Quick time events: are they a useful gaming mechanic or unnecessary pain?
12 Awesome Shooters from This Gen That You Might Have Missed
No matter how you feel about it, it’s hard to argue the popularity and power of the first person and cover-based shooter. Juggernauts such as Call of Duty or Halo net their respective companies millions (if not billions) of dollars, Xbox Live subscriptions continue to sell to allow people to jump online and play in their favorite deathmatch or team deathmatch modes, and a litany of shooters are released year after year in hopes of capturing the ever-fickle market who loves to tote an in-game gun.
There’s some sense behind it, too. A feeling of power is almost certainly gained by those who play these games, roaming around and using violence as their primary source of interaction with the environment. You are the trained killer, the ultimate hero, the powerful Chosen One, with an arsenal powerful enough to make you a one-man (or woman) militia.
While the discussion of whether this is healthy or not for our culture is one to be had at another time, it’s safe to say that the shooter has reigned supreme as the de facto game genre this generation. And being that I’m admittedly a fan of many of the titles in both the third person and FPS realms, I’ve stumbled across several titles this generation that may have not sold the same numbers as its Call of Duty or Battlefield counterparts, but still deserve some love from shooter fans like myself. Here are twelve of them I’d say you would be remiss to not check out.
While the most frequently talked about facet of this game was the rad Skillex track in the trailer, Syndicate sadly slipped under the radar in 2012 and wasn’t recognized quite as much as it should have been. Sure, the game had its problems, like limited abilities and difficulty spikes that felt somewhat uncharacteristic of the entire experience as a whole. Add to that a campaign so short it barely justifies its $60 price tag, and it’s not the easiest pill to swallow when compared to the other first person shooters released last year.
But for all of its issues, Syndicate is still a solid game. Gunplay is fun, the world has a beautiful cyberpunk design to it, and although your combat and brain hacking abilities are somewhat limited, they still managed to mix up combat encounters in a way that made it different enough to be satisfying. If you’re a fan of shooters in a futuristic setting, Syndicate is a game not to be missed.
While many games have used some form of a time manipulation mechanic over the years, Singularity took things to a new level of crazy. It’s a fun game with a mediocre story and stellar gameplay that sees you using a variety of time manipulation powers to engage enemies and get into some incredibly unique and fun firefights.
Furthermore, multiplayer allowed you to play as either creatures or human soldiers, and there was plenty of variance within multiplayer modes that kept it from feeling like a cheap clone of Gears of War or Call of Duty.
Singularity isn’t perfect. It has a lot of bug issues, some lackluster visuals, and as stated before, the story doesn’t hold a light up to the likes of Half Life 2. But like Syndicate, it’s still a well-designed shooter with lots of variation that yields hours of fun gameplay to satisfy your trigger finger.
Oh Vanquish, how I love thee. The brainchild of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, Vanquish is a third-person shooter with more frantic craziness than even Charlie Sheen could handle. The game puts you in control of a powersuit-wearing commando who can slide, jump, and rocket his way around a battlefield in fast-paced, addictive gameplay that made for many satisfying hours of fighting robots and other future soldiers in a world ripped straight out of Blade Runner.
Don’t come to Vanquish looking for a deep and expansive narrative. All you’ll find there is a shallow and cliche-ridden romp rife with exaggerated military dialogue and cheap tropes you’ve seen coming from the beginning. Rather, come to the game looking for an all-new way to engage with a third-person shooter that takes the tank-like feel of Gears of War’s characters and replaces it with a super fast Iron Man knockoff as a main character. Controls are so well tuned and tight that the game is an absolute dream to play, making for several hours of unmitigated entertainment that will please the most ardent of shooter fans. If there’s a starting point for tackling the games on this list, it’s Vanquish.
Spec Ops: The Line
Confession time: I’m not a big fan of military shooters. I’ve played them, and continue to play them, but typically come away from the experience with the same feeling I get after eating fast food. Sure, I’m somewhat satiated, but I feel gross and empty afterward. This is largely due to the “arcadeification” of military shooters that leaves us with little to no depth of plot and plenty of terrorists to gun down while spewing meaningless “bro” dialogue.
That’s why I completely wrote off Spec Ops: The Line when I first saw the commercials and trailers for the game. It was being marketed as yet another military shooter with more style than substance. But after stumbling across it on a Steam weekend sale, I decided to drop the 7 bucks and pick the game up. And boy, was I surprised with what I found.
