First Person Shooter Limits: Has The Genre Reached Its Peak?

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The Limits of FPS

It all started with a room full of soldiers in a very cramped looking maze of bricks and cement in a game that claimed 3 dimensions through a first person view.  Wolfenstein is the place and games have changed forever because of it.  Many people think Doom was the tipping point, but personally I was hooked when I got the first Wolfenstein Street Fighter mod getting to shoot at crazy E. Hondas waving their thousand hands in your face giving you no chance to survive.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about maybe you should go give it a try.

Whatever the turning point was for yourself personally there was something utterly engaging about putting yourself into the position of the camera and playing as you.  You get to face all the action not as a 2-D sprite running and scrolling across the screen for once and jump into the game.  It was made all the sweeter when you add guns in there.  I guess that was the natural item to place into the hands of the player.  Nothing else could have been more riveting.  The perspective definitely led the industry into a different direction and countless FPS games were made; from the masterful Doom series to the compelling story-telling format from Half-Life there was no stopping the FPS craze.  I can’t forget one important man of steel here as well, and I don’t mean the Master Chief.  Duke Nukem is the man in my eyes.  Not only did the violence fuel a need for more bullets fired and more killing but Duke took the whole maturity to a whole new level.

So what other levels have this genre been pushed up against.  It mashed into the 3rd perspective when vehicles were introduced in games like Battlefield 1942 and Halo.  The experience of war had already been pushed with series like Medal of Honor, but the holistic approach of Battlefield took things far beyond with a seemless experience of the vastness of war.  The only thing that was strange is that an infantry soldier could pilot a plane and a tank as well.

Other games decidedly avoided the strippers and the ships to vouch for multiplayer fun.  The latest and greatest might lie in the latest effort from Valve with Team Fortress 2.  What spells fun better than burning and exploding cartoons (especially those damn spies)!  Other games like America’s Army also took the same approach making the game exclusively played online.  America’s Army was also free, and not only that it provided a more realistic experience of the warzone with its manipulation of speed and accuracy of firing as well as a more realistic aspects of dying with 2-3 bullet body shot kills and bleeding to death with friendly fire in the mix.  Even the backfiring of the RPG rockets could cause death to teammates standing in its way.

So far we’ve got the originals masterpieces that started it all, then changes include the addition of more mature nude content, increased scope and story-telling, addition of vehicles, exclusively multiplayer, and additional realism.  Other notable mentions are free-to-play and changes in guns, but that’s always expected.  How much more can developers add?

It seems as though the genre is moving towards greater realism with improved physics and visuals, or anti-realism in the case of Team Fortress 2.  Much of the gameplay still revolves around the aim and kill motive with the extreme realism of America’s Army shoved into the background in favor of quicker action and the evasion of injury affecting performance.  With the way things are looking I’m not too sure there’s much left to offer in the FPS of the future.  Better graphics and physics can only do so much when the gunning and the gameplay is very much the same at it’s core.  Run and gun is how it’s done.  That’s evident from the height of Counter Strike mania.  Who wants to aim carefully when you can jump with 2 life points and get a headshot moving and full speed.

From my experience the fun and minimal strategy of Team Fortress is very attractive and admittedly addicting, but it does run out it’s appeal at some point.  I enjoyed the approach of America’s Army while it lasted, but it has yet to be improved upon.  You haven’t understood the real tension of a FPS without feeling the sight of an enemy soldier or the gunshots behind your back causing you to jump in your seat.  There is literally a fear induced in you when you feel like you can die if you make one wrong move or don’t plan your attack well enough.  Not only that but there is the penalty of having to wait for the round to end before getting to play again.  That’s right when you die you are dead.  No respawning.  I guess people don’t find it as fun because it’s challenging.  Challenges aren’t fun, right?  Well I still want developers to push the limits of simulation FPS, but unfortunately all that’s out on the market at the moment is this US Army funded effort to recruit more soldiers. 

If there are flight simulators, driving simulators, and even civilization similators why isn’t there more interest in FPS simulation?