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To say that the FPS genre has flopped hard in recent years is like saying the sky is blue, or that the Tim Allen mod for the original DOOM is hilarious. It goes without saying.
I can’t claim to be an FPS fan by any stretch, but I’ve had to sit idly by as friends and fellow gamers have spent their hard-earned money on annual cash grabs like Call of Duty and Battlefield for the longest time.
The tacked on single player campaigns, the unbalanced, ‘same as last year’ multiplayer, and the inexplicable thirsting for a man in a skull mask. It’s all got a little bit unpalatable, to say the least, even from the outside looking in.
‘But what’s the problem?’ I hear you shout. You’re not the target market; why should you care how bad FPS games are? You aren’t the one in the online lobbies being told by a ten-year-old the various ways that he has defiled your mother.
It’s a fair point, granted. But, you see, it’s beginning to bleed over into a beloved subgenre of mine. First-Person-Shooter RPGS.
Whether it be the Fallout Series, the newly polished Cyberpunk 2077, or the underwater antics of the Bioshock series, RPG and FPS have always married together rather nicely to offer some truly outstanding titles that stand out as the best in class for each of their respective years.
This is why the stark contrast between the FPS RPG glory days and today is so clear to see. So, I want to try and break down just what the hell happened to the RPG FPS genre blend, and want to send out an important PSA. We NEED a Spectacular FPS RPG in 2024, and here is why!
The Current State of FPS Gaming
Right, so let’s get a lay of the land on the FPS gaming scene. It’s not tumbleweeds, but for all intents and purposes, it might as well be. It’s been a long time since we have seen an FPS game receive an award outside of a ‘multiplayer’ or ‘Best Ongoing’ category, and that’s because there is next to no innovation within the genre.
At the top of the totem pole, we have Call of Duty, which has put all of its eggs in the Live Service Warzone basket. We have Counterstrike 2, which is an improvement on a long-established favorite, but when you take a step back, it is essentially more of the same, acting as a spit-shine on the original CS: GO.
Plus, you have the leading Looter-Shooter of the generation, Destiny 2, which continues to offer updates and content to keep their player base grinding.
Outside of those three, you have a few long-running games that still pull some numbers, like Rainbow Six Siege and Team Fortress 2. Then you also have the absolute slew of live-service shooters like Apex: Legends, Splitgate, Overwatch 2, and many more.
The main thing I’m getting at here is that multiplayer FPS gameplay is your only real option here, and corporate greed has permeated and rotted the genre from the inside.
This essentially means that a profound shooter experience of yesteryear has been replaced by a shiny new skin, or the ability to drop into battle as Lionel Messi or Nicki Minaj.
I know I sound like a grumpy old man, and I am. But this focus on Multiplayer has essentially ensured that all single-player FPS innovation was shelved a long time ago, and now, you’re lucky if you even get a lackluster 4-hour campaign included in your haphazard and slapped-together annual release.
But are there still interesting single-player FPS games out there in the wild? Well, the answer really depends on your love for Boomer Shooters.
The Boomer Shooter Band-Aid
With an absence of truly stellar AAA FPS games for practically the last decade, there has been a genre that has filled the gap, practically on its own to offer FPS gameplay that doesn’t rely on Battle Royale modes, Skins, or Loot Boxes.
We all remember the revival of DOOM in 2016, right? The original FPS titan rose like a phoenix from the fiery pits of hell to offer a high-octane shooter that felt fresh and new in a sea of safe and timid campaigns and multiplayer modes.
It was a breath of fresh air then, and a metaphorical opening of the floodgates, practically begging developers to shower us in FPS games the following year. However, we are approaching a decade on from that, and the state of play remains the same.
The only single-player FPS games worth even a passing mention are DOOM games, and their offspring of Boomer Shooters, aiming to replicate the same frantic feel.
Sure, we might get the occasional Wolfenstein title that fools us into thinking that Single Player FPS is alive and well, but in truth, it’s all Boomer Shooters.
Whether it’s Cultic, DUSK, BPM: Bullets Per Minute, Metal: Hellsinger, or Turbo Overkill, they all act as a band-aid for the genre, and while I don’t necessarily care that the FPS genre is dying, the problem is that without developers out there making single-player FPS games, it means it’s significantly less likely we will see genuinely top-notch FPS RPGS in the near future.
A Bad Year For The Parish
So, let’s talk about FPS RPGs in 2023. Games that shine a light on the fact that we, as an industry, perhaps don’t remember how to create a truly monumental FPS RPG anymore.
Believe it or not, this was the first year in quite some time where I had hope that the subgenre would see a revival of sorts, and that was primarily down to a little game called Atomic Heart.
For those unaware, Atomic Heart is an FPS RPG set in an alternate reality where the Soviets are the top dogs and technology is a lot more advanced than it is today.
It’s a game that aimed to offer an experience that felt like a blend of Wolfenstein-style FPS gameplay and a linear campaign focus, while also offering a world rich in lore and intrigue with plenty of pockets to explore along the way, much like Bioshock.
It had so many excellent ideas, but in the end, it fell flat due to a lack of polish, focus, and the repeated mention of ‘Crispy Critters.’
