Guns have been a major part of gaming culture since the day developers envisioned games. From old dueling pistols, to World War era Lugers, to Bond's classic PPK, to futuristic laser blasters, guns have always been a go-to weapon of choice for many game genres. And it is not surprising to find that the action shooter has evolved into so many forms: FPS, third person action shooters, on-the-rail shooters, and so much more. And so we take a quick look at all the most outstanding games out there to have placed virtual guns in our hands and showed to us all that shooting stuff can also be fun.
Bio Shock Infinite
When the first Bio Shock game came out, everyone raved about how amazing and innovative it was in both narrative delivery and action packed gameplay. As the spiritual successor to System Shock, we are not surprised. Infinite, however takes the series even beyond its' original scope and delivers to mind bending game like no other. You take on the role of Booker DeWitt, veteran soldier, mercenary, and as of the game's storyline, the man who must find a way to keep Elizabeth safe. Bio Shock Infinite borrows much from American political history for its' themes, but it easily expands later on in the game. The action combines both gunplay (shooting, dodging, etc) and the use of special character skills (much like the previous game) that work like spells. While we will not be revealing Elizabeth's true identity, here, just know that the ending(s) are well worth the effort it takes to fully master and complete this game.
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Infinity Ward manages to pull off another benchmark FPS game with CoD 4. From the action packed (and yet woefully tragic) single player campaign to the aggressively competitive multiplayer mode, gamers get to employ the best of the known modern military technology in order to fight their foes. Drones, air strikes, and of course, all the newest guns are present in the game - and all are represented in the most realistic way possible (or able to cause the most explosions possible, either way, we win). The narrative is fictional, but sets up much of the premise for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and the various stage objectives provide a decent challenge. The multiplayer mode gets plenty of replay value thanks to the exp-based leveling system - which means that each game played earns you something for the long term - as opposed to just randomly shooting up other players for fun.
It is not easy to combine the concept of endless loot collecting (a gift of the dungeon crawling genre) and the fast paced action of an FPS game - and yet Borderlands manages to pull off a solid gaming experience. In this epic sequel, 4 new characters enter the game under the notion of becoming new vault hunters. But when an ambush is launched against them, the 4 turn their sights on a newfound target. Along the way, players will get to encounter the four original characters of the first game. Character selection in Borderlands 2 is more than just superficial, each character has a unique ability and skills that allows them to fight enemies in different ways. These character classes not only improve gameplay, but also make multiplayer session even more interesting.
Far Cry 3
Do you have what it takes to survive? Far Cry 3 explores a new paradigm for the FPS gaming crowd: survival. The players are put in the shoes of Jason Brody and together with a the help of a native tribe, find a way to rescue his friends and his brother from modern day pirates. The game puts a lot of focus on exploration, crafting, stealth, and various other fighting mechanics aside from just straight up gun-shooting action (though there's plenty of that as well). We love Far Cry 3's free flowing environments and it's (mostly) open world game mechanics. The leveling system also adds a sense of progress to your missions and the main narrative makes for a pretty compelling tale as well.
Deus Ex Human Revolution
While we enjoyed the first two Deus Ex games, Human Revolution is one that we totally loved. As a prequel game, the events of DXHR set up the beginnings of what would be the premise of the first two titles. And as such, nano-technology is yet perfected in this game. Augmentations are on the mechanical side and provide direct physical upgrades to people who have them. This unique element of the story gives Deus Ex a unique approach to combat as special capabilities granted by augmentations change the very limits of what the player can do. Aside from that, the game's multi-faceted approach to solving problems adds a dynamic RPG element to the gaming experience.
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
So, to answer the most obvious question: why Chaos Theory instead of Blacklist? Here's one answer, innovation. Chaos Theory pushed Splinter Cell's limits further than any other sequel ever did, and in a direction that would shape the game into the amazing experience that it is today. While Splinter Cell's features may not be the first in the genre, it certainly is first for the series and its' fans. In this game, players are once again in control of Sam Fisher (voiced by none other than the iconic Michael Ironside - who we will all miss as the role has been given to Eric Johnson), and they must uncover a secret plot that could potentially cause the next world war.
Max Payne 3
Developed and published by Rockstar Studios (as opposed to being developed by Remedy Entertainment), Max Payne 3 is a great attempt at bringing the iconic third person shooter hero to the modern day. We say attempt because despite the amount of sheer awesomeness this game has, it is greatly overshadowed by many other titles. That aside, Max Payne 3 is an excellent sequel to the previous two games - taking the gameplay further by adding plenty of new combat mechanics such as adding cover fire, prone position shooting, and even the ability to revenge-kill your way back to health after a life-draining hit. Story-wise, the game gets a dose of Rockstar's drugs, gangs, and violence-heavy narratives (reminiscent of GTA games), and in some ways, if feels plenty different from the original 2.
Halo: Combat Evolved
There is no argument that Master Chief is one of the most iconic gaming characters of all time. And it is no surprise that the very first Halo game is on our list. While obviously quite dated and surpassed by its sequels, the fact that it should be played still remains. Otherwise, it would the FPS equivalent of enjoying Mass Effect 3 without playing through the first game at all. An impressive sci-fi narrative however, is not all that Halo offers, it also has a lot of great game mechanics and features. We particularly love the way that the different weapons all have different uses as each one works in a different way (even the grenades). The addition of the gravity gun in Halo Combat Evolved is a nice touch too as it not only expands the gameplay with something clever, it is also a nod to Valve's penchant for all things science-y.
