Codex Gamicus

Third-person shooter video games
Basic Information

Third-person shooter video games, at its core, are video games in the shooter genre where the camera during gameplay is primarily focused in a third-person viewpoint. Third-person is a viewpoint where the player controls a character externally. Unlike first-person shooters, where a player controls the character from the character's viewpoint, the camera for third-person shooters is zoomed out of the character's "body", letting the player view the character in the game in full view.

The Camera View[]

In some third-person shooters, the player has the ability to rotate the camera around the character they control, allowing the player to scan the surrounding environments, among other things. New generations of third-person shooters also enable the opportunity to switch to an optional first-person mode (usually in scopes or iron sights).

Advantages and Disadvantages[]

A third-person shooter gives the player the ability to see the surroundings in a near 360-degree vision. Thus, the player is more perceptive to things happening around him then in a first-person mode. On the other hand, a third-person shooter has the tendency to have problems as a result of poor camera control. By mastering camera control and keeping deadly accuracy, a strong gamer can manipulate the third-person view to their advantage.

Hybriding with the other genres[]

In more recent third-person shooters implementations of MMORPG principles, including skills, swordwork and even levelling, has become themes in these shooters. The third-person mode has been added to many games as well as an optional viewing angle.

Interface, and examples[]

Some examples of recent third-person shooters are the SOCOM franchise, Metal Gear Solid series (more stealth-oriented but also, a third-person played game), Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell series and 007: Everything or Nothing. Third-person shooters also have a similar layout and HUD (heads-up display) as first-person shooters (FPS). Most games under the genre display information on the screen for the player's benefit (this can be in real-time or on a separate interface). Usually, it displays information like weapons/equipment a player has acquired, ammunition, the character's health, waypoints (usually an arrow pointing toward an objective), list of objectives and other things. One of the most popular third person shooters in recent years includes the best-seller Gears of War. One third-person shooter, Sin and Punishment, is unique in its on-rails design.

This type of video game doesn't just appear on consoles, however. There are also many third-person shooters on the PC, with similar concepts and gameplay.


A third person shooter is a game structured around shooting,[1] and in which the player can see the avatar on-screen in a third-person view.[1][2]


Third-person shooters are a type of 3D shooter game, which is a subgenre of action video games that emphasizes the challenge of aiming and shooting. These games are distinguished from other shooter games because the graphical perspective is rendered from a fixed distance behind the player's avatar, and slightly above them. They tend to be more realistic than 2D shooters, not just graphically but in terms of gameplay. For example, games often limit the amount of ammunition that the avatar can carry, and damage is usually assessed based on what part of the body is hit by a gunshot. The 3D nature of these games also allows enemies to hide around corners or behind doors in a way that is not possible in a 2D game.[3]

Relationship to first-person shooters[]

These games are closely related to first-person shooters,[4] which also tie the perspective of the player to an avatar,[3] but the two genres are distinct.[5] While the first-person perspective allows players to aim and shoot without their avatar blocking their view,[3] the third-person shooter shows the protagonist from an "over the shoulder shot" or "behind the back" perspective.[4][6] Thus, the third-person perspective allows the game designer to create a more strongly characterized avatar[3] and directs the player's attention as if watching a film. In contrast, a first-person perspective provides the player with greater immersion into the game universe and a better sense of control.[7]

This difference in perspective also has an impact on gameplay. Third-person shooters allow players to see the area surrounding the avatar more clearly.[3] This viewpoint facilitates more interaction between the character and their surrounding environment, such as the use of tactical cover in Gears of War,[8] or navigating tight quarters.[9] As such, the third-person perspective is better for interacting with objects in the game world, such as jumping on platforms, engaging in close combat, or driving a vehicle. However, the third-person perspective can interfere with tasks that require fine aiming.[10]

Third person shooters sometimes compensate for their distinct perspective by designing larger, more spacious environments than first-person shooters.[11]

The boundaries between third-person and first-person shooters are not always clear. For example, many third-person shooters allow the player to use a first-person viewpoint for challenges that require precise aiming.[3] The first-person shooter Halo: Combat Evolved was actually designed as a third-person shooter, but added a first-person perspective to improve the interface for aiming and shooting.[12] The game switches to a third-person viewpoint when the avatar is piloting a vehicle,[3] and this combination of first-person for aiming and third-person for driving has since been used in other games.[13] Metroid Prime is another first-person shooter that switches to a third-person perspective when rolling around the environment using the morph ball.[14] Alexander R. Galloway writes that the "real-time, over-the-shoulder tracking shots of Gus Van Sant's Elephant evoke third-person shooter games like Max Payne, a close cousin of the FPS."[15]



