Not every FPS was Doom or Quake. Terrence Jarrad remembers the fallen
TERMINATOR: FUTURE SHOCK Bethesda • 1995
The soundscape in this game was phenomenal for the time. The pneumatic hiss of doors, the whirr of mechanical limbs and heavy thud of enemy footsteps, gun blasts and explosions, all punching through a background of appropriately tense atmospheric music. It created an eerie setting in which to explore the open level design and blast a range of robotic adversaries, making use of multiple weapons and a couple of vehicles along the way.
IRON MAIDEN ED HUNTER Synthetic Dimensions • 1996
Synthetic Dimensions worked with Iron Maiden to make this on-rails FPS (think House of the Dead or equivalent light-gun arcade shooter) to tie in with a double disc “best of” type compilation. The player takes on the role of Ed Hunter, trying to find Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie, and blasting everything in along the way. It’s almost painful to admit I own a copy of this game because it just isn’t good, but look, it came with some great music which also features across its nine-odd levels. OUTLAWS LucasArts • 1997
It wasn’t completely out of character for LucasArts to make something that wasn’t an adventure game; it had, after all, developed the Dark Forces FPS based in the Star Wars universe. So when LucasArts turned that engine towards its own IP, Outlaws was the result. The Wild West setting was somewhat rare at the time, there was a unique “capture or kill” mechanic for outlaws with greater reward for capture, and the game is also credited with being the first game to feature a sniper zoom on the scope. The novelty in lighting dynamite with your cigar before hurling it at foes can’t be understated either. And to top it all off, the story was lovingly told through gorgeously animated cutscenes.
SHOGO: MOBILE ARMOR DIVISION Monolith • 1998
In 1998 FPS heavyweights Monolith gave us a game in which you could play a heavy weight… with arms and legs and okay fine it’s a mech/gundam/anime thing. Players chose from a few Mobile Combat Armor models with different defence and speed stats, and then set off to take out a rebel leader. Fair enough. Along the way various sections of the game would necessitate transforming the MCA into a hovercraft, or leaving the MCA and proceeding on foot, which served to add some variety. Combat featured a critical hit system which simultaneously returned health to the player and dealt extra damage to foes, but also allowed the player to be critically hit, leading to frustrating one-shot deaths.
SIN Ritual Entertainment • 1998
I know I played SIN, but when I tried to recall it off the top of my head, it was mostly boobs. The game’s antagonist Alexis SINclair (see what they did there?) was scantily clad, hyper sexualised, and prominent in advertising for the game. The forgettable wannabe Duke Nukem protagonist, John Blade, fights his way through some fairly standard shooting with a fairly standard line up of weaponry, but there’s also a little of the object interactivity Duke Nukem popularised, and some basic hacking abilities to disable security alarms and open doors. Some levels could also be completed with stealth and in addition to primary objectives, frequently offered optional secondary objectives, and some actions and choices could affect the game later down the line. There’s more to SIN than appears at first glance, but in this case it may be one better left forgotten.
WHEEL OF TIME Legend • 1999
Based on Robert Jordan’s book series of the same name, the game is set in a highfantasy world, centred around Elayna Sedai, a practitioner of mystical arts. Combat worked through the acquiring of over 40+ magical foci called ter’angreal, each allowing a type of spell to be cast, and also allowing players to combine ter’angreal to create devastating custom spells. The effects of ter’angreal could be weapon-like, such as chain lightning, defensive, like reflect damage, or support, like freeze. Fans of the series will know this isn’t exactly how the magic of the universe operates, but for the purposes of delivering an interpretation into game form, it worked. Wheel of Time also implemented environmental damage: electricity + water, whirlwind + cliff, etc, and the effect was a more strategic shooter.
NO ONE LIVES FOREVER Monolith • 2000
Of all the comedy stealth first person shooters set in the 1960s with a female secret agent protagonist released in 2000, No One Lives Forever was definitely the best. Catburgling con turned spy, Cate Archer snuck and shot her way through the forces of H.A.R.M to stop its evil plans. It had decent enemy AI, was uniquely funny, and drew on myriad spy tropes without the absurd parody of something like Austin Powers, though given its '60s setting and secret agent subject matter, this was perhaps one of the things it was most likened to on its release. Even today NOLF sits slightly apart in the genre of shooters, with only NOLF2: A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way for company.
STAR TREK: ELITE FORCE Raven • 2000
If you asked me what the most inappropriate subject, IP, or media franchise to be adapted into a first-person shooter was, right after I said “Garfield”, I’d follow up with “Star Trek”. Shooting is the opposite point of everything the universe is about, and while yes there’s combat, and fighting, and wars, and the Federation is essentially operating like a military organisation, it really defies belief anyone made this game. And despite this rant it was fairly well received, finding a thematically appropriate niche. Missions offered a variety of objectives, with decent level design and weaponry, and if the friendly AI was a bit rubbish at times and allies got in the way… well they were obviously red shirts.
