A screenshot of Half-Life, widely considered to be one of the most influential games in the genre.
A screenshot of Half-Life, widely considered to be one of the most influential games in the genre.

First-person shooter (FPS) is a sub-genre of shooter video games centered on gun and other weapon-based combat in a first-person perspective, with the player experiencing the action through the eyes of the protagonist and controlling the player character in a three-dimensional space.[1] The genre shares common traits with other shooter games, and in turn falls under the action game genre. Since the genre's inception, advanced 3D and pseudo-3D graphics have challenged hardware development, and multiplayer gaming has been integral.

The first-person shooter genre has been traced back to Wolfenstein 3D (1992), which has been credited with creating the genre's basic archetype upon which subsequent titles were based. One such title, and the progenitor of the genre's wider mainstream acceptance and popularity, was Doom (1993), often considered the most influential game in this genre; for some years, the term Doom clone was used to designate this genre due to Doom's influence.[2] Corridor shooter was another common name for the genre in its early years, since processing limitations of the era's hardware meant that most of the action in the games had to take place in enclosed areas, such as in cramped spaces like corridors and tunnels.[3]

1998's Half-Life—along with its 2004 sequel Half-Life 2—enhanced the narrative and puzzle elements.[4][5] In 1999, the Half-Life mod Counter-Strike was released and, together with Doom, is perhaps one of the most influential first-person shooters. GoldenEye 007, released in 1997, was a landmark first-person shooter for home consoles, while the Halo series heightened the console's commercial and critical appeal as a platform for first-person shooter titles. In the 21st century, the first-person shooter is the most commercially viable video game genre, and in 2016, shooters accounted for over 27% of all video game sales.[6]


First-person shooters are a type of shooter game[7] that relies on a first-person point of view with which the player experiences the action through the eyes of the character. They differ from third-person shooters in that, in a third-person shooter, the player can see the character they are controlling (usually from behind, or above). The primary design focus is combat, mainly involving firearms or other types of long range weapons.[8]

A defining feature of the genre is "player-guided navigation through a three-dimensional space." This is a defining characteristic that clearly distinguishes the genre from other types of shooting games that employ a first-person perspective, including light gun shooters, rail shooters, shooting gallery games, or older shooting electro-mechanical games.[1] First person-shooter games are thus categorized as being distinct from light gun shooters, a similar genre with a first-person perspective which uses dedicated light gun peripherals, in contrast to the use of conventional input devices.[9] Light-gun shooters (like Virtua Cop) often feature "on-rails" (scripted) movement, whereas first-person shooters give the player complete freedom to roam the surroundings.

The first-person shooter may be considered a distinct genre itself, or a type of shooter game, in turn a subgenre of the wider action game genre.[10] Following the release of Doom in 1993, games in this style were commonly referred to as "Doom clones";[11][12] over time this term has largely been replaced by "first-person shooter".[12] Wolfenstein 3D, released in 1992, the year before Doom, has been often credited with introducing the genre, but critics have since identified similar, though less advanced, games developed as far back as 1973.[8] There are occasional disagreements regarding the specific design elements which constitute a first-person shooter. For example, titles like Deus Ex or BioShock may be considered as first-person shooters, but may also fit into the role-playing games category, as they borrow extensively from that genre.[13] Other examples, like Far Cry and Rage, could also be considered adventure games, because they focus more on exploration than simple action, they task players with multiple different objectives other than just killing enemies, and they often revolve around the construction of complex cinematic storylines with a well defined cast of secondary characters to interact with. Furthermore, certain puzzle or platforming games get also called first-person shooters, in spite of lacking any direct combat or shooting element, instead using a first-person perspective to help players immerse within the game and better navigate 3D environments (for example, in the case of Portal, the 'gun' the player character carries is used to create portals through walls rather than fire projectiles). [14] Some commentators also extend the definition to include combat flight simulators and space battle games, whenever the cockpit of the aircraft is depicted from a first-person point of view.[4][8]

Game design

Like most shooter games, first-person shooters involve an avatar, one or more ranged weapons, and a varying number of enemies.[10] Because they take place in a 3D environment, these games tend to be somewhat more realistic than 2D shooter games, and have more accurate representations of gravity, lighting, sound and collisions.[7] First-person shooters played on personal computers are most often controlled with a combination of a keyboard and mouse. This system has been claimed as superior to that found in console games,[15][16] which frequently use two analog sticks: one used for running and sidestepping, the other for looking and aiming.[17] It is common to display the character's hands and weaponry in the main view, with a heads-up display showing health, ammunition and location details. Often, it is possible to overlay a map of the surrounding area.[18]

