FPS That Aren’t

First-per­son doesn't al­ways mean shoot­ing. Ter­rence Jar­rad hol­sters his gun...

Hyper - - CONTENTS -

DUN­GEON KEEPER Bull­frog Pro­duc­tions • 1997

Be the bad guy, build a dun­geon, and de­fend it against goody-goody heroes this was Dun­geon Keeper’s premise. But wait, you say, DK’s a real-time-strat­egy! And you are cor­rect, how­ever in ad­di­tion to the top-down man­age­ment of a den or ne’er do wells, DK also al­lowed the player to “pos­sess” its min­ions. Pos­sessed min­ions gained at­tack and de­fense bonuses, and al­lowed play­ers to turn the tide bat­tle by tak­ing con­trol of the right min­ion at the right time.


Dark Mes­siah took first-per­son gam­ing into the realm of me­dieval high fan­tasy. Its shoot­ing was ar­rows and fire­balls, and some­times in­stead of shoot­ing, it was melee com­bat with a big sword. Or it was pick­ing up and hurl­ing an ob­ject into a sup­port pil­lar to bring a roof down on your en­emy. Or it was kick­ing them into spike trap. Or it was set­ting the oil un­der their feet alight. Or it was freez­ing the ground be­hind them, giv­ing them the boot, and send­ing them slip­ping and slid­ing off a cliff. With lev­el­ling and skil­lun­locks, Dark Mes­siah was a game about op­tions. Play stealthy, or play ag­gres­sive, but al­ways be aware of your po­si­tion­ing and en­vi­ron­ment to max­imise the sys­temic op­por­tu­ni­ties avail­able. ZENO CLASH ACE Team • 2009

One of the prob­lems the FPS doesn’t have to deal with in its com­bat is depth per­cep­tion. Typ­i­cally the player has a gun, points it at some­thing, and that some­thing ex­plodes or oth­er­wise dies. This is much more dif­fi­cult in melee range. It’s harder to judge dis­tance from the player view­point to the en­emy, in­cor­po­rate the length of the player’s arms, and po­si­tion to strike ac­cord­ingly. It was an is­sue that the ex­cep­tion­ally weird Zeno Clash faced. A first-per­son brawler, Zeno Clash had the player fight­ing in in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult are­nas, chain­ing moves - dodges, blocks, and strikes - for high-dam­age com­bos, as well as throw­ing in the oc­ca­sional melee and ranged weapon. It worked sur­pris­ingly well, but this game is worth ex­pe­ri­enc­ing for the art and story alone, if you haven’t al­ready had the plea­sure.


EA’s fu­tur­is­tic park­our plat­former proved that first-per­son ac­tion could be ex­cit­ing with­out also hav­ing to be about blast­ing stuff. Its park­our im­ple­men­ta­tion was for the most part, quite good, with clean lines and bold colour con­trast giv­ing play­ers the in­for­ma­tion they needed to make quick de­ci­sions while run­ning and leap­ing at a break­neck pace, al­low­ing them to per­pet­u­ate the flow of move­ment. Con­se­quently, bat­tling it out on­line in Mir­ror’s Edge was not a test of twitch trig­ger skills, but rather a leader­board of timed runs, where the fastest reigned supreme. The sin­gle­player cam­paign hosted mul­ti­ple un­avoid­able en­coun­ters with en­e­mies, in which the abil­ity to dis­arm was handy, how­ever these sec­tions were the least in­ter­est­ing parts of the game and it would have been much neater if the park­our could have con­tin­ued with­out de­volv­ing into shoot­ing are­nas that de­tracted from the game’s strengths. OUT­LAST Red Bar­rels • 2013

Of all the FPSs that aren’t, Out­last is per­haps the most-not. It’s a sur­vival hor­ror game in the style made fa­mous by Fric­tional Games’ Penum­bra, and Am­ne­sia. It re­moves the power a weapon grants the player, in or­der to ter­rify them ut­terly. To say there’s no shoot­ing in Out­last wouldn’t be ac­cu­rate how­ever, be­cause the player takes on the role of a jour­nal­ist, us­ing a video cam­era to doc­u­ment the ques­tion­able go­ings-on in an asy­lum. The cam­era is equipped with a night vi­sion mode, and much of the asy­lum is dark (be­cause of course it is), so nat­u­rally play­ers spend a lot of time see­ing the world with a green­ish tinge through its viewfinder. That is, un­til the bat­ter­ies run out and play­ers are left alone in the dark. Wait… not alone. RUN! HIDE!

REALMS OF THE HAUNT­ING Grem­lin In­ter­ac­tive • 1996

An odd mash of gen­res, at its core ROTH prob­a­bly shared more with the clas­sic point and click ad­ven­ture than it did with FPS, but with large lev­els to ex­plore, health pick­ups and ammo to con­sume, and a range of in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful weapons to find and use, one could eas­ily mis­take its in­tent. The first­per­son per­spec­tive de­liv­ered Doom­style 2.5D sprite-based en­e­mies, but its shoot­ing was… odd. Rather than a bot­tom-cen­tre-screen weapon re­quir­ing player move­ment of the view­able area to tar­get en­e­mies, ROTH had play­ers mov­ing the float­ing mouse pointer across the screen to tar­get en­e­mies, with the weapon fol­low­ing across the screen. It even claimed lo­ca­tion-dam­age, in that tar­get­ing cer­tain parts of your foes did more dam­age (and saved am­mu­ni­tion), though in prac­tice this was rarely no­tice­able. It also had some strange move­ment key bind­ings which cer­tainly didn’t sup­port play­ers want­ing to play it like an FPS. None of this dulled the in­cred­i­bly creepy at­mos­phere of its oth­er­worldly old English man­sion set­ting how­ever, and the FMV wasn’t all ter­ri­ble ei­ther! HELLGATE: LON­DON Flag­ship Stu­dios • 2007

Ac­tion role-play­ing games are typ­i­cally a genre one as­so­ci­ates with a top down, iso­met­ric per­spec­tive a’la Di­ablo, but in 2007, some ex-Bliz­zard North devs un­der the ban­ner of Flag­ship Stu­dios re­leased a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic ARPG MMO called Hellgate: Lon­don. Amongst the XP gain, loot drops, and skill trees, its com­bat was fast, fre­netic, and more im­por­tantly, first-per­son for ranged classes (with third-per­son also an op­tion). With myr­iad weapon types, dam­age mod­i­fiers, craft­ing, and spe­cial skills, it was a bit like Border­lands, only, fun to play. Un­for­tu­nately Flag­ship sunk, and the only rem­nant of the game these days is on mo­bile plat­forms.

THE FPS THAT NEARLY WASN’T id Soft­ware • 1992

Ar­guably the most iconic FPS ever re­leased and grand­fa­ther of them all, Wolfen­stein 3D, al­most wasn’t the shooter we all played. It was go­ing to be a first-per­son stealth game, in­spired by the 1981 sem­i­nal stealth game, Cas­tle Wolfen­stein, on the Ap­ple II. There were plans for fea­tures like sneak­ing around, drag­ging and hid­ing bod­ies, and dis­guis­ing your­self with guard uni­forms. With a lit­tle bit of imag­i­na­tion, you can see the roots of this game­play in the per­sis­tent abil­ity to run up be­hind un­sus­pect­ing en­e­mies and knife them in the back. Of course, id Soft­ware de­cided that it was “much more fun” to just run around shoot­ing things, and the rest is his­tory. If you’re in­ter­ested in more Wolfen­stein trivia, check out this 20th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tive play-through with com­men­tary by John Car­mack! https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=LV34y9p079g

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