left standing. “Weapons free” meant they could shoot “Tangos” on sight, “Go silent” caused them to attach their suppressors and so on. In fact, the AI was so good you could play whole levels without firing a shot. Yeah, the story was spectacular but the gameplay was fun and the idea to set the game in Sin City was a stroke of genius. Coupled with an amazing multiplayer that I still go back to, Rainbow Six: Vegas is tough to beat….except by one game….
1. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare – I’m sure the more venomous readers will seethe at the idea of putting a Call of Duty game at the top of a list, and frankly I don’t care. Before the accusations of “copy and pasting” (which is beyond absurd) and complaints about the game engine, there was Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. With an amazing single-player campaign that dared to kill the player in a nuclear blast, the AC-130 mission, or stealthily making your way through Chernobyl in a suit covered in Ghillie suit, the game was top tier entertainment, wrapped in a beautiful 60fps exterior with incredibly tight controls and mechanics. In fact, the controls are so good that nearly every shooter since has co-opted the left trigger aims, right trigger shoots control scheme. And then there is the multiplayer. Addictive as all hell, memorable maps, killstreaks, level progression and weapon upgrades, if ever a game defined value for me, it was this one. I played it well after the release of Modern Warfare 2, until modders all but ruined the experience. Say what you want about Call of Duty now, but in 2007, this was the best of the best.
5. Unreal Tournament – With wackier and wackier moments becoming regular occurrences in shooters, it seemed appropriate to treat it like a sport. Unreal Tournament does just this, with announcers calling out big moment in a deep, 90’s-like xtreme voice. Action was fast and furious, with a pace way quicker than modern players would be used to. Levels could change gravity in the middle of a map, and there were no loadouts; you hauled your ass to the rocket launcher before the other guys. Classic style deathmatch may no longer be in vogue, but I won’t forget the fun I had with Unreal Tournament.
4. Goldeneye – This is the game that you really got an N64 for when you were a kid. While technically inferior to so many other games, this was possibly the first multiplayer shooter experience for many young gamers. Ignore the fact that after you were damaged by a bullet, you were invincible for a short time. Ignore that you were gaming on a 320 x 240 section of television if you were playing with 4 players. You can’t deny that you had fun with this.
Even though Perfect Dark was a better game on every technical level, people swear by Goldeneye. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.
3. Duke Nukem 3D – Shooters were actually kind of sterile, minus the gratuitous violence, until Duke Nukem came to kick ass. He fought alien bastards in porno theaters, amusement parks, and even on the gridiron. He had attitude and quips to match.
He also had an interesting arsenal with the shrink gun, pipebombs, and don’t forget his sweet jetpack. Duke Nukem 3D and its production values ended up being a step above the previous generation of shooters, headlined by Doom.
2. Halo: Combat Evolved – Blood Gulch, Capture the Flag. No radar. That was the gametype we played in college. You only needed three scores to win, but those 4 on 4 battles, with 2 xboxes and 2 old CRT TVs are something of a cherished memory of mine. Whether it was Derek, whose expert sniping skills made him a VIP target to kill, or Wu, who loved to get the cloak and melee people from behind, Halo: Combat Evolved was a game abount the memories it made in your mind.
Maybe somewhere in your mind, you’ve locked away memories of your own friends and the way they played, and the way you enjoyed Halo together.
1. Marathon – I was a Mac gamer growing up. We didn’t get much. It was pretty rough. However, one weird company out of Chicago called Bungie was putting out some Mac exclusives that were pretty good. Marathon was our answer to Doom, and to this day I say it’s superior. Marathon had the ability to actually look up and down, for instance.
Marathon was a more cerebral game with a deep, twisting story. Halo 4 reused some plot elements from Marathon, especially about when an AI goes rampant. Marathon also has the luxury of answering that question if you pay very close attention to the game. That’s not to say it didn’t have its action moments. Marathon also featured high-quality LAN multiplayer.
The Marathon trilogy was open sourced and is now available on all platforms, completely free of charge with new high-res graphics. Grab it at http://marathon.sourceforge.net/.
So what did you think of this week’s lists? What are your favourite shooters? Let us know in the comments below!