Combat and power-ups

First-person shooters generally focus on action gameplay, with fast-paced combat and dynamic firefights being a central point of the experience, though certain titles may also place a greater emphasis on narrative, problem-solving and logic puzzles.[19] In addition to shooting, melee combat may also be used extensively. In some games, melee weapons are especially powerful, as a reward for the risk the player must take in manoeuvring his character into close proximity to the enemy.[20] In other games, instead, melee weapons may be less effective but necessary as a last resort.[21] "Tactical shooters" tend to be more realistic, and require the players to use teamwork and strategy in order to succeed;[17] the players can often command a squad of characters, which may be controlled by the A.I. or by human teammates,[22] and can be given different tasks during the course of the mission.

First-person shooters typically present players with a vast arsenal of weapons, which can have a large impact on how they will approach the game.[7] Some games offer realistic reproductions of actual existing (or even historical) firearms, simulating their rate of fire, magazine size, ammunition amount, recoil and accuracy. Depending on the context, other first-person shooters may incorporate some imaginative variations, including futuristic prototypes, alien-technology or magical weapons, and/or implementing a wide array of different projectiles, from lasers, to energy, plasma, rockets, and arrows. These many variations may also be applied to the tossing of grenades, bombs, spears and the like. Also, more unconventional modes of destruction may be employed by the playable character, such as flames, electricity, telekinesis or other supernatural powers, and traps.

In the early era of first-person shooters, often designers allowed characters to carry a large number of different weapons with little to no reduction in speed or mobility. More modern games started to adopt a more realistic approach, where the player can only equip a handheld gun, coupled with a rifle, or even limiting the players to only one weapon of choice at a time, forcing them to swap between different alternatives according to the situation. In some games, there's the option to trade up or upgrade weapons, resulting in multiple degrees of customization. Thus, the standards of realism are extremely variable.[7] The protagonist can generally get healing and equipment supplies by means of collectible items such as first aid kits or ammunition packs, simply by walking over, or interacting with them.[23] Some games allow players to accumulate experience points in a role-playing game fashion, that can generally be used to unlock new weapons, bonuses and skills.[24]

Level design

First-person shooters may be structurally composed of levels, or use the technique of a continuous narrative in which the game never leaves the first-person perspective.[4] Others feature large sandbox environments, which are not divided into levels and can be explored freely.[25] In first-person shooters, protagonists interact with the environment to varying degrees, from basics such as using doors, to problem solving puzzles based on a variety of interactive objects.[4] In some games, the player can damage the environment, also to varying degrees: one common device is the use of barrels containing explosive material which the player can shoot, harming nearby enemies.[23] Other games feature environments which are extensively destructible, allowing for additional visual effects.[26] The game world will often make use of science fiction, historic (particularly World War II) or modern military themes, with such antagonists as aliens, monsters, terrorists and soldiers of various types.[27] Games feature multiple difficulty settings; in harder modes, enemies are tougher, more aggressive and do more damage, and power-ups are limited. In easier modes, the player can succeed through reaction times alone; on more difficult settings, it is often necessary to memorize the levels through trial and error.[28]


More 21st century first-person shooters utilize the Internet for multiplayer features, but local area networks were commonly used in early games.
More 21st century first-person shooters utilize the Internet for multiplayer features, but local area networks were commonly used in early games.

First-person shooters may feature a multiplayer mode, taking place on specialized levels. Some games are designed specifically for multiplayer gaming, and have very limited single player modes in which the player competes against game-controlled characters termed "bots".[29] Massively multiplayer online first-person shooters allow thousands of players to compete at once in a persistent world.[30] Large scale multiplayer games allow multiple squads, with leaders issuing commands and a commander controlling the team's overall strategy.[29] Multiplayer games have a variety of different styles of match.

