The Hero Shooter, also known as Character FPS, is a Sub-Genre of First-Person Shooter and Third-Person Shooter games, with MOBA and Fighting Game elements. In this type of game, instead of choosing which weapons to use or finding the weapons, the player can choose one out of multiple characters, or heroes, with different weapons and abilities. For example, one character may be able to Double Jump, while another can heal teammates, and another can build turrets. The characters may also have Ultimate Abilities that can vastly alter the course of battle. This in turn makes the characters more unique and the game defined by the characters rather than the weapons available in the game.
Games of this genre tend to rely on teamwork and a combination of abilities to cover for weaknesses. Some or most characters have abilities that are only useful in specific situations or are countered by a specific character. Some of these games are heavily focused on the MOBA aspects, including the ability to level up, learn, and upgrade abilities and buy items during matches, to the point where they are basically First Person MOBAs. Others are much more focused on the FPS aspects and use different weapons, abilities, and ultimates to increase the variety of play styles in the game.
These are all-important because in games like this, your objective isn't to obliterate your enemy team; they always respawn after a few seconds. The game contains an objective to be contested, usually an area to dominate or hold or a payload to escort or stop. Therefore, kill counts doesn't really matter as long as you managed to hold onto your objective, so the mindset of 'frag-hunting' that is more common in deathmatch games (like Unreal Tournament or Counter-Strike) would be counter-productive when playing this game.
Observe that the abilities and/or weapons must be tied to a character or group of characters; otherwise, the game is just a First-Person Shooter with customization. It is possible, however, that some characters share some abilities.
The roots of the hero shooter genre can be traced back as early as the Sega Genesis game Herzog Zwei (1989), the first shooter with MOBA elements. It can also be traced back to class-based shooters like the Battlefield and Team Fortress series, and several games that are now considered to be hero shooters were orignally marketed as class-based shooters. The hero shooter genre also contains elements of arcade fighting games, such as Street Fighter, which are similarly character-centric. The Ur-Example of the hero shooter genre is either Team Fortress (a 1996 Quake mod) or Outtrigger (1999), an arcade hero shooter developed by Sega AM2 and produced by Yu Suzuki. Other early examples of the genre include Team Fortress 2 (2007), Cyber Diver (2009), and Gunslinger Stratos (2012). The most popular hero shooter internationally is Overwatch (2016).
Compare with Adventure Board Games, which also have characters with unique abilities.
Examples of this genre:
- Atlas Reactor: A Turn-Based Tactics version.
- Apex Legends: A Battle Royale Game Spin-Off of Titanfall, but without the Humongous Mecha and Le Parkour. Unlike most hero shooters, each hero doesn't have a specialized weapon loadout (weapons are acquired in-match), and instead each Legend has a passive, active, and ultimate skill. In an unusual twist, several cast members of Apex Legends are pretty much Tactical abilities from Titanfall 2 developed into entire characters.
- Bleeding Edge
- The Borderlands series: Intended to be Diablo meets Halo gameplay-wise, but the First-Person Shooter nature of the game ends up being a PvE focused Hero Shooter, in a way:
- Call of Duty: Black Ops III: Combines hero shooter elements with traditional Call of Duty multiplayer. There are 10 specialists, each with unique personalities and special abilities, but Create-a-Class and the standard selection of weapons and attachments, perks, and equipment are still available for all specialists.
- Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare: Continues the specialist feature (called Rigs here), however there's only 6 and they lack the personalities of the Black Ops III specialists.
- Cyber Diver: Released by Taito in Japanese arcades back in 2009, this was an early example of the genre.
- Deceive Inc.: Combines the hero shooter with Stealth-Based Games.
- Depth is an asymmetric version — the sharks each have unique appearances, abilities, and health, while the divers can fill out certain roles with certain equipment, but aren't restricted.
- Dirty Bomb
- Evolve: It's an asymmetric example of this genre. The available characters are different if you are on the hunters side or on the monster side.
- Final Combat
- Gears 5 incorporates elements of this into its PvE modes, Horde and Escape. Each character available in these modes now have a predetermined loadout which they spawn with, in addition to both an ultimate and passive ability.
- Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online
- Gundam Evolution: Released by Bandai Namco, it's a Hero Shooter starring various Mobile Suits and Gundams that roam the various Gundam worlds.
