The first CoD is simply a masterpiece. I love it! I've played several other WWII-themed shooters, but only Call Of Duty has managed to create a realistic atmosphere and emerge the player deep into the not-so-modern warfare (sorry for bad pun). The graphics are superb, the levels are anything but repetitive, and the tactics very greatly between the campaigns. It was especially refreshing to see a Western developer finally remember who has actually won in WWII, and that really says something. It's hard to describe why the first Call Of Duty is so great, but thanks to PS3 and X360 re-releases, you can try it for yourself. Call Of Duty is the one WWII-themed FPS (not counting Wolfenstein, OK?) that I have beaten, simply because I cared to beat it.
An obscure action-RPG from the Doom era, specifically the last commercial game that used the Doom engine. The developers gave it a serious boost with complex interface, primitive yet present role-playing system, dialogue voiceovers and multiple endings. Hexen expanded the technical possibilities and restrictions of Doom, but it was Strife that really nailed the engine limits. Its influence is undeniable in other 'intelligent' shooters like Deus Ex and System Shock, but overshadowed by its more famous successors, Strife is, too, a pretty complete and enjoyable, though not flawless, videogame.
Warren Spector is the man. He is responsible for the greatest action-RPGs to ever grace the PC. Fresh off Ultima Underworld, he and the crew unleashed System Shock - an ambitious hybrid of a first-person shooter and free-roaming RPG set in the coldness of outer space, with your only means of defense being a metallic pipe (at the beginning) and above average hacking skills. Everybody around you lies dead, and then there's the menacing entity of SHODAN - the violent artificial intelligence sending hordes of zombies and biomechanical nightmares in your way. System Shock 2 broke all the boundaries with larger world, new engine (Dark Engine, to be exact), new development team (Irrational Games) and a reputation of one of the scariest games of all time. And BioShock? It has new setting, new play mechanics, new role-playing system, but talk about a glorious comeback!
First, let me say straight - I've never played Half-Life sequels. I know they are epic influential masterpieces, hell, I even have them legally bought on Steam, but due to the time shortage, I never had a chance to check them out. HL1, though, is a different story. My first ever CD was actually a HL bootleg, though my machine didn't meet the system requirements at all. However, as I got a new PC, I've beaten it, then I've beaten it on PS2 - it's a great game, rightfully regarded as the first mainstream FPS with detailed and intricate storyline (I stress 'mainstream', because there's the Marathon trilogy and System Shock).
Warren Spector's cyberpunk epic was a smash hit back in 2000 that redefined the FPS genre. The story of JC Denton and the gang was larger than life, with sophisticated writing never seen in the genre before (again, I'm talking about the mainstream shooters). The graphics may be lacking even for the time, but the visual design, storytelling and Alexander Brandon's breathtaking score even all the flaws out. I have it on a bootleg CD which claims to contain the GOTY edition, but for some funny reason it is unplayable without the multiplayer (sic!) patch that I have finally tracked down on another bootleg CD. Thanks to it, the game became English from broken Russian, and the rest is history...
The first game has single-handedly created the canon and reputation for the FPS genre. Brutal and gory, DOOM threw out a revolution and influenced countless developers, from Raven Software to... Chex manufacturers! That's right, what followed the success of the original DOOM 1 and 2 was a pantheon of superb first-person shooters - Heretic, Hexen, Chex Quest and Strife. Also, DOOM has introduced a concept of modding by storing the resources in WAD files, and to this day the first two games are rightfully regarded as Carmack and Romero's finest hour, as well as the following efforts by Raven Software, the stellar Heretic and Hexen franchise.
Despite having far superior competitors out there, Quake is the ultimate in multiplayer. You haven't lived until you've been raping and slaughtering all your adversaries with the Rocket Launcher, Lightning Gun, Shotgun, BFG, running around with a charged up Gauntlet and, of course, having the adrenaline rush of your life when the announcer hauntingly states that ONE FRAG LEFT. The single player in Q1 and 2 is also worth checking out, with Q1's dark Gothic castles and fantasy enemies, and Q2's hub levels and interesting sci-fi storyline. Quake 4 and Enemy Territory were kinda meh in the eyes of both gamers (including myself) and critics, but thanks to Quake Live, now you can experience the unforgettable deathmatches right here and right now, without even leaving your comfortable browser!
Unlike the other shooters of the time, Unreal didn't just have a set of levels. It had the WORLD. Developed, breathing and astonishingly beautiful planet of Na Pali welcomed our hero, a space prisoner, who fell from the sky and unknowingly was destined to free the locals from Skaarj tyranny. Every gamer remembers the moment of leaving the prison vessel and taking a first look at the sky. It was unreal indeed. This game has also launched Epic Games to superstardom, where they are still residing without any signs of weakening. A game, a benchmark, a whole planet to explore!
Who doesn't love this muscular cynical superhero whose daily routine consists of hanging out with babes, kicking ass and chewing bubble-gum? Once he gets out of gum, it's up to aliens to experience all the sounds of fear. Shotgun, machinegun, shrinker, Mighty Foot - Duke has it all, but there's more. The glorious introduction of the legendary Build Engine, almost fully 3D levels (in terms of structure), portal system, highly interactive environments and charmingly dumb sense of humor - Duke Nukem 3D is a greatest spoof and at the same time, celebration of first-person shooters ever!
I can write another 'War & Peace' by praising this game. It's definitely inspired by someone higher than the sky.
Thanks to MobyGames.com for great screenshots!