The classic types are the deathmatch (and its team-based variant) in which players score points by killing other players' characters; and capture the flag, in which teams attempt to penetrate the opposing base, capture a flag and return it to their own base whilst preventing the other team from doing the same. Other game modes may involve attempting to capture enemy bases or areas of the map, attempting to take hold of an object for as long as possible while evading other players, or deathmatch variations involving limited lives or in which players fight over a particularly potent power-up. These match types may also be customizable, allowing the players to vary weapons, health and power-ups found on the map, as well as victory criteria.[31] Games may allow players to choose between various classes, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, equipment and roles within a team.[21]


Main article: Free-to-play

There are many free-to-play first-person shooters on the market now, including Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Apex Legends, Team Fortress 2, and Planetside 2.[32] Some games are released as free-to-play as their intended business model and can be highly profitable (League of Legends earned $2 billion in 2017),[33] but others such as Eternal Crusade begin their life as paid games and become free-to-play later to reach a wider audience after an initially disappointing reception.[34] Some player communities complain about freemium first-person-shooters, fearing that they create unbalanced games, but many game designers have tweaked prices in response to criticism, and players can usually get the same benefits by playing longer rather than paying.[34]


For the history of light gun shooter, rail shooter and shooting gallery games that employ a first-person perspective, see Shooter game § History, and Light gun shooter § History.

Predecessors: 1970s–1980s

Before the popularity of first-person shooters, the first-person viewpoint was used in vehicle simulation games such as Battlezone.
Before the popularity of first-person shooters, the first-person viewpoint was used in vehicle simulation games such as Battlezone.

The earliest two documented first-person shooter video games are Maze War and Spasim. Maze War was originally developed in 1973 by Greg Thompson, Steve Colley and Howard Palmer, high-school students in a NASA work-study program trying to develop a program to help visualize fluid dynamics for spacecraft designs. The work became a maze game presented to the player in the first-person, and later included support for a second player and the ability to shoot the other player to win the game. Thompson took the game's code with him to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where with help from Dave Lebling to create an eight-player version that could be played over ARPANET, computer-run players using artificial intelligence, customizable maps, online scoreboards and a spectator mode.[35] Spasim had a documented debut at the University of Illinois in 1974. The game was a rudimentary space flight simulator for up to 32 players, featuring a first-person perspective.[8] Both games were distinct from modern first-person shooters, involving simple tile-based movement where the player could only move from square to square and turn in 90-degree increments.[36] Such games spawned others that used similar visuals to display the player as part of a maze (such as Akalabeth: World of Doom in 1979), and were loosely called "rat's eye view" games, since they gave the appearance of a rat running through a maze.[35] Another crucial early game that influenced first-person shooters was Wayout. It featured the player trying to escape a maze, using ray casting to render the environment, simulating visually how each wall segment would be rendered relative to the player's position and facing angle. This allowed more freeform movement compared to the grid-based and cardinal Maze War and Spasim.[35]

A slightly more sophisticated first-person shooting mainframe game was Panther (1975), a tank simulator for the PLATO system. Atari's first-person tank shooter arcade video game Battlezone (1980) was released for arcades and presented using a vector graphics display, with the game designed by Ed Rotberg. It is considered to be the first successful first-person shooter video game, making it a milestone for the genre. It was primarily inspired by Atari's top-down arcade shooter game Tank (1974).[37] The original arcade cabinet also employed a periscope viewfinder similar to submarine shooting arcade games such as Midway's video game Sea Wolf (1976) and Sega's electro-mechanical game Periscope (1966).[37] Battlezone became the first successful mass-market game featuring a first-person viewpoint and wireframe 3D graphics, with a version later released for home computers in 1983.[38]

Early first-person shooters: 1987–1992

MIDI Maze, an early first-person shooter released in 1987 for the Atari ST,[39] featured maze-based gameplay and character designs similar to Pac-Man, but displayed in a first-person perspective.[40][41] Later ported to various systems—including the Game Boy and Super NES—under the title Faceball 2000,[42] it featured the first network multiplayer deathmatches, using a MIDI interface.[41] It was a relatively minor game, but despite the inconvenience of connecting numerous machines together, its multiplayer mode gained a cult following: 1UP.com called it the "first multi-player 3D shooter on a mainstream system" and the first "major LAN action game".[42]

Id Software's Hovertank 3D pioneered ray casting technology in May 1991 to enable faster gameplay than 1980s vehicle simulators;[38] and Catacomb 3-D introduced another advance, texture mapping, in November 1991. The second game to use texture mapping was Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss, a March 1992 action role-playing game by Looking Glass Technologies that featured a first-person viewpoint and an advanced graphics engine. In October 1990, id developer John Romero learned about texture mapping from a phone call to Paul Neurath. Romero described the texture mapping technique to id programmer John Carmack, who remarked, "I can do that.",[43] and would feel motivated by Looking Glass's example to do the same in Catacomb 3-D.[38] Catacomb 3-D also introduced the display of the protagonist's hand and weapon (in this case, magical spells) on the screen, whereas previously aspects of the player's avatar were not visible.[38] The experience of developing Ultima Underworld would make it possible for Looking Glass to create the Thief and System Shock series years later.[44]

