|Part of a series on|
A tactical shooter is a subgenre of shooter game that includes both first-person shooters and third-person shooters. These games simulate realistic combat, thus making tactics and caution more important than quick reflexes in other action games. Tactical shooters involving military combat are sometimes known as "soldier sims".
According to IGN, tactical shooters "are about caution, care, cooperation, coordination, planning, and pacing. In those games, making decisive pushes, quick moves for cover, strategic retreats, and last ditch grabs at the gold are not only important to success, but balanced in such a way that they become enjoyable activities in play." 
Tactical shooters are designed for realism. It is not unusual for players to be killed with a single bullet, and thus players must be more cautious than in other shooter games. The emphasis is on realistic modeling of weapons, and power-ups are often more limited than in other action games. This restrains the individual heroism seen in other shooter games, and thus tactics become more important.
Overall, the style of play is typically slower than other action games. Jumping techniques are sometimes de-emphasized in order to promote realism, with some games going so far as to omit a jump button. In contrast to games that emphasize running and shooting, tactical shooters require more caution and patience (making use of cover and avoiding being caught in the open), plus tactical shooters are usually designed so that shooting becomes inaccurate while running which increasing accuracy for crouching or prone stances. Players often have the choice of shooting from the hip ("hippie") which is less accurate but gives a wider view of the area, or using the scope/iron sights for better zoom-in accuracy but at the penalty of restricted view. Some tactical shooters such as the InfiltrationMod for Unreal Tournament (1999) even lack the crosshair seen in other first-person shooters, in order to achieve a high degree of realism.
Many tactical shooters make use of group-based combat, where the player character is supported by other teammates. While early tactical shooters had simple computer-controlled teammates who offered support fire, the artificial intelligence in later games has evolved with more complex teammate responses such as cover-fire mechanics. In games with a sufficiently robust artificial intelligence, the player character is able to issue commands to other computer-controlled characters. Some games in the genre allow players to plan their team's movements before a mission, which the artificial intelligence then follows. Many games also offer a multiplayer online play, allowing human players to strategize and coordinate via a headset. Team-based tactics are emphasized more than other shooter games, and thus accurate aiming and quick reflexes are not always sufficient for victory.
The level design usually reflects the game's setting. For example, the player may play the role of SWAT police fighting terrorists or other criminals, or may engage in military combat in real world conflicts as either battlefield soldiers or special forces commandos. Some games take place in entirely fictional universes, and incorporate elements of science fiction. Each level will have different objectives. Although some levels may simply require that the player defeat their enemy, other levels may challenge the player with objectives such as escorting a VIP safely to a specific location or planting a demolition charge on a target. Levels are often designed with check points or alternate routes. As "run and gun" assaults are often met with heavy resistance, it becomes important to exploit a superior position and/or take the enemy by surprise and even evading them entirely.
Tactical shooters often feature a wide variety of weapons modeled upon actual firearms, being more realistic than run-and-gun shooters. For instance, the Brothers in Arms series is unique in that, since the game takes place in World War II, the development team Gearbox Software made sure to actually portray the weapon accurately by adding realistic recoil, motion blur and the feeling of being suppressed. They did this by actually testing the weapons themselves and hiring military consultants in the development.
However, simulating actual combat is often sacrificed in favor of balance as well as playability. There are often considerable modifications to in-game weapons and ballistics from their real-life counterparts in order to ensure balance in multiplayer. For instance Counter-Strike and other games allow the player to survive multiple bullet hits to the torso (ignoring the bullet resistance of different types of ballistic vests) and even more to the legs (rarely armored in real-life), while registering an automatic kill for melee hits to the back (whether punches or knife stabs) and "headshots" (including a pistol shot to the back of the head even if the target is wearing a combat helmet).
In contrast to run and gun shooters such as Quake which allow players to carry full arsenals, tactical shooters place considerable restrictions on what players may be equipped with, so players have to carefully select weapons according to the situation and/or role in their team. Half-Life: Counter-Strike's system of allowing a primary weapon (assault rifle, submachine gun, sniper rifle, or shotgun) and a secondary weapon (pistol) has been followed by other shooters like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare.
Wielding or carrying heavier weapons such as sniper rifles and machine guns often incurs a movement penalty over light weapons like submachine guns and pistols. Players often find loopholes in this system, such as in Half-Life: Counter-Strike where they would switch their firearm to a knife in order to run faster.
