Beyond the obvious view difference of third or first person shooters, I’ve decided on whats probably a slightly odd way of categorising different kinds of shooter, these aren’t hard and solid categories as in some cases the borders between them might blur a little bit.

Shooter – Pretty much your basic shooter, all the game mechanics are intended to feed straight into the use of your weapons, it might have vehicle segments where you’re firing a gun, or a mounted gun on a wall or whatever, but every doorway leads to more combat. It’s the whole point of the game. To be honest, I don’t find this type of game at all interesting anymore, these have an emphasis on game design as challenge which I don’t enjoy playing much anymore unless it’s done in a really unusual way (At some point I should go and check out Shattered Horizon because the Descent-esque upside-down spinning about in zero-G is something that doesn’t happen often in shooters). Note these games can still have a really strong or imaginitive story, if it’s designed to support the combat and give you reason to keep shooting.

Shooter + (Plus) – Games in this category have far more game mechanics that feed into the gameplay, but these additional mechanics don’t involve actual shooting in themselves. The Saboteur or pretty much any open world game has this, whilst you might drive around in the car to reach the next place you do some shooting, you don’t have to, you can keep driving around. Sooner or later however, you end up coming back to the combat in order to progress in the story or whatever. Having a more elaborate inventory system can push a game up into this category because you can spend ages moving stuff around in your inventory and ignore the combat but sooner or later you end up returning to that combat.

Shooter ++ (Plus Plus) – Now these are rare.  Though they have shooting elements, you can opt out of shooting alltogether and still progress in the game. Deus Ex (I really should stop harping about on this game lest I sound/read like a broken record) and the Thief series is a notable instance – Though it’s very difficult to do, people have played through the game with none (Or extremely few) kills/take-downs and still completed the game. It’d be nice if there were more of these, there’s something fundamentally very interesting (to me) about giving the player a gun, then challenging them to try to avoid using it and I wish I saw more mainstream games that try to do this.

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