First generation: Wolfenstein 3D and its clones

Although it was not the earliest shooter game with a first-person perspective, Wolfenstein 3D is often credited with establishing the first-person shooter genre and many of its staples.
Although it was not the earliest shooter game with a first-person perspective, Wolfenstein 3D is often credited with establishing the first-person shooter genre and many of its staples.

Wolfenstein 3D (created by id Software as a successor of the successful 1980s video games Castle Wolfenstein and Beyond Castle Wolfenstein and released in 1992) was an instant success, fueled largely by its shareware release, and has been credited with inventing the first-person shooter genre.[4][8] It was built on the ray casting technology pioneered in earlier games to create a revolutionary template for shooter game design, which first-person shooters are still based upon today.[4][8][19] Despite its violent themes, Wolfenstein largely escaped the controversy generated by the later Doom, although it was banned in Germany due to the use of Nazi iconography;[45] and the Super NES version replaced the enemy attack dogs with giant rats.[46]

Wolfenstein's popularity spawned a small number of "clones" based on nearly identical engines, such as The Terminator: Rampage and Ken's Labyrinth. A few of these games added textured floors and ceilings, while others features slightly greater environmental interactivity, but none were innovative or revolutionary enough to escape Wolfenstein's shadow. Apogee Software, the publisher of Wolfenstein 3D, followed up its success with Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold in 1993 which featured friendly non-player characters in the form of informants that would give the player hints and supplies. The game was initially well-received but sales rapidly declined in the wake of the success of id's Doom, released a week later.[47] Other games based on the Wolfenstein engine, such as Corridor 7: Alien Invasion and Operation Body Count, were released after Doom and therefore attracted very little attention.[48]

Second Generation: Doom and its clones

Doom, released as shareware in 1993,[19] refined Wolfenstein 3D's template by adding support for higher resolution, variable-height floors and ceilings, diagonal walls that could be any length and meet at any angle, and rudimentary illumination effects such as flickering lights and areas of darkness, creating a far more believable 3D environment than Wolfenstein 3D's levels, all of which had a flat-floor space and corridors.[49] Doom allowed competitive matches between multiple players, termed "deathmatches," and the game was responsible for the word's subsequent entry into the video gaming lexicon.[49] According to creator John Romero, the game's deathmatch concept was inspired by the competitive multiplayer of fighting games[50] such as Street Fighter II and Fatal Fury. Doom became so popular that its multiplayer features began to cause problems for companies whose networks were used to play the game, causing frequent bandwidth reductions.[19][49]

Doom has been considered the most important first-person shooter ever made.[51] It was highly influential not only on subsequent shooter games but on video gaming in general,[49] and has been made available on almost every video gaming system since.[19] Multiplayer gaming, which is now integral to the first-person shooter genre, was first successfully achieved on a large scale by Doom.[4][49] While its combination of gory violence, dark humor and hellish imagery garnered acclaim from critics,[49][52] these attributes also generated criticism from religious groups and censorship committees, with many commentators labelling the game a "murder simulator".[53] There was further controversy when it emerged that the perpetrators of the Columbine High School massacre were fans of the game; the families of several victims later unsuccessfully attempted to sue numerous video game companies - among them id Software - whose work the families claimed inspired the massacre.[45]

Rise of the Triad was released almost exactly a year later, on December 21, 1994. Based on a very heavily modified Wolfenstein engine, it did not feature Doom's variable-height ceilings or diagonal walls. However, various powerups and environmental features gave players the ability to fly or be launched through the air, and its use of GADs (Gravitational Anomaly Devices) provided staircases and a primitive form of rooms over rooms, both which Doom lacked. ROTT would become Doom's biggest competitor on the PC platform. In the same month, Marathon was released for the Macintosh. Its engine's capabilities were extremely similar to those of the Doom engine, but it featured a few improvements like mouselook and rooms over rooms in addition to a more sophisticated story. It was one of the earliest shooters, if not the earliest, to utilize alternate fire modes, reloading magazines, and dual-wielding.[54]