Akimbo (Dual wielding) of weapons, despite being ineffective and inaccurate in real life, is frequently featured in tactical shooters likely as a homage to films. The Desert Eagle, despite its heavy weight, recoil, and limited magazine capability make it unsuitable for actual military and special forces applications, is frequently found in many tactical shooters as a high-powered handgun option. Examples of these elements are in Counter-Strike and the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series.
Due to the problem of grenade spamming, the effect of explosions are often toned down and/or only 1-2 grenades are allowed to be carried. Cooking a grenade by releasing the lever to partially burn the fuse before throwing it, to make it harder for an opponent to catch it or run away, is discouraged in real-life since fuses are imprecise; nonetheless this is an extremely common "Hollywood tactic" in video games or movies.
In first-person shooter video games of the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, such as Quake and Unreal Tournament, the "rocket launcher" which fires dumbfire/unguided missiles was one of the most prominent multiplayer weapons which largely overshadowed the other weapons available to the player. This was because the rocket launcher had a quick reload, the rocket traveled fast, the warhead had a devastating splash damage which could severely injure or kill when the missile detonated upon a wall/floor/ceiling near the target player, and the blast force could propel and disorient the target. Experienced gamers could take advantage of the blast (and risk some injury) by rocket jumping. The Rocket Arena mod was created, which focused upon the use of the rocket launcher as the primary weapon. The rocket launcher remained in the sequels but the attributes were toned down somewhat. Lastly, players could carry dozens of rockets which encourages their profligate use.
By contrast, Tactical shooters such as Call of Duty do not use the term "rocket launcher". While they have similar concept weapons, these are modeled after real-life equivalents such as the rocket-propelled grenade, Bazooka, and FIM-92 Stinger, several with specific applications against vehicles rather than personnel. These rocket weapons also have very scarce ammo, reflecting the limited situations that they are utilized as well as discouraging reckless player usage.
The tactical shooter genre was pioneered in 1998 with the game industry generally crediting games such as Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon with defining and refining the tactical shooter genre. Another key title was Delta Force, which emphasized real-world weaponry and quick kills. Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri, released in 1996, is one of the earliest tactical shooters and one of the first 3D games with squad-oriented gameplay. The genre was also influenced by the SWAT series, a spin-off from the Police Quest series of adventure games.
Rainbow Six has been credited as a revolutionary game, which defined the conventions of the genre. The game was inspired by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Hostage Rescue Team, and was designed to replicate a team of specialists performing a skilled operation. The game was designed to emphasize strategy in a way that would be fun for players without the best reflexes. The series has since become a benchmark for the genre in terms of detail and accuracy.
Some of the most notable tactical shooters have been total conversion mods of first person shooter titles which have been released for free. Infiltration, a total conversion of Unreal Tournament (1999), has been described as "turning Unreal Tournament's wild cartoon action into a harrowing game of cat and mouse". Infiltration has been noted for detailed aiming system including hip ("hippie") and scope/iron fire while lacking a crosshair, different movement stances (running, walking, crouching, and prone, leaning around corners), and a customizable loadout system that allows configuration of weapons (including attachments) with a weight penalty. Half-Life: Counter-Strike (2000), a mod of Half-Life (1998), was the most popular multiplayer game of its era despite the release of first-person shooters with more advanced graphics engines such as Unreal Tournament 2003. One of the developers of the Half-Life expansions was Gearbox Software, who in 2005 released the game Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 that further defined the genre. Critics praised the game for not only adding realism to its first-person shooter gameplay, but also in its unique tactical gameplay that allows players to command soldiers and teams during combat.
As of the late 2000s, contemporary shooters such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare have proven more popular than futuristic first-person shooters such as Quake and Unreal, although the field of true tactical shooters has been largely neglected by developers. Even traditionally tactical shooter series like Rainbow Six and Ghost Recon have seen their sequels drift away from tactical realism towards cinematic action centered themes, as can be witnessed by e.g. contemporary Rainbow Six sequels which completely do away with the series' iconic pre-action planning stage (last encountered in Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield), or the overly futuristic settings of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which provides players with invisibility cloaks and shoulder-mounted anti-tank rockets while failing to adhere to simple tactical realism paradigms like one-shot-one-kill.