The earliest third-person shooter was an electro-mechanical arcade game, Gun Fight, released by SEGA in 1969. It was adapted by Taito and Midway into the 1975 video game Gun Fight, which combined Taito's 1975 video game Western Gun with SEGA's 1970 electro-mechanical game Gun Fight.[16]

The earliest third-person shooter video game, with a third-person behind-the-back perspective, was a space shoot 'em up arcade game, Nintendo's single-screen shooter Radar Scope (1979).[17]


Early third-person shooters include SEGA's forward-scrolling rail shooters Tac/Scan (1982)[18] and Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982),[19] the forward-scrolling laserdisc video games Astron Belt (1983)[20] by SEGA and Inter Stellar (1983) by Funai,[21] Konami's Juno First (1983),[17] Nippon's Ambush (1983),[22] and Nichibutsu's Tube Panic (1983).[23] Some of the earliest third-person shooters featuring characters on foot were also rail shooters, including Space Harrier (1985) by SEGA,[24] Shootout (1985) by Nihon Bussan,[25] and the early 3D stereoscopic games 3-D WorldRunner (1987)[26] and JJ (1987)[27] by Square (now Square Enix).

Kidou Senshi Gundam Part 2: Tobe Gundam (1984) featured segments where the player mech navigates around a maze-like city and shoots at enemies, with the camera occasionally changing between a first-person view and a behind-the-mech, third-person view.[28]

Silpheed (1986), a forward-scrolling third-person space combat game by Game Arts, was an early example of a fully 3D polygonal shooter.[29] WiBArm (1986), released by Arsys Software for the NEC PC-88 and ported to MS-DOS by Brøderbund, was an on-foot shooter that featured a fully 3D polygonal third-person perspective for exploring indoor areas, though bosses were fought in an arena-style 2D battle.[30]

Konami's run and gun shooter Contra (1987) featured several third-person shooter levels where the player trudges through indoor enemy bases,[31] advancing screen by screen. Konami continued to evolve the concept in Devastators (1988),[32] a fully third-person shooter,[33] where rather than moving forward automatically, the player walks forward by holding the Up direction, as the background slowly scales toward the screen. Devastators also featured various obstacles that could be used to take cover from enemy fire,[32] as well as two-player cooperative gameplay.[34] A similar shooter released that same year was Cabal (1988),[35] which inspired many of its own "Cabal clones," such as NAM-1975 (1990) and Wild Guns (1994).[36]

In 1988, SEGA's Last Survivor, released for arcades, FM Towns, and FM Towns Marty, was a free-roaming third-person shooter,[37][38] in some ways making it the first 'proper' third-person shooter. Last Survivor was released for arcades in 1988,[39] on the SEGA X Board arcade system,[40] and later ported for the FM Towns home computer and FM Towns Marty home console. Rather than being on-rails, it was a free-roaming, third-person shooter.[41][42] It featured arena-style combat similar to first-person shooters of the 1990s, while the environments used a graphical technique similar to ray casting.[41]


Several polygonal 3D third-person vehicle shooters were released in 1993, including Namco's two-player competitive third-person shooter vehicle combat game Cyber Sled that required cooling fans because of the large number of polygons used,[43][44] and Nintendo's third-person flight shooter Star Fox[45] which was responsible for popularizing 3D action games.[46] Fade to Black (1995)[47] was a 3D third-person action-adventure game similar to Tomb Raider.[48]

Tomb Raider (1996) by Eidos Interactive (now Square Enix Europe) is often referred to as a third-person shooter,[2][4][49][50][51] and Jonathan S. Harbour of the University of Advancing Technology argues that it's "largely responsible for the popularity of this genre".[4] Several commentators have considered it influential on later third person shooters such as BloodRayne (2002),[49] The Contra Adventure (1998),[52] and Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.² (2000).[51] Several others, however, do not classify Tomb Raider as a shooter, but rather as a platform game that is "also a three-dimensional block-moving puzzle game with added combat elements."[53] The game eschewed the popular first person perspective of games such as DOOM, instead making use of "third person" viewpoints, wide 3D environments and a control system inspired by Prince of Persia.[6][53]