System Shock, which featured a "true" 3D engine like the later Quake, also featured a first-person perspective and sometimes involved shooting enemies, and is therefore sometimes considered a first-person shooter from this era, though it arguably owes more to its RPG predecessors Ultima Underworld and Ultima Underworld II.[55] Unlike Quake, its enemies were represented as bitmapped sprites. Its engine also suffered some limitations not seen in Doom or even Wolfenstein, with walls seemingly only able to meet at 45-degree angles, and surfaces that moved only in discrete increments rather than smoothly.[56]

The Doom engine itself would be licensed for games like Hexen and Heretic. Those two titles, like System Shock, incorporated elements from role-playing games. One of the most unusual and unexpectedly popular games based on the Doom engine was Chex Quest.[57]

Star Wars: Dark Forces was released in 1995 after LucasArts decided Star Wars would make appropriate material for a game in the style of Doom. However, Star Wars: Dark Forces was based on the Jedi Engine, which, like Marathon's engine, incorporated several technical features that Doom lacked, such as rooms over rooms and the ability to look up and down.[11][19][58] Dark Forces also was one of the first games to incorporate 3D-designed objects rendered into the game's 2.5D graphics engine.[59]

Back in the day, Blake Stone: Aliens of Gold was reportedly to be the best FPS before the release of Doom a week later.[60] Despite these competitors and their innovations, Doom and its sequel, Doom II, remained by far the most popular first-person shooters of this era, and for years afterward, first-person shooters were referred to as "Doom clones".[61]

Third generation: Build and Quake engines

The May 1997 issue of PC Gamer magazine said of one game, "This game would deserve a lot of credit just for being the first Doom clone to seriously attempt to be more than a Doom clone - but it gets even more credit for succeeding".[62] That game was Apogee's Duke Nukem 3D, sequel to the earlier platformers Duke Nukem and Duke Nukem II, and "the last of the great, sprite-based shooters",[19] winning acclaim for its highly interactive environments, humor based around stereotyped machismo, adrenalinic gameplay, and graphics.[63] It helped to popularize the Build engine, which was radically more advanced than the Doom engine and included such features as mirrors, underwater areas, sloped floors and ceilings, destructible environments, and the ability to fly with the aid of a jetpack.[63][64]

Duke was followed a few months later by id Software's Quake, the first FPS to feature 100% 3-dimensional maps, enemies, and powerups with no limitations on angles or surface lengths. It was centered on online gaming and featured multiple match types still found in first-person shooter games today. It was the first FPS game to gain a cult following of player clans (although the concept had existed previously in MechWarrior 2's Netmech, with its Battletech lore as well as amongst MUD players), and would inspire popular LAN parties and events such as QuakeCon.[65] The game's popularity and use of 3D polygonal graphics also helped to expand the growing market for video card hardware;[4][19][66] and the additional support and encouragement for game modifications attracted players who wanted to tinker with the game and create their own modules.[65]

In the following years, the Build engine was licensed to create games such as Blood, Shadow Warrior, and Redneck Rampage, and Duke Nukem 3D was the yardstick by which they were all measured. This was the last generation of first-person shooters to be made for MS-DOS.[67][68]

1997 also saw the release of Goldeneye for the Nintendo 64, which became a critical and commercial success and helped to demonstrate that first-person shooters were viable on consoles. This would have important consequences for the Xbox a few years later.[69]

Fourth generation: Windows support and 3D hardware acceleration

Late 1997 brought yet another sweeping set of changes to the genre. Hexen II, based on a heavily modified Quake engine, was released in September.[70] It was followed by Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, based on the Sith engine, in October,[71] and Quake II, based on the Quake II engine, in December.[72] First-person shooters of this generation were the first to offer 3D hardware acceleration via DirectX, OpenGL, and/or 3dfx Glide, and often offered a choice between that and software rendering. The difference was not just in frame rates: software rendering modes looked extremely pixelated due to nearest-neighbor resizing, just as previous generations of shooters did, while 3D hardware acceleration modes added support for features like linear filtering (which smoothed out the pixelation) and colored light sources. Unreal, released in May of 1998, introduced the world to the Unreal Engine, which in its various iterations would go on to become the primary competitor to the various iterations of the Quake Engine (later renamed id Tech). This generation was the first to ditch DOS and require Microsoft Windows. Non-hostile NPCs became common during this generation, but true "allied" NPCs that helped the player in meaningful ways were rare.[73]

