It's crazy to think that a younger generation of gamers will grow up having never known a world without first-person shooters. The genre has become an omnipresent fixture in modern-day gaming culture, and its continued evolution is pushing the boundaries of realism and unique gameplay in thrilling ways.
Titanfall's sci-fi blend of on-foot firefights and brawling combat is a prime example of how the proverbial game is changing yet again. It marks an exciting shift into fresh territory, taking the FPS genre to the next level — light-years beyond the boundaries of the earliest first-person shooter offerings from the 8-bit era.
Back in the late 1970s, arcade fever was still in full swing. People flocked to these social gaming epicenters to drop quarters into their favorite cabinets and vie for the top spots on the leaderboards. Multiplayer gaming was a completely different animal — opponents were limited to whoever was within arms reach and had a spare coin. The Internet as we know it today didn't exist.
It wasn't long until, with the arrival of the Atari 2600, the chaotic din of 8-bit bleeps and flashing lights invaded living rooms. While primitive 2-D games were cutting-edge at the time, the push to innovate led game makers to seek out new ways to provide players with heightened realism. Battlezone, Atari's popular 3-D tank simulator game, used vector graphics to shake things up. It was one of the earliest first-person shooter games to catch on with the gaming public. This change in player perspective proved groundbreaking, and helped spark the first-person shooter flame that spread rapidly in the decades to come.
LAN networking and the rise of the Internet in the 1990s fueled a revolution in multiplayer gaming, paving the way for the first-person shooter to come rolling onto the scene with guns blazing. Better processing power and graphical advances made 3D gaming a much more believable and immersive experience. Plus, the ability to network online gave players exciting new opportunities to compete against one another across vast distances and form virtual communities around their favorite games.
The advent of the deathmatch — the gold standard for competitive multiplayer shooter gameplay — also entrenched a new way of thinking and playing that carried on into the 21st century.
As the first-person shooter genre continued to evolve, it grew and morphed from its simplistic roots by drawing on mechanics from other genres. Unlockable weaponry, character progression systems, cooperative play, and a broader range of play modes beyond deathmatches meshed with voice chat, social networking, and other cool features to make the first-person shooter all the more dynamic.
With its giant robot battles and dynamic on-foot movement innovations, Titanfall is the latest building block in the ever-growing genre. It represents both an evolution into new territory and an amalgamation of many of the best ideas culled from the first-person shooters of the past few decades. Like those before it, Titanfall will most certainly inform the next generations of games to come.
Nathan Meunier is a journalist and freelance writer who covers video games, technology, and geek culture. He's also the author of Up Up Down Down Left WRITE: The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism, which is out now on Kindle and in print.