Since about 2007, if you ask me, something's been very wrong about the whole direction of the first person shooter. Sure, FPS is a genre that arguably evolves throughout the generations, but this generation, I feel, the fun has been removed from a lot of first person shooters.
My personal blame for all this is the intertwining of genres, although some great games such as Bioshock have come out of this and the fact a first person shooter has mostly just become an online game competing against each other for a short time span until the next best thing comes along. I'm not saying that I haven't enjoyed a FPS in the last 4 years or so, I've enjoyed Infinity Ward's Modern Warfare campaigns a lot and enjoyed Killzone 2 and the Resistance series to date and I'm a fairly big fan of the Halo universe. I'm just saying I think the genre is getting to the point of stagnation with all of the 'modern' based FPS after we all got virtually sick with the old silent 'space marine' cliche last generation, which nobody EVER came near to Halo. it's time to move on. It's time to escape from the confines of the real world and the wars within it. It's time to be a hero with one liners and a crapload of guns and shoot stuff in block sized arenas or struggle shooting enemies in cramped corridors.
With Bulletstorm, Duke Nukem Forever and Rage coming out this year, it looks like developers are beginning to pay attention that first person shooters are wholly meant to be fun and concentrating on the single player side of the game and have gotten fed up of people buying the game to 'go online'.
When I like a FPS, I prefer a FPS to feel 'chunky'. I can only describe a 'chunky FPS' as a FPS where your gun takes up most of the bottom of the screen, keycards, labyrinth levels, powerups, pick ups, health packs and a basic sci-fi inspired story. Examples, Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake 1&2, Rise of the Triad, Duke Nukem 3D, Shadow Warrior, Serious Sam, Nitro Family, Painkiller, Will Rock, Doom 3, Quake 4, quite recently, the shamefully badly marketed but great Singularity. The kind of gameplay in these games were the blueprints for what we play now.
IF you think you think those games are 'linear'. I challenge you to actually go back and play your Call of Duty game, play a level of the campaign and hopefully it'll sink in that the level design and freedom in first person shooters has actually gone backwards, the level design in Doom is more complicated than Call of Duty.
To date, I must say the last 'chunky FPS' released that I played was 2K Games Prey released in 2006. I loved Prey because of the odd, scary, physics breaking world it injected you into and the creative, but basic FPS weapons it supplied you with. The lead character, however, spoke, which is a rarity in chunky FPS. Not since Duke had I heard someone speak so clearly and not be afraid of showing the lead character at the beginning of the game. Prey also had (static) portal mechanics, before Portal, so I do find it a little annoying that Prey gets forgotten so often because to me, it had so many achievements as a game and had real character and concept. Bethesdea now have the rights for the franchise, so hopefully Prey 2 will be under Id tech 5.
Back to the games releasing this year, Bulletstorm arguably, looks like People Can Fly are applying everything they learned making Painkiller and just upping the scale. Combos in FPS aren't a new thing though, shooting combos can be found in the Xbox port of Serious Sam and a little known game made with the Serious Engine for PC named 'Nitro Family' (Go check it out, insane game), I believe the last point award system with multipliers was ironically, CoD4's Arcade Mode. But Bulletstorm looks to put the 'shooting' back into FPS and to be a whole lot of fun. But is actually a continuation of the early 2000's budget shooter that got kickstarted on PC again by Serious Sam which arguably picked up popularity because the FPS genre was getting stale because of getting too 'serious' ingrained in reality, sound familiar?
Duke Nukem Forever, goes without saying. Most people think that DNF will be a grand end for one big joke. I think that it'll be a revitalisation for the first person shooter. For a first person shooter, you really don't need a big story. A first person shooter is the equivalent of an 80's action film and Duke 3D reveled in that. Looking at Duke Nukem Forever, it looks to be giving a swift kick in the balls of what a first person shooter should be, plus, still following 3D Realms trademark as in Duke 3D and Prey, there's going to be a lot of doors to open, buttons to press and general interactivity, maybe even a pool table again.
Rage is Id Software's new baby. John Carmack, what can I say. Id software basically vanished from the development scene after 2004's Doom3, although Doom3 wasn't the macho hell cheese fest everyone expected it had it's moments. For those who did want that kind of crazy action, try the expansion pack 'Resurrection of Evil'. In the past, Id was always the developer to set the ball rolling with how to evolve the FPS. Doom, then Quake, Quake 2 and then hit the online world with Quake 3 Arena and then, arguably. Epic took over with anything with Unreal stamped on it being quality, barring Unreal 2. Meanwhile Id licensed their engines to numerous games and even allowed other developers to follow through with their IP. Rage is Id's IP and unfortunately, Id Software need to keep up with the rest of the gaming world this time. It may just look like another Fallout 3 or Borderlands, but this is Id we're talking about. Id start trends, they don't follow. So I expect a lot out of this.
I hope you agree with my stance of the first person shooter and how personally, they were more fun when they didn't actually take their selves too seriously, connect to real world events or have realistic damage that couldn't be repaired by a box on the ground by a man carrying 10 guns on his back. The chunky FPS returns and I'm all for it.
2011 is the First Person Shooter Renaissance.