In celebration of Doom’s 20th anniversary I am completely copping out and doing the laziest bit of blogging I can get away with short of leaning on the letter G for 8 pages.
I hereby present my top 10 bestest FPS shooters. None of these, I’d argue, would exist if it wasn’t for el Doomerino.
The Rules: As with all lists, there must be rules dammit, otherwise the whole Godforsaken thing turns into a chaotic shitstorm and we all end up just crying and dribbling in a corner, defecating into a bucket and shovelling cold, ‘own-brand’ beans into our faces straight from the tin. No? Ok well anyway there needs to be rules.
First up, no Doom. This is a legacy list, so the Godfather itself can sit this one out on its mighty, bloody throne and survey the proceedings.
Next, this is strictly FPS in the truest sense of the word. You won’t find games like Hidden & Dangerous and Skyrim on here because although these games and more display elements of FPS in them to varying degrees, they aren’t considered FPS Proper. Counter Strike also isn’t counted because it’s strictly multiplayer, otherwise it would be in.
Also, I have blatantly cheated in that I have grouped up certain franchises to a) free up space on the list and b) ensure I don’t have to pick between more than one game in a series which may be too close to call. Just to add to that blatant disregard for standard list rules, this particular cheat is used on an ad-hoc basis, so it may go for one franchise, but not another…….you’ll see what I mean.
Nothing released this year can qualify. Games need time to settle.
Lastly, this is MY list. This isn’t the BBC so everything you will see is how these games affected me and my personal opinions on them, there’s no impartiality here.
So, in no particular order….
Half Life (Valve)
It had to be, didn’t it? A towering masterpiece in gaming history which has been arguably as influential in the genre as any other game next to Doom itself. This goes for both Half Life and Half Life 2. Gordon Freeman’s silent protagonist is as iconic as they get, and not only did game mechanics take a step up for this, but so did story. Half Life 2 went on to do the impossible and equal it’s predecessor’s brilliance, this time setting the bar in terms of depth of story and character development. Half Life 2 was released in 2004 and though many games have reached up to try and equal or better those dizzying heights in terms of story, in my opinion not a single one has succeeded. 2 masterpieces in 1 franchise, plus a couple of extra episodes which are excellent in their own right. Half Life 3 will be with us one day……please.
This remarkable game was reason enough to own an N64 (notwithstanding the other classics on that brilliant console). For a film nut like me this was a rare (see what I did there) beast, a game that was as good as it’s movie counterpart, and the recreation of various film locations gave this game plenty of replay value. The zooming sniper rifle was nothing short of a revelation and this mechanic very quickly became standard issue in any FPS worth its salt – whether it existed before Goldeneye or not, who the fuck cares, it was this game that made it a requirement in all other shooters to follow. The roster of guns was impressive and the multiplayer was one of the first times I can really remember feeling like a boss owning all my mates as they struggled to defeat me. Hahaha, noobs.
Duke Nukem 3D (id)
If we’re talking gaming icons, we’re talking Duke. A cigar chomping, world saving, Pig Cop slaughtering, womaniser cracking wise in his unique, smarmy way. It was Doom on steroids with a bad motherf*cker leading the charge. Released 3 years after Doom it helped kick the FPS genre in the nuts and ensure its continued rise to dominance. The levels were a little more open if I recall and slightly less linear which kept the explorer in me and other gamers happy, but there was no shortage of mental carnage, tough enemies (suck it down!) and of course mighty fuck off boss fights. And as if defeating them wasn’t reward enough, id gave you the added bonus of a little cut-scene which had The Duke desecrating the monsters corpse with something debasing like ripping off its head and taking a dump down its neck. That always made me giggle.
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (2015, Inc.)
American spelling aside, this instalment of the MOH franchise will always be the one that sends shivers down the spine. Before Call of Duty was all conquering, the Medal of Honor series was THE FPS franchise that threw you head first into World War 2. Steven Spielberg was directly involved with Allied Assault (among others in the series) and it’s no accident that the game recreates some of the most visceral and harrowing moments form it’s unofficial film counterpart Saving Private Ryan which was released in 1998. The D-Day landing is one of the single most memorable moments I have had in my gaming life. As well as the big stuff which it got so right, Allied Assault took some of those little details from Private Ryan which for me made all the difference; things like the authentic report of the weapons. I’ll never forget hearing that tommy gun and thinking it just sounded…..real. The multiplayer was also outstanding, and I remember chewing up many, many months of my life on this before the current Call of Duty sprouts were out of nappies. I think it’s undeniable that the Call of Duty series – at this time very much the lesser of the two rivals – learned a lot from MOH games like Allied Assault on its journey to world domination.
