I miss crap first-person shooters

I don’t mean crap crap. I mean “merely adequate in the age of Half-Life 2” shooters. Unreconstructed action nonsense, perhaps with some kind of gimmick, definitely with too-big weapons, a plot you never care about, lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of men to shoot.

I’ve written before about the importance of the 7/10 action game, but Crap Noughties FPSes is a subtly different kettle of fish. It’s something you play when you know you could be playing something else far better, because all you really want to do is shoot some armoured people in the face, collect ammo and sprint around the place.

Something that is consciously low-maintenance, in terms of play. By contrast, many 7/10 action games require learning and honing particular skills, whereas the Crap Noughties FPS might delve sporadically into gimmick but is fundamentally always about the time-honoured tradition of reticule+face.

I’m talking Singularity. I’m talking Timeshift. I’m talking, as John less affectionately brought up yesterday, Prey. I’m talking Call of Juarez. I’m talking Clive Barker’s Undying. I’m talking XIII. I’m talking some Wolfenstein thing I can’t even remember the subtitle of. I’m talking about games I can’t remember any of the name of.

Please don’t let me be misunderstood – I don’t want to play any of these ever again. They are one-shot, shallow indulgences which could not possibly stand up to the ambient scrutiny of a second playthrough. What I want is more games like this. More true b-list shooters, rather than, as we tend to have now from our Call Of Duty and Battlefields, b-list shooters in A-list shooter clothes.

It’s impossible, isn’t it? The kind of budget that a 2017 shooter commands is way beyond what a Crap Shooter could ever drum up. Instead, it tends to go the other way – that the sheer amount of flash and gloss and chest-thumping around each year’s often fundamentally average major releases drags them far below Crap and into Odious. Every new shooter has to be a huge hit, and that means huge teams and huge hype and none of the safety net of being Just OK and making Some Cash.

Perhaps the ever-increasing possibilities Unreal and Unity offer to small studios means the Crap Shooter could yet resurge, but for the time being at least, it’s go big or go home. There is no room for the Crap Shooter. Duke Nukem Forever, the epitome of the crap crap shooter, was also its death knell.

The sole recent exception to that is Titanfall 2. It was in many ways too good to be a Crap Shooter, but so many of the same values were there – big action, silly setpieces, internal logic that couldn’t stand up to any examination, puddle-deep but inoffensive story and characterisation, and generally something that fades from memory as soon as it’s over but is a blast while it’s happening.

A spirit of fun more than a spirit of self-importance (although in this case that latter was there too). Not pretending it’s something more than it is, at least not too much. But, from afar, it seems as though it’s been an expensive mistake for its creators, though the blame likely lies primarily with marketing. That will not help the cause of the Crap Shooter.

Doom, though – that might set a few precedents for latter-day pulp. That’s an amazing game colliding with an so-so one (in terms of storytelling, characterisation and even aesthetic to some degree), which means it has a foot in the camps of both Sickeningly Expensive 2016/7 Shooter and Crap Noughties Shooter. Please, let there be more like it.

This article was originally published as part of the RPS Supporter Program.

83 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Benratha says:

    Bulletstorm, maybe? Not that recent, but certainly fits the ‘introduce lead to person(s) using various guns’ aesthetic.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Ah thank you. I was just racking my brains trying to think “what was the name of that shooter where you got points for ridiculous kills?”.
      I only played it on console, it was ok. You shoot at mans and mans get dead.

    • Ushao says:

      And oh so many dick jokes

    • fray_bentos says:

      Yarp, playing through this a the moment, when I get time.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Reminded of this video I watched just now, “A Thorough Look at Red Faction”… seems to fall squarely in that category: link to youtube.com

    • LTK says:

      That was a good watch! I liked Red Faction, glad to see it didn’t go completely unappreciated.

    • Jay Load says:

      Yeah, I enjoyed that too. I loved the first game, Guerilla AND Armageddon, having skipped the second due to it’s reviews being mostly terrible and I have no interest in ever going back to it.

