GameFront 2010: Best First-Person Shooters
Oh man. You didn’t just read that title and go, “What, you mean Halo and Call of Duty,” did you?
Damn. So did I. It’s gonna be a long morning.
Looking back, 2010 was actually a pretty thin year for the FPS. Sure, we got entries into the big franchises — Halo, Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, BioShock and Battlefield all saw updates this year, but none of them is exactly spectacular. If you owned a Mac, you finally got a chance to play Half-Life 2; that was kind of cool. Wii players got to pitch throwing knives like it was 1997, but it was 2010 and they were using Wii Remotes in Goldeneye 007. Whoo-hoo.
There aren’t many standouts, and certainly nothing breathtaking. Goldeneye was not some kind of FPS rapture (although we kinda hoped it would be), BioShock 2 seriously lacked the flair of the original, and the story of Halo: Reach has been known since Halo 1 — everyone dies at the end, because the Covenant nuke that freakin’ planet. Spoiler alert.
Still, there were some great moments in FPS play this year, and the GameFront staff got together to talk about our favorite first-person shooters of 2010. Behold, our picks: If you want to shoot something, these are this year’s games to do it in.
Shawn Sines’ pick
This may sound like a cop-out since I’m choosing one of the biggest game launches of the year for the Xbox 360, but honestly, Halo: Reach delivered for me in so many ways. First, it was the swan song for Bungie that lets them go off and do something not-Halo — which I’m interested in — and it also told a story I already knew the ending to in a way that actually made me care.
The events surrounding the fall of Reach were really well-established in the dialog of the previous Halo games and the published novel, but I found Noble Team’s conflict a lot more relatable than the superhero Master Chief was by the end of Halo 3. From a gameplay standard, Halo: Reach dared to push things a bit with the space missions, which I also enjoyed more than I expected.
Multiplayer is the bread and butter of the Halo community, and the marginal updates to this game mode were nice. The addition and enhancements of Firefight mode are still the best fun I’ve had playing Halo since the 10-year-old crowd took over the game scene, spouting pointless obscenities, years ago. Sure, the average maturity level of the online Halo player is still about 12, but in Firefight I can manage to ignore them.
Phil Hornshaw’s two cents: Simply adding a decent sprinting ability makes this one of the year’s best shooters. I’ve been waiting for a way to escape sniper 12-year-olds for almost a decade.
Phil Owen’s pick
Quite simply, Metro 2033 is the most immersive gaming experience I had this year. I’ve written this year about the importance of world-building in games in reference to open-world titles like Red Dead Redemption and Fallout, but the same thought applies here; the world of Moscow’s metro system — and the bombed-out city above — as constructed by 4A is as breathtaking as it is unforgettable.
But where Metro 2033 really makes its mark is in its story progression. As I made my way through the tunnels and became more aware of the desperate situation befalling my fellow humans, I couldn’t help but feel as if I were taking part in an epic and impossible journey to save the world — even though the scope of the story never extends beyond Moscow.
The first-person shooter genre is special because it literally puts you in the head of the protagonist. Few games have ever done that — truly done that — as well as Metro 2033 does.
Ben’s Two Cents: Phil really nailed it with the reference to the “head” of the protagonist. The best part of this game is the way the developers use the first-person view to their advantage by deploying the game’s most unique mechanic: the gas mask. Take damage, and its glass cracks. Use the same air filter for too long, and you start to breathe heavily, panting your way to asphyxiation. When these effects combine — during particularly frantic fight sequences in the irradiated wasteland — the psychological effect can be quite harrowing, conveying a sense of claustrophobia, panic, and impending doom. When you reach safety, and pull the mask off, the sense of relief is palpable.
Call of Duty: Black Ops
Phil Hornshaw’s pick
If it weren’t for its impossible-to-overlook multiplayer, Black Ops would actually have been kind of terrible. There’s a lot about this game I don’t like: its awkward, choppy story; its auto-pilot-y, monotonous campaign mode; its lackluster, if not totally rage-inducing, helicopter portions (although I might be in the minority on that one — see Jon Soucy’s comments below).
The quality of the multiplayer experience in Black Ops is augmented only by the ability to capture the ridiculous moments that happen in it with the Theater mode. And Treyarch found a quality way to improve on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2′s already spectacular multiplayer mechanics by making them fully customizable with its points purchasing system.
