So what does make a good shooter? Many of you who regularly read my blog know that I am certainly not a fan of the generic first person shooters that clog up the gaming market these days. Call of Duty, Battlefield, Medal of Honor, etc. What do they all have in common? Well, everything really. Photorealistic graphics, bad stories, mediocre gameplay, and an alright multiplayer experience.
One of the biggest things that I look for in games is the story. That’s why, in recent years, I have moved further away from all flavors of shooters, and have gotten more into action/adventure games, like Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, Arkham City, Dishonored, and the Assassin’s Creed franchise. However, there are definitely shooters that have a good story, and the number of them is increasing, which I believe is a very good thing.
Take the Halo franchise, for example. Halo is one of my favorite game franchises, and I own all of the games except for Halo 2 (for reasons that are unbeknownst to me), and I love all of them. Partially, this is because of the gameplay, but I’ll delve deeper into that later. What Halo does really well is forge an excellent sci-fi epic, with the mythos expanding from the video games, to books, comics, movies, and TV shows. The reason for this is because of how great the story is. Anyone who’s played Halo will know what I’m talking about, and for those who haven’t, play it. The story really sucks you in, and, especially in Halo Reach and Halo 4, drains you emotionally. Prior to those two games, there was not all that much emotion. I mean, you develop ties to the characters for sure, but the story really stands out. The way in which it’s executed is masterful, and it’s part of the reason I love the game so much.
The same goes for other shooters, such as Crysis, Spec Ops, and Gears of War. Each of those games crafts an excellent story, centered around strong characters and really great writing. And it’s no surprise that those games, like Halo, are among the only shooters that I play.
While story is an extremely important aspect of shooters, the gameplay is an essential piece of every video game, and in shooters, I expect it to be amazing. Because that is one of the key elements of video games. Sure, an awesome story is my number one expectation of all video games. But, video games also have to be fun, and while a good story is a massive contributor to the fun factor of a game, gameplay makes or breaks how fun a game really is.
So yes, games need good gameplay. Who would have thought, right? And, in my opinion, the gameplay found in many shooters is under par. However, it’s games that add something different that often have the best gameplay. I mean, how fun can it be to run around as an American soldier shooting people? Quite frankly, it’s not, and there just aren’t as many gameplay mechanics. For example, Crysis has a good variety of different mechanics that add variety to the game.
Which is something else that I find lacking in many shooters. There isn’t all that much variety. I mean, take the Call of Duty campaign mode for example. Essentially, all it consists of is “run down this corridor, enter this room, shoot these people.” My favorite example of the contrary to this is what I call the Halo format. The Halo format is essentially where each level is it’s own mini sandbox of sorts. While they never quite reach open world status, the missions achieve giving the gamer a level of freedom.
And I like freedom in my games. Having each mission function as a sandbox of sorts is an awesome gameplay mechanic. It makes me, the gamer, feel like I have choice. Not much, granted, but it allows me to play in my own way. I can use whatever strategy I feel like using. And that may depend on my mood, certainly. I may not always want to play the same way. And that is something that I feel makes a good game. I can’t stand not having my freedom in a game, and, sadly that’s the problem with a lot of shooters. That’s why the shooters I play all allow for this system of choice.
Furthermore, I always love good level designs in shooters. I can’t stand bad level designs. And, bad gameplay usually goes hand in hand with bad level design. And bad level design kills a game. When a game has good level design, both in campaign and in multiplayer, it makes the game a lot more fun. Good level design creates a fun campaign, and makes the gameplay a lot more fun.
So, to sum it all up: I like games that are fun. I love shooters. But not just any shooters. I like shooters that contain all the key elements of a game. Great stories, great gameplay, and great level designs, as well as a sense of freedom. So yes, certain shooters are great games, but it takes a lot to create a good game. But when a good shooter is actually created, it’s an almost instant classic. This is proved by games like Gears of War, Halo, Crysis, and a few other standouts.