      I’d love to see a new game. Who doesn’t want to be a Martian Freedom fighter? And who doesn’t want to blow massive chunks out of things??? Seems like an ready made audience just waiting for the right game to go nuts in!

  3. Premium User Badge

    Nauallis says:

    Y’know, there’s a crap first person shooter almost every week on your Steam Charts, by way of CS:GO. If there’s one game that proves to me that I can’t take frenzied, elitist, frothing-at-the-mouth PC gamers seriously, it’s CS:GO. Even League of Legends is a better game.

    Are you saying that you really want a NEW crap first person shooter?

    • keefybabe says:

      He was talking about single player campaign stuff so CS:GO doesn’t count. Call of Duty/Battlefield do because they have a single player campaign that is generally indeed crap.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Ha! Re-read the first paragraph. And the second and third. CS:GO fits the bill perfectly. But I see your point, and digress.

        • Penguinho says:

          He says he’s looking for low-maintenance, sprinting around picking up ammo, a plot you don’t care about, ridiculous weapons and lots and lots and lots of people to shoot.

          None of those things describe CS. It’s a very twitchy multiplayer game, it doesn’t have a single player, none of the guns have interesting mechanics or comedy value, and a significant amount of your gameplay is going to be sent sitting quietly holding a crosshair in a place where someone’s head might, maybe, emerge from behind a wall.

          I get that you don’t like the game, but it also doesn’t seem like you understand it.

          • Premium User Badge

            Nauallis says:

            It doesn’t matter if I like it or not (or if you do); it’s still a crap game.

          • Penguinho says:

            It’s quite a good game, intended for a niche audience. While I have some gripes, I also recognize the high points. Do you, you know, know anything about it, or are you just reflexively bashing because it’s popular, as your comments elsewhere in this thread suggest?

          • GeoX says:

            But this article defines “crap game” in a specific way. Surely you can see why it’s just gibberish to insist that a game falls under this definition just because YOU happen to use the same words in a different way? Sheesh.

    • gpown says:

      *even* League of Legends? Please, the community may be horrible (because duh, if you get 70 milion players, it starts reflecting the general demographic), but it remains a very good game with occasional balance blunders – what game has never had them?

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        Basically the same argument is made for all Call of Duty games. 70 million people can’t be wrong, and all of that. Actually, they can… surprise!

      • Imperialist says:

        To this day, people still venerate Stalin. The Russians LOVED him. People can be wrong.

    • skeletortoise says:

      Different strokes different folks, I guess? Sure, I’m not always in the mood for GO and it doesn’t always scratch my itch right when I go for it, but CS is CS. I can understand why it wouldn’t be appealing to everybody, but I think this is a bit much. What people enjoy in multiplayer manshoots seems like the most subjective thing in the gaming world.

  4. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Would Shadow Warrior 1 or 2 fit into this category? The Rise of the Triad remake? What about Borderlands? Alec, I think you aren’t seeing the pile of feces for the poopies.

    • Sulpher says:

      Shadow Warrior 2 definitely fits the bill as a crap action festival. The combat is less focused than the first and the 1980s camp has been downgraded from Big Trouble in Little China to a Kung Fury homage.

    • Sulpher says:

      And hey, I still had fun with it!

  5. Premium User Badge

    Serrit says:

    Frontlines: Fuel of War? Legendary? Rogue Warrior? Homefront?
    (Worried some of these are just falling into the “crap” bracket, although I enjoyed them as one-time 6-10hour action junk food games).

  6. sneetch says:

    Hard Reset is a pretty good crap shooter.

    • TomxJ says:

      It was! Best (the other) Quake remake ever.

      Singularity was the first that came to my mind, and low and behold first mentioned.

      Recenty though we’ve had PLENTY of crap shooters!

      Alot of them are those 4 player left for dead thingys
      Borderlands: The Pre sequel
      Vermintide
      Killing floor 2
      Payday 2

      All super fun but super crap!