The game seemed to want to appeal to all types of gamer, and instead of offering a traditional linear FPS campaign, it offered a wealth of dull and lifeless open-world sections, stealth gameplay that seemed desperately out of place, and platforming that felt clunky and cumbersome.
Then, when you add the cherry on top of the cake that this game was Soviet funded in a period when the Russia/Ukraine Conflict was just kicking off, and you have a game that isn’t worth playing, isn’t considered right to support by many, and fails to meet many people’s lofty expectations.
But hey, that was just the shining beacon of hope I had for the subgenre; we can’t lay all the blame at Atomic Heart’s door now, can we?
Well, here’s the thing: as much as it might surprise you, there isn’t really much else to speak of throughout this entire calendar year.
They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used to (Or At All)
I imagine right now you are going through the gaming filing cabinet in your mind, frantically flicking through folders to find a game that can prove me wrong, and I welcome anything you find.
It seems unthinkable that we have gone from an abundance of these games punctuating the gaming year to a barren wasteland with Atomic Heart sitting playing in the sand on its own, but as much as it pains me to say, the FPS RPG is just not a type of game that is being made anymore.
Was it all the Fortnite dances that made us lose our way? Should I learn how to Griddy? Probably, but let’s not get side-tracked.
If we are being super lenient on our definition of a new and exciting FPS RPG, we also had another big-budget attempt in the form of Immortals of Aveum, a game so unremarkable and forgettable I had to frantically google generic terms like ‘Magic Shooter Game’ and ‘EA Flop RPG’ just to remember what it was called.
We had a remake of System Shock 2, which was decent, but ultimately just a remake, and Dead Island 2 was a reasonable co-op shooter, but it’s not pushing any boundaries either, because it’s just a by-the-books Ubisoft model game not unlike Farcry, with the welcome caveat that the game doesn’t take itself anywhere near as seriously.
So, does that leave us in a perilous position where we have no First Person Shooter RPGS to point at this year and say, ‘It’s alright, we have that one.’ Well, it all really depends on where you land on a very polarizing RPG called Starfield.
Even Todd Can’t Save Us
I couldn’t go through this entire article ignoring Starfield, Bethesda’s most ambitious RPG adventure to date.
It’s a game that many fans have fallen in love with, offering a wealth of things to do within the cosmos, one thousand unique planets to explore, and all the usual trappings of a Bethesda open-world RPG like The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, albeit with a smidge of No Man’s Sky thrown in there for good measure.
Considering my love of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, you would think that this would be the moment that I herald this game as the shining beacon of hope, letting us know it’s all okay and we needn’t worry about all this.
But here’s the thing. It’s a pretty underwhelming experience, and it’s because it’s all a bit too overwhelming, ironically.
While I can’t argue that there is more content packed into this game than you could ever hope for from a modern AAA game, I think that contributes to the issues I have with this game. It’s a title that has so much going on, so many half-baked systems that function rather than flourish, and an endless stream of distractions pulling you from pillar to post that it all just overwhelms the player.
And when that happens to me, I freeze up, paralyzed by choice and the fear of missing something by choosing to do something else.
It’s all well and good being able to travel thousands of miles in any direction to a far-off planet and then store 10,000 potatoes in the ship’s cargo hold when you get there. But in a bid to prove it could be done, Bethesda forgot to ask, ‘Should it be done?’, and ‘Should we be mentally assessed?’
That’s a personal issue, and my own cross to bear, but the game also has pacing issues, leading to many players telling me, it gets good after 25 hours of investment, which is an immediate red flag.
Then you have clunky space combat, boring terraforming, and base-building mechanics, dumbass AI, endless menuing, unintuitive UI to contend with, and repetitive combat, which all only really scratches the surface as to why this game isn’t being lorded as the savior of FPS RPG games.
Todd can’t save us, but who can?
What’s Next Then?
So what now, then? Do we just give up and start spending our paychecks on V-Bucks?
Well, I don’t think it’s quite as doom and gloom as that, as we have seen some promising outings that hint at the possibility of RPG shooters making a genuine comeback and dominating the game charts again.
Remnant 2 was a standout this year that showed that Dark Souls games can be just as fun and challenging with ballistic weapons. The Resident Evil 4 Remake, The Dead Space Remake, and Alan Wake 2 showcased that survival horror shooters are still alive and kicking.
Plus, we saw some rather interesting entries to the genre via the world of VR in the form of Synapse and Firewall Ultra.
They may not be traditional First-person shooter RPGS, but they have fragments of beloved titles sewn into the fabric of the game’s code. Which gives me hope that there is still a developer out there willing and able to take this sub-genre by the scruff of the neck and forge a comeback.
However, I still feel that we need something big to get the subgenre back on track and shed the sins of the live service model and the modern FPS games we have been subjected to.
How that takes shape, I really don’t know. Maybe it’s a return of a juggernaut in the form of Bioshock 4. Maybe it’s a pushed-up release date for something like The Outer Worlds 2, or maybe it’s a brand-new IP waltzing into the AAA scene and stealing the show.
All I know is that if we don’t want this genre to go away, we need something spectacular in 2024, so consider this an open letter to all the game developers out there considering making a new FPS RPG. Do us proud and restore the genre to its former glory.
As always, thanks for reading RPG Informer.