Building the Perfect Console Shooter

Every piece of media produced these days incorporates pieces and parts from previous productions. There’s nothing wrong with drawing a bit of influence from past successes. Not paying attention to things that worked, after all, is just dumb, and there are always lessons to be learned from failures and disappointments.

The shooter genre has done an admirable job expanding on its simple Doom-y, Wolfenstein-y beginnings. For this exercise, we’re going to focus on using the best of the best to put together a the best shooter possible, perspective be damned–and because I’m a total console fanboy and I’m not qualified to speak about PC shooters, I’m going to focus on games for those of us who prefer an analog stick. We’re going to take the choicest pieces of the finest console first person shooters, tear them out of their respective games, and sew them together to make one uber shooter to rule over them all. Pay no mind to the ragged stitching keeping the thing from falling apart. I wasn’t any good at home ec.

Give it the gunplay of Borderlands. Gearbox’s loot shooter features a ridiculously expansive array of weapons, each with a different damage, fire rate, and magazine size. Throw in a few elemental effects and you’ve got an arsenal that can fit any play style. Want to get up close and personal so you can bring each enemy down with a single shot? Equip a shotgun or a revolver and go to town. More of the hide and snipe type? Grab a lightning-enhanced rifle to drop your opponents shield and a flaming sniper to finish him off. I can’t remember a game that made the simple act of shooting something more fun.

Give it the ambience of Halo. Say what you will about the contributions of Bungie’s and 343’s infamous shooter, but don’t deny that it always looks and sounds suitably epic. Halo’s music and visuals have always made it quite clear that the Master Chief’s mission is important, damn it, and that’s a feeling every good shooter should invoke in the player. Shooting things is all well and good, but the perfect shooter should also look pretty, sound fantastic, and set a dramatic tone.

Give it the writing of Spec Ops: The Line. Buried by a confusing marketing campaign, this mindfuck of a jaunt through a ruined Dubai has wound up on many game of the year lists. Equal parts study on humanity, commentary on the evils of war, and thought-provoking send up of the modern military shooter, the narrative never fails to impress despite lackluster combat mechanics. The dialogue and character progression are of downright literary quality. If I had to choose a list of the most artful video games, this one would be near the top of the list.

Give it the level design of Half-Life 2. Few games feature better set pieces than those found in Gordon Freeman’s most recent adventure. Whether it’s taking out a helicopter from a boat, holding your ground against a Combine assault with the help of a few turrets, or making your way through alien-infested Ravenholme with your trusty gravity gun, Half-Life 2 always presents a diverse, interesting challenge that keeps its core mechanics fresh.

Give it an antagonist as good as Portal’s. So this one involves shooting portals rather than bullets–it’s still a shooter, and it’s still got useful pieces and parts. And important part of building a high quality game is presenting the player with an enemy he or she wants to beat. Portal’s GLaDOS is the perfect example of an antagonist players can’t wait to take on. Her constant goading insults might be humorous, but they’re insults nonetheless, and that moment when the heroic Chell finally takes down the rogue AI is one of the most satisfying in all of gaming. The cake might be a lie, but the thrill of kicking that bitch’s ass sure ain’t.

What does that give us? Bortal-Life 2: The Haloish Line. Or something. Whatever it is, it’s a damn good game.

Did we miss any pieces and parts that should be added to the perfect console shooter? Tell us in the comments or email the author at

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