The gaming industry has grown immensely over the past two decades, but an unfortunate consequence of that is a large number of games fall by the wayside; something that’s especially true for the first person shooter genre.
With AAA franchises like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Doom, Overwatch, Wolfenstein, Far Cry, Rainbow Six: Siege and more dominating the market, is it any wonder that some titles are simply resigned to being footnotes in the annals of history? Well, let’s change that!
Here are ten first-person shooters that, for whatever reason, people have completely forgotten about.
10. Frontlines: Fuel of War
Hyped as a potential Battlefield beater, Frontlines: Fuel of War followed the idea that once natural resources start to dwindle, the nations of the world will turn on each other in a desperate bid for survival. What this translated to was large scale infantry warfare with some tanks to boot. So far, so good, so what was the issue? Blandness, mainly. It was a functional game with some good moments, but hardly anything worth writing home about. You’ll find that’s a common issue with forgotten games. They weren’t great enough to be become constant fixtures in your playing rotation, but they weren’t terrible enough to be memorable in their own right. They came, did an okay job and subsequently left again with the same small amount of fanfare they arrived with.
9. Section 8
One look at some screenshots for the 2010 shooter Section 8, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it was just another mediocre “army men in mech suits go pew-pew” sci-fi fodder that became commonplace in the wake of Halo. To be fair, it was exactly that. It was flawed, with armour that sometimes felt nigh-on indestructible and a server population that could be described as sparse at best, but Section 8 offered some intriguing concepts. The ability to drop from orbit into any spot on the map allowed for a greater level of strategy when entering combat, and the ability to boost horizontally and vertically gave the game some variety when engaging the enemy. On the whole, Section 8 was pretty underrated, even if the campaign was a big steaming turd.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Pitchforks down, boys and girls. People remember Black. Hell, people loved Black. You could easily argue that Criterion’s foray into the first person shooter world was the best FPS of the PS2/original Xbox era. Problem is, when talking about the game that triggered the sudden influx of gung-ho modern military shooters of the mid to late 00’s, people give that honour to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The reality? Black had already set the precedent for games featuring a one man army shooting up foreign countries with vastly superior munitions a year or so prior. Don’t forget that.
Here’s something I learned during the research and writing of this article: Bodycount was intended to be the spiritual successor to the previous game on this list, Black. That’s according to Wikipedia, anyway. Whilst both games were developed by the same team, and had a focus on destructible environments, the two games couldn’t be more opposed. Black focused on modern military weapons and setting, whereas Bodycount ventured into the realm of “not-too-distant-future-but-still-distant-enough-for-dumb-science-fiction crap”. Black had a pretty lengthy and challenging campaign. Bodycount could be conquered in around 4 hours. Black was pretty good. Bodycount wasn’t.
6. Soldier of Fortune
Another modern military shooter, it’s not hard to see why some games fell through the cracks. At one point, you could visit your local game shop and be swimming in patriotic armament masturbation material before Modern Warfare was a twinkle in Infinity Ward’s eye. Soldier of Fortune was one such title, though this particular series offered its own gimmick to set itself apart from the pack: constant gore. It was considered a rarity to kill an enemy in Soldier of Fortune without them gibbing in some way or another. Once you looked past that, however, it just became another generic shooter, soon to be traded in and placed back on the shelf of your local gaming establishment.
5. America’s 10 Most Wanted
Another one of these military shooters! At least this one offered some humour, whether that was unintentional or otherwise. America’s 10 Most Wanted was the Ronseal job of videogames, tasking you with hunting down and murdering the 10 most wanted, culminating in your own little Zero Dark Thirty moment where you capture Bin Laden. You remember that; when Bin Laden was the sum of all our fears? Such a simpler time. Still, the game was critically panned for being about as well made as a 3am kebab. In fact, that’s an insult to kebabs. My bad.
4. Quantum of Solace
Okay, let’s take a brief reprieve from the dudebro army/marine games for just a moment. James Bond and the wacky world of video games have enjoyed a long standing partnership, even if the quality on offer has about the same range as Daniel Craig’s tenure as the super spy. Sometimes we’re handed FPS perfection, such as Goldeneye, yet sometimes we’re left with something truly abhorrent. Here’s looking at you, Goldeneye: Reloaded. Quantum of Solace fell somewhere in the middle, but was entertaining enough for a while. Running on a variant of the Call of Duty engine, QoS implemented a decent cover system and a few stealth moments to keep your interest. If anything, it was better than the Quantum of Solace film, and the multiplayer wasn’t bad either.
Warface was a– goddamn it! Who let another military shooter on the list?
Okay, I’m composed. The most recent game on this list, Warface was a free-to-play military shooter from the Crytek team that focused on co-op missions, earning sweet loot and more than a lot of microtransactions. Primarily a PC title, Warface enjoyed a brief spell on the Xbox 360 before being discontinued after under a year. The issue with Warface was the aforementioned microtransactions. If you didn’t trade actual money for virtual currency, you were liable to miss out completely on any good weapons and items, and you had less respawns than other players during co-op missions. When the harder difficulties crushes teams as much as Warface does, it’s hard to not feel like the game perfectly embodied the pay-to-win mantra.
2. Punisher: No Mercy
The Punisher is one of the most compelling characters in the history of comic books. The 2005 Punisher game from Volition captured the essence of the character, blending the storied history of Frank Castle with the recent (at that time) Thomas Jane movie, wrapped up in a visceral third person shooter engine that allowed Castle to express his penchant for Punishment. It was rough around the edges, sure, but so is the character. It set the right tone. Do you know what the antithesis of the character is? A fucking arena shooter. You were right to forget about Punisher: No Mercy, and I regret mentioning it. Damn, it’ll make you wish for another military shooter.
1. Area 51
Also know as David Duchovny’s sci fi video game that wasn’t X-Files related, Area 51 was released in 2005, slap bang in the middle of the Xbox 360/PS3 pre-release hype train. Hard to care about a new science fiction adventure when you’ve got Halo 3 to look forward to. A shame, really, as Area 51 offered some of the most progressive FPS action of the PS2 era. The game starts out as a tense horror experience where you and a squad investigate a mutant contagion at the world’s most famous base/centre of every single conspiracy theory in the world. As time rolls on, and as your squadmates begin to drop like flies, the game morphs into a faster-paced shooter. You become infected with the mutant juices, the aliens come out to play and you get some sweet new toys to experiment with. With a lengthy, challenging campaign and gameplay that was ahead of its time, Area 51 deserves to be remembered more than it is.