Feature: The History of First-Person Shooters

As FPS Gamer clears leather, Kristan Reed turns in the ultimate retrospective: the evolution of the first-person shooter genre from Maze War to Modern Warfare 2.

By Edwin Evans-Thirlwell, October 26, 2009



It’s a painful admission, but I was a late recruit to the guns ‘n’ ammo brigade. A shameless fantasy buff, most of my juvenile computer time was devoted to classic Middle-Earthly shareware RPGs like Spiderweb’s Exile series. On the console side, it was all about Sega, Sonic and the platformer at large.


But one day I got my hands on a simple 3D flight shooter, homely ancestor to the likes of G-Police. Curiosity piqued, I proceeded to delve into LucasArts’ Dark Forces, died frequently, learned the importance of looking up and fell for the genre hook, line and sinker.


There was a lot I’d missed – my first stab at Doom was on the GBA, for crying out loud! And there still is. Which is why it’s fortunate we have devastatingly well-informed people like Kristan Reed knocking around.


What Kristan doesn’t know about machine-gunning Nazi demons in the face isn’t worth knowing, and you certainly won’t be reading about it in the following, formidable, five-part FPS retrospective…


Part 1 deals with the birth of the beast way back in 1974, the gradual bulking up of home gaming technology over ensuing decades, and the paradigm-fragging arrival of Wolfenstein 3D and Doom in the early nineties.


Part 2 tackles the period 1996-7, with 3D graphics acceleration finding its footing, the Duke kicking ass and Quake storming the online scene.


Part 3 casts an eye over 1998-2000, which saw Valve announce its existence in spectacular style, while Epic threw down the gauntlet to id in the form of Unreal.


Part 4 covers 2001-2005, Valve’s ability to make lightning strike twice, the increasing centrality of the console (largely on Bungie’s account) as FPS platform, and World War 2′s revival in the name of online multiplayer.


Part 5, finally, takes us from 2006 to the present day, with Crytek holding a candle for PC gamers while PlayStation and Xbox advocates debate the merits of Halo 3, Killzone 2 and co, EA pushing into the free-to-play market and the Wii fumbling for a straight aim.


Hope that coffee’s still hot. You may turn over your exam papers… now.


6 Responses to “Feature: The History of First-Person Shooters”

  1. John says:

    I wish they would have never made a FPS game…..well besides Wolfenstein3D, DOOM, Quake, Soldier of Fortune, Killzone2 and maybe Half-Life. The rest can go fuck themselves!!

  2. Brandon says:

    List is wrong the first FPS was Catacomb 3-D from id software.

  3. noah says:

    Links don’t work.

  4. Adam says:

    Fixored!

    We briught over all the content from our previously separate sites including FPS Gamer, however we’ve been a bit lazy about updating certain links and images… however it’s mostly done now and this feature should be good to go. Enjoy.

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