A Renaissance of Violence

I like to put on airs of being some kind of elevated gamer with my talk of thoughtful strategy games full of historical significance and unique independent titles with fully fleshed back-stories and deeply artistic sensibilities, but when you strip away the pretentious masks and get down to where the rubber meets the road I loves me some hyper-violent gunplay. I am a child of the FPS, coming of age just as id Software decided to put a virtual array of futuristic canons in my hands for the express purpose of shooting demons from hell right the frak off this mortal coil, and from day one I bought into their first-person methodology with a devotion normally reserved for religious ceremony and Red Sox fans. Games like World of Warcraft, Guitar Hero and Civilization IV, despite the reckless hours I can invest in those titles, only compel me for so long before I require the simulated perspective of dispatching enemies with shotguns, laser canons, rocket launchers and big f***ing guns through the eyes of some ultimate bad-ass with a chip on his shoulder and arsenal enough to equip a platoon.

But, the classic FPS has seemed on the decline the past few years while its basterdized cousin, the third-person (too often stealth) action game has taken its place as the genre en vogue. Violence, even artificial and harmless, is already a touchy enough subject for developers in a politically charged atmosphere, but putting the player directly into the perspective of death dealer, even for the "good cause", seemed perhaps to be a dying fad, and its passing would have been premature and mourned. Which, makes it seem all the more rewarding that fall 2007 is offering what is, perhaps, the best all around collection of true First Person Shooters in a decade. Lock and load, my friends, for the renaissance of futuristic ordinance and health packs has come.

In celebration of the FPS rebirth I want to take a brief inventory of the gory gaming goodness to be laid before our twitchy trigger fingers as we run through the waning months of 2007. I realize the natural format for such an effort would be to talk chronologically, but I feel like I have to begin with Halo 3, if only because I've just finished its single player campaign, and the impression is the freshest in my mind.

Halo 3 – The original Halo: Combat Evolved was the first console FPS which I was able to force my clumsy and ill-trained digits to complete, and while some fair criticism is entirely justified in describing Microsoft's premiere franchise, so too is the impressive success with which the game simply compels the player. This record-breaking iteration of the franchise feels like the true successor to the original Halo, the appropriate bookend that recaptures the best of the series.

An imperfect game, despite some reviews that might best be described as irrationally enthusiastic, the plot seems at times to require a bachelor's degree in Halology, and my usually reliable manifesto of "˜if it moves and it's alien then shoot it' is far from foolproof. Further, the game only really pays off if you're already a fan of the series, and if you just pick up Halo 3 and start playing it entirely out of context I doubt seriously that it would hold up as anything particularly special. Still, who the hell hasn't played Halo before? Even my father in law took a spastic stab at the game long enough to get blown off a cliff. I suppose I should also cast some sort of traditional disparaging remark about levels with The Flood here, but I honestly felt like Bungie had finally made this a compelling enemy and a lot of the criticism was as much out of habit as anything else. Still, any complaints I can muster are half-hearted at best, and when it comes down to the fundamentals of shooting aliens until they are very dead, I have few issues.

Halo 3 brings the series full-circle, and invokes the first game at all the right beats. The well established soundtrack has a way of investing me in the moment like few other games can, and I realize now that driving a Warthog through enemy infested canyons, the slow curve of a halo dim against the horizon, as the relentless catchy theme urges me to battle has become an iconic kind of moment.

Without talking spoilers, I can only say that the last few levels of the game were entirely satisfying, and once I was embroiled in the final moments of gameplay, I realized this was the perfect way to end the series.

Bioshock – What more can really be said about Bioshock? And, yet any accounting of 2007's grand resurgence of FPS games would be remarkably negligent without mention of the game. I can say that weeks out from release I feel as impressed as the first night I plumbed the depths of Rapture. It hit all the right notes, an impressive balance of making me feel as a player both powerful and vulnerable at the same moment.

Like Halo 3, Bioshock made the good decision to give as much thought and care to its soundscape as its landscape, and the combined efforts of the two games should prove compelling evidence that the ears are nearly as important as the eyes. I wonder what Rapture might have seemed like with hastily slapped together music and an endless barrage of Splicer death-throes Wilhelm Screams. Not nearly so immersive, I'm certain.

