Editor's Note: I have been acquainted with the documentary's co-writer and co-director David Craddock for many years. He sent an early work-in-progress version of the documentary for me to view. I have received no compensation for this, and no one behind the documentary has any control over what I write about the film.
The first-person shooter genre is a big one for PC gaming fans. These kinds of games really became popular on PCs first, rather than on consoles or on arcade machines, in the early 1990s. The FPS genre helped to solidify the PC platform as an excellent way to play video games and also helped to push advancements in graphics and other technology for gaming PCs.
I thought I knew a lot about the FPS genre, but the truth is that the upcoming documentary FPS: First Person Shooter offers a ton of new info about the making of these games over the past several decades.
If you are a fan of these kinds of games, this extensive film is a must-watch, based on my viewing of a "work in progress" version of the documentary. (Since this is a not-quite-complete version, this is not considered to be a final review of the film).
When I say, "extensive" I mean it. FPS is no brief 20 or 30-minute mini-doc that you might watch on YouTube. This is an over four-hour documentary with tons of interviews with many of the people behind classic first-person shooter games including the many FPS titles from id Software like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake, along with other games like System Shock, Descent, Rise of the Triad, Jurassic Park: Trespasser, Unreal, Half-Life, Halo, Call of Duty, and more.
It even goes back well before Wolfenstein 3D to look at, and interview, the people behind proto-FPS games like Maze War.
Lots of the developers who directly made these games are interviewed for the doc. Lots of id Software team members talk about making those seminal games like John Carmack, John Romero, Tom Hall, Adrian Carmack, American McGee, and more.
We also get to hear from people like former Epic Games' team member, Cliff Bleszinski. Looking Glass and Ion Storm member Warren Spector and more.
You will learn lots of new and interesting info on the making of many of these games. You will see how movies influenced the content of certain games, and even how one movie, Aliens, turned into a highly popular Doom total conversion.
You'll also hear about one of the most ambitious games of its time, Jurassic Park: Trespasser, which didn't quite come together as planned, but was still a huge influence on a more successful game, Half-Life.
While FPS is an excellent documentary, it's not quite perfect. Perhaps the biggest issue I had with it is that it lacked any interviews with anyone at Valve which was directly involved in the making of Half-Life, Half-Life 2, and Portal.
We do, however, get interviews with the Team Fortress creators about the making of Team Fortress 2 and from Randy Pitchford, the head of Gearbox and the creator of the Half-Life: Opposing Force expansion pack. Still, the lack of interviews with people like Valve founder Gabe Newell is very noticeable when it comes to discussions about Valve's games.
I would have also liked to have seen some more attention given to Raven Software, which had a huge influence on the FPS genre with its Hexen and Heretic games, and later with titles like Solider of Fortune.
Finally, the majority of the film concentrates on the 1990s decade of first-person shooter games. More modern FPS games are a part of the film, but they don't get as much attention. Perhaps the filmmakers will produce a sequel that will look into those post-2000 games more closely.
The issues I had with the documentary are very minor. Overall, FPS: First Person Shooter is a love letter to the genre with lots of great info about the making of many classic games, and I can't wait to see the final version.
Starting today, you can preorder FPS: First Person Shooter at the documentary's official website. The digital version is priced at $49 and includes the game's official digital soundtrack, desktop backgrounds, a digital checklist, an invite to the film's virtual premiere, and your actual name in the final credits.
The film is also being released as a limited and individually numbered physical Blu-ray disk for $99. It includes a digital copy of the film, the digital soundtrack, an invite to the film's virtual premiere, your name in the credits, and physical extras like a sticker pack, a 16-page booklet, and three posters.
There are some other options as well, including a "big box" edition with lots of physical extras, and even a way to get your name in the credits as an associate producer, producer, or executive producer for the film. Orders will be taken until August 1.