The improvements to last year’s title, for me, make Black Ops the definitive FPS online multiplayer experience of the year. All the rewarding game play features of the last few iterations of CoD are back, but Treyarch has made some very cool improvements to keep the online modes fresh. Contracts, wager matches, new challenges: all take your thinking and planning of how you’re going to be killing virtual soldiers controlled by French kids to another, better level.
Plus, you can play the Zombies mode straight out of the box, and when you finish the game, you can do so as John “Freakin’ Zombie Asskicker” Kennedy. The upsides of playing with your friends vastly outweigh Sam Worthington’s overwrought voice acting. (Is there a reason that he just screams some lines? I still haven’t figured that out why he’s getting so angry about explaining simple concepts like, “We went there to shoot that guy.”)
Jon Soucy’s two-cents: Best single-player FPS experience in 2010, with good variation of game play accompanied with unique level design and diversity. The story was interesting and well put-together with a good twist. Plus the helicopter piloting was just awesome cool!
Cabella’s Dangerous Hunts 2011
Mark Burnham’s pick
Shut up, Call of Duty. This is the most fun I’ve had playing a first-person shooter all year. Everything else felt like a beautifully polished door knob — we’ve seen it before, everywhere. But now it’s shinier.
And honestly, Cabela’s Dangerous Hunts 2011 doesn’t do anything different, either. In fact, it’s kind of a parody of first-person shooters, even if it doesn’t realize it. It’s unintentionally hilarious. You’re in the woods with your buddies, and you’re lookin’ to take down some game. You main goal is to hunt and kill animals in the woods, and enjoy it. You’d envision there’s a trip to a steak house lodge planned after the killing sesh, which you never get to.
My favorite character is the main guy leading your crew. He is a mix between Solid Snake, Anthony Hopkins in the movie The Edge, and your hunting grandpa. He has a glass eye, and he doesn’t care.
You basically walk around in the snow and shoot at wolves, deer, mountain lions and bears that walk in front of your gun. The gameplay is actually faster than you’d expect. Wolves charge mercilessly in packs. It’s crazy.
One good/bad touch is, there are these slow-motion x-ray vision quick time events. Beasts hurl themselves at you in slo-mo, and you can see their insides (for no explained reason. You just have that super power at that time). So you have to shoot their heart for a “heartshot,” or their head for a “headshot.”
My point is, the whole thing is a ridiculous riot. It’s a game you can play drunk with a friend and have the best time ever. It doesn’t demand a lot of you. It is simply a gift, and one you can enjoy with a non-gamer friend. It definitely has that power: non-gamers will go ape-sh*t for this. Guaranteed. Final note: Phil Owen approves of the Cabela series, and his enjoyment of playing games while drinking is well documented.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Ron Whitaker’s pick
I’ve always loved the Battlefield series, but Battlefield 2 and 2142 dwindled my interest a bit with their heavy focus on vehicles. Bad Company 2 hitting PC this year was a godsend, especially for those of us who aren’t fans of Call of Duty’s multiplayer frenzy.
The Battlefield games have always had great balance, interesting maps, and solid mechanics, a legacy that Bad Company 2 carries on on well. It offers several game modes, including the popular Rush, as well as classic Conquest, the mode that made Battlefield famous. All of this is powered by the Frostbite engine, which lets you destroy trees, walls, buildings, and more. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of causing a building to fall down on your enemy.
Everyone wants multiplayer progression these days, and BC2 delivers that as well, offering 50 levels and a pile of unlocks. These unlocks aren’t overly powerful, which helps preserve the game balance, but they do reward you for time spent and good play. You can also work toward collecting all the medals and ribbons for online accomplishments.
The singleplayer campaign is short and a bit disappointing, but the multiplayer is just so good that it doesn’t matter. To make things even better, DICE is set to roll out a brand new Vietnam-based expansion that should bring even more people into their online world.
Without question, Bad Company 2 set the bar for multiplayer shooters in 2010, and nothing else even got close. It’s easily my favorite shooter of the year.
Jon Soucy’s two-cents: Best multiplayer ground-pounder Battlefield game in years. It gets back to the roots of BF1942′s troop vs. vehicle balancing. Loads of unlockables and a fair amount of reasons to keep blasting the n00bs in multiplayer. If you’re a long-time FPS or Battlefield fan and haven’t tried Bad Company 2 — you FAIL.