Still a strong Game of the Year candidate, Bioshock has to be counted in the echelon of first person shooters with the likes of Half-Life and Quake.

Team Fortress 2 – You would have been forgiven a few years back for regarding TF2 as a classic piece of vaporware that was certain to never see the light of day. It was entirely reasonable to say that the moment had passed for a sequel to a popular quake mod, and that Valve would be best served by pretending they had no idea what anyone who mentioned the game was talking about. Instead, the Valve team infused a solid gameplay concept with a compelling artistic vision and overflowing personality, and in the span of one screenshot, Valve managed to make everyone forget a decade of aborted designs and believe not only that the game might finally see the light of day, but would be fun.

For those who have chosen not to participate in the beta, if one can call the rock-solid game we've been playing such a thing, Team Fortress 2 makes ten years of waiting seem almost worth it. The presentation is unique, elevating a game that could have felt stale and forgettable in the hands of lesser developers into an addicting, enjoyable and often humorous experience. Backed by Valve's equally impressive new community features, Team Fortress 2 feels like the kind of game one could imagine himself playing for years rather than weeks or months.

Metroid Prime 3 – I privately predicted that Metroid Prime 3 might expose the Wii's controls as if not flawed at least fallible, but my skepticism for the franchise proved both rare and unfounded. Despite what I may have thought prior to its release, I appear to have been proved wrong as raves both for the game and the Wii-mote's ability to control that game seem firm. Much as I may be loathe to admit it, Metroid Prime 3 appears to be a worthy successor to the franchise and among the better games released this year.

It is, increasingly, among the one or two games to remind me that, eventually, I'm going to have to get myself one of them there fancy Nintendo Wiis.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars – This is a game that its fans, of which there will be many, will feel like doesn't get the respect it deserves, and the more I play the more I feel like they may be on to something. I've come a long way on this title since I first played its early Fileplanet beta, and as the game hit shelves earlier this week I realized, surprising even myself, that I wanted to buy it.

In the face of such a remarkable wealth of quality shooters available at every turn, you can be forgiven for not mustering enthusiasm for Quake Wars, but the mission structure of the game and the variety of play-styles available make for a better game than you might expect. As always with team based action games, the problem is not necessarily in the design but in the community that embraces it. The difference between playing with a coordinated group of experienced and reliable players versus the general white-noise flotsam of public servers is as wide and imposing as the gulf that separates entire galaxies. Expecting anything like organized teamwork outside of the safe confines of a friends list is folly at best, but even then stealing a dead enemy's identity, sneaking behind enemy lines and backstabbing a completely unsuspecting opponent is a moment worth enjoying.

Coming Soon – The titles listed above would be more than enough to make for a stellar selection of shooters for a full year, much less the latter half of a year, and yet, we're just getting started. At the risk of playing into the treacherous hands of the hype machine, let's look briefly at a few of the titles still to come in 2007.

Half Life 2: Episode 2 – Sure, it _could_ suck, but I think we'd all be pretty damn surprised. The continuing adventures of Gordon Freeman, who has, it seems, finally escaped the catastrophic events of City 17 roll on with Episode 2. Despite the questionable mantle of episodic content, there's very little not to be excited about. Packaged in the Orange Box along with TF2, which I would pay full price for (but don't tell them that!), and the intriguing Portal, Half Life 2: Episode 2 brings me back to a world I'm far from bored with. I can't wait to see what trials will meet our particle physicist badass this time.

Have gravity gun, will travel.

Unreal Tournament 3 – Does it feel to anyone else like this one is getting lost in the crowd? Another rock solid franchise with what appears to be a serious graphical upgrade and all the trappings for endless hours of multiplayer fun, not to mention it's being developed by perennial all-star Epic. I admit that I'm at something of a loss to explain why I'm excited about UT3, except to say that I've enjoyed every UT before this one and when I look at the screenshots and videos for this latest iteration I have that gut feeling that Epic and I are on the same page. There's something very old-school fast and frenetic about what the Unreal Tournament series offers, and I get sorta jazzed just thinking about it.

Crysis – Come on! Are you kidding me? I mean, honestly how can there be this many big-name shooters in such a short span of time?