VBS2 (and its successor VBS3) is a military tactical shooter simulation used for dismounted infantry training by the USMC, the US Army, and a number of the NATO armed forces. Its new Pointman user interface combines head tracking, a motion-sensitive gamepad and sliding foot pedals to increase the precision and level of control over one's avatar, enabling users to more realistically aim their weapon and practice muzzle discipline, to take measured steps when moving around obstacles or cover, and to continuously control their postural height to make better use of cover and concealment.
- Military simulation, where individual soldiers or units are not directly controlled by the player are often real-time tactics games. Tactical shooters are video-games, while Military simulations take place in real life.
- Richardson, Ben (April 20, 2006). "Armed Assault". GamesRadar UK. Retrieved 2009-02-13.
- IGN Staff Operation Flashpoint Goes to War IGN (Dec 14, 2001) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
- Adams, David America's Army Linked Up IGN, (Feb 9, 2006) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
- Ivan Sulic. "Tactical Ops – PC Review at IGN". Pc.ign.com. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2006). Fundamentals of Game Design. Prentice Hall.
- Scott Osborne (2002-07-16). "Delta Force: Task Force Dagger Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Jason Samuel (2000-11-29). "Feature: Tactical Shooters: The Second Generation". GamePro. Archived from the original on 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2009-04-22.
- Fudge, James, Rainbow Six 3 to GameCube (GCN) GameSpy (April 8, 2004), Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
- Tamte, Peter Close Combat: First to Fight – Vol #3 (PC) GameSpy (Nov. 4, 2004) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
- Special Forces Pack Released IGN (Feb 20, 2003) Retrieved on Feb 7, 2008
- Will Tuttle (2005-02-21). "Star Wars: Republic Commando (Xbox)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- RaptoR (2006-11-25). "Gears of War Review". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
- Erik Wolpaw (2004-11-22). "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (Xbox)". CNET. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
- Andrew Vandervell (2006-10-16). "Gears of War Hands-on Preview". videogamer.com. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
- Shane Satterfield (2002-10-16). "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (Xbox)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
- Official Xbox Magazine staff (2006-03-25). "America's Army: Rise of a Soldier". CVG. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
- Alex Navarro (2005-06-07). "Delta Force: Xtreme Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2009-04-18.
- Alex McLain. "Ghosting Online". xbox.com. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Tom McNamara (2005-01-10). "SWAT 4 Impressions". IGN. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Morton, Philip. "Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30". Thunderbolt. April 7, 2005
- "Modern Warfare 3: Balanced Guns a Matter of Perception, says Infinity Ward". Gameranx.com. 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- Ryan Fleming (2011-11-08). "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Review". Digital Trends. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- "Half-Life: Counter-Strike Review". GameSpot.com. 2000-11-08. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- Prof. Rune Klevier, Dept. of Information Science and Media Studies, University of Bergen, Norway (2006-10-16). "The Way of the Gun" (PDF). University of Bergen, Norway. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Scott Osborne (2005-06-20). "Delta Force Xtreme (PC)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Hiles, Bill (May 1, 2001). "Looking Glass and Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri". GameSpy. Archived from the original on June 16, 2004. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Olafson, Peter (August 3, 2000). "GAME THEORY; In Free-Spirited Play, a Departed Spirit Lives". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 28, 2010. Retrieved October 26, 2010.
- Russ Frushtick (2006-11-20). "Rainbow Six Vegas Review". UGO. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Ryan Treit (2007-04-08). "Embracing the Authenticity of Rainbow Six". Xbox.com. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- "Postmortem: Redstorm's Rainbow Six". Gamasutra. 2000-01-21. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- Dene Benham (2008-07-03). "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas 2". nzgamer.com. Retrieved 2009-03-10.
- "Unreal Tournament Mods". GameSpot.com. 1999-11-30. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- "Counter-Strike still the top multiplayer game". GameSpot.com. 2000-11-08. Retrieved 2012-07-28.
- Colayco, Bob. "Gamespot: Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 review". Gamespot. March 18, 2005
- Butts, Steve. "Brothers in Arms review". IGN. March 15, 2005
- Templeman, J.; Denbrook, P. (2012). "Enhancing Realism in Desktop Interfaces for Dismounted Infantry Simulation". Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference (I/ITSEC).