I think the first-person perspective is one of the best things to happen in video games, but I’m finding it harder to get excited about a lot of first-person shooters. While I’ve logged many happy hours in multiplayer matches of Halo, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead, the campaign mode for most first-person-shooters have always rung a bit hollow for me.
A lot of first-person shooters try to tell stories about freedom, or justice or other high-minded concepts. Yet their gameplay often boils down to hurrying down a corridor, shooting a bunch of dudes then riding an elevator while a voice in your ear yammers on in an attempt to legitimize you murdering the next wave of dudes.
The whole point of the first-person view is to make you feel more intimately involved in the world and narrative, yet in an FPS your ability to interact with your environment is limited to pulling triggers and pushing glowing buttons.
I understand why first-person shooters are popular – they’re fast-paced, encourage good reaction skills and quick thinking and provide a visceral thrill that’s hard to match in other genres. But can’t we put some of our graphical horsepower to fleshing out the setting instead of more particle effects?
I really enjoy first-person games like Deus Ex, Fallout 3 and Bioshock. These are titles that recognize that a game’s setting isn’t just hallways filled with moving targets, they’re environments with their own personality. Ironically, these fictional dystopias feel more genuine to me than the Middle Eastern deserts and Latin American cities of most modern military shooters. Picking up a trash can and throwing it against a wall doesn’t really add much to Deus Ex’s gameplay, but it at least gives you the sense that you are a character in the world instead of just a roving death turret.
To me, a first-person perspective conveys that you’re an individual in the world, but what’s the point if the world isn’t interesting? If the extent of a setting is a corridor filled with bullets, it’s not one I’m inclined to really care about.