Anyway, you probably don't have the system to chew on this particular hunk of meat, but if you like your gaming of the top-of-the-line variety then this will probably be right up your alley. Something like FarCry on steroids with aliens instead of mutants, Crysis looks like the sort of game that threatens to be great but could be disappointing. Call me crazy, but after three years of hype over how awesome the graphics for the game are, I hope someone over at Crytek is sequestered away in a dim room making sure the game is actually fun to play. There's simply no predicting how Crysis will turn out, but stellar visuals, fully destructible environments and a lot of good buzz will keep me interested long enough to be disappointed.

And, last but not least"…

Call of Duty 4: Modern Combat – So long Stalingrad, Normandy and Berlin, Call of Duty has finally joined the rest of the gamer nation in realizing that Omaha Beach in video games is the Hoth Battle of the twenty-first century. It was fun the first dozen times, but enough's enough! Give me laser targeting, night vision and rogue states with nuclear ambitions. Following an impressive E3 and equally impressive gameplay videos CoD 4 stands as perhaps the most surprising entry on this list. But, there are a lot of questions to be answered, not the least of which is whether Infinity Ward can take their cinematic gameplay successes from a 1940s setting and leap it half-a-century into the future with the same kind of success?

Apparently, they'll have to bring their A-game to make even a passing impression on gamers with so very much to play.

Comments

And early next year... Left 4 Dead.

Meh....

Only joking

I'm going with Portal and Crysis. I just picked up Stalker and GRAW 2 so i'm pretty busy for the near future anyway.

I'll get UT3 on the PS3 later on and i'll buy a Wii and MP3 maybe after christmas...

The control scheme for Metroid Prime 3 is groundbreaking, to be honest. I really, really struggle with analog controls for fps as evidenced by a long Halo 3 session last weekend where I got thoroughly trounced while trying to aim. I want to be able to do it, I really do, but I find it so difficult. The Wiimote control scheme has finally made console FPS accessible to me, and hopefully will do the same to countless other Wii owners, if they'd only try it...but something tells me that they won't.

I think I need to start attending meetings or something because I fully intend to buy and play every game on that list in additional the many other ones I mentioned in my Fall lineup thread. The latest thing I've been pondering is how I'm going to allocate time to all these multiplayer games that I want to play. Halo 3, TF2, UT3, CoD4, Crysis, World In Conflict (not an FPS but still something I want to play online a lot)...good lord help me. I decided to skip Quake Wars for now only because the beta and demo didn't grab me the way I was expecting it to and to me, it just feels like Battlefield but at a ridiculously fast pace. After playing the multiplayer beta Crysis, all I can say while still under NDA is that Quake Wars will have some strong competition and they should be thankful that they shipped first. I'll probably pick it up some day but not for now.

Based on the Multiplayer Beta, COD4 holds a lot of promise. Shooter-wise, it's the one I'm most looking forward to.

I vote for TF2! That game is CRAZY fun, when you get together with a bunch of people who play well together (stand Lounge) its gets gloriously fun. This will more then likely be my primary game.

Crysis... I wanted it(graphics/physics), i didnt(DX9 = no cool stuff), i wanted(multiplayer), i didnt(over complicated multi?), now i want it....(people say its cool)

ET:QW: played demo it was ok fun but i'm worried about how people pick it up and then discard it after a few weeks (i got burned by Doom3 and Q4) Dont want that to happen again so i will wait and if i get bored i will pick it up (fat chance)

UT: Bah its UT i never did like it, just massive death match even with all its mutaturs and crap it just boils down into spamfest and death match.

COD4 = Console = the sux
Metriod = Console = the sux

And that about does it for me

Pharacon wrote:

UT: Bah its UT i never did like it, just massive death match even with all its mutaturs and crap it just boils down into spamfest and death match.

You must not have played UT2k4, huh? VCTF and Onslaught are pretty far removed from massive death match.

I miss violence in my games. When I heard that Witcher was being censored for the US release, it made me wonder what happened to this being the only nation where you could count on your stuff to be UNcensored?

Pharacon wrote:

COD4 = Console = the sux

Huh?

edit:
Oh, and Gear of War is coming to the PC. Another huge game for PC gamers.