- Gunslinger Stratos: Released by Taito and Square Enix in Japanese arcades back in 2012, this was an early example of the genre.
- LawBreakers, leaning more towards Quake: Champions than the rest of the genre.
- Mega Man 8-Bit Deathmatch isn't this on its own, but there are several Game Mods that allows the players to play as different Robot Masters and other characters with their own abilities and weapons instead of just being able to pick up and use weapons on the map.
- Monday Night Combat: Third-Person Shooter example
- Nosgoth: As with Monday Night Combat, it's a third-person shooter, along with asymmetric multiplayer.
- Outtrigger: The Ur-Example of the genre. It featured four unique characters, each with their own unique class and abilities.
- Overwatch 2
- Paladins: A High Fantasy hero shooter that has a unique cards, items and talents system that makes each Champion have different ways of playing.
- Paragon (2016)
- Primal Carnage
- Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville
- Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare
- Quake Champions is a sort of compromise between a Hero Shooter and the traditional "Arena Shooter" of previous installments. There are different characters with unique traits and abilities, but these are secondary to weapons, which are found in the level and not character-restricted.
- Rainbow Six Siege is a competitive Counter-Strike-styled multiplayer shooter mixed with some hero shooter elements. All of the "Operators" have distinct gadgets and personalities, and teamwork is absolutely vital to success. However, the game downplays the gadgets in combat (most are utility or tactical tools - even the ones that actually take the form of an extra weapon are generally bad for combat), and keeps the general gameplay style of most characters the same, with most only differing by weapon types available to them based on what CTU they hail from (e.g. Spetsnaz Operators get Russian weapons) and what role they play (e.g. a Defender will usually get shorter-ranged submachine guns and shotguns).
- Rogue Company: All the RoCo's have a special ability and a limited pool of weapons to choose from, but they all have special perks and devices to help in battle.
- Star Wars Battlefront (2015), specifically in Hero-focused modes like Hero Hunt and Heroes VS Villains.
- Star Wars Battlefront II (2017), same as the above.
- Team Fortress Classic, a GoldSrc port of the original mod Team Fortress 1
- Team Fortress 2: Some, but not all characters have special abilities (such as double-jumping or cloaking) and each character has a distinctive appearance and personality and a unique set of weapons to fulfill their designated roles. The Medic's Übercharge and most Soldier's secondary weapons also count as ultimate abilities. The Sniper's Hitman's Heatmaker, the Pyro's Phlogistinator, and the Scout's Soda Popper also fall under the theme of being Ultimates, albeit are only single option weapons.
- Titanfall 2: Zigzagged - with regards to Pilots, they are still fairly customizable like the first game, with minimal personality to speak of, but each Pilot model is now attached to a certain tactical ability, such as a cloak, grappling hook or the ability to pop in and out of reality. The eponymous Titans, however, are markedly less customizable than the ones in Titanfall, and in turn, have relatively fixed loadouts that give them more personality.
- Unreal Championship 2: The Liandri Conflict is an early example which features both deathmatch and team-based gametypes. Each character has a unique melee weapon and a weak ranged weapon, plus two unique Adrenaline abilities. Characters are also divided by race (Humans, Necris, Robots, Nakhti, and a "Special" class for those who don't fit into the others) and weight (Light, Medium and Heavy), with each of these divisions also granting different Adrenaline abilities to the characters. Finally, characters can choose an energy weapon and a projectile weapon, as weaponry has no spawn points in the game. Unreal Championship and then Unreal Tournament 2004 with the "Species Statistics" mutator are even earlier but more bare-bones examples; characters get various boosts and penalties based on their race (e.g. Juggernauts have massive starting health and better resistance to damage in return for moving slower and jumping lower, Anubans move slower on the ground but have far better jump height and air control, etc.) but with no further differentiation between the individual members of that race, and they all still have access to the same array of weapons depending on what spawns in the current map.
- VALORANT: Like Rainbow Six Siege, this one is a mix of hero shooter elements with classic tactical shooter. Each playable "Agent" has a unique model, personality and a set of unique abilities (including an ultimate ability that needs to be charged over few rounds), but only few of them are used directly in combat. Furthermore, weapons have to be bought before every round, and their pool is the same for all Agents, instead of "every hero has a unique weapon" style common in hero shooters.