Shooter Season 2011 is at around the mid-point and fortunately it hasn't yet become a grim parade of despair in my mind. After Rage, it'll take a little hiatus until the end of the month, whence cometh Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, which will probably be around the time I start getting depressed about it all. Fortunately there'll eventually be Serious Sam 3 to see the season off, which should leave things on a high note, assuming it hasn't gone all brown, dusty and realistic on us (checks screenshots) WHOOPSY DAISY.
I think it's fair to say I have a bit of a rose tint in my Burberry half-rims when it comes to old-style shooters, which probably marks me out as a stubborn old fuddy-duddy with an instant bias against anything that doesn't use a broader colour palette than a Francis Bacon painting. But there are a lot of things I like about the gaming style of today that perhaps I take for granted or don't mention enough. I love that things are in 3D models now and not sprites that turn eerily to face wherever you happen to stand. I love the sight of a really breathtaking view that isn't a parallax sky texture that does horrible things when you put it on anything that isn't a ceiling. Maybe I get a little frustrated because there's so much potential in the hardware we have today and all anyone wants to do is stare at a chest-high wall. This is why I want space combat games to come back. I want to shoot really big impressive terrifying things in front of a nebula. A really nice-looking nebula.
But I digress. Shooters weren't always my thing. As a kid, first transitioning from my Amiga 600 to a Windows 95 computer that would eventually age to the point that it would occasionally need a ringing slap to the tower case to keep the fan running, I was loathe to play anything but point-and-click adventure games. When Quake came out I was content to just watch my brother play, and I have vivid memories of once being offered the keyboard and being too terrified to walk down a corridor in case there was a Shambler at the end. Yes, I know, I could barely see past my massive pussy flaps in those days. But this age of PC shooters was a quirky, experimental one during which you could try some new, colourful shareware with every magazine cover disk you acquired. I think it was a combination of Duke Nukem 3D and Half-Life that permanently broadened my palate, but while I'm still moony-eyed and nostalgic I'd like to take a moment to remember some of the lesser-known shooters from this period that all did their bit to expand my horizons.
One of the earliest games on the Build engine (later used by Duke Nukem 3D), TekWar was an adaptation of a series of novels by William Shatner. TekWar was somewhat ahead of its time, it came out in 1995 and was one of the first FPSes to populate its environments with non-combatant civilians and police officers as well as enemies, all of which you were free to shoot, even the ones you weren't supposed to. And at a time when most people understood shooters only on the Doom level, perhaps this was an innovation audiences needed to be eased into. Half-Life did so by making you spend its first twenty minutes without a gun and surrounded by friendly NPCs. TekWar gave you a pistol and dumped you in a crowded street. I don't remember much about TekWar, to be honest. All I remember is the screams. The terrible, terrible screams.