There was a time when single-player FPS games were the dominant genre. It wasn’t too long ago when a new hopeful burst onto the scene every month trying to displace the current market leader. Or at least carve a niche audience for itself. Now however, we’re finding that the single-player FPS games aren’t coming quite as regular as they used to.
Halo Infinite‘s launch late last year was a rallying cry. Finally, there was something for the single-player FPS game enthusiast to be happy about. It took a solid 12 weeks for the next AAA title in the genre to launch: Shadow Warrior 3. On the horizon we have… not a lot. Can Borderlands really be counted as a single-player game? I mean, it has a campaign at least. But there’s no denying it’s built for co-op play. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl has been delayed until later in the year, and so we’re left with a pretty empty looking plate.
People often credit GoldenEye 007 with bringing the FPS genre to the masses on console. And while Rare’s Nintendo 64 hit was ground breaking in many ways, it wasn’t the first FPS game on console. Not by a long shot. Way back on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) we had DOOM and Wolfenstein 3D ports. The Atari Jaguar’s Alien Vs. Predator is one of the system’s most critically acclaimed games. Even the PlayStation and Saturn had their ports of Duke Nukem 3D and Quake II. And while you could argue that, yes, there still weren’t a huge amount of FPS games in the ’90s, there also wasn’t a huge amount of games at all. The modern industry could spread it’s annual release schedule daily over a year and still have more than one game every day. Back then you’d often struggle to do the same with a single month.
At this time, the single-player FPS game was king. Most games in the genre were in fact criticised for having little but a tacked-on multiplayer mode. The overly criticised Turok: Rage Wars and Quake III: Arena made efforts to change this, but the fruits of their endeavours were still many years from being reaped.
So yes, GoldenEye 007 made FPS games on console a more palatable pitch for publishers. And a few years later, Halo: Combat Evolved drove it home. Over the course of a generation of hardware we would see franchises like Timesplitters, Medal of Honor, Metroid Prime and Call of Duty make their plays. All of which were primarily concerned with the single-player campaign.
Then came a new generation. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 played host to more single-player FPS games than you could possibly even count. Metacritic lists over 200 games in the genre, and even then there appears to be several missing. The genre was undeniably at it’s peak – for better or worse – and fans surely didn’t realise just how good they had things.
Now that may have been two generations ago, you might well be thinking. But the trend continued long into the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 era also. With a launch window line-up supporting the likes of Killzone 4, Metro Redux, Call of Duty: Ghosts and Wolfenstein: The New Order, it would be hard to argue fans weren’t being served. At the dawn of the current generation however, just one single-player FPS game made it into either console’s line-up: Bright Memory: Infinite. And even that was just a taster of the full game coming later.
It’s a shame that a genre could die so quickly without anyone noticing. Similar, I suppose, to the one-on-one fighting games of the early ’90s. However, when it comes to single-player FPS games, I hope we don’t have to wait 15 years for a Street Fighter IV style revival.