In this next era, first-person shooter engines had enough power that they were no longer the focus. Developers would now turn to gameplay concepts and experiment.
Goldeneye 007, by Rare, was one of the first shooters released on a game console, and was also one of the first to attempt a “cinematic experience”. To that end, it introduced the idea of stealth gameplay and varied mission objectives, which fit into the context of the story and was not simply another shoot-em-up.
Goldeneye would also pioneer the idea of sniper rifles, allowing players to wipe out enemies from far away.
Deus Ex and System Shock
Following the footsteps of Marathon, the Deus Ex (by Ion Storm) and System Shock (by Looking Glass) games would both strive to be greater sci-fi story-based games. Deus Ex would go and become a scifi-thriller, while System Shock would become a scifi-horror game.
Both incorporated role-playing game conventions, such as stats and character development, to their advantage and became more than simple shooters. Both also would have navigatable cyberspace areas, likely inspired by Tron.
Unreal Tournament, Counter Strike, and Starsiege
With the releases of Unreal Tournament, Starsiege: Tribes, and Counter Strike, competitive gaming became a major phenomenon. Interestingly, each would utilize different approaches.
Unreal Tournament continues the trend of Quake arena gunfights, emphasizing good aiming and jumping skills. Starsiege added the element of verticality with jetpacks. Games would often have players flying through the air at high velocities, barely touching the ground, as they fired missiles and rockets at one another. Counter Strike focused on solid tactical teamwork, requiring teammates to work together to complete objectives before the other team.
Rainbow Six, by Ubisoft, would introduce the subgenre of intense, realistic, tactical first-person shooters. Enemies (and yourself) could be dispatched with just a few bullets, so proper planning and movement were paramount.
It would feature the use of highly-intelligent AI teammates, who could be coordinated in various maneuvers to clear out terrorists and rescue hostages.
The golden age of shooters would see its growing prominence to gamers, becoming more prolific on computers as well as moving to consoles. Existing gameplay mechanics would be refined and developed as new ones would be conceived.