The 1990s were an important decade for the success story of action games.
Back then, video game characters were pixelated or angular, blockbusters were often smaller than 100 MB, and the general demonization of first-person shooters as »killer games« was only slowly beginning to gain momentum.
With id Software's "Wolfenstein 3D" and "Doom" the genre of the first-person shooter emerged, with "Quake" in 1996 followed the revolutionary leap from sprites and "2.5D" graphics to "real" 3D environments and polygon models .
The brute shooting games quickly became the most popular games genre.
However, first-person shooters have changed quite a bit over the years since Doom, Quake, Unreal, and Half-Life came out.
This also has something to do with the success of the genre, because it diversified quickly.
Soon there were arena shooters, military shooters, pure multiplayer titles, immersive sims, story shooters, stealth shooters, first-person role-playing games and adventures, and even largely gameplay-free walking sims.
However, the forefathers of the shooter genre in the 1990s have not been forgotten - and in recent years they have even celebrated a small renaissance.
Boomer shooter is the buzzword for the trend.
This has little to do with the real "boomers", i.e. people born in the mid-40s to the late 60s with baby boomers.
Because despite the misleading name, those gamers who had their first gaming experience in the mid to late 1990s are particularly happy about the new appreciation of their former favorite titles.
This includes the return of old graphic styles on the one hand, and a comeback of old game feelings on the other.
Especially compared to current shooters, games like »Doom«, »Quake« and Co. played incredibly fast.
Their levels were lovingly nested labyrinths full of secrets and without any claim to realism.
Small, fast, dirty
The "Doom" series, which has been relaunched since 2016, is the first high-gloss production to once again focus on the turbo speed and first-person acrobatics of the genre's forefathers.
The current wave of »boomer shooters« can also be traced back to small, successful indie developers.
These, in turn, came from the surprisingly still lively mod scene, which was mainly centered around the classic »Doom«.
Year after year, the best fan levels and mods for the shooter released in 1993 and its successors are awarded at the Cacowards.
A modern "boomer shooter" is usually developed by small indie teams or one-man studios, it relies on retro graphics in the style of the 90s and is characterized above all by fast-paced, no-frills action.
The whole thing is also a counter-reaction to increasingly complex and »realistic« appearing modern representatives of the genre.
»Strafe«, »Project Warlock«, »Ion Fury«, »Graven«, »Wrath: Aeon of Ruin«, »Turbo Overkill«, »Forgive Me Father«, »Prodeus«, »Nightmare Reaper«, and, and, and: The list of retro-inspired shooters that have appeared in recent years is long and growing fast.
The audience of the niche has long since expanded, as is generally the case with the phenomenon of retro games.
You don't have to have known and played the historical role models when they first appeared in order to like their great-grandchildren.
In times of endless live service games and bombastic multiplayer shooters, the no-frills, fast-paced single-player thrill of »boomer shooters« is a welcome contrast for many.
A new »Thief« is also at the start
The major player in the niche is California-based indie publisher and developer New Blood Interactive.
The shooter »Dusk«, released by New Blood in 2019, is considered by fans and critics to be perhaps the best »boomer shooter«, with »Amid Evil« and »Ultrakill« the company has two other commercially successful titles in its range.
Company boss Dave Oshry attaches great importance to a casual underdog image far away from the big video game companies.
Together with "Dusk" developer David Szymanski, Oshry is further developing the small but fine portfolio of the indie publisher into a specialist for fresh retro nostalgia.
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Fortunately, New Blood not only focuses on the commercially successful, but now also overcrowded niche of fast shooters.
With »Gloomwood«, a game was released in Early Access a few days ago for 16.79 euros, which accompanies the historical development of the genre one step further.
It is based on »Thief«, a revolutionary first-person stealth game from 1998. As in this classic stealth game, you are also in »Gloomwood« in the shadows of a gloomy steampunk world and it is best to eliminate your opponents from the ambush.
In contrast to the template, antique firearms are also used here.
Horror atmosphere without glossy graphics
Developed by David Szymanski and Dillon Rogers, »Gloomwood« is a good example of the refreshing vibrancy of the current retro wave.
It combines classic game elements and a loving level design with new ideas and modern comfort - and at the same time reminds you that you don't need glossy graphics, a budget in the millions, or high-end hardware for a horror atmosphere that's thick enough to cut.
Of course, anyone who judges the quality of video games based solely on their appearance will not appreciate the return of a 30-year-old aesthetic.
As is so often the case with »boomer shooters«: if you only pay attention to the outside, you are missing out.
Because the appeal of these games is not only in the nostalgia flash that they offer their aging original fan communities.
No, often there is a lot of wit and originality in these actually modern descendants of the genre forefathers.