Stress and mental disturbance isn’t something typically covered within the narratives of a military shooter. Typically, what little plots these games do have are riddled with tired ideas that feel as uninspired as a cup of vanilla yogurt. But that shouldn’t be. There’s a tragic tale to be told about the effects of war on the mind of the soldier, and Spec Ops: The Line covers this in a brilliant way.
The actual gameplay of Spec Ops isn’t all that spectacular. Shooting is wonky, weapons feel generic, and cover doesn’t always work quite as well as you want it to. But it shouldn’t be played for its mechanics. It should be played because it manages to tell an interesting and engaging story in the military genre that isn’t brought to light enough anymore.
Yes, it’s a military shooter, and I realize I’m contradicting my aforementioned statement. And yes, in many ways, it suffers from the tired conventions used by so many shooters in the genre today. But for all its faults, Homefront is still a decent shooter that warrants a play from any fans of the genre. Its alt-history Red Dawn-like take on a US invasion is interesting enough to draw some attention from those fatigued by the likes of Call of Duty,and eerie circumstances and an imaginative (if not controversial) setting make Homefront a game worth checking out.
Sure, the gameplay is somewhat uninspired standard FPS fare, but it’s still totally competent and allows you to move through the game’s unique story and setting in a satisfying way. Futhermore, deep multiplayer modes that saw you unlocking different perks and weapons while playing on maps featured in the game itself made it a good addition to the single player campaign and gave the game a few more hours to its short lifespan.
Just please try to refrain from drinking deer blood and crying “Wolverines!” while playing the game. You might scare people.
It’s not uncommon anymore to encounter shooters that are both self-aware and tongue in cheek with their use of humor. What is uncommon is to find one where this combination actually works. Strangely enough, Bulletstorm was one of these games.
No, it’s not a game with a deep and compelling story that will keep you engaged for hours. But what story there is is actually interesting, and if you can stand the hammy dialogue and cheap jokes throughout the story, you’ll actually find some interesting characters that really mean something to the overall experience.
And beyond that, shooting is incredibly fun in Bulletstorm. While you’ll be armed with a variety of weapons throughout, you also use kicks and an electric whip called the Leash to engage enemies and figure out fun combos to use while taking out the game’s many bad guys. It’s crazy in all the right ways, which is mainly why I love it.
Yes, I’m serious. I, Robot copy jokes aside, the squad-based cover shooter managed to somehow slip through the cracks in early 2012. Which is unfortunate, because it’s actually pretty good.
Where so many games today use the tired enemy types of zombies and evil soldiers (and sometimes evil zombie soldiers), Binary Domain takes a much more Terminator-like approach to its story and sees you taking on hordes of a dangerous robot army aiming for world domination.
It’s a fairly standard third-person shooter that sees you taking cover and working with a squad of teammates to take out the pesky machines, but it manages to keep things fresh and fast-paced throughout its reasonably long campaign. Enemies are varied and fun to destroy, shooting is clean and fun to engage with, and while it might not be worthy of a Pulitzer, the story is interesting enough to keep you entertained throughout its entirety.
It may not be as finely tuned as some of the other offerings in the shooter genre, but if you’ve experienced a hankering for blasting robots apart piece by piece, check out Binary Domain.
Does it borrow a lot of ideas from Fallout 3? Yes. Is this a bad thing? No, not really, once you consider how graphically amazing and well-designed the gameplay of Rage is.
If we’ve learned anything throughout gaming’s history, it’s that Id software knows how to make shooters, and how to push a game’s graphical prowess in an impressive way. This shines through particularly well in Rage.
Although the story isn’t anything you’ll really become attached to, the gameplay is incredibly satisfying. Different enemy types have varied strengths and attacks, and the guns offer a positive feedback response that makes shooting incredibly satisfying. Plus, varied gameplay elements see you not only taking on enemies in dark corridors and in blown-out buildings, but you’ll also be able to experience vehicle combat as well.
But really, one of the most impressive elements of Rage is its amazing attention to detail in the graphical design of the world. Each of the game’s environments is so well created and fleshed out that it almost becomes a character in and of itself. Graphics don’t make a game, but in Rage’s case, they certainly don’t hurt it, either.