It's odd, but art direction seems like the biggest draw for me this season. Team Fortress 2 and Bioshock are the clear winners here, it seems. Everything else has a very same-y look to it, particularly the gritty swampy look of UT3 and Quake Wars. I'm so sick of that.

That is a lot of stuff coming out in the one genre. I haven't played Bioshock yet, but I'm somehow still avoiding the threads and ready to enter rapture soon. TF2 is tons of fun, and that fact might, just might, encourage me to go w/ UT3. I played a little of 2k3 & 2k4, and basically never quite enjoyed either, so with all the practice I'm getting in TF2, I may give this a shot, but then again, I may just decide that on any given night I'll have more fun playing TF2 than UT3 and pass it by. I'm guess I'll wait to see the goodjer reaction and join the party late, if at all.

Crysis I will likely get only if the raves are strong and lasting. I played most of the way through Farcry before I realized that the game got less fun as it went along and was just another FPS. The first half of the game was great fun though, and I played it a few times, but always got bored before finishing.

I'll definitely play HL2:E2. I just have to finish the others in the sequence first.

ETP:QW I'll likely pass, no matter how good it is. My love for MP shooters just doesn't extend far enough to encompass TF2, UT3 & that one. Sorry, I'm sure it will be a great game.

COD4 i'm on the fence about. I loved, loved, loved the original. The Stalingrad levels are now part of my gaming hall of fame. I never got into the expansion and skipped the next two completely. Leaving the WWII genre might be enough to get me to check into the Infinity Ward again.

I don't do the console thing. I just removed the PS2 from the HT setup this week, I needed the power outlet it was taking up. But, if the new plasma does come this winter as planned, there may be a wii in my future, if there is, there will be MP3 as well.

To be completely honest, with my schedule and gaming time; Bioshock, Stalker, TF2, and HL2 episodes will keep me busy through the winter. I'm sure I'll pick up either or both UT3 and COD4, but this is truly a glut of playable games. I don't have time to do them all justice.

I sincerely hope UT III falls on its ass in terms of sales, as sadly improbable as that sounds. There are only so many goo shotguns, unbreakable windows and "Fisher-Price & Salvador Dali had a child" level designs that a man can stand without the risk of turning fabulously gay.

7inchsplit wrote:

It's odd, but art direction seems like the biggest draw for me this season. Team Fortress 2 and Bioshock are the clear winners here, it seems. Everything else has a very same-y look to it, particularly the gritty swampy look of UT3 and Quake Wars. I'm so sick of that.

I have been enjoying games with different art direction as well. Games that are different graphically usually are more innovative and likely to deviate from the standard FPS formula than games with a realistic/gritty/postapocalyptic style. I'm more likely to forgive or even enjoy unrealistic gameplay mechanics (e.g., ridiculous physics) in an unrealistically styled game than I am in a game that claims to be "the most realistic combat simulation ever."

Oso wrote:

I played most of the way through Farcry before I realized that the game got less fun as it went along and was just another FPS. The first half of the game was great fun though, and I played it a few times, but always got bored before finishing.

I felt the same way. The game was very enjoyable until the mutants appeared. I fear Crysis will be the same way, but instead of "hey, mutants! They're tough and scary and pure mutated awesome!" it's going to be "hey, aliens! They're tough and scary and extraterrestrially awesome!" The superpowers could either change this or just be gimmicks that must be used in scripted scenarios. I want it to be good, but so far I'm skeptical.

Anodyne wrote:

I have been enjoying games with different art direction as well.

Judging from your avatar, you've been enjoying them for quite some time! But your point is very well taken, art direction can make a game really stand out. Remember the camera controls in Grim Fandango? Neither do I unless I think about them (They were pretty bad), but I DO remember the art direction and how pervasive it was in the gaming experience.

Metroid Prime 3 - I can't praise this game enough. The controls are excellent. Damn near perfect for me.

Bioshock - I've never played a FPS with a good storyline before this game. I sincerely hope this one of the candidates for GOTY.

Quake Wars and Unreal Tournament III... Unless I can hook up a wiimote to my 360, I really don't want them for a console. However, this presents a problem since none of the PCs I currently own can run these games. What to do... What to do...

