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FPS – First Person Shooter (2014)

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fps poster s - FPS - First Person Shooter (2014)Starring Stephan Weyte, Sebastian Kettner, Atlanta Luetzelschwab, Achim Lützelschwab

Directed by Andreas Tom

FPS – First Person Shooter is exactly the kind of movie you wanted to make when you were 13. Since titles like Doom and Quake graced our gore-hungry and impressionable minds in the early 90s, a long history of rocket frags and no-scope headshots have fueled the dreams of our nation’s aspiring creative types. Making a totally rad movie in first person with sick shotgun blasts and chainsaw decapitations is a dream shared by every adolescent boy, but it is rarely realized.

The most popular example of this technique is from 2005’s Doom, with the short FPS segment towards the end being the only reason anyone remembers the film. Despite being totally badass, it looked pretty goofy. Aside from a few small projects here and there (last years Hotel Inferno comes to mind as a recent attempt), this whole “bobbing gun on screen” first person shooter technique seems to have been promptly dropped by basically everyone.

I might sound like I’m ignoring the deluge of found-footage horror that has so thoroughly run itself into a Hellraiser: Revelations sized ditch, but found-footage really isn’t the same thing as a first person shooter movie. Found footage movies use the narrative trick of expanding the role of cameraman into simultaneous narrator, protagonist, and storytelling medium in an attempt to create a sense of realism. This enhanced realism helps put you in the role of the protagonist, creating the illusion that you are in the middle of these spooky happenings. The camera plays an integral part, creating a realistic explanation as to how we can see things first hand. The FPS genre ideally shouldn’t concern itself with realism. By abandoning the camera as a realistic explanation, the film is free to abandon much of the pretenses of helplessness and dull attempts at shaky breath tension that have become staples of found-footage. FPS movies have the opportunity to break this mold of realism, leading the viewer to a land of power fantasy gore, just like the games that inspired them.

In this regard, Tom Andreas’s FPS – First Person Shooter performs admirably. A clear labor of love, the film is a laundry list of recreated shooter tropes. Beginning with an old DOS command prompt “launching” the movie, the first few minutes are spot-on nostalgically pleasing. I laughed out loud and grinned like an idiot when the “Player” entered the options menu and turned the blood color to red. The game “starts” with a poorly rendered “cutscene”, seemingly drawn in a 2000 copy of Game Maker Studio, that explains that a virus has begun to spread that turns people into zombies. An animated version of the hero mentions that his wife is missing, and after donning his badass leather battle gear, he goes off to see if he’s a bad enough dude to save her. The beauty of the segment will be lost on anyone unfamiliar with old school FPSs. This movie was clearly made by fans, for fans.

After this, the movie begins in earnest, and my mood declines. The movie isn’t shot terribly, and the monsters look okay, but the movie suffers from a severe lack of action. The segment from 2005’s Doom was balls to the wall headshots from start to finish, and that level of intensity was easily the best part. FPS, on the other hand, feels more like a Newgrounds flash adventure game. The protagonist slowly walks through the hallways of two floors of an abandoned hospital, checking various doors and cabinets for keys, weapons, antidotes, and other shootery stuff. The Player’s hands are always visible with some kind of weapon, and occasionally a health and ammo bar pop up for that extra little bit of nostalgic fun. The greenscreen effect of the hands layered over the shots is obvious, but it works well enough that it becomes part of the fun. Blood sometimes splatters on the screen, and the screen flashes red when the Player takes damage.

There are too many referential tidbits to list in entirety here, so let me just cover the rest blanketly by saying that all the efforts put into making the movie resemble an old shooter are enjoyable. If you are a huge fan of old shooters, it is entirely possible to derive enjoyment from start to finish out of just all the one liners and tropes. However, I don’t think anyone’s favorite part of Duke Nukem was slowly walking through mostly empty hallways and checking every door, which is far too much of what makes up FPS. Aside from a brief period where the hero is deprived of all his weapons save for an Aliens style motion tracker, the plodding pace of the movie seriously hampers an otherwise novel attempt at recreating that old shooter feel. I cannot stress enough how disappointed I was to see the first 30 minutes of this movie crawl by with only 3 dead zombies. Every time it seems like things are about to ramp up, they slow down again.

This is the tale of the tape for the film: every time something gets interesting, it’s quickly squandered. At one point in the movie, the Player picks up a barbed wire flail made out of a skull and spinal cord. This is without a doubt the most badass weapon in history, and I was thoroughly stoked on the idea of the Player killing dudes with the body of another dude. However, after putting the human powered pulverizer into his inventory, its never seen again. You can’t show me a skull mace and not beat someone’s head in with it. That’s just wrong.

Similarly, towards the movie’s end theres a segment with a mini-gun that goes “low-rez”. The scene changes to footage of a 2.5D shooter made out of assets from the old Windows “maze” screensaver and my five year old niece’s MS Paint scribblings. Even though it’s probably the most appropriate time for them to be here, the health and ammo bar disappear and instead we watch dozens of the exact same zombie stumble through three frames of animation before exploding out of shame. The segment only lasts an excruciating two minutes, but is just so horrible that there should be some kind of warning label on the box about it.

I will reiterate that I do think this movie holds some kind of entertainment value for those looking for a retro shooter nostalgia trip. The voice acting by Stephan Weyte is campy gold ripped straight out of the stuff Duke Nukem was made from, and honestly brings the entire production up another star. I just cannot stress enough that 88 minutes of a guy walking through the same two hallways is not what shooter fans remember with glee. A chainsaw should be used to mow through eager processions of flesh hungry ghouls, not picked up and used once for 20 seconds. On the scale of nostalgia inspired media, it’s certainly not the worst, but suffers from being either unable to attain that old school mayhem factor or completely missing the point of what made the classics enjoyable. An admirable attempt, but overall disappointing.

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2 1/2 out of 5

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