When it comes to shooters, what really matters is fluidity. Having a nice smooth game is what you should be striving for. Nothing is worse than chugging while trying to aim or jump. This bring up the question, are graphics that important while playing shooters. Sure they're great to look at, but does it impact your gameplay? We're going to look into just that.
But does it effect my bullets?
They look beautiful and no one can deny that. Although, depnding on your system specs they could be more trouble than they're worth. Let's take Battlefield 3 for example. This game is beautiful and quite taxing on your system. If you run this game on high, you better hope your computer can handle it. Personally, my old computer was not able to keep up with it on high. I had to take the game down to medium to low settings to make it fluid. Was this a big deal? Not to me. In the end, I was able to have a much smoother gameplay experience.
*Wipes tear off of keyboard* It's just so beautiful
Let's take ARMA 3, this game is one of the greatest looking games I've ever seen. This game cries to keep it on these graphics. It's not a fast game either. It's much more tactical than Battlefield. When it comes to games like this, graphics are more likely to be high due to the nature of the game. There's nothing wrong with playing on low graphics just to get the tactical shooter that you've been looking for either.
This is for the people who have some power but not a lot. The biggest difference I see from high to medium graphics is sharpness, shadows, ambient occlusion, possibly water and field of view. Based on the average amount of power games are requiring these days and most “typical” pc's people are using, this is the standard for graphics on their shooters. This will get you around 30 FPS as well.
Consoles just can't come close
With medium being the general standard for mid-grade PC gamers are developers taking that into account? I don't think so and I don't blame them. Why should they? They should be designing the game the way they want it to look and feel. After that, then tone everything down. The real question is, how long will that last? With mid-grade PC's being used, more and more developers may start toning some stuff down. You also have console players to thank for that.
This is for those that are all about speed/fluidity and don't care much for the looks. A perfect example is Counter-Strike 1.6. This game is still played professionally and no one thinks this game is “pretty”. This game cares more about how smooth the gameplay is than how it's going to look. Yes age does account for the graphics as well but even when it came out it didn't have the best looking graphics.
It's not that bad
I know we're on FPS Guru right now but the perfect example for low graphics comes from RTS Guru. Starcraft 2 players play on pretty low graphics. This allows them the perfect amount of FPS and unit control with 0 graphical lag from anything. A lot of bloom contributes to graphical lag as well. With turning graphics down to low, there is no bloom and here is no lag. It's also brighter making it a bit easier to see the enemy in the small dim room as you run in guns a'blazing.
So do they matter?
It turns into a “can my rig handle it?”. If your rig can handle the highest graphics, have good FPS, no lag and not make you frustrated to play online with your buddies, then crank up the graphics! There's no one to tell you that since you're playing the game with low graphics, you're playing the game wrong. What really matters is how you play. If you just want your 60+ FPS, no stupid bloom, no ambient occlusion; then drop it down to low and shoot people till your index finger can't anymore.