  7. BroodKiller says:

    I share the sentiment, there is something…something…something weirdly indulgent in simply brainlessly shooting tons and tons of brainless baddies. The Alien Shooter series (and it’s skin-swap cousin Zombie Shooter) from Sigma Team always come to mind in this context..

  8. Uglycat says:

    I thought Undying was much better than that.

    • vorador says:

      It has aged badly, and being honest, the gameplay is nothing to write home about. Sure the spells were interesting, but woefully underused.

      Still i really liked it when it was released. I still secretly hope for a sequel.

    • noom says:

      I was going to speak up in defense of Undying as well. Loved that game. I do suspect that, as vorador says, it may have aged badly though. And I’m probably not going to check that any time soon…

      • Numerical says:

        Not really a sequel but Jericho obviously merits a mention here as it was another Barker joint, albeit a flashy dud of a romp- all brown and crimson gore but had some quite interesting gameplay mechanics in the abilities of the different characters.

        Undying was probably my first foray into a single player shooter on the PC and while it loved it dearly at the time, it’s not really worth firing up again.

    • SquidgyB says:

      I feel much the same about XIII.

      Soldier of Fortune, however…

  9. Premium User Badge

    Slarnos says:

    Hadn’t thought about Clive Barker’s Undying in years and you’re right about it. Not bad, but it felt like it sat down for a rest two-thirds of the way to every ambition it had and took a nap. Enjoyed myself, but won’t ever go back.

  10. Zombleton says:

    Chrome and Chaser? Maybe they were late 90s, I can’t remember.

    How about Breed? The Brat Designs Halo-inspired game that promised a lot more than it delivered. Years in the making, some nice ideas, but ultimately a buggy unfinished mess unfortunately.

  11. haldolium says:

    I miss those as well… for some reason, even those were way more sophisticated as 90% of unity drag+drop developers manage these days. So lets have another pixelgraphics sidescroller instead.

    Flying Wild Hog went there with Hard Reset, even Shadow Warrior.

    The most decent games indie devs manage these days seem to be top-down shooters, but I can’t remember any “7/10” indie FPS (although there probaly are some).

  12. Zenicetus says:

    The DLC for Wolfenstein New Order (Old Blood) probably qualifies as a crap shooter. It ditched the occasional po-faced seriousness of the main game, and was basically just a shooter romp.

  13. flubbynuts says:

    Blood 2 the chosen. Area 51. Daikatana. Fear series. Jumping flash. Po’ed. SEROIUS SAM.
    And a full list more
    link to en.m.wikipedia.org

    • KevinLew says:

      Daikatana isn’t in the list because it’s actually broken. You’re forgetting that you have AI-controlled teammates also. Their AI is so broken that they get stuck or lost half of the time. Keep in mind that you cannot leave the level unless your companions are with you. This meant players had to constantly herd their companions toward the level exit.

  14. ResonanceCascade says:

    Undying was too good to be a crap shooter. Gray Matter’s Return to Castle Wolfenstein around the same time was much better at being crap.

    But yeah, I’m a big fan of these things. The folks at Raven were arguably the originators and perfectors of the B-tier shooter, and I miss them greatly.

    The closest I’ve come in the last few years to filling that hole was Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, but that also might have been a bit too good to call a crap FPS. Highly recommended though.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Call of Juarez: Gunslinger wasn’t THAT good, so I think it fits as a crap shooter. It almost veered into being a good action/RPG at times, but then you’d have some silly HP sponge boss fight and it went back being to a crap shooter. Still fun in a lighthearted, don’t-take-it-seriously way, which I guess is what this crap shooter theme is all about.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Cooper says:

    I would love a Quake 5. None of this arena-reboot nonsense.

    Give the franchise back to Raven, get them to make another workmanlike FPS of mindlessly shooting strogg. I’d be happy.

