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FPS and Action

At the forefront of gaming development lies the First-Person Shooter (FPS) and the Action game.  Considering that the majority of gamers are currently male (though females are quickly gaining ground, but not in this particular genre) it’s no surprise that games featuring guns, blood, and explosions are insanely popular.  We’ll briefly discuss the critical elements of the FPS and the Action game as reflected in popular titles for both PC and console.

First-person shooter

Ah, the FPS.  Where would we be without it?  Since Castle Wolfenstein 3D broke out on the scene in the early 90’s, the FPS has truly evolved into something fantastic and unbelievable.  The original FPS games were based on boxy levels with 2D sprites to simulate different views of a 3D player model.  Suffice to say, they kicked ass at the time (if you were old enough to even play it at the time) though they look incredibly backwards if you compare it to a modern shooter like DOOM 3.

An FPS is essentially a game for one player.  Your view is, not surprisingly, in the first-person.  Most FPS games involve guns, and lots of them.  The best way to experience an FPS is on a PC with a mouse and keyboard.  In this setup, the mouse looks around while the keyboard controls player movement and environment interaction.  The simplest way to describe it is ’point and shoot’, though the latest generation of games has evolved to include modern warfare tactics like cover and suppression.

The current king of all FPS games is Half-life, though Half-life 2 is slated for release on November 16, 2004.  Half-life was released in 1998 on an unsuspecting public.  It would later become the best-selling FPS of all time.  It successfully mixed intense action with an intriguing story line and a highly interactive environment.  Half-life 2 promises to smash all conceptions of what ’fully-interactive’ should mean in a video game.  Sporting a rigorous physics engine, quick-thinking AI that reacts to changes in the environment, and fully-destructible terrain, this sequel is among the most hyped of 2004.

Other important FPS titles are based on historical wars.  The Medal of Honor and Call of Duty series both simulate important battles fought on all sides of World War II.  The latest incarnations of each include ’squad combat’ where you actually move with a group of computer-controlled teammates through a battlefield.  Some newer FPS titles are beginning to mix in role-playing elements into the game where you can customize your character as you gain experience.  Deus Ex: Invisible War, is an example of this.

Most FPS titles are only available on PC.  The reasons for this are: FPS titles tend to be large in size, high in detail, and feature multiplayer components.  PCs are thus ideal for FPS titles.  One interesting thing of note is the emergence of ’mods’ for the multiplayer games and certain ’multiplayer only’ games.

Half-life is an example of how a developer can encourage free spin-offs of their game with the release of their source code.  The crazy-popular mod of Half-life, known as Counterstrike, is played by thousands of people every day and is the most popular online game in existence.

The Battlefield series set in both WWII and Vietnam, along with Star Wars: Battlefront are examples of games designed for the explicit purpose of playing against other people.  They all feature a single-player component, but it’s really nothing compared to jumping onto a battlefield with up to 50 people at once and riding across it in tanks and planes.

Action

Action games are a loose category that I will use to describe everything that involves running around, beating-up or shooting-up people in a 3D environment.  These are typically done in the third-person, with the camera either behind your player and a bit above, or fully controllable.

Many of the more traditional action games are for console.  Games like Dynasty Warriors, Ninja Gaiden, and Shinobi are all traditional action games that involve running around using your fists, swords, or magical powers.  Taking it up a notch, popular third person action titles like Max Payne and BloodRayne were instant classics when they were released.  Max Payne featured a gritty New York landscape and the innovative use of ’bullet time’ similar to what you’ve seen in the Matrix.  BloodRayne was a simple console action title that became popular because of its excessive gore and voluptuous- scantly-clad-vampire-heroine.

The king of action titles, though I’d be embarrassed to say that it is simply an action title, is the Grand Theft Auto series.  Made by Rockstar entertainment, Grand Theft Auto 3 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City were both ’persistent world’ games where your character had free movement throughout the simulated cities of New York and Miami, respectively.  Players could wander around finding missions to complete, or even earn money by driving a cab.  Many parental associations are against this game because the freedom to move also translates the freedom to shoot and kill innocent bystanders.  While I firmly believe that people who play video games are not violent by nature, I do realize that letting kids play games where they can run around killing police officers and elderly people is not exactly the best way to get them started in life.

GTA: San Andreas is slated for release in October 26, 2004.  It promises to raise the bar by allowing players to travel across an entire state and visit three unique cities modeled after San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas.