The Honesty of First-Person Shooters

When it comes to video games I tend to try it all. And while my favorite games and series range through different types of backgrounds and genres, anytime someone asks me what game I’m currently playing, it’ll probably be some action-oriented game—and quite possibly some sort of shooter.

First-person shooters are not exactly my favorite genre, but I do confess that I’m usually more eager to try one of these over some other genres. I mean, there are a lot of games still in my backlog, and many others I’m looking forward to get my hands on, but you can bet I will move every other title away whenever I get the chance to play the newest first-person shooter on the market (there are like a dozen of these things coming down every year).

The thing is I don’t only prefer to try these kind of games first because they demand a lot less time than other fan-favorite titles. What I like about action games —especially first-person shooters—is that they’re honest. If they suck, they’re going to suck right away, making the decision to keep playing it or walking away from it a lot easier.

No other game made me learn this lesson faster than Red Dead Redemption. I’m not even remotely a fan of anything Rockstar Games have made in recent years, so this game may have escaped my radar if some acquaintances hadn’t pressed me hard to give it a try.

After one night of gameplay I went to sleep, and woke up the next morning not looking forward to playing again. I simply wasn’t enjoying the game and didn’t see any reason to continue playing.

Some time later I was talking with a student and at some point the conversation veered toward Grand Theft Auto (it almost always does!) and I ended up mentioning my experience with Red Dead Redemption. This student kept asking me how far I made it into the game and telling me how much I was missing for not continuing.

My student told me about some awesome great moments that were to come, heck… I even gave him permission to spoil me the ending since—as I insisted—I’m not planning to pick that game up ever again. He made some pretty good points, but my point remained the same: why should I keep slogging through a game I’m not enjoying in order to get there? More importantly, where the hell where all those so-called “great moments” during my six hours of gameplay?

I’ve ridden horses in other games before, I’ve explored much better locations than the boring brown landscape this game offers, and the shooting mechanics just pales in comparison to anything I’ve played years before this. While I get the why some people liked Red Dead Redemption, it’s just not the kind of game I’d invest my time in. Now this lane goes both ways. A year later I pushed every other game away in order to play Bulletstorm, that game with “attitude” that was so cleverly making fun of other games of the same genre when they released that parody/trailer called Duty Calls.

I don’t know how long Bulletstorm is, but I just stopped caring about it about 3-4 hours into it. The story doesn’t make any sense, I hated the main character, the enemies are annoying, the “whip” they included as a core gameplay mechanic didn’t work for me (from a first-person perspective), and all those butt and penis jokes…Seriously? Is this what “Mature-rated” games mean now?

Here’s the thing: I’d be more willing to play a game like Bulletstorm or another stupid Call of Duty hitting the market, because they’re probably going to enter gun blazing into my screen and be as noisy and spectacular as they can in order to grab my attention. If that doesn’t amuse me I can surely put that away and try something else knowing that I got a good taste of the game.

And that’s a lesson I had to relearn when I played Watch Dogs last year and discovered that it was not a good game at all! But I kept playing it thinking it might get better later. It didn’t, and there went a couple of weeks I could’ve spent playing better games.

My point is, for all the bad rap first-person shooters usually get, we shouldn’t blame the genre for being this fun or popular. They’re like your typical action movies from the 80’s and 90’s. Sure there are really good ones (Terminator, Die Hard, Robocop) as well as not really remarkable ones (Commando, The Last Boy Scout, Cobra), but you’ve probably seen them all anyway.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m already looking forward for FPS-fest 2015 (it usually comes at the end of every year). I’m expecting whatever the hell Halo 5 is plotting this time around. I know into what kind of mess I’ll getting into in Black Ops III. And I’m praying for Star Wars Battlefront III to be as awesome as I’ve always dreamt it would be.

But I can rest assured these games will give me a good sample of what they’re all about within the first hour of gameplay. Whether they’re good, bad or the same generic first-person shooter, I appreciate the honesty and respect they have for the time I’m investing in getting to know them.

Image Credits: Rockstar Games
Daniel Castro

Daniel Castro

Daniel is an engineer, teacher, and freelance writer and translator. He considers himself blessed to be born during the the times video games were created, and has followed their development as an entertainment and artistic media ever since. He loves talking about video games as much as he enjoys playing them, and he's always ready to introduce gaming culture to a newer audience.

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