Life Before Halo: First Person Shooters on Consoles

What FPS did the owners of game consoles play before the appearance of the Master Chief?Halo: Combat Evolved was released 20 years ago and had a major impact on the implementation of gamepad control in shooters, the Call of Duty that appeared in 2003 and, as a result, the entire genre – one of the most popular in the world. It has revolutionized the perception of FPS (first person shooters) on consoles.

All this is true, but don’t think that in the 90s the world did not see console shooters, except for the DOOM released even on the piano . The precursors of the genre in the form of a rail shooting gallery were released on the 8-bit NES – for example, Mobile Suit Z Gundam: Hot Scramble from 1986. On the eve of the anniversary of the Master Chief, let us recall several striking examples of how people lived and played FPS on gamepads before 2001.

16-bit shooters

MegaDrive and SNES gamepads did not have analog sticks and convenient triggers (resembling triggers) under the index fingers. And first-person shooters did not initially support the mouse, did not allow you to move your gaze vertically and did not require precise aiming. The d-pad was essentially the same as the arrows on the keyboard, so adapting the controls for consoles was not that difficult. Therefore, the first DOOM in the first three or four years of its life came out almost everywhere – including the Atari Jaguar, Sega 32x, SNES, and then made it to the Game Boy Advance.

In Russia, for economic and legal reasons, the 16-bit Nintendo console was a rare and expensive beast, but several FPSs were released on the popular Sega, which received cult status in narrow circles. And now we’re not talking about Star Cruiser and Corporation ported from PC-8800 and Amiga, but about full-fledged MegaDrive exclusives. For example, Bloodshot, a 1994 shooter also known as Battle Frenzy.

Responsible for the development of the British studio Domark, known for games about James Bond , the publisher was Acclaim. According to the plot in 2049, a space cruiser is approaching the Earth, controlled by evil robots and carrying a completely indecent amount of atomic bombs on board. The player’s goal is to infiltrate the ship and disable all terminators with the help of large cannons.

Bloodshot’s gameplay copied DOOM, the game looked gloomy and gray, but it offered convenient local multiplayer on a single split screen – both co-op and deathmatch. Many gamers of the 90s have probably seen at least the catchy cover, but the assessments of the Western press were restrained.

In the same 1994, Accolade released Zero Tolerance – perhaps the main console first-person shooter of the era. It was easy to get hold of, Russian gaming magazines wrote about it, and now you can buy it on Steam.

Again the future, again space, the player goes through 40 levels from the orbital station through the planetary defense headquarters to the dungeon teeming with monsters. At each level there is an elevator leading down, in each of the large zones there is a boss, the player has five special forces to choose from, several gadgets, such as a bioscanner for detecting enemies. And the ability not only to shoot, but also to fight hand-to-hand if you run out of cartridges.

Technopop studio squeezed the maximum out of MegaDrive hardware. Locations, enemies and weapons took up less than half of the space on the screen. The rest was styled to look like a dashboard and showcased the level diagram and character and weapon data. But the play area itself pleased with good detail, rich – for MegaDrive – palette and very smooth horizontal scrolling.

Critics were supportive, but the main value of Zero Tolerance was called console exclusivity and the reference technical performance for MegaDrive. The game would not have been able to compete with PC shooters if it had gotten the PC version at that time.

Magic wand Nintendo 64

Nintendo 64 is the most powerful fifth generation console ever. The home PC of the average family of the 90s could not oppose anything to a brutal Japanese piece of hardware in terms of processing 3D graphics. But besides the raw power, it had another unique trump card – the analog stick.

By that time, first-person shooters had already made friends with the mouse and the vertical movement of the camera, there were no longer enough arrows on the d-pad. Someone got out with the help of bumpers L1 and R1, but it was the analog stick that was an important help in creating a new version of the cult shooter – DOOM 64, a full third part that continued the plot of DOOM II: Hell on Earth.

Apart from the fantastic graphics for the consoles of the time and the lack of a PC version until 2020, DOOM 64 could not offer anything fundamentally new. More important to our story is Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, published by Acclaim under a comics license in 1997.

The game about the time-traveling Indian warrior Tal’Seth was announced before the release of the Nintendo 64 as an exclusive, unleashing the console’s technical potential and new control options. And graphically, the game really looked great. The effects, reflections, multi-polygonal models were all impressive.

The controls were also praised, but the metroidvania elements characteristic of Nintendo games, which slow down the usual pace for DOOM connoisseurs, sparked controversy. But the game still fell in love with the owners of the consoles and did not get lost on the PC, where it was ported after 8 months. Turok has received two sequels, a spin-off, a Game Boy Color version and a prequel already released on the GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

But all this was still only a prelude to the main shooter Nintendo 64, whose fame spread far beyond the console and has not really faded these days. It’s about GoldenEye 007 from Rare studio. We have already written about the James Bond shooter in more detail , at the same time we mentioned a remake for the Nintendo Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360. But at the time of that publication, one more event has not happened that confirms the cult status of the exclusive console shooter among enthusiasts.

In Summer 2021, a Krollywood user recreated all GoldenEye 007 levels in Far Cry 5’s Map Editor, making the classic game available to PC players without emulators or tambourine dances. Alas, MGM did not appreciate such a broad gesture and closed the shop . The work of two and a half years was removed from the Ubisoft servers, but remained on the author’s computer. He sometimes appears in the game again, but under different names.

