Summarising how much shooters have changed since the first time somebody fired a gun in a game is impossible. There are too many variations, whether youre talking about the smelly machismo of a series like Duke Nukem, or the agonising firework displays of a bullet hell arcade game. Instead, weve spoken to a number of the industrys leading developers about their favourite shooter features from times gone by. Suffice to say that the genres history doesnt begin with the launch of Call of Duty 4.
Single player levels you can actually explore!
Name: Adrian Chmielarz, Developer: The Astronauts, Key game: Bulletstorm
Id love to see someone bring back the forgotten hero of the shooter genre: a level you know inside out. Most modern shooters are all about pushing forward. You enter a combat area, deal with the enemies, move on to the next area, rinse, repeat. At best theres a little bit of backtracking. Now, recall Doom 2. The map overlay, and getting familiar with the place. Cleaning up rooms from demons. Discovering secrets. Opening up new areas and connections, morphing parts of the level into something different. The levels were alive, you could feel their presence they were a friend and a foe at the same time.
Name: Lasse Middelbo Outzen, Developer: Press Play, Key game: Max: The Curse of Brotherhood
A game we keep going back to here at the studio is Sunset Riders from Konami, which we play through a PC coin-op emulator. We originally picked it up out of sheer nostalgia, but we soon realised that the slow-moving bullets actually provided fantastic gameplay especially when played as four-player co-op. The game is basically a 2D side-scrolling shooter starring pink cowboys who have to shoot their way through the land. What really makes it shine is that it is constantly throwing upgrades and new gameplay at you. It is a good example of how few [ingredients] are required to create a fantastic game.
Name: Jamie Winsor, Developer: Undead Labs, Key game: State of Decay
Bunny hopping, or bunny jumping, was the best way to separate the scrubs from the pros. You might know a level in a modern shooter, but mastering the fastest route to the best power-ups or to reach a choke point faster than your opponents was sometimes more important than your aim. It wasnt about just mashing the space bar, either, it was about rhythm. The technique typically involves a mix of jumping, strafing, and camera movement done in concert to gradually increase your movement speed to a point that was greater than you could achieve by just holding the button down. Couple this with rocket or grenade jumping and you were sure to get the upper hand in map position.
Bullets you can see!
Name: Rami Ismail, Company: Vlambeer, Key game: Nuclear Throne
Quake is very much about [visible ammo] with the missiles flying around you saw them, you knew when they would hit you, and youd take one step to the side. Nowadays, by the time youve seen a missile, youre dead. Devs dont draw in bullets any more because they move very fast. Instead, when somebody shoots, they make an invisible ray from the gun to where it would hit, and then check if a players there. The bullet does not actually exist in the game. I miss that. I want bullets. I want to be able to dodge a bullet by a millimetre and not be like, heres a ray, it has 95% accuracy. Its why a knife throw kill is really fun, because the knife is actually there and you can see how it flies.
More creative ammo types!
Name: Stewart Gilray, Company Just Add Water, Key game: Oddworld: New N Tasty
Ive played through Oddworld: Strangers Wrath three or four times at least and each time Ive done it I use ammo slightly differently, [which affects] how quickly you can dispatch some of the big bounties in different ways. Its true that using live ammo in certain ways will get you through quicker, but you wont get as big an award, or if you do it more stealthily you get more moolah, but it takes longer to finish. And thats great, it breaks up [the usual routine] where youve got a gun that fires lead oh the characters dead, move on. I got kind of bummed when someone said in a review for Strangers Wrath HD last year that this is the most linear game Ive ever played in my life.