Everyone loves a good First Person Shooter. Since its inception, the genre has remained a mainstay in popular gaming, and has only grown in potency and appeal over the decades. Series like Half-Life, Call of Duty, and Halo, break sales records with ease. FPSs are often featured in e-Sports or at least make up a wide majority of competitive multiplayer currently being played online across gaming, world wide, right this very moment. Whether it is Battlefield, Tribes, Modern Warfare, Halo Reach, or F.E.A.R.: most every gamer has experienced at least one FPS in their lifetime.
And that’s not to discredit the rich and long history that the genre has to offer. I remember the days of Duke Nukem’s humor. I remember the days where every game was just a heavily modified DOOM. Games like Chex Mix, which turned out to be really awesome despite being a game for kids that a lot of us got paired with an American Online trial disc. I even remember from my own lifetime when I plugged games like Blake Stone into my floppy drive rather than download them over the internet.
I have played FPS games all my life. Despite their current decline in innovation and quality, I still love them to death. These are some of my favorites:
5: Quake III Arena (PC and Dreamcast)
Yes, I have played Counter-Strike. Yes, I have played Unreal Tournament. However, Quake III Arena still stands as my single favorite pure multiplayer FPS.
Why? I don’t know really. Right place and right time? Maybe. Great fun and fast gameplay? Definitely. Familiarity with the id Software brand through the Quake and DOOM series? Well, duh. I guess if I had to sum it all up in one tight package, Quake III Arena is one of my favorite games because it just worked. The weapons were incredibly distinct, uniquely challenging, and equally useful. Level design and graphics (for the time) were awesome. I spent hours upon hours playing the game with nothing but a 56k modem. That in itself speaks loudly for the game’s hold over me.
I even bought the game twice. First on PC where I was terrible, and then second on my Dreamcast where I dominated over SegaNet. I even play Quake Live from time to time, though it’s not the same anymore.
4: Half-Life (PC)
An impossible choice to leave off any great FPS list, Half-Life is one of my favorite games ever. It was fun, had great atmosphere, and took the DOOM formula of running around and killing stuff to an all new level.
While it may be commonplace now, Half-Life extensively featured scripted sequences, which always made the game seem that much more bad ass. Throw in great level design and awesome enemies, and you have a winning formula for making a great game every time. It doesn’t hurt that the typical bad ass, silent protagonist of Gordon Freeman breaks the mold of the classic DOOM Marine by being a nerd. Sure, we don’t really see him be a nerd, but he has glasses. What other proof do you need?
Oh, and crowbars. Crowbars are sexy.
3: Wolfenstein 3D (PC)
Don’t argue with me here. I loved DOOM, but Wolfenstein 3D holds a more special place in my heart than almost every other game. Wolfenstein 3D is an old, old game that hasn’t aged well at all. In fact, the sound effects of collecting treasure, the mesmerizing amount of corridors to roam, and the empty levels make the game seem downright bad to most newcomers.
Yet, Wolfenstein 3D was my first FPS. My cousin and I played the heck out of it at the same time we were rocking our Super Nintendo. When I try to replay it now, my mind goes back to those easier times, which help mask the frustration of spamming the Space key against every bit of wall in every single room, begging for a secret. Some things don’t change though: I still cringe when I have to kill a German shepherd and I still freak out when someone yells ‘Achtung!’ as I open a door.
You can’t hate me for picking Wolfenstein 3D, just like you can’t hate killing Mecha-Hitler.
2: Halo & Halo 2 (Xbox)
I freely admit that this is indeed a cop-out of rule-breaking proportions! This is Five Favorites, not Five Plus One favorites. And, considering another series featured on this list gets two separate slots, while Halo is forced into one single entry, I see your point.
However, Halo’s single-player is one of the best campaigns ever, and the game single-handedly made console shooters equal to PC shooters (that isn’t deliberate trolling, but a firmly held conviction). Halo 2’s single-player, however, is crap and the game’s worth is entirely derived from its absolutely awesome multiplayer. See my dilemma? That’s why I am wedging them together to create a franken-game worthy of my number 2 spot.
First up, let’s chat about Halo. Halo is an incredible blend of amazing graphics, wonderful controls, awesome enemy design, and a very scary AI. My love for Halo as a series honestly rests on that last fact: the very scary AI. Halo sets the bar for the rest of the series with a Legendary mode that feels difficult not only because of overwhelming odds but also because the enemy would find ways to beat you every time. Where as Half-Life was amazing for its scripting, Halo’s AI and level design created what felt like its own scripts. It was really like playing in a miniature sandbox of alien-slaughtering deliciousness.
Halo 2, on the other hand, launched the Halo series as a dominate multiplayer franchise, and really brought online gaming on consoles to a level just below PC gaming rather than far, far away in the pits of Hell. The maps were great, the guns and gameplay were good, and the online matchmaking played out great. Sure, there was still auto-aiming, but Halo 2 was where I really felt like the PC experience of playing a FPS finally worked. I mean, the previous bar (other than the original Halo) was set by games like GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, neither of which let you jump.
1: Half-Life 2 (PC)
It’s an obvious choice, but only because so many of us recognize the objective fact that Half-Life 2 is one of the greatest games of all time and is the greatest FPS of all time. No other FPS combines great gameplay, graphics, scripted moments, level design, enemy design, and narrative woven into the world, as flawlessly as Half-Life 2. Without saying a whole lot and certainly without hundreds of hours of dialogue and tens of hours of cut-scenes Half-Life 2’s world and characters hook you into a world overrun by aliens. It’s a simple plot, but everything the game does makes it more real and more interesting than it really is.
Half-Life 2 is also dear to me for another reason. While game journalism and game fandom has risen to an all new level of crazy in today’s world of social media and always on internet connectivity, a level that often results in every single AAA title being hyped up into the next coming of the gaming messiah, Half-Life 2’s hype was twice as much as any recent gen game. Even crazier: it delivered in every way conceivable.
Oh and the fact that it launched Steam, the service that has completely resurrected PC gaming and put it on a track to become again a gaming powerhouse is a fucking footnote for Half-Life 2. Think about that for a minute.