Calling the FPS an over-subscribed genre is a little like saying that bread goes into sandwiches, or that fish have a troublesome time climbing mountains. No other specimen of videogame is quite so inexplicably fond of regurgitating its own guts, dusting them with salt and pepper, and swallowing the whole ghastly mess back down.
Glints of originality can, however, be sifted from such rhythmic torrents of familiarity, and we've teased a few of them from the first-person shooters already released or due to be released this year. Hold your nose and read on.
Steel Battalion - button-lover goes button-less
Citing this here is a stretch, as Capcom has yet to confirm that the sequel to its 2002 Xbox mech-a-stomper is a first-person title. Teaser trailers certainly convey that impression. What's so innovative about Heavy Armour? Well, the original hinged on the skilled manipulation of 40 buttons, two sticks and three pedals, while the new game, being a Kinect game, doesn't come with any buttons, sticks or pedals at all. We're looking forward to seeing how they've pulled that off.
Bulletstorm - Kill with some skill
Some shooters dispense with human life carelessly and in great quantities. Bulletstorm is cool with the second part, but the game insists that each individual death be a colourful, multiple-jointed work of art, calling on any and all local quirks of environment, weapon and positioning. In return, it'll multiply your score and plaster a dreadful sexual pun across the scenery in crackly neon font. Destruction has seldom felt so... creative. Here's hoping Infinity Ward and co take note.
Battlefield 3 - Wounded allies who stay wounded
The beans have yet to be fully spilled on the new Battlefield, but we're fascinated by the idea of dragging wounded mates to cover. As we noted in one of our longer, poncier blog posts, the ramifications of this could be significant - particularly if the squaddies in question are key to the narrative. Needless to say, allies who can't be restored to their feet with a brisk pat on the back alter the tactical equation drastically. Roll on the arrival of preview code.
Homefront - the Battle Commander
Kaos Studios' tale of an America under siege by smelly Oriental types might have taken a drubbing from reviewers, but there's no denying it had a few interesting ideas. The Battle Commander is the most successful of the bunch, treating players who favour particular guns or tactics to mini-rewards, before treacherously slapping them with a star rating so rivals can pick them out in a crowd. All of which lends matches a freshness and dynamism we're unaccustomed to in basic team deathmatch.
F.E.A.R. 3 - asymmetrical co-op
Picture the scene. The Point Man, the ruggedly bearded offspring of the supernaturally endowed Alma, is engaged in a full-on firefight with some chaps in helmets. Suddenly, his ethereal brother Fettle possesses one of the latter, plucks a grenade from his belt and casually drops it. Big boom, red mist, etc. Thus the F.E.A.R. 3 take on co-op - a creatively unbalanced affair which also feeds into the progression of the narrative. Fettle and Point Man used to be enemies, see. Perhaps they still are?