All first-person shooters are the same, right? Every modern FPS out there is little more than a Call of Duty clone. Really, Call of Duty was just a Medal of Honor clone, Medal of Honor was just a GoldenEye clone, GoldenEye was just a Quake clone, and Quake was just a Doom clone. To top it off, Doom was just a Wolfenstein 3D clone.
Early Days of FPS
However, anyone who’s been playing first-person shooters since the early days will say that this genre has been constantly evolving since its inception. For proof of this, spend an hour or two playing Black Ops, then go pick up GoldenEye 64. The FPS has grown immensely over the years, and there have been some pretty groundbreaking moments along the way.
One series that has informed the way we view FPS games this generation is the Call of Duty series. Call of Duty actually did sort of begin as a “Medal of Honor clone.” In fact, almost the entire team behind Medal of Honor: Allied Assault went on to make the original Call of Duty game. However, Call of Duty did some interesting things with the Medal of Honor formula.
Changing the FPS Formula
Probably the most important change was the addition of the down-the-barrel view. In the original Call of Duty—and every CoD game since—players could bring their weapons closer to their faces to look down the barrel of their gun and aim more accurately. When firing from the hip, the crosshairs that indicated where you were aiming would spread apart, making shooting less accurate.
Sure, Call of Duty didn’t invent the down-the-barrel view or the expanding crosshairs. People can find earlier examples in games like Vietcong and Operation Flashpoint. In fact, these features most likely date back to the modding community of the late 1990s, though it’s hard to say for sure. But one thing is certain; Call of Duty popularized the ability to bring your gun closer for iron sites view and the expanding crosshairs. Now, imagine playing an FPS without these.
Stagnation in Single-Player and Shifts in Multiplayer
As the years went on, Call of Duty began to stagnate. It was the same game year after year. But then, in 2007, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was released, becoming the archetype for an entire new generation of FPS games. While the most obvious change to the series was that Modern Warfare finally left behind the World War II era setting of its predecessors, it made a lot of very important changes to the multiplayer FPS formula.
Modern Warfare took some cues from the RPG; namely, it had players earn XP as they got kills in multiplayer matches, which allowed them to level up. Once again, Call of Duty wasn’t the first shooter to feature a level-up system—look at GunZ, for example—but it definitely popularized its use in the genre. Of course, this was a huge step in increasing the replayability of the multiplayer modes. It gave players a real sense of progression, which made the game much more addictive.
CoD created a Social Network of Sorts for It’s Multiplayer
Back in the days of Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, this type of progression could sometimes be found among the clans that formed around the game. In a particularly organized clan players are able to advance in rank and earn medals based on their performance in matches. This whole setup ensured that clan members would keep coming back for more, but it wasn’t ever officially a part of the game. Players had to keep track of everything themselves, and the ranks really only had clout within the clan. Modern Warfare took this very idea and put some gravity behind it. In order to gain rank, players didn’t have to validate their scores with screenshots or keep records of who partook in clan matches or anything like that. The game did all that for you by offering a simple XP-based formula.
To increase the sense of progression, Modern Warfare also gave you reasons to want to keep leveling up. As players rose in rank, their arsenal would increase. Higher-level players had access to weapons and perks that low-level players didn’t.
Perks, Perks, Perks
Speaking of perks, Modern Warfare gave players perks that would give them an extra edge in battle. Perhaps the most infamous was the “Martyrdom” perk, which caused players to drop a live grenade every time they were killed. Then there were Killstreak bonuses, which gave awesome abilities that players could only use after getting a particular amount of kills without dying. For example, if players could rack up seven kills, they were allowed to call in a chopper that would fly overhead and mercilessly shoot at their opponents for a minute at a time.
With Call of Duty making such important changes to the way that multiplayer is played, the question becomes, what will the future hold? Killstreaks, XP-based leveling, and new perks depending on a player’s level are bog standard in almost all FPS multiplayer games. While the set and settings have changed slightly, think of Titanfall or the massive battles of the more recent Battlefield series titles, what will change once the CoD model of Multiplayer is considered “old”?