There is no denying the first-person-shooter is the biggest it’s ever been. The many Call of Duties, Battlefield 3 the recent Halos all dominate the charts thanks to their colossal budgets, aggressive marketing and almost vitriolic fan-bases. But what about those smaller titles from smaller developers or the games that have received a critical mauling? infinite robots takes a look at our top five underrated shooters on current platforms.
#5) 007: Quantum of Solace
Treyarch’s 2008 Bond tie-in is a strange beast. Set across both Casino Royale & it’s cinematic namesake, 007: QOS combines FPS gunfights & stealth mechanics along with third-person elements such as hand to hand takedowns and taking cover (almost identically to Rainbow Six Vegas). These elements oddly mesh together to produce a fun, if frustratingly merciless experience. Whereas years later Goldeneye: Reloaded would attempt to score sales on the name association with a 64-bit classic, Treyarch clearly wanted to create the most authentic single-player Bond sim to date. Cast members from Casino Royale joined Daniel Craig & co to weave an authentic trip into these stories, whilst the futuristic touch-screen terminals used by MI6 served as a very stylish and effective presentation theme.
Using the IW engine created for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, 007: QOS still looks pleasing on the considering the aging software and the enemy AI is surprisingly solid and adaptive in a fire-fight. Some missions are certainly better than others, but overall the single-player campaign is a rewarding experience for fans of the genre and the license. Sadly, the less said about the abysmal multiplayer the better.
Try as hard as hard as they might, downloadable shooters always tend to struggle. Anyone remember Blacklight: Tango Down? I thought not. One of these titles struggling for breathing space on XBLA & PSN is Illfonic’s Nexuiz. This futuristic, arcade FPS is an old Quake mod that has been up-scaled and modified using the Crytek’s CryEngine 3. Considering it’s a port of decade old game it plays like a revolution.
Based on a simple four on four vs. set-up, you can either play Team Death Match or Capture the Flag on ten maps specifically designed for each match type. Every player moves at the speed of a constant sprint as you all speed through the map looking for new weapons to murder with. By making each player respawn with the same basic weapon, Nexuiz demands you explore the map and get involved in the battle. With jump pads and teleporters, each match is a supernova or break-neck action that makes each ten-minute time limit seem like a second or two. Nexuiz is far from the best looking tiltle on XBMLA/PSN but it still plays like a neon dream.
#3) Halo 3 ODST
‘A Halo game in a list like this? Blasphemy! Off with his head!’ I hear you all cry in unison. ODST is without a doubt the black sheep, the odd little cousin the rest of the Halo family try and pretend doesn’t exist. But exist it does, and for all its un-Chiefishness ODST finally showed just how screwed humanity were without the superhuman Spartans. Set across the experiences of multiple characters crash landing on the decimated city of New Mombassa, ODST dropped players into a deadly, claustrophobic battle with the indoctrinated Covenant. Fancy taking on a pair of Hunters with nothing more than a few SMGs and some grenades? How about strafing across a battlefield, hiding from the deadly gaze of a Banshee? ODST unashamedly chose to break the rules that had given fans so much comfort for so long.
ODST is a tough & tasty slice of sci-fi violence that, of all the Halp games, has the most unique and instantly recognizable feel. The main-campaign responds best when tackled co-operatively, whilst the omission of standard multiplayer content is replaced with Fire Fight, a ‘horde mode’ style defence mode that lets you upgrade fortifications and unlock weapon upgrades between each round. Fire Fight has sadly been dropped for 343 Industries’s new Halo 4, but it made a welcome last stand on Halo Reach. ODST, the most decidedly un-Halo Halo game your ever likely to play.
#2) Killzone 3
Guerilla’s third and potentially final installment in the ultra-violent sci-fi shooter series failed to shake off the stigmata carried over by its previous installments. Which is a shame as Killzone 3 is one of the most unique and rewarding FPS experiences out there today. Even from a purely graphical stand point, Killzone 3 looks stunning. The neon-coloured jungles, shifting tundra’s and the broiling oceans all bristle with a beautiful menace. Bullets shred scenery realistically and the fire animations jump right out of the screen even without turning on the 3D options.
Perhaps it was the developers integration of PlayStation Move into the game and all the negative connotations this Wii rip-off peripheral brought with it that helped sink Killzone into the reputational mud. But beneath the hokey storyline lies a deeply rewarding experience that offers one of the most challenging yet satisfying campaigns thanks to some well-paced set pieces and expertly designed levels. The multiplayer does still feel a little clunky but is strong in its own right thanks to some interesting game types. Killzone 3 is like Halo crossed with the Warhammer 40,000 universe, and for that reason alone we at infinite robots love it.
#1) The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena
There’s something incredibly gratifying about stalking the shadows as Richard B Riddick. Transposed upon a violent and dark universe full of blood-thirsty mercenaries and merciless Necromongers, Riddick is trump card we all wish could play. With Vin Diesel’s voice over dripping with menace, the Furian survivor is the one, great equalizer in any one-sided situation. Escape from Butcher Bay (the rezzed up version of the Xbox original bundled into the same package) and Assault on Dark Athena get this perfectly and it makes for two incredible experiences. Developer Starbreeze, who went on to create the equally magnificent The Darkness and the tragically wayward Syndicate, managed to create the ultimate hunting-sim. Imagine the principles of Splinter Cell spliced with the unsettling unknown of Bioshock and you can begin to understand how special this game is.
As inmates and mercenaries alike hunt you down you can use your signature glaves to open clavicles like fountains, pick up fallen weapons and go on a ballistic kill-spree or set traps thanks to the various defence drones littered across Butcher Bay or Dark Athena. The sheer fact these two stories fit seamlessly into the Riddick universe make them one of the most faithful addition to an existing canon you will experience on the current generation of consoles. Go play this game and take the shadows back.