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Action video games

Third-person shooter (TPS) is a genre of 3D action games in which the player character is visible on-screen, and the gameplay consists primarily of shooting.


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]



Star Fox: Assault features third-person combat with several types of firearms. Total kills are visible on the top right of the screen, as are enemies on a radar screen on the bottom right.

Third-person shooters are a type of 3D shooter game, which is a subgenre of action game 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" 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.[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 more optimal 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 is 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] This process can also happen in reverse - early on in the development of Red Faction: Guerrilla, the game maintained the first person perspective of its predecessors, however, it was found that the destruction system caused the player to die frequently from being crushed under falling buildings, so the view was moved to third person to allow the player to be more aware of their surroundings.


Tomb Raider (1996) is claimed by some commentators as a third-person shooter,[2][4][15][16][17] and Jonathan S. Harbour of the University of Advancing Technology argues that it's "largely responsible for the popularity of this genre".[4] Other commentators have considered it influential on later third person shooters such as BloodRayne,[15] C: The Contra Adventure,[18] and Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.².[17] Still others 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."[19] 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][19] An earlier action adventure shooter at the time with a similar third-person perspective was Fade to Black (1995).[20]

Syphon Filter combined the perspective of Tomb Raider with action elements of games such as GoldenEye 007 and Metal Gear Solid.[21] Richard Rouse III wrote in GamaSutra that the game was the most popular third person shooter for the PlayStation.[22] While in Tomb Raider and Syphon Filter the protagonists automatically aimed at antagonists,[6][22] later games such as Oni, Max Payne and SOCOM forced players to control aiming themselves by means of two control sticks or a keyboard and mouse.[22] Max Payne (2002) was acclaimed as a superlative third person shooter, inspired by Hong Kong action cinema.[23]

The critically acclaimed Resident Evil 4 (2005) was influential in helping to redefine the third-person shooter genre, which it attempted to combine with survival horror elements.[24] Its most important contribution to the genre, however, was its introduction of a "reliance on offset camera angles that fail to obscure the action."[25] The "over the shoulder" viewpoint introduced in Resident Evil 4 has now become standard in third-person shooters.[24] Gears of War employed tactical elements such as taking cover,[26] using off-center viewpoints inspired by Resident Evil 4.[25] The game also employed grittier themes than other titles and used a unique feature which rewarded the player for correctly reloading weapons.[27] Gears of War, as well as games such as Army of Two, place a greater emphasis on two player cooperative play,[28] as does Resident Evil 5.[29][30] Damnation, published by CodeMasters, experiments with exceedingly tall levels and acrobatic gameplay.[31] As of 2009, the genre has a large audience outside of Japan, particularly in North America.[32]

Influence on popular culture

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."[33]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Nate Garrelts, The meaning and culture of Grand theft auto: critical essays (McFarland, 2006), 159.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Anne-Marie Schleiner, "Does Lara Croft Wear Fake Polygons? Gender and Gender-Role Subversion in Computer Adventure Games" Leonardo Journal, Vol. 34, No. 3 (2001): 222.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.  Cite uses deprecated parameter |coauthors= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Jonathan S. Harbour, Microsoft Visual Basic game programming with DirectX 2002
  5. Geddes, Ryan, Beyond Gears of War 2, IGN, Sept 30, 2008, Accessed Apr 2, 2009
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Blache, Fabian & Fielder, Lauren, History of Tomb Raider, GameSpot, Accessed Apr 1, 2009
  7. Hutcheon, Linda, A Theory of Adaptation (CRC Press, 2006), pp. 55-56
  8. Levi Buchanan (2006-11-10). "'Gears of War' is next-gen at its best". MSNBC. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  9. Ryan Donald (2002-08-27). "SOCOM: US Navy Seals (PlayStation 2)". CNET. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  10. François Dominic Laramée (2002). Game Design Perspectives. Charles River Media. ISBN 1584500905 9781584500902 Check |isbn= value: length (help). 
  11. Määttä, Aki, GDC 2002: Realistic Level Design in Max Payne, GamaSutra, May 8, 2002, Accessed Apr 6, 2009
  12. "Halo Move to First-Person Shooter Confirmed". Inside Mac Games. 2001-03-15. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  13. Sal Accardo (2004-09-24). "Star Wars: Battlefront (PC)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  14. Louis Bedigian (2002-11-23). "Metroid Prime Review". GameZone. Retrieved 2009-04-02. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 Peter Cohen, "Bring out the big guns.(The Game Room)", MacWorld, Sept 1 2003
  16. Dickey, Christopher ; Scanlan, Marc ; Lee, B. J. "Let the Games Begin.(World Cyber Games 2001)", Newsweek International, Dec 24 2001
  17. 17.0 17.1 REVIEWS: PC, Computer and Video Games, Aug 13, 2001, Accessed Aug 4, 2009
  18. Bobba Fatt, C: The Contra Adventure, GamePro, Jan 09, 2004, Accessed Aug 4, 2009
  19. 19.0 19.1 Poole, Steven (2000). Trigger Happy. New York: Arcade Publishing. p. 30. ISBN 1559705396. 
  20. "Fade to Black". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 
  21. Gerstmann, Jeff, Syphon Filter Review, GameSpot, Feb 12, 1999, Accessed Apr 1, 2009
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Rouse, Richard, Postmortem: The Game Design of Surreal's The Suffering, GamaSutra, June 9, 2004, Accessed Apr 1, 2009
  23. Kasavin, Greg, Max Payne Review, GameSpot, Dec 11, 2001, Accessed Apr 2, 2009
  24. 24.0 24.1 Daniel Kaszor (December 30, 2009). "Decade in Review: The most influential video games since Y2K". The National Post. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  25. 25.0 25.1 Dobson, Jason, Post-GDC: Cliff Bleszinski Says Iteration Won Gears of War, Gamasutra, Mar 12, 2007, Accessed Apr 2, 2009
  26. Marc Saltzman, "Microsoft turns out gorgeous, gory shooter with 'Gears of War'," USA Today (11/30/2006).
  27. Adams, Ernest, The Designer's Notebook: Ten Years Of Great Games, GamaSutra, Nov 26, 2007, Accessed Apr 6, 2009
  28. Ocampo, Jason, Lock and Load: Upcoming Military Shooters of 2007, GameSpot, Aug 4, 2007, Accessed Apr 1, 2009
  29. Faylor, Chris & Breckon, Nick, Resident Evil 5 to Sport 2P Co-op, Cover System (May 22, 2008), Shacknews, Retrieved on May 22, 2008.
  30. IGN: TGS 2008: Resident Evil 5 Goes Split Screen
  31. Stuart, Keith, Damnation: the shooter goes vertical. I think I know what they mean, The Guardian, Mar 6, 2008, Accessed Apr 2, 2009
  32. Nutt, Christian, That Tecmo Flavor: Kikuchi And Shibata On Surprising The Audience, GamaSutra, Jan 8, 2009, Accessed Apr 1, 2009
  33. Alexander R. Galloway. Gaming: essays on algorithmic culture (U of Minnesota Press, 2006), 60.

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