    • Faults says:

      I came here to say pretty-much that. Quake 4 is my favourite crap FPS of all time. Although Raven are as far as I can recall just an Activision subsidiary these days, sooooo… Machinegames? That’d be fantastic.

    • Droniac says:

      Wait what? Why would you, if you could revive them as a real not-wasted-on-CoD studio, choose to put Raven Software on a Quake 5!?

      We’re already getting a new Quake multiplayer game. And Quake 4 singleplayer was decent, but really not on the same level as… every other shooter they’d developed, Wolfenstein (2009) and Singularity included.

      No, this IS the perfect time for a Raven Software(-like) studio to stand up and do it’s thing again. And now with Unreal Engine 4 (OMG). But for very different reasons:

      Star Wars is kind of a big deal right now. There haven’t been ANY good core-games for the new franchise yet (Battlefront, your servers were empty one month in). But Raven just so happens to be the studio behind the best Star Wars game of all-time (Jedi Knight 2) – and a very good sequel (Jedi Academy). Need I say it? Jedi Knight Reboot.

      Star Trek has seen a few new movies and is getting an actual new TV show soon! There haven’t been ANY core-games for this new franchise yet (no, that monstrosity you’re thinking of doesn’t even count as a game), which leaves just Star Trek mods for Stellaris and SoaSE. But Raven just so happens to be the studio behind the best Star Trek game of all-time (Elite Force). Yup. Elite Force reboot.

      Barring the above: this is the studio that popularized the modern military shooter and excessive gore with Soldier of Fortune. With fans of CoD/BF becoming jaded from D-level sci-fi… why not develop a SoF reboot? A sillier military shooter, with unrealistic “modern” weaponry, breakneck pacing (no, CoD is NOT fast-paced) and a campaign that embraces the silliness. Grab those disillusioned teenagers and feed them something awesome for a change. I still remember when I played the SoF 1 demo, back in the day. EVERYONE was talking about it. The gore. The action. The guns. It was awesome. And probably the best possible example of this kind of B-shooter in its purest form.

  16. MasodikTiasma says:

    Coincidentally, I am going through Singularity for the first time these days. Oh boy, is the story crap. And the Rrrrussian accents ! It’s as if in their efforts to make their Cold War sci-fi world look like “it’s dumb but we know it so it’s actually campy”, they went overboard and just made it plain dumb. Overdesigned, but fun. The shooting’s good, though, I love the gun that shoots remote-controlled bullets.

  17. frightlever says:

    You still see a bunch of these converted from mobile to PC cropping up very regularly on Steam, so they even look kinda retro, if that’s your thing. I think this is a case of rose tinted spectacles.

  18. tslog says:

    I thought Titanfall 2 was a crap shooter.

    Brain dead AI from soilders that would embarrass a blender from the 90’s. And which is the enemy you fight the most in that game.

    A traversal system that doesn’t do anything interesting till near the end of the game. And way behind Gucamele’s far superior traversal while dimension switching system.

    A story that I didn’t care about because the game didn’t care either.

    And the most overrated level in the construction factory. Doing perfunctory platforming while fighting brain dead soldiers does not make for a good level in the slightest.

    The only good thing in Titanfall 2 is the Titan on Titan flights ie, crap game.

    • KenTWOu says:

      Your comparison is ridiculous. Guacamelee is a 2D platformer, it is certainly way more easier to make a satisfying obstacle course using dimension switching system in 2D rather than in 3D, where you can’t utilize its full potential, because jumping and platforming almost always suck in a first person shooter.

  19. Strangely Brown says:

    I see no one has mentioned Painkiller yet, what’s up with that?

    Fantastic FPS with a paper-thin story and silly (but gorgeous) environments. Yes, it’s old, but still oh so very good.

    • LTK says:

      It’s because Painkiller isn’t even remotely crap. It’s extremely good frantic demon-shooting.

      Well, the first Painkiller is anyway. The rest all suck.