November of 1998 saw the back-to-back releases of three titles. The first, on November 9th, was SiN, based on the Quake II engine. The second, on the 19th, was Valve's Half-Life, based upon the GoldSrc engine, an extremely heavily modified Quake engine.[74] Initially met with only mild anticipation, it went on to become a commercial success.[19][75] While most of the previous first-person shooters on the IBM PC platform had focused on visceral gameplay with relatively weak or irrelevant plots, Half-Life placed a far bigger focus on strong narrative; the game featured no cut scenes but remained in the first-person perspective at all times. It capitalized heavily on the concepts of non-enemy characters (previously featured in many other titles, such as the Marathon series and Strife)[76] and wider in-game interactivity (as first introduced by the likes of Duke Nukem 3D and System Shock) but did not employ power-ups in the traditional sense,[4] making for a somewhat more believable overall experience. The game was praised for its artificial intelligence, selection of weapons, and attention to detail. It won over fifty "Game of the Year" awards and "has since been recognized as one of the greatest games of all time" according to GameSpot. On November 25th, Blood II: The Chosen, based on the Lithtech Engine 1.0, was released. SiN and Blood II did not have anywhere near the impact on the genre that Half-Life did and were not as well-received.[77]

This was also the time period in which the FPS begat new spinoff genres and sub-genres. Dark Forces II allowed the player to switch between first-person and third-person views, an idea which would ultimately give rise to the "third-person shooter".[78] Delta Force and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six popularized the tactical shooter subgenre,[79][80] while Thief: The Dark Project did the same for a genre sometimes called "first-person sneaker" or "first-person stealth".[81]

Fifth Generation: Bots and AI-controlled teammates

Epic's Unreal Tournament, released on November 22, 1999, and id Software's Quake III Arena, released 2 weeks later on December 2 1999, featured heavily improved AI that would go on to have huge implications for both single-player and multiplayer games. The two games themselves capitalized on this by allowing multiplayer matches to include AI-controlled players, commonly known as "bots", with adjustable skill levels. The dawn of "bots" also allowed first-person shooters, for the first time ever, to include "skirmish" games, offline faux-multiplayer matches between one human and any number of bots. Skirmishes had been common in other genres such as real-time strategy but had eluded shooters until this time. However, both games sacrificed story-driven single-player campaigns, instead featuring "tournaments" that were little more than a series of skirmishes with predefined attributes strung together.[19]

Other games, most of which were based on the Quake III or Unreal engines, or on the second iteration of the Lithtech engine, took the potential of "bots" and applied it to single-player campaigns to provide players with teammates who assisted the player in meaningful ways, such as by shooting at enemies. Such games also learned from the success of Half-Life and featured similarly detailed and story-driven single-player campaigns full of dialog and scripted events. This was the first generation of shooters to lack a software rendering mode and require a DirectX or OpenGL-compatible graphics card. Examples of first-person and third-person shooters made partially or completely in this mold include The Wheel of Time (Unreal Engine), released November 1999;[82] Deus Ex (Unreal), released in June 2000;[83] Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force (Quake III engine), released in September of 2000;[84] Rune (Unreal), released October 2000;[85] No One Lives Forever (Lithtech 2.0), released November 2000;[86] American McGee's Alice (QIII), released December 2000;[87] Aliens versus Predator 2 (Lithtech 2.2), released in October of 2001;[88] Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (QIII), released in January of 2002;[89] Jedi Outcast (QIII), released in March 2002;[90] Tactical Ops: Assault on Terror (Unreal), released April 2002; Tron 2.0 (Lithtech Triton), released August 2003;[91] Jedi Academy (QIII), released September 2003;[92] and Call of Duty (QIII), released in October 2003.[93]

