OXM INVESTIGATES… THE HISTORY OF FIRST - PERSON SHOOTERS
The most popular genre on any console, thanks to awesome groundbreaking games offering up carnage and immersion in equal measure, it was Xbox that truly redefined the FPS
Xbox absolutely owns shooters. Alright, so first-person shooters had a long history before Microsoft’s console hit the market in 2001, but when Bungie and Microsoft declared that launch game Halo was CombatEvolved, this was no empty boast. That Microsoft built its entire gaming empire on Master Chief’s utterly superior FPS is a matter of historical fact, so as far as we’re concerned, 2001 might as well be Year Zero when it comes to shooters. Over the following pages, OXM presents a brief history of the FPS, and we round up the best shooters you can play right now on Xbox One.
Let us briefly return to a time before Halo, or ‘BH’, as we’ll henceforth never refer to it. Pioneer of the genre, id Software developed Doom and Wolfenstein 3-D in the early ’90s, inspired by MS-DOS game Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss (a first-person RPG with texture-mapped environments where you could, gasp, look up and down). Doom was so successful that long before the term FPS was coined, other FPS games were known as ‘ Doom clones’. Around this time, Chicago lads Alex Seropian and Jason Jones, influenced by id’s work, were making the Wolfensteinhomaging Pathways Into Darkness for the Apple Mac, as the fledgling Bungie. Unveiled at the 1999 Macworld Conference, this was going to be another Mac game from Seropian and Jones. They’d already by this point enjoyed success with FPS Marathon on the Apple computer. But in 2000, Microsoft bought Bungie, and its upcoming Halo project became the Xbox’s flagship title.
Originally, Bungie’s vision was actually closer to Destiny with open-world exploration, but as the team grew, it changed from a third-person shooter/strategy game to an FPS. The game’s iconic Warthog shaped the game’s direction the most. According to game designer Jaime Griesemer, “In the old RTS-style game it was just so cool to watch a squad of jeeps driving across the terrain we wanted to drive them ourselves. Then we wanted to get out of them and run around as an infantry guy, and from there it snowballed.”
After the studio was bought by Microsoft, Bungie rewrote the game engine for the Xbox. The hardware’s development and the game’s formation came together in tandem, the final version of the Xbox console enabling the full extent of Bungie’s ambition for the game.
Halo defined an entire gaming generation – the result of a well-worked game mythology, an iconic character in Master Chief and an awesome split-screen multiplayer that kept us hooked long after its brilliant campaign had finished. Incidentally, the ‘ Combat Evolved’ part of the title was added at the insistence of Microsoft, which felt the game needed a more descriptive title than simply Halo, a title which Bungie stuck to rigidly, and this was the compromise. Halo set a new benchmark for all shooters – other would-be FPS developers would now really have to up their game. On the N64, Rare had set its own definition of a great FPS in 1997 with GoldenEye 007, and another of the OG Xbox’s defining games was TimeSplitters 2, by former GoldenEye 007 devs Free Radical. The lighthearted counterpoint to Halo’s more po-faced universe, TimeSplitters 2 was a brilliant and varied FPS involving time travel and fast, split-screen multiplayer.
The next big leap in shooters came courtesy of Steven Spielberg. The director had made war epic Saving Private Ryan in 1998, and got his Dreamworks Interactive studio working on a WW2-themed game – Medal Of Honor. This paved the way for 2003’s Call Of Duty on PC. Developer Infinity Ward was made up of MOH veterans and created the first COD using id Software’s Quake III engine. The series evolved to become a genre titan, thanks to Call Of Duty
“Doom was so successful that before the term FPS was coined, other FPS’s were simply known as ‘ Doom clones’”
4: Modern Warfare. Taking a controversial leap into the modern age with settings echoing the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, it was the online multiplayer that set the world alight. By introducing a levelling system, it kept players coming back for more and jumpstarted the idea of games as service. For years, the franchise felt untouchable, but elsewhere, DICE was impressively creating conflicts of up to 64 players and emphasising squad play in its Battlefield series.
By the way, you can thank FPS games for pretty much every game you’re playing. In the late ’90s, id Software and Epic MegaGames were battling it out between their similarly OTT Quake and Unreal shooters. But the real winner was Epic, thanks to Tim Sweeney’s Unreal Engine – so good that its fourth, 2014, iteration is now widely used by game devs for every genre, not just shooters. In the ‘00s, Crytek’s Far Cry opened up the genre’s themes, and the games’ settings, but it was Ubisoft, acquiring the franchise, that really built the series. Far Cry 2 felt massive, 50km of African bush, malaria and a Heart Of Darkness brutality. The genre began to branch out with the likes of BioShock, The Darkness, Call Of Juarez and Borderlands, with its, comic book visuals and trashy humour. Left 4 Dead innovated with co-op gameplay and zombies, while zombies also came to COD.
All of which brings us to the modern era. id Software is still big news, with Doom Eternal, and more Wolfenstein and Rage on the way. Master Chief himself is poised to return with Halo Infinite, and shooters are now huge in the world of esports, with the likes of Overwatch – itself combining all the best elements of FPS titles that have come before it – leading the charge. Plus a great new FPS from Respawn, Apex Legends, is now vying for the Battle Royale crown. There’s so many shooters around today, it’s dizzying. But we’re to help, turn the page to find the best FPS games you can play on Xbox One right now.
the official xbox magazine 055
FAR Left The original Wolfenstein 3-D.
Above BioShock took the FPS to another (below sea) level.
Left TimeSplitters 2.
AbovE Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. left Call Of Juarez. BE LOW Borderlands and Darkwatch.