Monday, February 25, 2013

Shoot \'em ups will never be the same again

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The earliest shoot 'em up games were incredibly simplistic when it comes to design, gameplay, graphics and general on-screen action. But then the computers they were designed for were very straightforward machines, compared to modern computers at least. The universally recognised first ever shoot 'em up game was 'Space Invaders', the arcade classic which was first released in 1978 and still attracts players to its many online game versions and modern arcade versions nowadays. Shoot 'em ups are technically a sub-genre of shooter games, a category of action games. Many types of action games are available as free online games today, but very few, even those marketed as shoot 'em ups, are much like the original 2D bonanzas of the 1980's.

Shoot 'em up games definitely experienced their 'golden age' during the 80's when 2D graphics, or at best flat-3D graphics, were commonplace. In these action games, players would usually be in control of one thing, often a spacecraft or a person, which would be in the centre of the screen; the enemies to be shot, along with their bullets, rockets and what else you to avoid, would scroll across the screen, either from top to bottom or left to right. The player's task, therefore, was to shoot as many enemies as possible whilst avoiding being hit. Often the reward came in the form of challenging the high score, attained by shooting the most enemies, with some games employing a levelled approach too.

But as computers and gaming has moved into the 21st century with high quality graphics, greater computing power and the internet, shoot 'em ups have changed to. Many games in the shooter and action game genres are now called shoot 'em ups but are really just action games; many online browser games have kept some of the scrolling gameplay elements but have improved the graphics.The shoot 'em up style of game is still popular with players of online games, especially in the setting of space and space wars. Their golden age might be long gone, but these games still attract attention even amongst the vast quantity of free online games currently available.

One of the things that means that shoot 'em ups have not lost all their pulling power comes down to their competitive element. They may still be strictly single-player games, but the multiplayer element of the game, which makes them great competitive games, is in not just beating your own high score, but beating someone else's high score, the best high score. They are not modern multiplayer online games, but this scoring element still promotes a multiplayer feel to them which works well in the context of online games - just as in the arcades of the 80's and 90's, getting your name to the top of the high score list is what keeps you playing.

There are millions more action games, online games and multiplayer games playable for free that will out-do the graphics, the gameplay, the style and the 'coolness' of the retro shoot 'em up, but they still have a charm and appeal that makes them a valuable addition to any online gaming site or any browser game portal. They may never be the same again, but they never had it so good!

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