The apocalypse is a fairly standard setting for many games across many different genres today. And while it borrows many elements from this idea throughout its entirety, Metro 2033 still manages to be unique and to stand out above the rest in many ways.
First and foremost, this is a game that takes the idea of atmosphere and elevates it to a whole new level. Being that you’re one of the few humans left alive and living underground, things are incredibly tense and terrifying a majority of the time. Metro takes this idea and capitalizes on it in a way that feels both terrifying and challenging.
From a mechanics perspective, Metro is pretty standard, but still uses a few unique mechanics to work toward bringing the player to a new level of immersion. You’ll need to change filters in your gas mask, scrounge for currency, and will even deal with issues like vision obstruction during the entirety of the solo campaign.
There’s a distinct flavor of horror to Metro that will really keep things tense and play up the game’s atmosphere even more. If you’re looking for something that will leave you on edge and tell a great story, 4A’s Metro 2033 has your number.
Max Payne 3
I’ve never been a big fan of Max Payne. His character never really did anything to speak to me on a personal level, and the games were always out around the same time as others that I was more interested in. Still, the painkiller-chomping badass returned last year in Max Payne 3, and despite poor sales, the game is actually pretty solid.
In my opinion, the story wasn’t great. Again, Max is a pretty pathetic character, and I find it hard to care about him or find any redeeming qualities in him in order to keep me engaged in his arc. But it’s a Rockstar developed game, and the presentation shows this in a big way.
Again, graphics aren’t needed to make a great game, they sure are fun to look at when they’re done well. From start to finish, Max Payne is a visual treat that looks fantastic on both PC and consoles. Voice acting is excellent, cutscenes are interesting, and the game makes no bones about showing violence and gore in an incredibly gritty way not unlike some hard crime R-rated films.
On top of that, shooting is fun, mechanics are tight, and bullet time makes you feel like a badass just as much as the first time you used it. Sure, it gets a bit repetitive at times, and there are some odd difficulty spikes in it throughout. But it makes up for it by allowing you to run around gorgeous environments while engaging enemies in some well-designed third-person combat.
Insomniac Games is not new to making great shooters, and they managed to pull it off yet again with the release of Resistance 3 on the PlayStation 3. I’ve touted this game as one of the best and most underrated of the Sony exclusives, and for good reason. Sure, it uses the alien invasion convention a bit liberally, but it does it in a way that is unique and actually feels different than the ones you’ve seen before.
Futhermore, the weapons of Resistance 3 are varied and interesting, bringing a wide range of abilities and tools to the table to engage enemies in a way that feels somewhat more tactical and cohesive than a standard shooter. To top it off, Resistance 3 has a great atmosphere that is part Resident Evil, part Half-Life 2, and all eerie. If you’re a fan of desperation and clever shooters, you might consider this PlayStation exclusive for your next gaming endeavor.
The Darkness II
While the first Darkness is one that tends to divide players’ opinions, The Darkness II actually managed to take the formula of the first game and innovate on it enough to make it into a refreshing sequel that not only carried on the story of Jackie, but also gave us a whole new set of toys to play with.
The Darkness returns, with all of its slick combat abilities and gruesome executions that are a strange mix between twisted and fun. On top of that, the art style is great, voice acting is fantastic, and the gunplay is tightly designed and highly responsive. It has its problems, but The Darkness II is yet another one of those fun and well-designed experiences that shouldn’t be missed by fans of the genre.
Payday: The Heist
Co-op crime capers with your friends? What’s not to love? Payday: The Heist is a downloadable game that allows you to team up with your friends to pull off different crimes and wreak havoc in order to gain a reputation as a criminal mastermind.
For all it succeeds upon, Payday still has some issues. It doesn’t look great graphically, the game does a poor job of explaining many of its systems, and AI partners aren’t always the sharpest knife in the drawer. But it’s easy to forgive the game’s shortcomings once you utilize the multiplayer components of it and really start to work with your friends to pull off each heist.
While co-op is something we’ve seen integrated well into countless shooters, it is the bread and butter of Payday. It’s a great game with unique ideas that offers hours of content for you and your friends to jump into. We simply ask you don’t actually try any of this in real life.
Have any other great shooters that slipped under the radar you’d recommend? Share them in the comments below!