It's been a long time - 20 years, in fact, since I first played Doom on a friend's PC at university, and was instantly hooked. Not only did you see the world through your character's eyes, you could see the weapon in his hands - even see it move as you ran and fired. In 1994, this was completely new, intoxicatingly different, and utterly compelling.
|Ahh, the memories.|
At first, each new pretender to the throne added something new to the basic FPS blueprint. Marathon and Dark Forces introduced the third dimension by allowing aiming up and down (Doom itself only required the player to face in the right direction). Goldeneye brought us the concept of the sniper rifle, and the incomparable joy of taking out unwitting enemies from halfway across a map (I can still remember my first time). Half-Life added more challenging AI, with opponents who would take cover, use grenades and try to flank the player.
|The Goldeneye sniper rifle. Dear to the hearts of gamers of a certain age.|
|Bioshock Infinite - we've come a long way, in some respects at least.|
Nearly a decade and a half on, the graphics are prettier, but the concept remains essentially untouched. A few months ago, I bought a copy of Bioshock Infinite. It looks lovely, and I'm a sucker for a game with good atmosphere - but after a few hours, I realised that I had played this game before. Not just once, but dozens of times. The backdrops vary, and the weapons change a little from game to game, but the basic template is the same. Perhaps there's nothing wrong with that - we're still playing platform games thirty years after Manic Miner, after all - but I think I may have had my fill.
It may be that the genre doesn't change much because the developers know what sells. There's a new Call of Duty every year, a new Battlefield nearly as often, and they shift in huge numbers, but they don't do much for me. It's all about the multiplayer for these franchises, and multiplayer FPS doesn't float my boat. I'm not entirely sure why. I think it's the culture. I play games to relax and to be entertained. I prefer to go at my own pace. Single player campaigns in CoD tend to be bolt-on affairs - I was lent a copy of Ghosts recently, and the intro bored me to tears. Please note, this is an intro that features a gun battle in space. That's gaming gold you're working with there. To make it dull takes a rare talent.
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against FPS games. The gaming world as we know it wouldn't - couldn't - exist without them. I just think the magic may have gone out of our relationship. I think it's time to move on. FPS, it's not you - it's me.