It’s generally accepted, at least in some circles, that many modern first-person-shooters are in a bit of a quality rut.
Of course there’s some exceptions to that conclusion- Wolfenstein: The New Order and Counter Strike: Global Offensive being prime examples that the genre can still be fresh and satisfying.
Tight and interesting mechanics, varied level designs, and exciting stories are all things sorely lacking from FPS games nowadays. What we’re accustomed to in the genre now is the repackaging of ‘gameplay innovations’ from one game to the next, painfully linear single-player campaigns, and cluttered and uninspired multiplayer progression systems.
Titanfall charged us $60 for jet-packs and mechs and got away with it, so Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare followed suit with parkour mechanics and thrust-jumps, and it seems Halo 5 is going to be showcasing it’s own take on ‘dynamic arena traversal’. Personally, I can’t tell if these movement mechanics are plainly an advancement of the genre, or if developers are blatantly just copying each other.
Either way- the trend of tired FPS games isn’t really a new one. And just to be clear- this post isn’t to condemn modern shooters and to praise old ones. Clearly my opinion is that older shooters were generally better, but what I’d like to do with this post is to highlight the differences between the two. And I’ll do that by talking about a game that was gifted to me a while ago that I’m having a lot of fun with, Shadow Warrior: Classic Redux (shortened to SW from now on).
In SW you play as a cheeky, badass samurai. I think. It doesn’t really matter who he is, actually. What matters is there’s zombies with guns, ghosts that breath fire, and explosive demons all trying to kill you.
That’s all well and good- but now I’ll elaborate on some of the bigger aspects of the game that make it awesome.
Wide Open Levels Filled with Secrets
SW originally came out back in 1997, which was kind of a golden-age for 3D graphics technology on PC. These were the Doom 1, 2, and 3 years. A time when game developers were learning what it was like to explore systems in 3D space.
A product of this new creative frontier, I think (and this is 100% not researched,) is the wide open, secret-packed levels in SW. It was the same in the Doom games, where there’d be fake windows you can walk through, hidden buttons on walls, and underwater passages all filled with secret goodies.
What are these goodies, you ask? Well, anything, really. And that’s great. On the first level of SW you can find a missile launcher. Why the fuck not? If you’re diligent enough to find these things, you get to have a blast killing weaker enemies with big, shiny guns. Other secrets include fortune cookies with silly jokes in them, showering NPCs, and killer rabbits. It’s a silly game, we’ll get to that later.
And since the game is actually pretty tough, you’ll want to find as many secrets as you can. Which is cool, because these levels are actually very open-ended. There’s very few corridors and absolutely no on-rails sections in these games. You’re encouraged to blow up walls and take a look around the debris in SW.
Not to mention this introduces a replayability element to the game. At the end of each stage you get a figure denoting how many secrets you missed in the level. Generally after finishing a game (especially in recent years) I’m kind of exhausted from the whole ordeal. Instead with SW, I’m genuinely compelled to play through each level again right after I complete it. It’s great.
A Sense of Humor
God FORBID somebody has a laugh during your serious pre-rendered motion-captured cutscenes, huh game devs?
SW knows it’s a game and that it’s purpose is to entertain you. One of the ways it entertains is by not taking itself seriously, at all. Your character speaks in an over-the-top samurai-type accent and comments on the things you do in the most ridiculous ways. Pull out your shurikens- he’s got a line for that. Come across bunnies procreating- he’s got a line for that. Fall down a comically deep pit- he’s got a line for that.
Beyond the one-liners- the game makes you laugh in other ways, too. If you come across a fortune cookie, it will usually have a silly, exaggerated ‘ancient Chinese secret’ to enlighten you with. If you attack seemingly peaceful showering NPC’s, they’ll pull SMGs from somewhere and try to kill you. It’s all very silly and in good fun.