Yaa a Reason to Post,

Despite that reason being only to Praise the goodness that is Metroid Prime 3. This is coming from a long time (and still am) PC FPS gamer.

I've never been able to stand or get hold off, the console fps control scheme. But the controls for MP3 on Wii, absolute joy. For me all console FPS will now be judged based on how well controls are, when compared to Metroid's.

And Sorry Halo fans, i can't be as positive about Halo as others online seems to be. And you can blame it on Metroid

Zenzic wrote:

Yaa a Reason to Post,

Despite that reason being only to Praise the goodness that is Metroid Prime 3. This is coming from a long time (and still am) PC FPS gamer.

I've never been able to stand or get hold off, the console fps control scheme. But the controls for MP3 on Wii, absolute joy. For me all console FPS will now be judged based on how well controls are, when compared to Metroid's.

And Sorry Halo fans, i can't be as positive about Halo as others online seems to be. And you can blame it on Metroid

Another welcome addition to the resistance! (I choose to ignore that you're from Toronto)
WE WILL NOT CONFORM!

I don't think you said one thing I disagreed with. I just wanted to add a note of strong agreement about Bioshock, and a note of caution about Metroid Prime.

Bioshock is the best FPS/adventure game ever done. It's probably a little too easy, so it's not really survival/horror quite like System Shock 2 was, but the story is amazing. This one finally dethroned No One Lives Forever for me. The excellence of this game is unbounded. I would have liked to see them explore a few themes more, but my criticism, on the whole, consists of tiny nitpicks on a masterpiece.

Metroid Prime's control system is indeed awesome, but the game itself is kind of meh. I probably would have liked it more if I'd played it before Bioshock, but after the incredible richness and depth of Rapture, the relatively sterile and boring Metroid Prime pales in comparison. It's mostly combat, with hardly any real puzzle solving, and it becomes very tedious. Worse, late in the game you are forced to revisit every level in a giant scavenger hunt, after already having had to do this three or four times as you got new powers. Bleh. Don't buy a Wii for Metroid Prime. If you already have one, get a used copy.

It does prove, however, that you can indeed do excellent FPSing on a Wii; the aiming system is intuitive and excellent. It's not quite as good as a mouse, but damn near, and far better than analog sticks.

Overall, Metroid Prime 3 feels like the developers were very bored with the franchise. Their loud statements that they're not doing any more Metroid makes me think that guess is correct.

Oh, and edit to add:

Bioshock - I've never played a FPS with a good storyline before this game. I sincerely hope this one of the candidates for GOTY.

Any outlet that does not give Bioshock GOTY will be getting a visit from me, and probably a few thousand other fans, armed with torches and pitchforks.

I would have liked Bioshock to explore Jack's mother more.

If you know what I mean.

LobsterMobster wrote:

I miss violence in my games. When I heard that Witcher was being censored for the US release, it made me wonder what happened to this being the only nation where you could count on your stuff to be UNcensored?

Ugh, I'm going to have to import The Witcher? I had to do that with Indigo Prophecy as well (another Atari published title.) That company needs to grow some nads.

AHH i did not know COH:4 is PC i understood that it was moving to console only which instantly turned to hate within me and i have not looked at another piece of marketing from it... i have seen the way. But i think i am tired of "modern" "realistic" combat type stuff so i will wait and see with COH:4

The rest of my post is as is.. but gears of war does look fun so i might pick that one up on impulse

I hope my wife doesn't take away my cards after this season..

Parallax Abstraction wrote:
LobsterMobster wrote:

I miss violence in my games. When I heard that Witcher was being censored for the US release, it made me wonder what happened to this being the only nation where you could count on your stuff to be UNcensored?

Ugh, I'm going to have to import The Witcher? I had to do that with Indigo Prophecy as well (another Atari published title.) That company needs to grow some nads.

The stickler in me wants to point out that while Fahrenheit had to be imported, the Indigo Prophey was a US release. (The rest of me thinks the sticker is an arse-hole.) But since that game has been brought up, I wanted to ask if the Xbox 360 controller issue has been fixed. I still have Fripper's copy of the game, but haven't been able to play.

shihonage wrote:

There are only so many goo shotguns, unbreakable windows and "Fisher-Price & Salvador Dali had a child" level designs that a man can stand without the risk of turning fabulously gay.