Bioshock (Irrational Games)
Of all the games on this list, this is perhaps the hardest to write about. Why? Because to summarise the depth, the detail, the authenticity, the sheer, utter splendour of Rapture – The City in the Sea, in this short paragraph is an exercise in futility. Rapture drew me in like almost nothing else has before or since. For me, Bioshock is the first example I give to highlight how only gaming can combine the level of immersion AND interaction like no other medium can. It was sublime. The gameplay too was just completely satisfying and serves as one of the greatest examples of the genre. Weapons aplenty, tons of them with secondary fire modes and varying ammo types, not to mention Plasmids which were in themselves a hefty and satisfying variation of killy shit. The atmosphere was tangible, with asylum-mad residents wearing animal masks and chatting utter shit to each other which echoed through the corridors. Big Daddy’s; tough-as-nails brutes, but which also possessed something, somehow sad about those poor lumbering beasts, sentenced to a life they never asked for, forever bound to their haunting ‘Little Sisters’. Instantly iconic. And the major players too were brimming with character (helped in no small part by the plethora of audio reels you picked up along the way). All this plus so much more, it incorporated RPG elements in the form of skill upgrades, plus a bunch of peripheral extras like research cameras, hacking mini games, ‘U-Invent’ rigs which made weapon upgrades and the such like from spare parts you picked up along the way. See, I’m rambling…………
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward)
Unarguably a seminal moment in gaming came with the arrival of this. Possibly the most recent game changer we have seen. 2007 saw the arrival of this mighty and amazing thing. Modern warfare….why the fuck hadn’t anyone done this properly before? Maybe it’s a good thing they didn’t, because Infinity Ward nailed it. For a gun nut like me I hadn’t had this much fun since Counter Strike. M4’s with Eotech sites, M14 EBR’s, M82 Barrett fifty-cals, and that was just the tip of the iceberg (don’t get me started). It felt so fresh and exciting. Set largely in the Middle East at a time when there really were boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, this game felt authentic and relevant. The character-hopping between SAS, Navy Seals and US Army Rangers et al gave an excuse to skip around the globe and utilise a ridiculous array of weapons. It had all the console-heavy Call of Duty hallmarks, regenerating health, ultra ‘on-rails’ linear levels, all of which I would usually be the first to scoff pompously at, but it didn’t matter. At all. Having to constantly move under fire kept the blood up, and levels like ‘All Ghillied Up’ that had you crawling through a deserted Chernobyl marked this game (and that level in particular) as an all time great. And then there was that mushroom cloud. Crawling out of the downed Chinook and witnessing post nuclear destruction as you drew your last breath….epic isn’t even the word. All this plus a multiplayer system that got the masses shouting obscenities down their Xbox headsets at one another. Aaaah gaming……
Left 4 Dead (Valve)
I’m big on Co-op. Let me just try and articulate how big. I’m BIG on co-op. Nope, can’t do it. Co-op gaming at its best is pretty much the pinnacle of gaming in many respects as far as me and my clan are concerned. With Left 4 Dead Valve got things so exactly, precisely, effortlessly right it’s actually hard to comprehend. It pulls of that trick of being almost so perfect it appears simple. 4 players. Zombies. A few guns. A few melee weapons. Medkits. Pipebombs. Molly’s. Push Mechanism. Revive Mechanism. That’s pretty much it. Oh, except it’s not is it. No. Left 4 Dead is simply one of the best games I have ever played, as is its sequel which did everything exactly right in that it changed almost nothing. As long as Valve keeps making these games, or levels for them, we will continue to play them and fall in love with them all over again and again and again. Mixing up the madness with some crazy Special Infected mutated fucks each with their own unique way of killing your face off helped to make sure it wasn’t just the ole zombie hoards that you were fighting. But oh what hoards they were. The first time our group was rushed by a hoard was something I know for a fact will stay with each and every one of us as long as we live, and ensured that every time thereafter we heard that music rise we got a chill running down our spines all over again. The inclusion of The Director which essentially just randomised pickups and special infected throughout the level every time you replayed it meant that there was never really a time during Left 4 Dead 1 or 2 where you felt anything was predictable or by the numbers. An absolute masterpiece.