Namco's Gunmen Wars for the Super System 22 GMEN arcade game system in 1998 featured true 3D third-person shooter gameplay, with the camera always positioned behind the player character. Its control scheme was also innovative, using a mounted, rotary, analog light gun, capable of both aiming the weapon and moving the character (including both strafing and rotation). Gunmen Wars also featured FPS-like gameplay mechanics such as strafing. [54]

In 1999, SEGA released the arcade shooter Outrigger, which allowed the player to switch between first-person and third-person perspectives. It was ported to the Dreamcast almost two years late and was still considered one of the best-looking shooters at the time.[55] The arcade version also featured a unique control scheme, where an eyeball controller gives the player free and real eye moves.[56]

An important gameplay mechanic that helped revolutionize third-person shooters in the 2000s was the cover system. An early cover system was introduced to the 3D third-person shooter genre by Koei's WinBack (1999).[57]

Syphon Filter (1999) by Eidetic (now SCE Bend Studio) combined the perspective of Tomb Raider with action elements of games such as GoldenEye 007 (1997) and Metal Gear Solid (1998).[58] Richard Rouse III wrote in Gamasutra that the game was the most popular third person shooter for the PlayStation.[59]


While in Tomb Raider and Syphon Filter the protagonists automatically aimed at antagonists,[6][59] later games such as Oni (2001), Max Payne (2001) and SOCOM (2002) forced players to control aiming themselves by means of two control sticks or a keyboard and mouse.[59] Max Payne (2002) was acclaimed as a superlative third person shooter, inspired by Hong Kong action cinema.[60] Resident Evil 4 (2005) was influential in helping to redefine the third-person shooter genre,[61] with its introduction of "over the shoulder" offset camera angles, placed directly over the right shoulder, that fails to obscure the action.[62]

The cover system was further developed in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (2001).[63] Namco's Kill Switch (2003) later featured the cover system as its core game mechanic,[64] along with a blind fire mechanic.[65] Gears of War (2006) employed tactical elements such as taking cover,[66] influenced by Kill Switch,[67] using off-center viewpoints inspired by Resident Evil 4. The game also employed grittier themes than other titles and used a unique feature which rewarded the player for correctly reloading weapons.[68] Gears of War, as well as games such as Army of Two (2008), place a greater emphasis on two player cooperative play,[69] as does Resident Evil 5 (2009).[70][71] As of 2009, the third-person shooter genre has a large audience outside of Japan, particularly in North America.[72]


Vanquish (2010) by Platinum Games introduced to the genre a gameplay style reminiscent of bullet hell shooters, with bullets and missiles coming from all directions.[73] Its most important innovation, however, is the rocket-sliding mechanic that acts as both a defensive escape and an offensive setup, opening up new gameplay possibilities for shooter games.[74] According to director Shinji Mikami, the sliding boost mechanic was influenced by the 1970s anime series Casshern.[75] Vanquish has since set a new trend that can be seen in upcoming shooters which have incorporated similar sliding mechanics, including Bulletstorm, Crysis 2,[76] and Killzone 3.[77]

A recent unique take on the genre is Second Person Shooter Zato, an experimental 'second-person shooter' released by Japanese indie developer Himo in 2011. It uses a 'second-person' perspective to display the game from the viewpoint of the enemies looking at the player, rather than the other way around and makes use of a split screen to show the perspectives of multiple enemies. The game's perspective was inspired by surveillance cameras, while the title takes its name from Zatoichi due to the player character's inability to see.[78]

The 2012 squad-based third-person shooter Binary Domain features a Consequence System, where trust plays a part in how the squad views the player, shaping their opinion on their leader based on how the player performs and treats fellow team members. This affects both the storyline and the gameplay, where the characters behave differently depending on trust levels. The player can also talk to the characters using a headset, with the game's AI being able to recognize six different languages, including English and Japanese.[79] Also in 2012, Square Enix's Taito Type X3 arcade game Gunslinger Stratos is a third-person shooter with light gun controls, featuring two gun controllers that can be fired separately or combined together into a more powerful weapon. The game features hundreds of different guns which can be purchased using a point system and can save data using a NESiCA card. It is a multi-player video game that can be played with up to 8 players offline or more players online.[80][81]

List of early TPS games[]


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