Team Fortress 2
With Half Life 2 just above this, it's pretty obvious that getting the Orange Box is a good deal for shootem up game fans. But we will not be jumping into Portal's puzzle-riffic gameplay in this list (not enough gunplay after all), instead, we focus on the multiplayer-centric Team Fortress 2. Anyone who has played the first game will appreciate the fact that the sequel plays a lot like the original - but only with a ton of great improvements. The graphical upgrades are pretty obvious with the better character models, all new stylized textures, and hilariously well made animations. The gameplay of Team Fortress 2 is as addictive as ever, and thanks to all new character classes and skills, there's even more fun to be had in this class-specialty based team battle game.
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault
Medal of Honor's Allied Assault installment is considered by many as one of the most significant games in the series. This is where the graphics and overall gameplay have taken a critical leap in advancement over the previous (Underground), and the overall game itself is plenty of fun to play. As most of your know, Allied Assault runs on the Quake engine, which makes the gameplay mechanics pretty easy to ease into. The single player mode boasts a robust campaign featuring plenty of World War era maps and there are two expansion packs to further prolong the experience. Our favorite part is the multiplayer mode - in particular, the Last Man Standing Team as it really pushes the boundaries of teamwork and strategizing. Aside from that there are several other multiplayer modes available such as CTF, DM, TDM, LMS FFA, Freeze Tag, Base Builder, Countdown, and a unique Objective based mode that will really push your FPS skills to the limit (since you and your team will be trying to accomplish unique tasks each round).
We did open up this list with Bio Shock Infinite, but as one would expect, you just cannot keep a good FPS down. System Shock is pretty much one of the oldest and dated games on this list - in fact, it is not going to be easy running this game on a new gaming rig unless you have a few provisions for old-timey program compatibility. All that effort of setting things up is going to be worth it however, as System Shock is one of the most innovative FPS titles we have ever played. Aside from the experience point system, the game allows players to slightly control the narrative depending on their choices (though ultimately, the storyline is linear). This future-punk game of artificial intelligences and psychological spooks has been a pretty strong influence for many modern sci-fi action games.
Yep, two throwback games after another! Unlike all the other games on this list: this one is a 3/4 perspective RTS game, not an FPS or third person shooter. But what makes Syndicate Wars so much worthy of its spot in this list is the fact that despite the variable factors present in real time combat, it still manages to keep tactics and strategy as the number one priority of the player to focus on and win the game. The game is relatively simple: you train and upgrade agents and then provide them with weapons and armor, then you deploy them in missions where you must provide commands. There is plenty of focus on learning about the different weapons and effective ranges in order to use them efficiently against enemy units. Fans of the original Syndicate games will appreciate Wars' focus on the combat mechanics.
House of the Dead
Arcade gaming fans will instantly recognize this game. House of the Dead pretty much beat every other arcade game series with the whole supernatural enemies genre - and it even has amazing gameplay to boot. The one big difference between House of the Dead and other arcade shooters is the fact that you are fighting the undead. Not terrorists, not soldiers, not futuristic criminals with laser guns. This means that while you have the advantage of shooting down targets at a long range, most of your enemies will try swarming you in order to bite you or swipe at you with their claws. House of the Dead's later stages will fill the stage to the brim with hordes of zombies, aggressive bats, and a whole host of creepy-spooky things that we can't even name. And if that was not exciting enough, the bosses are outright fun to fight against, with each boss having a unique weak spot that players must accurately shoot dozens of times.
When it comes to large scale battles, the Battlefield game series tends to provide players with the most engaging experience. The mechanics are straightforward: you control a unit, try to defeat enemies, capture territory, and when you are defeated, you respawn in the field as a completely different soldier. The game really makes you know what it feels like to be just another grunt in a big big war, but it does not end there. The game also implements the use of vehicles and stationary weapons in order to provide each side with unique tools to use to their advantage. Despite the title of the game, Battlefield 2 is actually the third game of the series. New to this installment is a new squad feature that allows teams to create small groups of soldiers moving together as a single unit. Also added are the commanders - which is a role that usually goes to the player with highest level and experience points. Commanders are responsible for overseeing the map and making use of special resources such as air strikes or supply drops.
Return to Castle Wolfenstein
Instead of being a sequel of the original Wolfenstein 3D game, Return is a reboot of the classic game that gave birth to the FPS genre. The game starts off with a small Allied special task force investigating a Nazi group that is supposedly conducting bizarre rituals in Castle Wolfenstein. However, the team is captured and it is up to the player to escape, learn the secrets of the Nazis, and in the end, defeat whatever monstrosities they managed to conjure. While the game goes to great lengths to avoid referencing Nazis directly, the symbolisms and homages used are quite obvious. Gameplay-wise, Wolfenstein adapts much of what modern world war shooters consider to be new standards. While the game itself does not particularly stand out, the experience of battling through Wolfenstien's levels is sure to bring forth a massive amount of nostalgia from old school gamers.