In a time of uncertainty for a lot of video game companies, one thing’s for sure: There are a LOT of games out or coming out this holiday season. One genre particularly well represented is the First Person Shooter. Here I’m going to try to sift through a handful of them and let you know which is worth your hard earned money.
Legendary Box ArtLegendary (PS3/Xbox360/PC)
Why oh why did they release this game in November? An April or May release, and this game may have been looked at under a much better light. Now, however, its mediocrity simply can’t be glazed over. The game’s premise is a cool one, especially for a mythology geek like myself. Pandora’s Box is opened in present day, and basically creates a rift in the world allowing all sorts of mythological creatures into the world to wreak havoc. There are some cool elements, with a relatively interactive environment and an infusion of magic-based powers for the protagonist. Unfortunately, everything else about the game screams generic FPS. The weapons are standard-issue, there’s a lot of find switch A to open door B, and the enemies, which should have been varied and incredible, are instead pretty drab and goofy looking. The werewolves especially just look WAY too much like Wile E. Coyote to take seriously. The slash marks across the screen when they attack you is something out of an early 90s rail-shooter The controls are really inaccurate, with look sensitivity just way too high, even at the lowest setting. The game’s not terrible, it’s just not good, and with the other games on this list, you can simply sit this one out. Maybe it’ll be worth the middle-of-the-year grab, when it’ll no doubt be in the bargain bin. Unfortunately, if Gamecock’s existence hinged on this title, it doesn’t look like SouthPeak has much reason to keep their other properties around.
Quantum of Solace Box ArtQuantum of Solace (Just about Everything)
With the Bond license going from EA to Activision, 007 finally made his debut on current-gen consoles in a game coinciding with this weekend’s smash hit movie release. The game features the entire stories of both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, with the first movie’s story sitting in the middle of the seconds, through an extended flashback. The game plays amazingly well, but even with both movies as source material, it also plays incredibly short. All told, experienced FPSers will breeze through the game in about 5-7 hours, with newbies taking about 7-10. As mentioned in my hands-on several weeks ago, this game has without a doubt the best cover system I’ve ever seen. It works so fluidly, and so naturally, it will hopefully be the standard we’ll start to see in all FPSes. There are also several moments that just feel so uniquely “Bond,” that they accentuate the great time you have playing this game. The rest of the gameplay is similar to Call of Duty 4, whose engine the game is built upon. Coupled with a riveting story, and quite possibly the best voice-acting ever in a game (every major cast member reprised their roles), this is a very fun game to play. It’s a shame, when it ends, that it’s over, because of how much fun the experience really is. Luckily, there’s equally great multiplayer to tackle after the campaign. The multiplayer, again, is essentially CoD4 + cover, but the real treat is some of the maps. Fans of Bond’s video game adventures will have a very pleasant and shockingly unpublicized surprise in a couple of the MP maps. It starts with a strange sense of familiarity, but as you run down that familiar Facility corridor, it’s impossible to not get nostalgic, and realize this is absolutely the best Bond game since Goldeneye on N64. The Wii version is quite fun, including the whole story, and with pretty good (though not perfect) aiming. Also, you can play four-player split-screen for the full on nostalgic factor. Bond fans shouldn’t miss this game, and it’s a perfectly capable FPS even without the license. The shortness of the story (thank goodness they included both movies at least!) aside, this game was done pretty close to perfectly.