Alien Vs Predator (Rebellion)
The 1999 one released for the PC, not one of the other billion Alien/Predator games released throughout the 90’s and 2000’s. I think in all honesty this was the last Alien game to get it right….in fact, this might be the ONLY Alien game to get it right. Colonial Marine. Predator. Alien. 3 for the price of 1. And this wasn’t 3 games each of which was a third as good as a standard single player FPS is, no, these were 3 solid games in their own right. Each of them lengthy and meaty enough to stand on its own two feet. Each character had their own particulars. Marines had guns and kit, plus backup (at times), but kept you on the ground, and drenched you in the feeling that you were always being watched. Predators had oodles of kit, plus stealth, and the ability to extend your playing field vertically by giving you a fat jump capability meaning you could stalk your prey from the rooftops or rafters. Aliens had raw and uncompromising stealth, moving freely like a shadow through air ducts, on ceilings, and up walls. All of it executed so well and authentically to their film canon counterparts it is a wonder how Rebellion got it so wrong for the 2010 reboot. Perhaps the thing that was done so well in the ‘99 version, the thing that set it apart from all the others was the fear it provoked in you during the marine missions. This game scared the shit out of me like none had before and few have since. When people talk about scary games, I think of AvP. Back peddling blindly as fast as I can down corridors firing my pulse rifle into the relentless Xenomorph-shaped shadows crawling at me on the floor and walls and roof faster than I can escape. That memory will stay with me forever.
Borderlands isn’t a game. Borderlands is my other life. Pandora is my other home. I live there. I love Pandora. Mordechai has become like a member of my family. Like Bioshock above, I’m not sure how I’m going to say all the things I want to say about Borderlands without writing an epic tome. I could easily do a top ten of ‘Things I Love About Borderlands’. I remember during the run up to its release seeing various things about it, the four-player co-op aspect caught my eye, and I thought it looked OK, but it was never really hugely on my radar. Then, due (if memory serves) to the unexpected disappointment of another 4-player co-op game, one of my clan said “Why don’t we give that Borderlands a go, it looks pretty good”. So we did. Nothing was ever the same again. We didn’t just play Borderlands, we merged with it. Each of us independently bonded with this game, this world, our characters, to such a degree that it was almost a spiritual awakening. This in turn meant that our bond as a team was equally enhanced. We share this thing. This precious thing that others know not of. We would speak in hushed tones when we socialised in the real (boring, less shooty and looty) world “When are we going back……I need that new gun”. Yes indeed. I don’t need to break down the mechanics of what makes Borderlands so good – I shan’t highlight the array of weapons, the looting, the critical-hit satisfaction, the skill trees, variety of enemies, DLC’s….no, I shan’t go into detail. The point of Borderlands is, if you need someone to explain why it’s so good then you either haven’t been or shouldn’t be there. And if the latter, and I catch you, I’ll blow your fucking head off with a Jakobs.
Unreal Tournament (Epic Games)
This one is personal. Despite me proclaiming at the beginning of this list “…in no particular order….” this could perhaps be me subconsciously saving the best ‘til last. Unreal Tournament is possibly my favourite game of all time. There, I said it. Ok, so it’s not as simple as that, catch me on another day and some other games here present in this list and some which aren’t could claim that crown, but when people ask me “what’s your favourite game” (a stupid fucking question I know……ahem) this is usually the first thing that pops into my head. For me, Unreal Tournament is the very pinnacle of hardcore, adrenaline fuelled, out-of-breath gaming. The kind of thing that makes you sweat. It’s like an extreme sport, making you gasp for air when it’s over and 40 minutes of your life has just evaporated in the blink of an eye. I have probably put more hours into this game than any other. From the very moment I played the demo and rinsed it over and over and over I was hooked. It is the very apex of First Person Shooters. Carnage. Mayhem. Annihilate, kill, kill, destroy EVERYFUCKINGTHINGTHATMOVES. The satisfaction of topping the leader board is unrivalled. It makes Call of Duty look and feel like an embarrassing joke. You do not know gaming until you have ventured into this world. Defeating Malcolm in single player mode was like a badge of honour among me and my kin. The array of weapons was among the best of all time (Flak Cannon…….Mummy, hold me). Achieving Godlike status, racking up a M-m-m-m-monster kill, hearing that announcer hail you as UNSTOPPABLE and even getting the odd ‘Flak Monkey’ all go toward making this game possibly one of the greatest achievements in mankinds history……ok, maybe that’s too much……..is it?