  20. mollemannen says:

    bet on soldier, chrome, a bunch of russian unreal engine games. there were so many for a while and i played them all i think. some with just story and no attempt at putting game in gameplay as well. singularity is actually one of the better ones compared to what is out there in terms of full package solutions.

  21. Mr.Frank says:

    The other day i played Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 and i got that vibe. okay game, cheap, finished it after a nice 5 hours or so, uninstalled to never reinstall again. Those games are like watching some lesser action movies, like Shoot em up. i know i’ll be entertained, and i know that after a few cigarettes i won’t remember a thing

  22. Jason Moyer says:

    Time for a Mortyr reboot.

  23. Blake Casimir says:

    I miss first person games of any sort, that actually have worthwhile gameplay.

    Oh sure. There have been some in the last few years. But they are largely generic “corridor” FPS or walking simulators.

    What happened to immersive sims? :(

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      It sounds more like you need to upgrade your GPU, buy a bigger monitor, and start using headphones.

    • SingularityParadigm says:

      What in the world are you talking about? We just got Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Dishonored 2, the original System Shock is being remade by Night Dive Studios, and System Shock 3 is being actively worked on by Warren Spector. Then in the indie space there was Consortium, Neon Struct, and The Magic Circle. We are arguably in a resurgence of interest in immersive sims.

      • KenTWOu says:

        You forgot to mention new Prey which is Arkane’s System Shock with blackjack and hookers.

  24. vorador says:

    Serious Sam 3 was released not too long ago.

    Also, as far as i know the new Homefront qualifies. The previous one was just plain crap, but this one is good crap.

  25. Spacewalk says:

    Basically Chasm: The Rift.

    • Uniform Processor says:

      Thank you for this reminder!

      This game scared the crap out of me when I was a wee lad, though the dismemberment was neato to say the least!

  26. BlueTemplar says:

    Are Crysis sequels crappy enough to qualify? I still miss the super-suit gameplay…

  27. robert1981 says:

    Geez Blood 2…I actually bought that over HALF-LIFE because it supported my cpu’s fancy 3Dnow! technology. What a horribly unfinished game, along with SiN. That mad rush to meet the pre- Christmas holiday window, so many disappointments. I think (hope) the idea that your game needs to be released in November no matter what is now over.

    Ooh Chasm: The Rift!! played and finished it multiple times, ‘member how you could shoot off individual limbs!? Story was totally bonkers though. Strange game engine too, almost like the missing link between 2.5D and 3D. like 2.75D.

    Also, an underappreciated crap shooter gem I encourage you all to play – You Are Empty! link to youtu.be

    • Premium User Badge

      Qazinsky says:

      Ah, SiN. I LOVED that bank robbery level, but I guess it lost me somewhere after that, can’t remember more of the singeplayer.

      The multiplayer though, was quite fun and got LANed a bit more, especially the map where you’re tiny and run around a room, on book shelves, in the walls, on the floor if you want to be shot in the head.

  28. nitric22 says:

    Even some crap third person shooters come to mind. Deadly Dozen comes to mind. Though I don’t know if I ever made it beyond the first two or three levels. B-shooters, bring ’em back!

  29. Ericusson says:

    We would have had more Doom if they had focused on Single Player content instead of largely Inconsequential multiplayer for whatever reason.

    EverSpace does a good enough job for the shooting itch these days even if it a kind of FTL like space shooter.

  30. Itsabomb says:

    Great article, I have a soft spot for mediocre or slightly above average games.

    Does anyone recall a little game called Gunman Chronicles? It was made with the same modified Quake engine as Half-Life. I recall being excited by it, although it ended up just being an alright shooter, if not a crap shooter.

    A truly flat out crap shooter would have to be Command and Conquer: Renegades, although I wouldn’t oppose trying it again after all these years to see if it’s not as bad as I remember.

  31. Gabbo says:

    I really do wish that Ritual hadn’t gone under and been bought by MumboJumbo, the Sin games were this to a T. Big guns, ‘plot’, in this case – big breasts and tight leather/vinyl, lots and lots of gory shooting.

