After reading that the newest re-hashing of Call of Duty has once again broken pre-order records, I felt very sad. So after a few hours curled up in the fetal position, I realised that the best way to cheer myself up was to think about ‘other’ FPS games. You know, the ones that don’t have financial backing and development teams the size of a small country.
So let’s talk FPS. Its legendary birth in mainstream gaming was thanks to games such as Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, which paved the way for the genre to evolve. Which leads us right up to the current trend of FPS regenerating ‘health-athons’ that saturate gaming libraries all over the world.
So before the Call of Duty November release date becomes a national holiday, I think we should remind ourselves that there are fantastically different games that don’t carry the seemingly ‘cookie-cutter’ FPS stamp of approval. These FPS games manage to retain a shred of originality.
And while FPS stands for ‘First Person Shooter’ (If you didn’t know that, shame on you), some of these games don’t even have ‘proper’ guns. To clarify, if a game offers the player’s perspective through the eyes of your on-screen avatar, with some form of gun/interactive object -it is an FPS. Trust me, I wiki’d it. And who doesn’t trust Wikipedia?
Note: If you’re wondering why Half Life 2 or any other FPS games are missing, it’s because they are the blatantly obvious choices. And you really should have played these by now!
1. Tag: The Power of Paint
Graffiti. It’s a colourful plague that torments city councils all over the world. But what if the spray paint splattered on the walls gave you abilities to run, jump and fly like never before! And so I present to you, Tag: The Power of Paint.
Armed with a paint gun, your objective is to complete various levels by covering surfaces in magical paint. Sounds simple enough! It’s actually quite tricky, but ridiculous fun all the same.
This independent FPS/Puzzle game was originally a student project developed at DigiPen, the famous college of design and video games. But when it won the award for ‘Best Independent Game’ at the college gaming festival, it was fully developed as a release title for Windows in 2008.
I know what you’re thinking. “That sounds like Portal 2’s Gel system!” Well my good sir, you’d be correct. Just like the student developers of Narbacular Drop were hired for work on Portal, Valve hired these brilliant chaps to develop the gel system for Portal 2! And a fine job they did.
Tag: The Power of Paint is a great way to see the birth of this gameplay mechanic in action. And while Portal 2’s gels were probably (for myself) the most interesting element of puzzle solving, a bunch of different paints featured in Tag didn’t make it into Portal 2. Just for that reason, it’s worth a play. And it’s free to download! No excuses.
2. Mirror’s Edge
Oh come on, how could Mirror’s Edge NOT be on this list. This 2007 sleeper hit is famous for intense cerebral parkour gameplay, which was coupled with a beautifully simple aesthetic that just… made your eyes smile (?). Being Faith was brilliantly fun, scaling the vast city landscapes with a remarkably intuitive control system.
It was actually developed by DICE – the team responsible for Battlefield 3, and they obviously know how to make a decent FPS game. But out of the two, I would always choose a playthrough of Mirror’s Edge; it’s one of those games that can be revisited again, and again, without any sign of visual aging.
The only downside is the length of the game, you can whizz through it in around 4-5 hours. But I’ve probably finished my copy a fair 6/7 times. Plus, you know a game is good when the main criticism is people just wanted MORE.
The rumour mill for a sequel is slowly grinding away in the shadows (I was exceptionally upset that it didn’t turn up at E3), but I think it’s incredibly likely to happen eventually, judging by the fan demand. So if you happened to miss this title, you could easily pick it up for less than £10 right now. I urge you to do so!
3. Penguins Arena
Okay, so I’m cheating slightly here. Penguins Arena is actually a First PENGUIN Shooter according to the developers. Now that you’ve finished laughing yourself silly, let’s get serious. Here’s the story plucked straight from the website:
“It all begins when a penguin legend comes to life in the form of Sedna, the ancient Penguin Goddess. Global warming, pollution… Penguin tribes are endangered. Sedna utters them that there is room for but one tribe. And so the purging begins.”
There is only one word. Epic.
There is only one word. Epic. So basically the game is throwing snowballs at rival penguins, attempting to knock them in to the sea. The rounds are short and sweet, and most importantly, fun! It may be a far-fetched entry, but I think any game is automatically awesome that involves both penguins and… well just penguins.
Not a lot more to say about this one… Again, I know it’s a very bizarre choice, but I couldn’t avoid the hours of fun I had with my friends at college when I was meant to be working – instead I was fighting a war. For the penguins.
Another puzzle game! Another game made by students! Another game that can be compared to Portal! Yes, yes and yes. But Q.U.B.E is far more than just this; it’s a showcase of what can be achieved through hard work and smart thinking.
Q.U.B.E proved that a team of non-programmers (Now called Toxic Games) could successfully make and release a full game. All the code was written by outsourcing their concepts and ideas; they had no hand in the programming. It was also the first game to be funded through the Indie Fund, an increasingly important aspect of Indie games continued support.
The games acronymic title actually stands for Quick Understanding of Block Extrusion, and tasks the player with manipulating blocks with a pair of special ‘gloves’, that act as an object that changes the environment. It is sterile, confusing and hard work. But it’s got that sense of “HELL YEAH I DID IT” when you finally finish a puzzle, which is definitely lacking in some games.
I love this game. It’s not only fun, it stands for what people can achieve when they work hard and think outside the box.
5. Serious Sam 3: BFE
FPS games are known for regenerating health, weapon limits and reality. But not Serious Sam. No, Sam prefers to load his guns with nostalgia, carrying a ridiculous amount of firepower, relying on health packs and fighting with imagination and aggression. Fighting aliens old-school style just feels right.
Sticking to that traditional 90’s FPS feel, you are pitted against vast groups of enemies in wide-open environments, making for a hectic experience. The guns range from simple handguns to the ridiculous Sirian Mutilator, that literally pulls your enemies apart. A nice change from a Silenced ACR 4.0-3.423-G6, or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days.
This game is an eclectic mix of Doom and Quake, with a dash of the modern FPS just to tie it all together. Within the pool of positive reviews, critics famously called it ‘Duke Nukem Forever, done right’. But to be fair, my Grandmother is more exciting than Duke Nukem Forever.
And she collects bells.
So that’s that folks. To round off, I want to make this clear – I am not calling the Call of Duty series categorically bad games. I am merely drawing attention to games that try to break the mold, offering something a little more original.
So not to worry, I’m sure as November draws nearer, the subliminal messages present in CoD adverts will start to take effect. So watch out for my sequel article in August, probably called “ALL CALL OF DUTY IS MASTERPIECE. ALL OTHER GAMES ARE NOT GAMES”
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