You know how some people preface a cringe-worthy comment with “I’m not racist but…” or “My best friend is [insert ethnic minority here]”? I’m warning that I’m going to spending a few paragraphs doing exactly that but on the significantly less discordant topic of video games. Join me as I reflect upon a genre that I was once in love with. We’re talking generously heaping gobs of nostalgia here. I’m talkin’ “Back in my day, we had to do some lite programming to get games to run through MS-DOS! Do you even know what MS-DOS is, son?” and such.
On the real, my fondness toward FPS games used to be quite intense. After all, my very first experience with PC gaming was with Duke Nukem 3D when I was in 7thgrade, acquiring this game at Sam’s Club after my best friend at the time had told me about shattering frozen enemies with the freeze gun/Mighty Foot combo, stomping upon shrunken foes with the shrink ray (complete with *squish* caption and iconic sound effects), and of course, my 14 year-old self was more than excited to see the strip club (and the Asian mannequin easter eggs in the first level of Episode 3). I love(d) this game so much that I have purchased it no less than four times: vanilla version, Plutonium Pack expansion (2x because the first disc did not work; that, Gears of War PC, and Crysis: Warhead PC are the only three games I’ve purchased that did not work out of the box due to crappy DRM), Atomic Edition, and some kind of version in my steam library that I have yet to play. This does not even include a really cool HD mod that I downloaded that replaces the sprite-based characters with polygonal ones in the original game. It’s probably the FPS I played the most throughout my entire gaming career.
After that was Quake. Now this was back in the days when HDD max sizes were 50-100 MEGAbytes, and Pentium II processors were running at like 100 GHz. Yo, I was using floppy disks until my freshman year in college in 2002! So without a dedicated GPU like a Voodoo or Matrox or Diamond, the game didn’t run on my computer and I got sidetracked by Heroes of Might and Magic 2 until my dad dropped some cheese on an ATI All in Wonder. It was only then that I could begin to play those cutting-edge polygon-based games. I got on Quake, but besides the nail gun, it did not quite fascinate me the way that Quake II did with its iconic rail gun. DAT SWIRLING EFFECT made the QII rail gun my #1 all-time favorite weapon in any FPS EVER. It was actually excruciating for me to play with the rail gun in Quake III Arena, which reduced the shooting effect to a “laser,” but at least I could customize the color. There is no redemption for the Quake IV rail gun. Some fool at Id Software thought it was a good idea to require players to reload their weapons, and the rail gun allowed 3-4 shots before it required a reload, making it more of a sniper rifle than it already was; QIII had already added a zoom, but without the scope. Nevertheless, the best part about Quake, besides introducing us to the concept of the “Arena MC,” was the gibs. This game was among the first to demonstrate polygonal total annihilation.
BY THE WAY, DID YOU KNOW YOU COULD PLAY QUAKE III ARENA FOR FREE?
I didn’t get into Doom until after 1995 when it was ported over to the PSX. I was very much looking forward to playing Doom after having read about it in for the first time in Electronic Gaming Monthly (Jaguar version) and PC gamer’s “Top 100-50 PC games of all time.” While I had always known the game as simply “Doom,” GameFaqs.com launched, and I discovered that The Ultimate Doom is actually the first game despite the apparent adjective indicating otherwise. Personally, I think “Ultimate” is more terminal than “Final,” though latter happens to actually be the last 2D Doom game. While I can’t say which version of Doom is the definitive version because I have yet to play Doom 64 or the BRUTAL DOOM mod, I know that the PSX version had the best music—well, at least the theme song that is—at least until Doom 3 came out with its righteous upgrade in theme from the previous Doom games.
Those are the ones that made the big splashes in my world. The ones that got me hooked into the FPS genre. Things like looking forward to the latest FPS to stress-test my PC hardware would come after the Crysis days. You know, if the game didn’t maintain a stable 60 frames per second plus on FRAPS then it was time to upgrade. Nevertheless, here are a few highlights:
-The introductory level of Unreal and its “OH MY GOD!” is firmly entrenched into my brain.
-I didn’t play Goldeneye on the N64 because I didn’t have any friends who owned the console. By the time I met some friends who did, they had memorized all of the respawn points and would place mines there so I’d die again as soon as…I died. That wasn’t fun. However, Goldeneye: 007 Wii is on my backlog, acquired for $10.
-I can’t say I appreciate Half-Life as much as most. It was cool to face AI that actually used tactics like flanking and grenade chucking to corral you out of cover, but I didn’t track the “narrative,” and Xen and Nihilanth to this day feel like Valve had a daft stoner moment like the album cover of Nirvana’s Nevermind. I’ll get it right when Black Mesa comes out.
-F.E.A.R. was a legit scary game and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar. Between the AI, excellent scripting, and plenty of mind ****ery, this game will have you literally shooting at shadows coming out of the walls because they will kill you if you don’t.
-Played Far Cry. The sharpshooter-accurate AI was discouraging, but the fabulous draw distances are still discussed to this day.
-Remember when AVP didn’t have save points and you had to beat an entire level in one life? I do, and did it. When a mod created a patch that allowed you to save three times, I considered that an easy mode for sissies. Think you about to beat a level with the Predator, the easiest (and most fun) character until you get one of these on your screen.
-Halo for me was what Goldeneye 64 was for most console gamers. The laughs had playing at my friend’s house were without number. I was a renegade, though, trying to use the assault rifle/shotgun combo when everyone else used pistols for three-shot kills (to the head). Pissed me off that the sniper rifle was less deadly than a pistol! Also, I could still “Rambo” in this game and live with 1 unit of health. Halo 2 would remove health and just keep shields. Bummer. Well, at least many of you may recognize that the introduction of regenerating health was “streamlined” by this game.
-Soldier of Fortune was a mediocre shooter with novel “mutilation” hitboxes. ‘Twas a game for sadists.
-Return to Castle Wolfenstein was underwhelming, as was Quake IV. At least the mod community of Doom 3 redeemed it through interesting maps that tried to recapture the frantic feel of Doom II.
I could go on, but you get the picture. Notice I didn’t mention CoD or Medal of Honor? By the time those games rolled around, the FPS genre was long-established. Those games actually founded a relatively untouched “military sim” kind of FPS when before, FPS games were rooted in science fiction. Rainbow Six also comes to mind, but that game was more tactical than “run in this room and clear 30 bad guys” like the FPS games of the 90’s and “Modern Warfare,” heh. Actually, that pun isn’t funny because quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of “military” or “mercenary” shooters. When I first thought about writing this article, I had envisioned going on a harangue. But that image at the beginning says enough, I think, and as you can plainly see, it excludes games like Arma, Black Ops, and F.E.A.R. 3. Unfortunately, many gamers eat this stuff up. So they keep feeding it to us. I’ve had my fill. For ever Bioshock, there are 3-4 of these military games. Enough already!
Actually, one of the reasons I’m writing this is because I was finally able to play a game that bucks the trend….