Call of Duty: World at War Box ArtCall of Duty: World at War (Just about everything)
Why keep making games about World War II? That’s a question I’ve heard a lot when talking about this game. Lieutenant Colonel Hank Kiersey, the military advisor for the series, told me the “richness and variance of the history of the War” allows for near infinite tales to be told. I have a simpler answer for you. Why keep making WWII games? Call of Duty: World at War is why. Treyarch again used the COD4 engine for this shooter, and the controls thus feel very familiar to fans of last year’s multiple Game of the Year winning FPS. There are some obvious changes, using 60 year old weaponry instead of guns and rifles from our near future, but overall, if you’ve played the last one, you can jump into this pretty easily. Honestly, the controls, camera, and objective-based gameplay is simple enough that even an FPS virgin could jump in and play the entire campaign with relative ease. The story this time jumps between a Marine unit in Japan and the Red Army marching toward Berlin on the Eastern Front. The stories touch on the horror of war better than any previous installment, and the beautiful historically accurate sequences between missions are as amazing as they are educational. There are moments in the game that your personal reaction time slightly changes the outcome, which is a nice touch, and a reason to go back and replay it. Replay you shall, if only to play in the two co-op modes after playing it alone. There’s standard co-op where two members of each of these units take on the missions, and there’s a competitive co-op, where players on the same team compete for points to see who is the better leader. The multiplayer has a great high pace to it, and it is perhaps too entertaining to release the hounds upon your foe. The Wii takes co-op in a different direction, allowing a second person to jump in as a second gunner using the same screen, but not controlling movement. It’s more akin to arcade rail shooters than traditional FPS co-op, but it still makes for a fun experience. The graphics on the Wii are easily the best the Wii has seen yet, and Activision needs to start holding seminars for other developers/publishers on how to use this system to its fullest. Spectacular story, amazing presentation, familiar but still fun gameplay, exciting new modes with co-op, and a multiplayer that’s easy to get lost in for hours at a time (and quick, easy, and reliable to start up) all adds up to a spectacular game, and another solid entry into the Call of Duty franchise. If you’re an FPS fan at all, this is a must own. It has re-sparked my love for the genre.
Gears of War 2 Box ArtGears of War 2 (Xbox 360)
I played very little of the first Gears of War. I didn’t own a 360 at the time, and only played on friends’ consoles, where I couldn’t really get the full exposure. This time I’ve been able to fully immerse myself in the Gears world, and it’s been a fun journey. There’s a cover system here, but it’s very different from the one in Quantum. It doesn’t feel quite as natural, but the running in and out of it is fun and easy to do. The weapons here are the most original of this group of games, with the trademark Chainsaw Bayonet, and some weapons that produce truly awesome gut-splattering explosions. The story is definitely geared towards R-Rated Action movie fans, with plenty of swearwords, stereotypes, and over-the-top dialogue and action. At the heart, there’s a love story that plays out, too, to ground the story in a tad more reality. This game absolutely feels and plays uniquely compared to other FPSes, and that allows it to use some conventions without feeling stale. Co-op is jump-in/jump-out. A friend pops onto LIVE, you can pause the game and invite them in, they can do a mission or three with you, and jump out just as easily to go play something else. Both of you receive achievements earned in co-op, no matter who is hosting, and the story and progression remain the same for the host either way. It provides some fun variety for the campaign of the game, and works great. That alone is reason enough to own this game if you’re a 360 owner, without question. Unfortunately, the competitive multiplayer is pretty much broken. I tried for nearly 40 minutes (and several occasions of shorter lengths of time) to get a game going without a single success, and have had reports of similar problems from other journalists. I can’t tell you how the competitive multiplayer is, because I can’t get it to work. I’m near certain that Epic/Microsoft will provide a fix for this soon, but that a fix is needed at all is really disappointing. “Cliffy B,” one of the most outspoken game creators in the industry, has talked this game up quite a bit, and it’s surprising to then get a game with such a major flaw as the “finished” product. This seems to be a developing trend, and a scary one in game development. At any rate, this game has a first-class campaign mode, and the jump-in nature of co-op is a lot of fun to play with. I can’t see any reason for a 360-owning FPS fan to not get this game.
First Person Shootout Recap
Call of Duty: World at War is a must own for FPS fans, on whatever platform you can get it on. Bond fans, and fans looking for a little nostalgia, will not be disappointed with Quantum of Solace, but beware of a short single-player campaign. The 360 gets another good exclusive in Gears of War 2, but beware of extreme difficulties with competitive multiplayer. Legendary just doesn’t fit the bill; it’s not even close to the level that other FPSes are at right now, plain and simple. If you've got the budget for just one, Call of Duty: World at War is the clear victor of this shootout.