The FPS genre has evolved a lot over the last few decades. A genre that started with an angry American escaping from a Nazi stronghold and gunning down barely recognizable Nazis has evolved to an almost unrecognizable degree today.
In all these years though, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the genre had become victim to stagnation. Most of the standout shooters are mostly released from the indie space like DUSK and Amid Evil. The real problem wasn’t the lack of shooters, it’s how little they tried with the actual combat.
Most FPS games were starting to feel somewhat stale as they were mostly simple shooting galleries, maybe you’d find a game like DOOM 2016 or DUSK where movement is also important if you were lucky. That was about it when it came to depth in these kinds of games.
In recent memory, however, we are starting to see games that are making a lot of changes to the FPS formula. Promoting a much more technical style of play where the player has to actively participate in all the game’s systems and mechanics to survive the sheer onslaught of enemies these games throw at you.
The Two Philosophies
Ultrakill and DOOM Eternal both look like very similar games at first glance. Both games have you play as an unstoppable force of nature descending through hell as you take on an onslaught of powerful demons (and angels) backed by an insanely good soundtrack.
However, once you look under the hood there is a vast amount of difference between both games that start to become apparent. DOOM Eternal on one hand makes you play like a surgeon, with each tool in the Slayer’s arsenal working like an instrument each with its own specific niche and uses.
The game in its best and most challenging moments demands precision and a keen understanding of your arsenal. This doesn’t mean that the game ever really restricts your options DOOM Eternal rewards flexibility and player agency more than most FPS games.
Ultrakill on the other hand is like Jazz. You aren’t forced to use your entire toolset, but the game gently incentivizes you to learn more and more of it as you make your way through each layer of hell. Each tool can be combined with another tool to create unique weapon techs and combinations and all of these tools complement each other in a very satisfying, seamless way.
Both games follow a different design philosophy that is equally engaging in their own way. It’s really hard to pick either game that does one thing better than the other…except the bosses.
ULTRAKILL objectively has the best boss fights of any FPS game by simply designing…actual boss fights instead of boring set-piece fights or bullet sponges.
ULTRAKILL and DOOM Eternal both offer a vast array of tools and weapons for the player to play around with. Starting with DOOM Eternal you have your primary weapons, the Combat Shotgun, Heavy Cannon, Super Shotgun, Chaingun, the Ballista, and the BFG.
Every weapon except the BFG and Super Shotgun also gets 2 unique weapon mods that significantly alter the behavior of each weapon. The Chaingun can be turned into a makeshift shield, the Heavy Cannon can either fire rapid missiles or turn into a sniper rifle to take out weak points, etc.
On top of these options, DOOM Eternal offers players a ton of unique tools such as the powerful blood punch that deals massive damage and breaks enemy armor, the Grenade launcher that can either freeze or damage enemies or the flame belch that lights enemies on fire for extra armor.
All these weapons and tools work to complement each other in a way that allows players to form long damage combos to quickly whittle down larger enemies in a quick burst of damage. Something that you are almost required to master if you want to beat the game’s Nightmare difficulty, but it’s an absolute necessity if you want to even stand a chance in The Ancient Gods Expansion.
ULTRAKILL currently has 5 weapons as of Act 2, each weapon is divided into two variants that offer a different alt attack. 2 of the 5 weapons also have a unique alternate form that completely changes how each weapon works.
Currently, in Ultrakill we have the Pistol/Revolver, Shotgun, Nail Gun/Sawblade Launcher, Rail Cannon, and Rocket Launcher. What elevates Ultrakill’s arsenal in comparison to other games is that all these weapons can be combined or mixed and matched in unique ways to do unique attacks.
For example, using the grenade launcher of the shotgun and immediately switching to the marksman revolver, if you shoot the coin before
ULTRAKILL slowly doles these options out to you as you make your way through the game’s multiple layers of hell so as not to make the abundance of these options overwhelming and it mostly succeeds at it.
Plus the game offers a ton of flexibility in how you want to assemble your loadout. Don’t like a particular variant of a certain weapon? Just unequip it and never think about it.
DOOM Eternal incentivizes skillful play by negative reinforcement, in that it punishes you if you play it without utilizing most of your arsenal. So, the player is forced to master and learn the game’s mechanics on a fundamental level to earn the power fantasy of playing as the feared Doom Slayer.
Doom Eternal makes you work hard for the power fantasy, but once you get into the game’s rhythm and get to grips with its system it becomes an addicting cacophony of gunshots and violence. It’s an incredible feeling going from a casual player to dipping your toes into more advanced mechanics and eventually being able to beat some of the game’s toughest challenges.
Ultrakill on the other hand takes an entirely different approach to encourage the players to play better. It takes the route of other action games like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, which is an apt comparison to make considering the game is directly inspired by the Devil May Cry series (DMC 3 in particular).
Ultrakill constantly grades the player based on their performance, preferring speed and efficiency while taking as little damage as possible. The game also rewards players for playing by reducing health reduction the higher your style meter gets.
This grading system makes it clear that Ultrakill incentivizes killing enemies as fast as possible which will only be possible to do once you learn the game and its tech.
If you’re not focused on mastering the game’s mechanics and learning every tech, the game won’t go out of its way to punish you, but it dangles its potential to casual players like a carrot, just gently nudging them towards high-skill play.
Both games accomplish their goals with varying degrees of success, but Ultrakill is the more accessible of the two FPSes which is made readily apparent by the game consistently ending up at the top of the steam charts with every new update while also being among the highest rated games on the entire platform.
The Impact of ULTRAKILL and DOOM Eternal
Ultrakill and Doom Eternal have paved the way for a lot of new ideas that we are already seeing in many current FPS titles.
Games that offer deep and rewarding gameplay systems and encourage the player to participate in said systems. The upcoming indie roguelike-FPS Deadlink, Severed Steel, Metal Hellsinger, Shadow Warrior 3, and Turbo Overkill.
The FPS genre is experiencing another renaissance and while it’s not solely due to these games. Their popularity is certainly a sign that there is a huge demand for games like these and hopefully there are many more to come in the coming future.
Now excuse me while I go grind the Cyber grind for the next 6 hours.
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