At the E3 game show in 1999, Bungie unveiled a real-time strategy game called Halo; at the following E3, an overhauled third-person shooter version was displayed. In 2000, Bungie was bought by Microsoft. Halo was then revamped and released as a first-person shooter; it was one of the launch titles for the Xbox console. It was a runaway critical and commercial success, and is considered a premier console first-person shooter. It featured narrative and storyline reminiscent of Bungie's earlier Marathon series but now told largely through in-game dialog and cut scenes like Half-Life. It also received acclaim for its characters, both the protagonist, Master Chief and its alien antagonists. However, in order to fit within the technical limitations of the Xbox controller and console, numerous features that were near-universally found in the genre were sacrificed. While PC shooters allowed their player to carry every weapon in the game simultaneously and switch between them using the 1-9 or 1-0 keys on the keyboard, the Xbox controller had no such keys, so players were limited to carrying only two weapons at a time and using a single button on the controller to switch between them (or to swap their currently held weapon for one on the ground). PC shooters allowed their player to save their game at any place and time of their choosing, and store many saved games, often with custom names. This allowed players to "bookmark" their favorite parts of the game, take turns playing a game on the same computer without interfering with each others' progress, and do other useful things. Halo instead automatically saved a player's progress upon reaching certain locations (called "checkpoints"), with only one checkpoint saved at any given time. This had the unwanted side effect of saving a player's progress when their health was extremely low, making progression difficult afterward; to compensate, players were given personal shields that automatically regenerated between fights. Halo was later ported to Windows.[94][95][96][97][98]

Efforts to develop early handheld video games with 3-D graphics have eventually led to the dawn of ambitious handheld first-person shooter games, starting with two Game Boy Advance ports of Back Track and Doom not long after the system was launched in 2001.[99] The GBA eventually saw the release of several first-person shooter games specifically tailored for it, including Duke Nukem Advance, Ecks vs. Sever and Dark Arena, with a sizable amount of them being praised for pushing the hardware to the limit while providing satisfying gameplay.[100][101][102] Despite their varying reception, they would demonstrate the viability of first-person shooters on handhelds, which became more apparent with new technological advances that accompanied future handheld systems.[103]

Sixth generation: Havok physics and advanced shading

The Crytek game Far Cry, released in March 2004 and based on the all-new CryEngine, set new standards in terms of graphics, environmental detail, and large, open-ended level design.[19]

Doom 3, released in August 2004, placed a greater emphasis on horror and frightening the player than previous games in the series and was a critically acclaimed best seller,[104][105] though some commentators felt it lacked gameplay substance and innovation, putting too much emphasis on impressive graphics.[13] Its engine featured advanced real-time lighting and shading effects and a physics system similar to the Havok physics engine, which allowed players to move loose objects around the environment by punching them or beating them with a flashlight. The engine was later used in Quake 4.[106]

Half-Life 2, released in November 2004 and based on the all-new Source engine, featured similar lighting and shading effects and the Havok physics engine.[107] It won 39 "Game of the Year" awards but was not as revolutionary as its predecessor.[108]

In October 2005, F.E.A.R., based on the LithTech Jupiter EX engine, was acclaimed[109] for successfully combining first-person shooter gameplay with a Japanese horror atmosphere.[110]

Prey, released in 2006, was among the last first-person shooters to feature traditional, PC-oriented gameplay mechanics such as non-regenerating health, the ability to save one's progress at any time and place, the ability to carry every weapon in the game at the same time.[111]

In the world of consoles, Halo 2 (2004) brought the popularity of online gaming to the console market through the medium of Xbox Live, on which it was the most played game for almost two years.[19] Like its predecessor, it was eventually ported to Windows.[112]

2007–present: "Consolization"

2007 brought a wave of shooters that were heavily influenced by Halo and by console controls in general, regardless of their intended platform. Irrational Games' Bioshock, released in August, retained traditional health and weapon systems but rejected a real save/load system in favor of Halo's checkpoint system.[113] Crysis and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, both released in November, wholly embraced the Halo model of two-weapon switching, automatically regenerating health, and checkpoints.[114][115] Unreal Tournament 3 did not feature checkpoints, two-weapon switching, or automatically regenerating health, but compared to its predecessors, its menus were redesigned and simplified for console controls.[116] Nearly all first-person and third-person shooters since then, such as Duke Nukem Forever,[117] Transformers: War for Cybertron,[118] Wolfenstein: The Old Blood,[119] the 2016 Doom remake,[120] and all subsequent Call of Duty games have been made in the console pattern as well, exceptions have been rare.[121]

Recent first-person shooters in the more traditional style have included the 2013 Shadow Warrior remake by Flying Wild Hog[122] and the upcoming System Shock remake by Nightdive Studios.[123]


In 2010, researchers at Leiden University showed that playing first-person shooter video games is associated with superior mental flexibility. Compared to non-players, players of such games were found to require a significantly shorter reaction time while switching between complex tasks, possibly because they are required to develop a more responsive mindset to rapidly react to fast-moving visual and auditory stimuli, and to shift back and forth between different sub-duties.[124]

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