Okay, being honest, I feel First-Person Shooters have received a bad rep, among game genres.
When you think of FPS games, odds are you don’t think much of the in-depth story, of the complex gameplay. They have created controversy regarding violence, spawned the stereotype of the vulgar, angry 12 year old, and, honestly, tend to be perceived as very simplistic. RPGs, Strategy, Adventure, Fighting, even Third Person Shooter games, considering Fallout and Mass Effect, have received far better reputations.
However- the FPS genre has a lot more going for it than bad stereotypes.
When done right, I firmly believe that the FPS games can excel in ways that other games simply cannot. The intensity and quickness that FPS games provide makes for exciting gameplay to watch, interesting story-telling, as well as, of course, unique interactions with other players. Despite the creation of toxicity at times, this communication with others has allowed for some great, great fun, something different than any other kind of video game. For this countdown, I’ll talk about some of my favorite First Person Shooters, the ones that exemplify the best the genre has to offer. The only rule here: just one entry per franchise is allowed. That being said- let’s start it off!
1. Titanfall 2
The 2016 sequel that made a name off of the inclusion of giant robots, Titanfall 2 aimed to build off everything that the 2014 original had provided, and improve it. In this endeavor, it was almost certainly successful, providing a story mode, and expanding upon its already great multiplayer experience. Characterized by providing a huge array of movement options, Titanfall 2 promised fast, exhilarating, satisfying combat, and it did just that.
I will be honest here, and say that the story mode of Titanfall 2 was not the draw- it was decent, but not the main purpose of the game. It is made very clear that Titanfall 2 is far more about the gameplay experience- the interaction of giant, towering mechs that, in-game, feel imposing, powerful, and threatening. The pure feel of this game is something to marvel at. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of seeing your Titan drop out of the sky, towering over your opponents. However, the movement, the speed with which you can maneuver in Titanfall 2, makes even regular gameplay feel fast-paced and exciting.
In this way, Titanfall 2 builds upon one of the numerous strengths of the FPS genre: its ability to convey a sense of speed and thrill. It’s not a game that aims to draw your mind in for an intellectually stimulating discourse- rather, it is the movie blockbuster, the one that you get lost in, and purely enjoy. The game is fun- and that’s all I need to know.
2. Modern Warfare 2
Everyone hates on Call of Duty for something- being a series of sell out games, creating the first of many toxic online communities, and being a simplistic first person shooter game series in general. However, while there are entries in the series that are certainly worthy of criticism, Modern Warfare 2 is not one of them.
Modern Warfare 2, despite mountains of hate, is one of the best quintessential FPS games. Gameplay-wise, it defined a genre- the ability to aim down the sights was made natural, the multiplayer experience, although not original, was refined, providing many different game types on many different, yet memorable maps that made each game different, and fun. Different guns felt different, killstreaks felt satisfying, and the inclusion of “special ops” guaranteed that if you were bored of the multiplayer experience, there was still something else to test your skills upon. And of course, the story mode, the campaign of Modern Warfare 2 was surprisingly thrilling- the scenarios you find yourself in are exciting to experience, and the drama that unfolds, I could easily imagine in a movie.
Combining a great (if short) story, with some great gameplay and engaging online modes, Modern Warfare 2, despite huge amounts of criticism from some, cannot be underestimated. If Titanfall 2 is a technical, fast-paced marvel, then Modern Warfare 2 is the accessible, grounded, yet satisfying game that anyone can pick up and enjoy.
3. Bioshock Infinite
If you’re looking for a great story in a FPS title, then look no further than Bioshock Infinite. The Bioshock games, as a whole, have wowed people, pushing the envelope for FPS games in regards to gameplay, ambiance, and story-telling potential. But Bioshock Infinite- man, they blew it out of the water with this one.
Set in 1912, on the floating city of Columbia, you play as Booker DeWitt, on a quest to find and rescue the young woman known as Elizabeth. On the way, you get caught up in the politics of Columbia, conflicts between the ruling class and the Vox Populi, and revelations behind its founding that make your mission a lot more complicated. Time travel, floating cities, and psychokinetic powers combine, to make Bioshock Infinite a FPS that makes a name for itself.
The game is almost entirely based upon its story, and that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, it manages to convey huge amounts of thematic complexity, while creating characters that are engaging and deep at the same time. Visually, Bioshock Infinite is a spectacle, conceptually, it is creative and inventive, and from a gameplay perspective, despite not providing the most complex elements of all time, it is enough. The FPS perspective, in this case, feels far more like a vessel through which to experience the wonderful story, rather than provide the main draw of the game- and I believe that is just a testament to the variety such games are capable of.
4. Halo Reach
The Halo series, in many ways, emphasizes to me the creativity and flexibility that FPS games are capable of. With generally great online features, the Halo Forge, and engaging stories, the Halo series, with small exceptions, has been a joy to keep up with, and no game emphasizes that joy better to me, than Halo Reach.
Halo Reach is a game that, in my mind, provides the greatest balance between multiplayer experience, story, and gameplay. A solid game in all three respects, balanced in a way that few games are, Reach provides simple and clean quality. The multiplayer experience is fun, similarly to the previous games, with huge potential both for the professional player, as well as the casual one. Story-wise, the plot revolving around the fall of the planet of Reach, and the Noble squad, is engaging, memorable, with an ending that exemplifies just what the FPS genre has to offer, in regards to telling a story. And of course, gameplay wise, there’s simply…just, so much flexibility.
Honestly, what makes this game a joy to me is the Forge mode. The ability to create your own maps, your own gametypes, that exploit the physics of the game world to their limits, is an absolute joy. Making your way through what is essentially a trash compactor, taking down a slow, melee-only juggernaut, or figuring out legitimately challenging puzzles, Halo Reach pushes the envelope as far as what you are able to do in an FPS. Combining these factors together, I can definitely say that Halo Reach is a gem in the world of FPS games.
Okay, perhaps this was a predictable pick, but can you blame me? Overwatch became a massive hit, sensational fun, and emphasized to me the best strengths that only an FPS can offer.
This game’s gameplay is fast- but not in a Titanfall 2, “there’s so much I can do” kind of way. Rather, it is fast in the same way that League of Legends or DoTA is fast: there are so many different ways in which different heroes can interact with the environment, that it takes a while before you’re able to comprehend it all. However, once you DO get used to each hero, man, you are rewarded with some of the must complex, yet somehow simple-to-understand gameplay I’ve ever seen. Each hero has their role, their set controls and actions available, and those roles are theoretically simple to understand. This allows for gameplay that feels great to the average player, yet still has the potential for huge amounts of growth if the player allows for it.
To augment this feeling, Overwatch is a game that rewards team play in a way that I’ve never seen any other game accomplish. Even simple actions from a hero can feel immensely rewarding, and combining them together with other heroes, other players? Man, the feeling is wonderful. Combine this wonderful teamwork-based dynamic, with a hero roster that shows off great designs, vivid personalities, and interesting backstories, and you have a formula for a great FPS game.