Editor’s Note: A lawsuit has been filed against Activision Blizzard by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which alleges the company has engaged in abuse, discrimination, and retaliation against its female employees. Activision Blizzard has denied the allegations. The full details of the Activision Blizzard lawsuit (content warning: rape, suicide, abuse, harassment) are being updated as new information becomes available.
Call of Duty may be the dominant first-person shooter franchise, but there are a number of recent FPS games that beat it when it comes to immersion and overall uniqueness. While Call of Duty dominated the market in its early days, dozens of other popular shooters have emerged over that time, with some of them focusing on more arcade-style mechanics, and others doubling down on realism and grit. With the Call of Duty franchise kicking off in 2003 and still going strong – though encountering a hiccup with Call of Duty: Vanguard and its WWII setting – there eventually had to be other games to rise up in the genre and improve or deviate from its formula.
While Call of Duty may still be leading in terms of its profit, reachability, and marketability, many other shooters have released over the past few years that have been slowly gaining a following and expanding on the hallmarks of the genre. Additions like Overwatch definitely shook up the market and influenced games with its hero-shooter format, but its reach didn’t last very long and its player count is at an all-time low, with hype for its sequel dwindling after poor beta reviews. After the disappointing launch of Battlefield 2042, the diminishing returns on Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy games, and Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer losing traction, there’s plenty of space for newcomers to pick up momentum.
The first-person shooter genre has many avenues that it could expand on to engage players and keep them coming back for more. While Call of Duty may have pioneered this model nearly two decades ago, many recent shooters have been going in directions that Activision’s franchise never has, making them more appealing to players that want something new and different. Even though each game is designed to target a specific audience, the innovations and gameplay paradigms of some of the newcomers make older series look limited, especially with CoD losing nearly 60 million players last year alone.
Late last year, a game called Ready Or Not released in early access that incorporated hyper-realistic mechanics. The player takes control of a SWAT officer and is dropped onto a level where they must breach and clear a building to complete a series of objectives, all while avoiding gunfire and traps from enemies. The objectives are selected in the lobby and can range from defusing a series of bombs to rescuing hostages or confiscating narcotics. Ready Or Not also provides players with a diverse arsenal of weapons and utility to choose from, including a mirror gun, a breaching shotgun, and night vision goggles, all of which help to make the game more grounded. Activision claims that CoD: Modern Warfare 2 is more advanced than any of its predecessors, but Ready Or Not illustrates that sometimes all a game needs is a unique premise in order to attract players.
On top of the equipment that is at the player’s disposal in Ready Or Not, there is also a very minimal visual interface, only showing the armor level of the player and the status of the rest of the team. In order to check ammo reserves, the player must physically take the clip or magazine out of the gun and examine the bullet count, adding further immersion by rationing ammunition. While Ready Or Not may be targeted toward a smaller audience looking for realistic shooters, it serves as an example of how much further the shooter genre can go beyond what Call of Duty offers, and provides many new gameplay paradigms that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare‘s sequel in 2022 can benefit from adopting.
Although it only properly released last year (having been in early access before then), Hell Let Loose has already amassed a sizable following and continues to show growth, with more content coming over the course of 2022. Hell Let Loose drops the player into a massive WWII battlefield along with 100 other players, similar in scale to DICE’s Battlefield games, only with a bigger focus on historical accuracy and realism. What sets this game apart from the rest is how grounded its mechanics are, with one of the most distinguishing factors being that there are no hit markers, so players will have to pay more attention to their shots.
One of the key highlights of Hell Let Loose is its t0-scale locations and maps. All are rendered with incredible attention to detail, with a greater focus placed on historical authenticity than its contemporaries. Similar to Battlefield 5 and its fortification system, Hell Let Loose allows Engineers to build traps and cover to make defending areas easier. At the same time, Officers have to build outposts and garrisons to keep players closer to the action, which requires coordination with a team’s Commander and other Support roles. Similar to Ready Or Not, Hell Let Loose also sets itself apart by providing a minimal visual interface, not showing ammo count and only displaying the type of gun, the player’s team, and the objective to capture on the screen. Because of these mechanics, Hell Let Loose‘s multiplayer provides a more terrifying and gritty shooter experience than Call of Duty, showing the benefits of class-based gameplay and not compromising when it comes to period-accurate weaponry and presentation.
Last up on the list is a game that was released many years ago, yet still continues to grow in popularity as time goes by because of its approach in maintaining both a classic and grounded shooter experience. Taking inspiration from games like Counter-Strike and the older Battlefield titles, Insurgency: Sandstorm was released in late 2018 and is the follow-up to the original Insurgency which was released four years prior. While the game keeps the core foundations of the classic shooter in terms of its pacing and map layout, it also branches off into a more immersive realm by providing a minimal visual interface, no hit markers, and detailed weapon customization.
While Insurgency: Sandstorm may look impressive, it is not as realistic as the previous two titles, rather providing a nice balance by catering to both audiences that are looking for a fast-paced arcade shooter and an in-depth gritty environment. While Call of Duty may be more accessible and more popular, Insurgency: Sandstorm serves as an alternative for players looking to return to a more classic environment and weapon set. This game has many advantages over Call of Duty in the sense that it heavily focuses on objectives and communication while also setting most maps in larger areas so players have room to breathe and maneuver behind enemy lines.
Call of Duty may remain the king of first-person shooters, with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare recording two million active players in 2021 alone, but new games are in a better spot than before to challenge its crown. For those looking for fresh and innovative shooters that break the mold of Call of Duty and go in new directions, there are more options now than ever before. Some of the above examples, like Hell Let Loose and Ready Or Not, buck recent trends in that they emphasise realism over arcade-style mechanics, but the fact they’ve developed strong and passionate audiences shows that there’s plenty of room for the FPS genre to diversify in the coming years.
Next: Best FPS Games Of 2021
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