"State of the Art" in shooters?

A mention of FarCry 2 in one of Tom Chick’s blog posts (in particular: “the next Half-Life for how much it advances single-player shooters”) reminded me that I’m still thinking of Half-Life 2 and BioShock as the current state of the art in storytelling first-person games.

But I haven’t played that many other ones. I quickly lost interest in both the original Far Cry and DOOM 3. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune seemed like it was going to be everything I wanted, but lost me about 30 minutes in, when I had 3 or 4 back-to-back jumping puzzles followed by 3 or 4 back-to-back rooms where I had to light torches or push sliding blocks around. I’m sure I bought and played FEAR at some point, but I can’t remember a thing about it.

So if you had to recommend one game to represent the best storytelling available in a shooter (first-person or Gears of War-style third person) – the game that if I haven’t played, I’ve got no business talking about storytelling in games – what would it be?

Bioshock is only a year old. I think it still holds the baton.

Why are you thinking that storytelling defines the state of the art?

“State of the art” and storytelling to me aren’t synonymous, and a good story isn’t the backbone of a good shooter. I can tell you what my favorite shooters are, but the reasons for them being good vary wildly. Half Life for it’s story, Stalker for the ambiance, ArmedA for it’s realism, Far Cry for it’s open ended levels, BIA for it’s squad mechanics, Bioshock for it’s “state of the art” graphics, etc. I can’t think of one shooter that epitomizes all these qualities, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Well, if Tom is right about Far Cry 2, which comes out in a few days, I’m not sure it matters. But Bioshock is probably a good choice. Some people might also point to Crysis or CoD4, I suppose.

Once upon a time there was System Shock…after that, FPSes returned to DOOM with increasing rendering engines from ID (or Epic if you will) and higher peak velocity in GFX cards.

That’s my view on shooters. One small tremendous spike of sheer brilliance and full scale advancement. Then pitch black void. And a return to bad old habbits.

As Greg Costikyan once noted, if I’ll be as bold as to paraphrase:
Unlike the Movies Industry, whereas crap brings in the bacon from the common masses and gems funded by the crap make the industry look more than a cesspool, the gaming industry at best only gives “AWESOME NEW INNOVATIVE CONCEPT!!!” award and then moves on letting the gems get shattered and disintegrated while being too bussy to churn out the next console shooter with NEXT GEN GRAPHICS FOR THE EYE CANDY ADDICT TEENAGE COLLEGE KIDS!!!

I love excessive idiotic cruise control, because it symbolizes the idiocy of that which they concept.
This also made bad English, but my grammar is crap to begin with.

Go sit under your Vault-boy mobile now, Foxie.

There’s a good lad.

My what in the who now?

Why not? That’s what I’m interested in.

BioShock for the graphics? The texture depth or whatever is the last reason to call out BioShock.

I looooooved the storytelling in BioShock. Independent of the message, the way that they presented the story and slowly peeled back the onion was brilliant.

Also, wrenching fools in the face.

I wasn’t totally sold on Call of Duty 4, but I think it did an admirable job of making you feel like you were a central figure in a bigger conflict, and it also has some cool story driven set pieces. I’ve also been singing the praises of Dead Space, but it’s good in spite of its narrative, not because of it.

That not usually what people mean when they’re talking about “state of the art” shooters. As an “art”, shooters are rarely about storytelling. That said, I can’t imagine you’ll find anything better than BioShock.

Also, if you’re looking for good storytelling, you might have to play a game for more than 30 minutes. :) Uncharted isn’t necessarily a great story, but it’s absolutely great characters and dialogue, which are important elements in a good story. Just suck it up and deal with the Tomb Raider Lite bits, since they really are pretty lite.


Foxstab is attemping to bring up kind of an interesting point. I haven’t reflected on this much, but are shooters starting to take two separate paths? The brilliant linear experience on one hand (HL2, CoD4, FEAR) and the open-ended hybrid thinking-man’s-shooter on the other (STALKER, FC2, Crysis). We’ve had FPS-RPGs before, and there’s Thief or Rainbow Six or GTA or whatever, but I don’t believe we’ve ever had a significant counter-trend away from HL2 style gameplay until recently.

Or am I forgetting something? I was thinking about how STALKER was a nice attempt to move shooters in a new direction (though it was highly flawed and won’t have as much impact as Far Cry 2) and then realized to my surprise that there aren’t many choices for games of that type! In any case, I hope the trend continues. We’ll never run out of great linear FPS games, but it’s nice to open up a bit every now and then.

Now I’m curious how FC2 compares to STALKER in some aspects.

Mass Effect.


I disagree. On my rig, those graphics look pretty stunning. The distortion of the windows, fish swimming by, steam and smoke and sparks everywhere, the high definition posters and great looking character models all add up to the best looking shooter in my library. I find it hard going back to Thief and SS2 after the beauty of Bioshock.

Though after playing it through once, and starting it over 6 or 7 times, I cannot stay interested in it long enough to make it through to the end. While the other 2 games I referenced seem endlessly replayable.

But it does look great.

It might help if you weren’t comparing it to 8-year-old games, though.

I disagree, but that’s kind of irrelevant. I really don’t think it was that challenging a question. There’s no shortage of story-based shooters out there. And while I’m sure Battlefield is a great game, and I know for a fact that TF2 is, that’s not what I was asking about.

8 “action/adventure” cliches and 10 action movie cliches in 30 minutes was plenty to convince me that game wasn’t for me. If I were getting paid to write a review, that’d be one thing, but Sci Fi Channel Original Movie-quality characters combined with fair-to-middling gameplay weren’t compelling enough for me to go further. Even Gears of War was more interesting in the first 30 minutes.

What’s FC2? Edit: Never mind, I’m guessing it’s FarCry 2. I didn’t think of that because I didn’t think it was out yet.

It’s not. Shows you how few examples I can think of. :)

You disagree that shooters are rarely about storytelling? So you’re telling me shooters are regularly about storytelling? That’s some crazy talk.

You should try the genre sometime. You’ll find a preponderance of shooters with tacked-on superfluous storylines. Stories tend to be secondary to things like gunplay, graphics, and multiplayer.

Now if you’d like to argue that shooters should be about storytelling, or are ideally about storytelling, well, why didn’t you just say so?

Whatever, man. If you don’t want to take recommendations, don’t bother asking questions, especially when you’ve made up your mind after the first thirty minutes.

But if you want state-of-the-art characters – a combination of animation, voice-acting, writing, and even, somehow, a sense of chemistry – you’re missing out if you insist on writing off Uncharted with such unfounded penny-ante smears. Also, it’s not like I’m an outlier on this issue. You can pretty much read anyone’s review of the game. Or just search up one of the threads on this forum.


Once upon a time there was System Shock…

System Shock is still amazing today…but it’s graphics, sound, and controls don’t hold up. They are terrible flaws and showstoppers for 99.9% of todays market.