Having spent some time with The Order: 1886 over the past few months, I’ve been thinking about the genre and cover-based shooters quite a bit. I thought we could discuss the genre more broadly, particularly what we consider to be “third-person shooter” and not just “third-person” (is Mass Effect a third-person “shooter”, for example), and what some of the best of all-time are.
Gears of War is obviously near the top because it in many ways redefined the genre, added a fluid cover-system (that many in the genre now use including The Order) and offered extremely satisfying gunplay to boot.
Uncharted, and particularly Uncharted 2, is another: in many ways, I think it’s better than the Gears series because it blends story, cinematics and the gameplay together so well, which in my opinion makes it a better overall package.
The answer’s pretty simple, right? A third-person shooter is a game played in the third-person perspective where shooting is the main focus of the gameplay.
But does that mean that all third-person games with strong shooter elements are “third-person shooters”? Do Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 fit into that category? You could argue that the primary focus is on interaction, relationships and story, but those factors don’t really dilute the relevance of the shooting gameplay, do they? Both games are pretty heavily focused on team-based and cover-based shooting. The combat is structured around shooting. The broader experience isn’t. Where does it fit in?
There are many other games that more easily fit the mould. The Max Payne series, Red Dead Redemption, Jet Force Gemini, Resident Evil 4. These are games where the core gameplay feature is centered around shooting, and it drives a lot of the experience’s progression.
What about the Grand Theft Auto series? A lot of the experience is about exploration, but the gunplay is front-and-center for a vast majority of the game. I’d certainly put it firmly under the third-person shooter name.
The Advanced Warfighter games are great tactical third-person shooters, applying complex stealth and team-based mechanics into otherwise thriving third-person battlefields.
I’m removing the shackles here and listing my own personal favourites in the genre, because I think the genre is unique in the way it blends fluid shooting mechanics with exploration, adventure and platforming.
Jet Force Gemini – What I loved most about this game was its accessibility, because it had the “pick up and play” style that is so rare (no pun intended) in modern blockbusters. It didn’t need an hour-long tutorial or introductory mission, and yet it still managed to offer a deep, satisfying experience with plenty of gunplay, exploration, platforming and action.
Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter – These games helped ring in the Xbox 360 generation with sublime action, tactical gameplay and smooth third-person shooting battles. The first Advanced Warfare arguably propelled the Tom Clancy games to the blockbuster franchise it is today.
Resident Evil 4 – It’s often considered to be the beginning of the end of the franchise, but RE4 is still very much one of the best games in the franchise and of all-time. Its action-packed campaign, brutal villain and slick gunplay made for one of the best action games for many, many years.\
S.O.C.O.M. 2 Navy Seals – I really miss the SOCOM series. This second entry refined the voice controls from the first game and went that extra mile in multiplayer as well. It’s still one of the best all-round multiplayer games of all-time.