    One day maybe we’ll get Sin: Episode 2

    • keefybabe says:

      I think it’s due out the week after Half Life 2 Episode 3.

    • Cyrus says:

      Oh yeah, it rings a bell. After all these years.
      Funny how they were planning all those episodes and only one managed to be released. Don’t always aim for the stars..

  32. Numerical says:

    Having bought this game a few months back used, I am going to mention Unreal II: The Awakening as a game that, when it came out made me squeal in joy, myself being a massive Unreal Tournament fan circa 2001-02-03. It’s not something you’d really want to slog through these days but at the time it was very impressive to me.

  33. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Space Trucker is one recent shooter that seems to fit the bill. Although one of Alec’s conditions is that the game be unambitious, while Space Trucker tries to cram a bunch of systems and interactions where they don’t even belong. I should play more of that.

  34. xvre says:

    Pariah, anyone?

  35. BenMS says:

    Call of Juarez: Gunslinger was just the palette cleanser I needed after an incredibly heavy run of 50+ hour games. Knocked it over in the space of a few nights, shot some dudes in showdowns, Wild West Bullet-Time’d my way to victory in a neat little Unreliable Narrator story.

    • Cyrus says:

      Impressed considering how low-budget it was.
      Pleasantly surprised. Actually played it a few months back so it is a fairly recent experience. Wish Techland would go back to their roots once more.

  36. sleepisthebrotherofdeath says:

    Have the “ubisoft game” sandbox games taken the place of Crap Noughties FPSes ?

  37. thelastpointer says:

    Come on, RTCW was smoooooooth!

  38. Premium User Badge

    MajorLag says:

    Odd that you say DNF killed the B-List FPS, as it wasn’t B-List at all really. If it had been, it wouldn’t have been so hated for its shear tedious mediocrity. Instead it was like some of the others you mentioned: B-List in A-List clothing, and that didn’t really work with anyone.

    Though I realize, having only played about half an hour of it, which is roughly the amount of time I dedicate to most mediocre FPSs, that my opinion may be entirely in ignorance of the parts that make DNF really, really bad. I actually thought the first 15 minutes or so were pretty good and more or less exactly what they needed to be.

    Or maybe I’m just a bad judge of games, I don’t know. I never really got into Dark Souls after all. Though maybe if its PC port hadn’t been shit that’d have been different.

  39. dashausdiefrau says:

    Does crap shooter is the new word for fun shooter? Is last year’s Doom a crapshooter? Is Black Ops a crap shooter? Or Destiny and Titanfall are crapshooters?

    I am very confused now, and I would rather play RtCW again vs HL2 aka the long stretch of boringness. Hell, I would rather play Undying compared to that game.

  40. plugav says:

    I played a lot of crap shooters in my time, but my favourite has to be Clive Barker’s Jericho. Not a good game, but a good bad game. Had its charm, like most Barker-related projects.

  41. rondertaker says:

    the metro series fits this bill IMO. they are usually just interesting enough to let me turn off my brain and keep me playing but never great enough that i’d want to revisit them…

  42. gebrps says:

    I miss them too! “Crap” or not, Singularity and TimeShift -for example- are two that I loved very much and enjoyed them a lot. The same as Quake 4 (I still have hope for a new Quake with single player campaign).

    I really like good single player campaigns in sci-fi environments (and shooting things, but just for fun in a fiction, of course).

    Look at the latest Doom. The developers weren’t expecting the good welcome of the single player campaign. Even with a simple plot, it was really enjoyable, and the latest Wolfenstein games achieved that vibe of those classic FPSs in a modern presentation.

    I want more of all that too.

    Great article, as always.

  43. lowenz says:

    Turok the reboot :v

  44. Schnurx says:

    Well, there are a few, I think. Played them all on PC.
    I am currently playing Dead Effect 2, which I think is ideal for having a few hours of simple shooting fun.