Simultaneously the best and worst thing about the First Person Shooter genre is that there are so damned many of them. And because there are shooters appearing with such alarming regularity, the truth is that sometimes it’s difficult to keep up. You know what it’s like. Three games come out in the same week that you like the look of, you pick one of them, and by the time you’re ready to go back, something else shiny and new has distracted you.
Over a period of time, it’s inevitable that we’re all going to have missed out on some great games – maybe the ones with a quirky premise that never quite got the recognition they deserved. So that’s where we come in with a round-up of some of the bona-fide Cult Classics of the genre that you may have missed out on the first time around.
The Operative: No One Lives Forever
Monolith (PC, PS2), 2000
For reasons that are not entirely clear, very few people wanted to play a game starring a sexy female spy in a catsuit, the buffoons. Evidently influenced by late 60s Bond movies and, more recently, the Austin Powers movies, Monolith created a superb premise where ex-cat burglar Cate Archer tip-toed around a plethora of memorable environments armed with a plethora of gadgets.
Exceptionally ambitious for its time, it gave players a great deal more opportunity to experiment than many modern shooters ever bother to offer. Players were afforded the opportunity to sneak past hazards with the aid of gadgets (such as the guard dog distracting electric poodle), dispose of corpses with body-removing powder, or just blast their way out of situations.
The overall look and feel of the game was memorable, too, with excellent swinging sixties-inspired music, and all manner of unusual locations and scenarios, such as a space station in zero gravity, a shipwreck, or a freefall from an aircraft. And yet despite scooping awards galore, it sold precisely bugger all – even a subsequent PS2 port and sequel didn’t do the job. Go and see what you missed.
The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay
Starbreeze (Xbox, PC, Xbox 360, PS3), 2004
Precisely one month before Riddick came out, the press got to see the game for the very first time. Gobsmacked as we were by the visuals on display, it seemed incredible that publisher Vivendi wasn’t shouting from the rafters, but a combination of film-based restrictions and general PR apathy ensured that the Xbox-exclusive game limped into stores with a complete absence of hype.
A few sites championed it around release, but by then it was too late. The Vin Diesel movie bombed, retail didn’t put it in front of punters and few gamers put their money down, despite the game being arguably one of the best shooters of its era. Blending stealth, adventure, melee, shooting and even mech combat to quite glorious effect, it almost defied categorisation, and proved beyond doubt that this was how to treat a film license.
To compound the tragedy of it all, Starbreeze also managed to create one of the finest technical achievements of that console generation. No other Xbox title even came close to matching its ludicrously detailed, bump-mapped environments. The game’s subsequent ports to PC and, eventually, 360 and PS3 via the recent Assault On Dark Athena release have put it back in the public eye again, thankfully. Check it out.