Rare has created another exclusive FPS based on GoldenEye 007 technologies for the Nintendo 64 – the sci-fi Perfect Dark about special agent Joanna Dark investigating an alien conspiracy on Earth. Winning public acclaim, commercial success, and several awards in 2000 and 2001, the game caught the eye of Microsoft. She bought Rare with all IPs. Alas, Perfect Dark Zero, released in 2005, was not a bad game, but the success of the original could not be repeated – the departure of a number of key employees from the studio affected.

The series went into hibernation, but in December 2020 Microsoft announced a reboot of the franchise, which The Initiative studio is working on with the support of Crystal Dynamics. It’s not worth waiting for a release in the next couple of years.

The era of the PlayStation

The original PlayStation came out a little earlier than the N64, was not as productive, but also coped well with 3D graphics. But her standard gamepad didn’t have analog sticks. It took Sony another couple of years to release the Dual Analog, a dual-stick controller in the now familiar places. Same place as DualSense today. The new product was not supplied with the console, but separately cost significantly more than a regular controller. Many gamers continued to play shooters with the D-pad, controlling the camera with the familiar L1 and R1.

PC games were actively ported to the PlayStation. In the living rooms we played Command & Conquer, KKND2, played Diablo and WarCraft II, did not sleep at night during Civilization II. 3D polygonal graphics in Dune 2000 were only on the PlayStation. The control of the crosspiece did not bother or interfere – neither in strategies, nor in shooters. And first-person shooters on the console were enough.

Codename: Tenka (aka Lifeforce Tenka) from Psygnosis did not impress critics too much and did not make a splash on PC. But the owners of the PlayStation knew for sure about the game – the demo version was on a disc, which was bundled with some revisions of the console. They also knew about PowerSlave – aka Exhumed, aka Seireki 1999 – a bright and atmospheric shooter about the capture of the Egyptian Karnak by mythical evil spirits.

Many gamers got to know the cult Quake II thanks to the PlayStation. The game handled quite well the “old-fashioned” combination of cross and bumpers and supported deathmatch on a split screen. It was a fun time.

Support Private Ryan

But ports from a PC are not as interesting and not as important as the birth of the cult, albeit now extinct, series of military first-person shooters on the Sony console. We are talking about the Medal of Honor released in 1999, the influence of which on the genre in general and specifically on its presentation on home consoles can hardly be overestimated.

The story of one of the most famous FPS of the Second World War began with a “game from the movie”. Rather, with the desire of Steven Spielberg to support the 1998 blockbuster “Saving Private Ryan” with another popular audiovisual product – and at the same time bring cinematography and directorial vision to the games.

DreamWorks, which was distributing the film in the United States, already had an in-house game studio, DreamWorks Interactive LLC. She became famous for the cult The Neverhood and the games based on the films “Toy Soldiers” and “Jurassic Park”. An experienced team, the most popular gaming platform and the Normandy landing had such an impact on the gaming community that the ears of the Medal of Honor stuck out for a long time, including from the Call of Duty games.

It was today “D-Day” that long tired even the most loyal fans of the WWII setting, but in 98 the attack on Omaha Beach, shown on the movie screens, amazed the whole world. Spielberg’s task was to convey the same feeling that caused the beginning of the film for the viewer, through the game, placing the gamer in the very meat grinder of that operation.

Missions on different sectors of the front, elements of stealth, cinematography, harmonious storytelling and some rudiments of intelligence among enemies. At the very least, they knew about the shelter and did not rush to the grenades. A great game for its time – and a PlayStation exclusive that never came out on other platforms.

Halo: Combat Evolved was still two years away from release.

Transition period

In 2000, Medal of Honor: Underground was released on the first PlayStation, after which the series completely came under the control of EA, together with the developer studio. The exclusivity ended there. On the other hand, the PlayStation 2, launched the same year, received its own first-person shooter almost at the start. It was created specifically for DualShock with two sticks, completely focused on controlling a gamepad and never came out on a PC.

It’s about TimeSplitters – a cult shooter from Free Radical Design among connoisseurs and adherents of PlayStation 2. The developers are from Rare who worked on GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark. In fact, it was the backbone of the “same Rare”, capable of creating cool FPS for consoles, and left it when the studio came under Microsoft control.

TimeSplitters featured dynamic action, vivid design, memorable characters, convenient and flexible controls, the possibility of cooperative passage for four players and movement in time. The puzzle was perfect, and the game is still fondly remembered.

After two sequels released on PS2, Xbox and GameCube, but still not available on PC, Free Radical came under the control of Crytek, made the unsuccessful Homefront: Revolution and dispersed to different companies. Until at the beginning of 2021 it gathered again under the old name and under the wing of Deep Silver. In May, the publisher announced the development of a new part of TimeSplitters, but there is not even an approximate release date.

The FPS developers have completely mastered the gamepad, Call of Duty and Battlefield feel great on PlayStation and Xbox, some players fundamentally refuse to use a mouse and keyboard even on a PC . The ubiquitous DOOM has arrived on the portable Nintendo Switch, and Metroid Prime 4 will one day be released, a metroidvania / first-person shooter hybrid whose predecessors thrived on the GameCube.

It is not at all a fact that without the finds of Medal of Honor, Halo and Call of Duty, the situation would be as we see it today. Last year’s Black Ops: Cold War alone accounted for over 70% of sales on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One – the genre feels great on TVs in living rooms. And the Master Chief will return there very soon.

by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

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