CLIVE BARKER’S UNDYING EA • 2001
Set in 1923 and bearing all the hallmarks of survival horror, Undying saw the player take on the role of a WWI veteran Patrick Galloway, who’d accepted the task of helping a family beset by supernatural horrors. In addition to a range of typical shooter weaponry, Patrick could cast a range of spells from mystical missiles to shields, allowing for some unique dual-wielding gameplay. Spells consumed Patrick’s mana and could be upgraded in power as the game progressed, though one of the more interesting abilities was the Scrye spell, which gave Patrick supernatural sight. This feature was used to reveal clues about how to progress the game, but also allowed EA to up the horror factor by giving players a view of past events or revealing ordinary objects to have terrifying supernatural aspects. TRON 2.0 Monolith • 2003
It’s not a huge leap to realise the source material of the movie Tron is perfect for a video game, and Monolith did an excellent job in constructing that realisation. Computing terminology abounds in this beautifully stylised FPS, with so many sly nods to geekdom that Monolith may in fact be a bobblehead. The shooting is very solid and the player gains an approximation of experience points to upgrade abilities and weapons, and skill loadout can be swapped at any time. But let’s face it, we’re all here for two things: lightcycles and the disc weapon. Both are some of the most memorable aspects of the game, and for some this means memorable for the wrong reason, but this writer loved every aspect of Tron 2.0. XIII Ubisoft Paris • 2003
Enchanting, is the word that comes to mind when recalling XIII. Not in a fantastical fairytale sense, but rather, being spellbound by the presentation of the game’s art. The gorgeous cel-shaded graphics, the captioned effect when nailing a headshot, and the onomatopoeic sounds effects drawn in words on screen, showed the game’s comic book inspiration. It also had some high profile personalities like David Duchovny and Adam West providing voice work. Its presentation was unique, and even if its reception was mixed, it deserves to be remembered.
CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK: ESCAPE FROM BUTCHER BAY Starbreeze • 2004
Set before the film, the game aims to give background and develop Riddick as a character through a protracted prison break storyline. Laden with stealth gameplay, EFBB is a departure from the typical FPS, utilising silent takedowns and hand to hand combat in addition to shooting stuff. Interestingly there’s no HUD. Instead, other visual cues work to inform the player, such as a blue screen tinge to show stealth, and ammo count displayed on the weapon. An avid video and tabletop gamer, Vin Diesel lent his voice and direction during the development of the game, and it works. As part and parcel of the action movie genre this was inspired by, there are also a bunch of clichéd tough-guy one-liners which Diesel manages to help come off on the funny side of cheesy.
BREAKDOWN Namco • 2004
The hook with Breakdown is that is does everything from first-person, down to quite a low level. Need some ammo? Better bend down and pick it up. Got a security card to swipe? You better believe you have to actually swipe the card on the reader. It also focusses melee combat and martial arts combos over shooting, though there are still a number of weapons you can wreak havoc with. While I don’t know if there’s such a thing as using the first-person perspective TOO much, I do know that if there was an award for “Best First-Person Vomit Sequence” this game has a good chance of winning it.
DARKWATCH: CURSE OF THE WEST High Moon • 2005
Of all the steampunk western horror games released… wait I’ve done this joke already. But if you wanted to play as a gun-slinging vampire fighting the undead in the Wild West, this is the game for you. It’s also one of those games that never seems to stop shooting. Ever. There is so much shooting. On foot, on horseback… in a buggy-thing? So it’s a good thing that this game doesn’t take itself at all seriously and shooting is fun, if a bit samey in a Serious Sam kinda way. It was popular enough that it spawned some spin-off media: a soundtrack, art book, and comic. Unfortunately its planned sequel was canned, and a film adaptation that has been in the works for over ten years will probably never see the light of day. Which is good. Because, vampire, remember? REPUBLIC COMMANDO LucasArts • 2005
A Star Wars FPS with a more tactical slant, Republic Commando saw the player leading a four-person squad of clone troopers during the Clone Wars, assigning positions and targets for squad members to best their specialties (tech, sniper, and demolitions) to overcome enemy forces. It featured a downed state where squad members could be ordered to revive the player, allowing for extra chances to get through difficult sections. It did its thing very well and was a heck of a lot of fun to play - a feat all the more impressive given it followed a series of Jedi Knight games and managed to make being a soldier in a the Star Wars universe entertaining.