Just after he directed the monumental Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee told one interviewer, “unless you make a martial arts film, you are not a real filmmaker.” He felt there is something in the raw, kinetic energy of the genre that speaks to the very nature of the moving picture. If he were a game designer, he could probably have said the same about the first-person shooter.
The FPS is pure, elemental design: a gun, a location and an enemy. But it’s the myriad ways in which these components are represented and explored that makes this perhaps the defining video game archetype. And somehow – god only knows how, because it has sucked in a lot of other ways – 2016 has been a vintage year for shooters. From the deconstructive brilliance of Superhot to the exhilarating unreconstructed thrills of Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, almost every major FPS release over the last 12 months has been at least interesting, and often even brilliant.
Foremost, there’s been a real desire to explore the origins of the genre and get back to the fundamentals of what makes an FPS work. This is, of course, most obvious in Doom, Id Software’s riotous re-imagining of its legendary blaster. Stripped of narrative, jammed with classic weapons and utterly fixated on fast-paced gore, the game beautifully reconnects with its ancestor – but it also builds in modern elements. Weapons can be modified with scopes and alternate missile types; levels bring in much more verticality with overlapping walkways and staircases and a whole melee and glory kill mechanic adds physical brutality to the bloody mix.