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. 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 was 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 Spin-Off of Titanfall, but without the Humongous Mecha and Le Parkour. The difference between the player characters are relatively minor, not affecting stats or loadout (weapons are acquired mid-match), instead giving each a passive, active, and ultimate skill.
- Borderlands: Focused on PvE.
- 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 is still available for all specialists.
- Call Of Duty Infinite Warfare: Continues specialist feature (called Rigs in Infinite Warfare), 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.
- 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
- Ghost in the Shell: First Assault Online
- 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.
- Paladins: A High Fantasy hero shooter that has a unique cards, items and talents system that makes each Champion have different ways of playing. Can be considered The Rival to Overwatch due to sharing some aesthetic similarities on the surface.
- Primal Carnage.
- 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 Rainbow Six-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.
- 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
- Team Fortress 2: Some, but not all characters have abilities (such as double-jumping or cloaking) and each character has 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 highly customizable like the first game, but with minimal personality to speak of. 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 an unique melee weapon and a weak ranged weapon, plus two unique Adrenaline abilities. Characters are also divided by race (Humans-Necris-Robots-Nakhti-"Special") and weight (Light-Medium-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.