The Problem With: First Person Games

FPS games have never had a good story, except for a few hits here and there. Here's a few of the problems why.

The other day, I was playing some Far Cry 4 on the PS4. In fact, I wrote an article about it not too long ago.. A few weeks ago, I was playing Call of Duty, and not long before that, Far Cry 3. I seemed to be putting myself on some sort of FPS marathon or something.

The only other game that I've played recently, aside from a FPS, was Assassin's Creed Unity. I've played so many more shooters than other genres, and from all my years of experience playing them, I've found one central problem with them. At least, most of them. 

 

So much for being "immersive"

It's just that FPS stories lack variety and depth. 

In terms of narrative, FPS games are supposed to let you see through the eyes of the most important person in the whole game, you, the main character. FPS games are notorious for having some very mediocre plotlines that just fail to get players emotionally invested in their game. Think, Call of Duty or Battlefield. Those 2 titles are arguably the biggest first person shooting games in, well... first person shooting. Every year they release a new installment and without fail, they sell like hotcakes. And I don't blame the people who buy them. Battlefield and CoD are without a doubt some of the most fun shooters out there in the market.

It's just that FPS stories lack variety and depth. We don't care about the characters enough; there's nothing that make us care about the characters, especially the player we're controlling. 

This is not to say that all their stories aren't up to scratch. Throughout the long line of CoDs, Black Ops has stood out to me as the one with the best story, and I think other gamers can agree. The surprise twist at the end of the solo campaign brought something fresh in a stale, generic gaming genre. Hell, ever since the success of Black Ops' plot, there have been other shooters with similar plotlines that have done it better than Black Ops did. Mainly, Spec Ops: The Line and Bioshock Infinite.

But here's why their stories are usually not up to snuff

In CoD's defense (and Battlefield's too), maybe there wasn't enough time to put together a nice plot because the plain simple (and harsh) truth to games like Call of Duty is this:

Not many gamers care about the story, so why should developers care about making a good story to tell? Cardboard games are still bought in excess and the feedback loop continues.

I might start to sound crazy here, but I think you guys can see the sense in what I'm trying to say. 

The best plot that I've ever played in a FPS is in the Bioshock series, especially Bioshock Infinite. Irrational Games did a fantastic job on that one and crafted the characters with effort to make us invested into their cause. You genuinely care about Elizabeth, and you can feel the oppression in the floating Utopia that is Columbia. It's very rare to see FPS games that keep you so interested in the storyline like Bioshock: Infinite did. 

 

 

Even the best games aren't perfect

I really loved Bioshock: Infinite and Spec Ops: The Line. I love them just as much as I love the Call of Duty multiplayer, maybe even more. But even the games with some great stories have flaws in them. 

In the beginning of this article, I mentioned that FPS games are suppose to let you see through the eyes of the main character. That's just the problem isn't it? You, as the main protagonist, are just there to watch. 

You don't feel like you're making any special connections with the supporting cast (which are usually much more fleshed out than you are). I don't think there has ever been a first person shooting game where I actually cared about the person I'm controlling. And I'm talking about caring-about-Joel-in-Last-of-Us kind of care. 

At the end of the day

But... When you think about it, there have to be some games with good stories while others don't. It's simply because there's a different focus in the development. How come Call of Duty never has a good story? It's just too much of a gamble to invest money and time into it, I guess? They have a great thing going with their super-popular multiplayer; there's no reason to shake things up.

Call of Duty and Battlefield will probably never have a great story for the same reason Bioshock: Infinite doesn't have multiplayer: there is just not enough time or resources to make them in while still meeting their deadlines.

But sometimes it's just nice to think... What if? 

Correspondent

I've been playing games since I was small but only started to really observe and critique a few years back. Been writing reviews for games (albeit, old games because not everyone can have a crazy fast rig). When I'm not writing about games, I generally do some photography as well, so check that out if you've got some time.

Published Mar. 17th 2015
  • The Soapbox Lord
    Featured Contributor
    You have a point with your argument, but it is unfairly leveled at all FPS or just first person games in general.
    The reason COD and Battlefield have such poor stories, usually, is because of their yearly release schedule, development timeline, and the fact most players of these titles could not give a damn about the story or campaign. Multiplayer has and always will be, the focal point for these titles.
    So while you have a point with Battlefield and Call of Duty, asserting first person games or shooters cannot tell a story is baseless given your focal point here.

    First person games with good stories:
    Bioshock series
    Half-life series
    The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
    Bedlam
    The Darkness
    Brothers in Arms
    Wolfenstein: The New Order
    Deus Ex and etc. etc. etc.

    There are plenty of great stories in first person games and FPS games. Perhaps if you stop looking for them where they aren't a priority you won't be so disappointed.
  • Farrel Nobel
    Correspondent
    Yeah kinda have to agree with those games even though I never played some of them. Perhaps my point in here was that it would've been nice if FPS games like CoD and Battlefield had a good narrative.
  • Dino Becker
    Contributor
    Totally agree with you. I remember playing through Black Ops II, and half-way through I asked myself: "What was this guy's name again?"

    Let's hope we'll eventually get an amazing shooter with someone we can actually care about.
  • Farrel Nobel
    Correspondent
    Battlefield Hardline maybe? But I've been bit once by EA with battlefield 3's story though.
  • topher339
    Each FPS game generally has a semi-specific focus. CoD and Battlefield mostly focus and a great multiplayer with a decent but not great campaign plot-line. This often being due to short production times. Games such as Halo generally have both great story and great multiplayer but take much longer to produce.

    An FPS has to be taken in perspective as far as intended use. CoD or Battlefield are generally played for multiplayer and just maybe one run through of the campaign. I often don't even finish the campaign for these games unless I find them more interesting or engaging. For instance, I never finished Black Ops II but played entirely though Ghosts. While Ghosts had the superior campaign in my mind it had the lesser multiplayer which I hardly ever played. There seems to a direct variation between campaign and multiplayer where CoD is concerned lately. Halo is played for the story almost as much as it is for the multiplayer.

    A game such as Mass Effect which has less intensive multiplayer tends to have a much more immersive story and characters than Titanfall which is almost all multiplayer and little to no story.
  • The Slow Gamer
    Contributor
    I had the same idea as thatzacdavis; maybe it so easy to empathize with Joel in The Last of Us because you play him in the 3rd person. He's very distinct from the player, even if you do control him most of the time.

    I think FPS protagonists are intentionally blank slates, so the player can become the character. For some people this might make the game more immersive?
  • Farrel Nobel
    Correspondent
    Your point may be right about how the main character is a blank slate and it's suppose to make us feel like we're the character.

    But for me, I still need some direction so I can put myself in the character's shoes. Did he/she had some trauma in the past that will affect how the character makes their decisions? or maybe the character's the happy-go-lucky type while I'm not that type of person.

    It's just these small things that overall help the characters feel real. For me, it's better if there was a back story to the main character, from there I can start to sort of role play as that person.
  • Si_W
    I think you need to correct your headline to "The Problem With: First Person Single Player Games"

    No one I know buys Battlefield or CoD for the single player campaign, the main focus of ANYONE buying these games is the multiplayer mode.
  • thatzacdavis
    Featured Contributor
    This is why I love the third-person option. I can actually see my character and get a feel for what he or she looks like. It's not like I don't see myself throughout the day.
  • Farrel Nobel
    Correspondent
    Which is why Spec Ops: The Line is a good shooter in terms of story. You can see how your character interacts with the world.

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