The release of the Forever Entertainment’s The House of the Dead has reignited the conversation about LightGun shooters and why they desperately need a comeback. Videogames are now more complex than ever and yet some of the simplest games are still an absolute blast and there is no better example of that than the LightGun genre.
Immersion before VR
In the 90s and early 2000s, long before we had VR technology, one of the most immersive types of video games was LightGun games. Typically simple games that focused on putting the weapon in the player's hand and having them take on enemies of all kinds be it, zombies, soldiers, criminals or even ninjas. These games dominated arcades all the way up to the mid-2000s and are part of a sadly bygone era where fun fast-paced games tested your marksmanship skills and often took up an entire pocket full of change.
Games like Time Crisis upped the immersion factor by adding foot pedals that simulated standing up from cover to pop out and take shots at enemies. As well as effective recoil on the light guns that simulated a handgun slide racking back after each gunshot. These games were excellent at placing the player into the shoes of the main characters and helped distract from the often-chaotic environments of a busy arcade.
What made these games even better were when they came to home consoles, allowing you to perfect your skill at the game, and often coming with additional bells and whistles. Games like Time crisis made up for the reduced visual fidelity with an additional campaign packaged with the PS1 release. Other games like Time Crisis 2 and Virtua cop came with improved visuals over their arcade counterparts, and of course, with home releases came a plethora of at-home lightgun options (I had many of these growing up) allowing you to recreate the fantastic experience at home.
The genre peaked in the PS2 through to PS3 and Wii generation, with PlayStation LightGun being replaced by the Wii’s motion controls with titles like The House of the Dead Overkill and Ghost Squad, many of these titles also making their way over to the PS3 with the Playstation's Move technology.
The sad death of the LightGun genre
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end and the last generation to have true LightGun games (though PS3 and Wii used a different technology) quietly bowed out, with interest in these types of games appearing to die off.
Personally, the few LightGun inspired releases we do get in arcades lack the enjoyment and quality of the titles of the 90s and 00s. The death of this genre seems to have begun with the loss of LightGun technology, with them being ineffective on new LCD televisions, today if you wanted to play a classic LightGun authentically, you’d need to hunt an old CRT TV. Additionally, many of the latest entries in long-established franchises like The House of the Dead and Time Crisis haven’t received home releases, further cementing the unfortunate demise of the iconic genre.
A new hope
However, recently there has been the hope of a revival of the genre primarily thanks to the advent of VR technology, we’ve seen almost a new iteration of the on-rails shooter genre. It's not uncommon to enter an arcade and see VR games imitating the classic on-rails shooters with a VR twist. Games like Crisis VRigade bring back the thrill of titles like Time Crisis whilst adding in the features made available by VR gaming like motion controls. This allows players to lean around corners and use cover in a far more immersive way, hopefully, this is only the beginning of a VR on-rails shooter return.
Furthermore, we’re also seeing the return of these games on consoles, like the Switch, with the recent remake of the original The House of the Dead hopefully being the first of many classics to receive a remake. However, I do hope this also signals a return of gun peripherals something which the HOTD remake Devs have hinted at. If titles like The House of the Dead Remake are successful it will indicate that these kinds of games are still viable to be developed. Even if Devs don’t want to make brand new IPs for the genre there is a hefty back catalogue that players would love to see made available on modern platforms.
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