The Angry Gamer 07.19.03: Shooters Vs. FPS

Before we go any further, I must warn you: this article will be rife with strong opinions (namely, mine), complaints, and maybe even some harsh language about game developers’ mothers. C’mon, it’s called “ANGRY Gamer” for a reason. So if you’re easily offended, and not prepared to possibly have some of your favorite games torn apart, then get the hell out. Otherwise, read on!

Now then. What better topic to kick off this column than one of my favorite points of contention: Shooters vs. FPS (first-person shooters)! Let me begin by saying that shooters and FPS are not one and the same. The number of times I’ve had to explain this to casual gamers is truly staggering.

Anyway, games like 1943, Gradius, R-Type, Blazing Lazers, and the amazing Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga characterize the shooter genre. More often than not, you’re flying some type of attack craft, fighting off some type of nasty alien invasion force or other bad news. Shooters pride themselves on stacking the odds so heavily against you that you almost always get blown to bits on a constant basis, regardless of how predictable enemy AI may or may not be. These games take a hell of a lot of practice, and even more patience. Also, make sure loved ones aren’t around when you play them; the foul epithets that will spew forth from your pie hole may send them running for cover. Believe me, I know from experience.

Now, I’ll come right out and say it: FPS games suck. Screech at me all you want; they’re boring, mindless, and take minimal skill. The common counterarguments to my rant? “It takes skill to snipe someone else,” “They don’t suck! Halo is TEH BEST GAME EVAR!!!!111!1!11!”, “Online players are tougher than any cheesy alien ships,” etc. etc. You get the idea. First of all; comparing shooters and FPS is often like comparing apples and oranges.

Point one: skill. Take a FPS, and make it a shooter. Don’t change ANYthing other than the fact that now you’re a ship roaming through corridors or what have you, mowing people down. That’s a joke. Running down enemy bots and dodging their bullets/missiles/what-have-you may be “tough” for some, but compared to trying (and I stress the word “trying,” because you’ll often fail) to avoid literally HUNDREDS of enemy shots at once, it’s a walk in the park. To prove that, try doing the opposite: make a shooter into a FPS, changing nothing but the point of view. You’d be obliterated in the first wave of enemy fighters, because your view and control is so restricted. And don’t even bring up Descent; that game is still a FPS. The fact that it has a spaceship in it doesn’t make it a shooter. Sheesh.

Point two: online play. You might as well dump that one in the trash; shooters aren’t designed for online play. So all of the claims about “people online are better than game AI” and whatnot are null, void, and irrelevant. It’s like comparing a classic platformer and a sports game; it just doesn’t work that way. (Plus, it’s always nice not to have to deal with constant text on your screen along the lines of “Yah I r0x0rz st00pid n00b l33t 89d89f7rg7fdg6fd0″ or whatever the hell those kids are attempting to say these days.)

Point three: control. For an FPS, it’s long been held dear that a keyboard and mouse are the best way to play. Wow, look at all the pretty buttons you need. So you need 20 keys to take out a squad of enemy shock troops, while in a shooter, you have to crush an entire armada with 2 or 3 buttons.

Point four: bosses. Sure, FPS games have them (but not always), but they’re pretty mediocre. Big ugly monsters or giant Nazis? C’mon. Give me control of the Vic Viper (the ship from Gradius) and I’ll take on an asteroid-sized biomechanical demon from an alternate dimension any day! Bring it on!

Final point: weaponry. I’ll admit, some FPS games have some pretty cool weapons (the BFG 9000 springs to mind). But no gun, grenade launcher, or lightning strike can inflict the ridiculous amount of damage that a 10x damage missile strike can. Or how about the ever-popular “smart bombs” that annihilate everything on the screen? Or the pulse blasts that are wider than your own damn ship? Plus, it’s pretty much a fact that weapon fire just looks cooler in a shooter, mainly due to the fact that you can see the whole thing, not just a burst or rocket rapidly moving away from you (or towards you, for that matter!).

Instead of cranking out FPS clone after FPS clone, the industry needs to be a little more innovative. I’m not saying get rid of FPS altogether; no game genre should be exterminated. That only stifles creativity. But I do think we need a hardcore shooter revival here, for people who want an insane challenge. The recent release of Ikaruga on Gamecube is a step in the right direction, along with the upcoming Gradius V (developed by the shooter gods, Treasure!) and R-Type Final.

I think that about wraps it up for now. Until next time”¦