You say that like it's a bad thing...


I must be the only person on the planet who can't stand Half-Life 2, and that's probably the main reason I'll be taking a pass on TF2, because I really don't care for all the pack-ins. I don't know what to say about it except that the story never hooked me, the touted physics seemed to me nothing more than a world of styrofoam, and I didn't find the gameplay (follow the fixed path shooting wave after wave of the same thing, then solve a puzzle) entertaining.

I guess I'm too picky.


I really, really, really, really loved Bioshock. I guess it was fortunate I never played System Shock 2, so it was all new to me.

I was underwhelmed by FarCry. The graphics of course were astounding, and the wide-open environments were wonderful. I guess I was mostly put off by the GOD AWFUL BRAIN MELTINGLY BAD NPC DIALOGUE ("How do you like those apples!"). I'll probably give Crysis a pass.


Since Myth, going on ten years now, I have yet to have a satisfying multiplayer tactical experience in an online tactical game. Either all the people I end up playing with are twits, or the matchmaking system sucks, or the game itself has synchronization or lag issues, or there are hackers owning everyone with infinite health and auto-aim. I miss the experience of a well-executed plan pulled off by a group of people who can seemingly read each others tactical thoughts, I really do. I want it back, badly.

My most recent attempt at getting it back with Halo 3 was a horrible, horrible mistake. I started off matched up with a half dozen of my closest friends, which was cool. Then a couple matches happened where the game decided we needed more people or something. So Live decides to pull in the most abominable antisocial miscreants on the planet, all of whom had five-star reputations, natch. After only two matches of that... one in which half my team vanished after belching some vile spew that would have made Quentin Tarantino blush, and the other which started with me getting shot in the back of the head by a teammate and went downhill from there... let's just say I'm done with Halo 3 multiplayer except for Lone Wolf matches where I can keep my headset off.

I guess seven years as a sailor in the US Navy didn't prepare me for the denizens of Xbox Live.

Malor wrote:

Any outlet that does not give Bioshock GOTY will be getting a visit from me, and probably a few thousand other fans, armed with torches and pitchforks.

Prepare your clan for battle with the Halo kidz...

Does your wife know that you used the word "frak" in a sentence? When I do that mine threatens divorce on ground of irreconcilable geekery.

Does your wife know that you used the word "frak" in a sentence? When I do that mine threatens divorce on ground of irreconcilable geekery.

I make part of my living writing about video games. I think we're past the phase where saying frak is even on the radar.

Useless. - Certis

LobsterMobster wrote:

I miss violence in my games. When I heard that Witcher was being censored for the US release, it made me wonder what happened to this being the only nation where you could count on your stuff to be UNcensored?

You are talking about the Netherlands aren't you?
http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php...

BadKen wrote:

I must be the only person on the planet who can't stand Half-Life 2, and that's probably the main reason I'll be taking a pass on TF2, because I really don't care for all the pack-ins. I don't know what to say about it except that the story never hooked me, the touted physics seemed to me nothing more than a world of styrofoam, and I didn't find the gameplay (follow the fixed path shooting wave after wave of the same thing, then solve a puzzle) entertaining.

I would like to point out that Team Fortress 2 has nothing to do with Half-Life 2 except it being made in the same engine. The only thing in common between TF2 and HL2 is probably that you shoot at other people and things. TF2 does not have a story, nor aliens. Also being MultiPlayer makes it a whole different ballgame. My current experience with the public matches is actually pretty good. I have yet to meet a full server of douchebags.

Currently I am looking forward to COD4 for the PC. I was not that into UT2004, and Crysis seems to become a nice SP game, but given the Beta I'm not so sure about the MP part. At some point I will need to get Metroid, but that will have to wait until I get my own house with a Wii in it, and not a Wii in my girlfriends house.

Not compounding.

Great overview. The FPS brought me back to gaming (via Half-Life), and the genre is still near and dear to my heart. I'm pleased to see such a solid list.

I've got high hopes for COD 4, especially given the quality of the mulitplayer beta. I think it'll do very well.