Codex Gamicus
Tactical shooter video games
Basic Information

Tactical shooter video games are shooter video games that include both first-person shooter video games and third-person shooter video games. These games typically simulate realistic combat, thus making tactics and caution more important than quick reflexes in other action video games. Tactical shooter video games involving military combat are sometimes known as "soldier sims".[1][2][3]

Game design[]

According to IGN, tactical shooters "are about caution, care, cooperation, coordination, planning, and pacing. In those games, making decisive pushes, quick moves for cover, strategic retreats, and last ditch grabs at the gold are not only important to success, but balanced in such a way that they become enjoyable activities in play." [4]

Tactical shooters are designed for realism.[5] It is not unusual for players to be killed with a single bullet,[6] and thus players must be more cautious than in other shooter games.[5] The emphasis is on realistic modeling of weapons, and power-ups are often more limited than in other action games.[7] This restrains the individual heroism seen in other shooter games, and thus tactics become more important.[8][9][10]

Overall, the style of play is typically slower than other action video games.[11] Jumping techniques are sometimes de-emphasized in order to promote realism,[12] with some games going so far as to omit a jump button.[13] In contrast to games that emphasize running and shooting, tactical shooters require more caution and patience (making use of cover and avoiding being caught in the open),[14] plus tactical shooters are usually designed so that shooting becomes inaccurate while running which increasing accuracy for crouching or prone stances.[15] Players often have the choice of shooting from the hip ("hippie") which is less accurate but gives a wider view of the area, or using the scope/iron sights for better zoom-in accuracy but at the penalty of restricted view. Some tactical shooters even lack the crosshair seen in other first-person shooters, in order to achieve a high degree of realism.[16]

Many tactical shooters make use of group-based combat, where the player character is supported by other teammates. While early tactical shooters had simple computer-controlled teammates who offered support fire, the artificial intelligence in later games has evolved with more complex teammate responses such as cover-fire mechanics.[17] In games with a sufficiently robust artificial intelligence, the player character is able to issue commands to other computer-controlled characters.[11] Some games in the genre allow players to plan their team's movements before a mission, which the artificial intelligence then follows.[6] Many games also offer a multiplayer online play, allowing human players to strategize. Team-based tactics are emphasized more than other shooter games, and thus accurate aiming and quick reflexes are not always sufficient for victory.[18]

The level design usually reflects the game's setting. For example, the player may play the role of SWAT police fighting terrorists or other criminals, or may engage in military combat in real world conflicts as either battlefield soldiers or special forces commandos.[6] Some games take place in entirely fictional universes, and incorporate elements of science fiction.[11] Each level will have different objectives. Although some levels may simply require that the player defeat their enemy,[6] other levels may challenge the player with objectives such as escorting a VIP safely to a specific location or planting a demolition charge on a target. Levels are often designed with check points or alternate routes. As "run and gun" assaults are often met with heavy resistance, it becomes important to exploit a superior position and/or take the enemy by surprise and even evading them entirely.


Tactical shooters often feature a wide variety of weapons modelled after actual firearms, however there are often considerable modifications from their real-life counterparts in order to ensure balance in multiplayer.[19][20]

In contrast to run and gun shooters such as Quake which allow players to carry full arsenals, tactical shooters place considerable restrictions on what players may be equipped with, so players have to carefully select weapons according to the situation and/or role in their team. Half-Life: Counter-Strike's system of allowing a primary weapon (assault rifle, sub-machine gun, sniper rifle, or shotgun) and a secondary weapon (pistol) has been followed by other shooters like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.

Wielding or carrying heavier weapons such as sniper rifles and machine guns often incurs a movement penalty over light weapons like submachine guns and pistols. Players often find loopholes in this system, such as in Half-Life: Counter-Strike where they would switch their firearm to a knife in order to run faster.

Due to the problem of grenade spamming, the effect of explosions are often toned down and/or only 1-2 grenades are allowed to be carried.

While more realistic than run-and-gun shooters, combat mechanics in tactical shooters are still focused more on balance than simulating actual combat. For instance Counter-Strike and other games allow the player to survive multiple bullet hits to the torso (ignoring the bullet resistance of different types of ballistic vests) and even more to the legs (rarely armored in real-life), while registering an automatic kill for melee hits (whether punches or knife stabs) and "headshots" (including a pistol shot to the back of the head even if the target is wearing a combat helmet).[21]

See also[]


  1. Richardson, Ben (April 20, 2006). Armed Assault. GamesRadar UK. Retrieved on 2009-02-13
  2. IGN Staff Operation Flashpoint Goes to War IGN (Dec 14, 2001) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
  3. Adams, David America's Army Linked Up IGN, (Feb 9, 2006) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
  4. Ivan Sulic. Tactical Ops – PC Review at IGN. Retrieved on 2012-07-28
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Scott Osborne (2003-10-28). Hidden & Dangerous 2 (PC). CNET. Retrieved on 2009-03-10
  7. Jason Samuel (2000-11-29). Feature: Tactical Shooters: The Second Generation. GamePro. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07 Retrieved on 2009-04-22
  8. Fudge, James, Rainbow Six 3 to GameCube (GCN) GameSpy (April 8, 2004), Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
  9. Tamte, Peter Close Combat: First to Fight – Vol #3 (PC) GameSpy (Nov. 4, 2004) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
  10. Special Forces Pack Released IGN (Feb 20, 2003) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Will Tuttle (2005-02-21). Star Wars: Republic Commando (Xbox). GameSpy. Retrieved on 2009-03-10
  12. RaptoR (2006-11-25). Gears of War Review. GameSpy. Retrieved on 2009-04-18
  13. Erik Wolpaw (2004-11-22). Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (Xbox). CNET. Retrieved on 2009-04-18
  14. Andrew Vandervell (2006-10-16). Gears of War Hands-on Preview. Retrieved on 2009-04-21
  15. Shane Satterfield (2002-10-16). Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (Xbox). GameSpy. Retrieved on 2009-04-21
  16. Official Xbox Magazine staff (2006-03-25). America's Army: Rise of a Soldier. CVG. Retrieved on 2009-04-21
  17. Alex Navarro (2005-06-07). Delta Force: Xtreme Review. GameSpot. Retrieved on 2009-04-18
  18. Alex McLain. Ghosting Online. Retrieved on 2009-03-10
  19. Modern Warfare 3: Balanced Guns a Matter of Perception, says Infinity Ward. (2012-02-20). Retrieved on 2012-07-28
  20. Ryan Fleming (2011-11-08). Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review. Digital Trends. Retrieved on 2012-07-28
  21. Half-Life: Counter-Strike Review. (2000-11-08). Retrieved on 2012-07-28