What ignited the first person shooter craze?

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Answered by: Andrew, An Expert in the Action and Shooters Category
Probably the best first place to start with first person shooters is the classic Duck Hunt. Although this is nothing like the Call of Duty games that millions are playing today, giving the player their own perspective was a real 'game-changer.' From there all sorts of trends developed. Shooters that featured controllers can pay homage to the PC, where games such as Doom and Castle Wolfenstein displayed amazing close-up graphics that hadn't really been attempted before them. Most game developers realized the limitations of the 8-bit and 16-bit world, and chose to do 2D side-scrollers like Mario, or top-down perspectives such as Zelda. With Doom and Wolfenstein, a player could actually imagine themselves being the arms that held the really cool weapons on the bottom of the screen. This gave the gaming world its first person perspective, as well as the first iterations of 3D planes.

Most people jump to Goldeneye for the next big first person shooter, but another key game came out around this time: Half-Life. Both featured vastly improved graphics that had been getting better since Doom 2, and the favored Duke Nukem franchise, but the reason why Goldeneye really took the cake was because of the success of the N64. PC gamers were still a niche crowd because computers weren't really what they are today, and Goldeneye was a hugely successful film. Interestingly enough, however, Goldeneye only did one thing to improve the first person shooter genre: it added a multiplayer feature. Now up to four players could chose their favorite characters from the game and duke it out on several different maps designated for the play. With a wide range of options, gamers soon had their own personal favorite style of play when friends came over.

Unfortunately, I have to skip over a lot of fantastic games. Perfect Dark, an arguable improvement over Goldeneye, Black, advertised as gun-porn, and about a dozen other great games were developed, but didn't add anything new to the genre. That didn't come until Halo. Halo changed everything. For the first time, health packs were done away with and replaced by a replenishing health bar. Now a player could receive a lot of damage, have their screen turn red, and try and hide until their health returned to normal. No more could a player stock up on health packs to stay alive. This was considered to be a great strategic turning point in the first person shooter genre, and almost all popular shooters followed in suit.

Halo also had the benefit of being on one of the first consoles to have the internet. Possibly the last great addition to the genre, the internet allowed players who didn't have access to three friends or three extra controllers access to a world full of competition. The Call of Duty franchise followed this up, and by the time Modern Warfare came out, millions were actively engaging in warfare, competing to be the best. The Halo and COD franchise competed together to develop many improvements to the internet gaming community, including achievements and leveling up. But the real reason why COD set itself apart from Halo is that it went further to remove the concept of picking up things along the way. Even though Halo removed health packs, there were still special weapons lying around to be found. COD used its leveling system to give players their choice in what weapon to hold, with the chance to improve weapons only through playing more and gaining experience. This came with gun modifications and perks, so that a player could choose for themselves their favorite mode of warfare.

At the end of the day, the first-person shooter genre has come a long way since Duck Hunt. The Light Gun never really caught on, but controllers have improved so that complete, or more complete control over characters can be achieved. Its hard to say what further advances can be achieved, but games like Halo: Reach have shown that the current models can still be improved. Games like Crysis 2, on the other hand, show that the major two franchises, Halo and all of Duty, are not the only ones creating great first person shooters, and that gamers still have a wealth of games to choose from.

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