Tag Archives: FPS

Best of 2011 #1: Battlefield 3

Battlefield 3Yes, really.

A good multiplayer game has the ability to hook me like nothing else, and Battlefield 3 really, really is. In terms of days it’s already my most-played 360 game in terms of days, and even though I’m not nearly done with it, I’ve still clocked more than 86 hours at the time of writing. That’s almost unheard of for me, and the only thing I can think of that come close is the 120 hours spent one wonderful summer on Return to Castle Wolfenstein’s multiplayer. Another class-based multiplayer FPS? Funny, that.

Fair enough if you think the campaign is mediocre at best, because it is. A couple of highlights aside, it’s not even as good as Bad Company 2’s offering; the most uninteresting kind of generic hoo-ah Black Hawk Down nonsense. But I still don’t care; it’s a Battlefield game, and as such it’s kind of a new thing to even have a single-player campaign. Don’t bother if that’s what you want most in a game because you will be disappointed, and you’ll be going into this game for the wrong reasons.

I’m now conscious that I’ve put more criticism into the game at the top of the list than any other here, so allow me to gush a bit.

There are more polished multiplayer games, there are more popular ones, but none is better at the epic feeling of taking part in a real battle than this. Playing the attacking team on Tehran Highway, cresting that first hill in a convoy of tanks, APCs, jeeps and infantry as the defenders try to repel you, missiles launching in the background. Fighting your way up the hill in Seine Crossing towards the M-COM stations, taking it in turns to draw defending fire as your team pushes forward before putting a rocket into the building where the enemy snipers are holed up. Sneaking up behind the tank that’s giving your team some grief to stick some C4 to it. Perfectly judging the drop of a bullet through your ballistic scope to put a bullet into someone’s head from half a kilometre away. The fact that this kind of thing happens on a nightly basis keeps me coming back and will likely continue to.

The beauty of these kinds of lists is that they’re personal, and the position of Battlefield 3 reflects how, no matter how much I value great writing, classic characters and innovative game design, the fundamental reason to play games is to have fun. Plenty of other games did that this year, but none did it better than this.

Best of 2010 #3: Halo: Reach

Halo: ReachWhat is likely to be Bungie’s last entry in the series that it grew from niche Mac RTS to one of the biggest FPS franchises in history proved to be a fitting goodbye. It was almost like, freed of fitting another game into the Master Chief’s story and carrying the Xbox brand now that games like Gears of War can share the load, Bungie was able to flex its creative muscles, and while I’ll concede that it’s still super soldiers killing aliens, it was the most fun I’ve had with a game in this series since I first took it online.

Multiplayer-wise it’s certainly my game of the year, and I’ll take this straight challenge of who knows the maps and weapons better than the next guy over the unbalanced quick fix of Call of Duty, let down only by a limited map selection. Halo 3’s integration of multiplayer and its lobbies into everything is only just coming into touching distance of other games and the setup is just as formidable here.

Going back to the point about originality, it’s true that Reach doesn’t have a lot of it in its story. Nonetheless, as a Halo fan I adored it. Seeing a team of Spartans doing what I’d so far only read about would have been enough to make me go a little bit in my pants but, cliched as they were, I cared when they were inevitably cut down. Set against such a beautiful and varied backdrop and with so many memorable moments – the level that takes you from ground level into a space battle and on to low-gravity combat in a vacuum before its explosive ending is an obvious high point, but the melancholic final moments also deserve love – I have to give Reach as both my favourite Halo game and one of 2010’s greatest.

Best of 2010 #7: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Call of Duty: Black OpsIt may be fashionable to hate this series and, frankly, quite sensible to hurl some well-deserved opprobrium at Activision, but there’s still nothing better when it comes to the Michael Bay style of action. While Halo is, I maintain, better at actually engaging the brain, Call of Duty is still the place to go for a shot of adrenaline.

And with Black Ops, Treyarch is the closest yet to creating a game that stands up to Infinity Ward’s offerings. The series’ high points, Call of Duty 2 and 4, still stand head and shoulders above the rest, and yes, the plot is spectacularly stupid, but I had a lot of fun with it. Even though I mourn the apparent death of the series’ realistic bent, the campaign is well put together and I’ve probably had more fun with the multiplayer than I have since those heady days when the scope of COD4’s popularity was becoming evident.

It even improves on Modern Warfare 2’s extensive package in areas where fans complained, showing that in Treyarch we might have a competent developer that mercifully lacks the hubris of its related companies. Dedicated servers? No prescriptive ‘we know better’ comments from the studio – Treyarch just did it. It’s almost endearing.

Even if I’ll never be happy with Activision’s insistence on “exploiting” the franchise on a yearly basis – maybe more in 2011 – if standards are maintained and the games can continue to move forward, I’ll be content to drop my £40 each year. Just please don’t make it more than that.

Best of 2009 #3: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Brash? Oh yes. Subtle? Absolutely not. Like Michael Bay made a video game? Are you telling me he didn’t?

The launch and sheer dominance of the world’s friends lists of Modern Warfare 2 may have humbled 2007’s mental Halo 3 launch, and the run-up may have been mired in controversy after controversy as Infinity Ward showed signs of taking after its parent, but if I put that aside, what must surely be the gaming event of this generation delivered.

Even with such a malign influence standing over it, Infinity Ward took what we already knew Call of Duty to be capable of – massive, action-packed, scripted war scenarios – and blended it with a ridiculous action movie to make something that was amazing fun. It wasn’t nearly as clever as it thought it was, to be honest, and I still maintain that that scene could have been handled better, and there’s maybe an argument that after the generally realistic World War II setting makes it look even more ridiculous, but it’s fun, and ultimately that’s all that matters.

Multiplayer, too, although it seems to be marred by annoying glitch after annoying glitch, is phenomenally good and will be a staple of my 360’s drive for months to come. I’ve already played that mode more than most full games, and that’s discounting my one and a half (currently) playthroughs of the campaign and mere dabbling with Spec-Ops mode. For all the criticism of its price hike – and I’m sure someone will disagree with me here – it’s the game that, through amount of content and time that will be spent on it, came closest to justifying it.

Best of 2009 #6: Battlefield 1943

Look at how far downloadable games have come. From Geometry Wars and 16-bit arcade ports to what basically amounts to a fairly significant chunk of the classic that is Battlefield 1942, all completely remade for DICE’s latest engine and with all the next-gen goodness that it entails.

OK, so it wasn’t as feature-filled as other, similar stuff like Warhawk, and it did only have three recycled maps, but Battlefield is Battlefield, and I’ve loved this series through 1942 and Battlefield 2 – I pretend that Battlefield Vietnam didn’t happen, as does DICE from the interviews I’ve read. 1943 was a blast to play online, as I did for many, many hours – it’s only the second 360 game that has moved me to relieve it of all its achievements – and even now, with Bad Company 2 on the horizon, I’d gladly drop points on some new maps for it.

For all the cynicism surrounding World War II as a setting for a new(ish) video game, there’s something to be said for driving a unwieldy great big hunk of metal through some destructible trees in pursuit of some little bugger who’s after your flag. Modern combat may be where the big bucks are these days, but sitting in an AC-130 is just far too clinical by half. Let me run someone through with a bayonet any day…

Best of 2009 #7: Halo 3: ODST

Can an expansion qualify for a GOTY list? Is Halo 3: ODST an expansion at all? Legitimate questions all, but I think that ODST, besides being a standalone release, is different enough to qualify. To be honest, beyond name recognition, did it even need to be painted as part of Halo 3 at all? Most of it happens concurrently with Halo 2, after all.

Semantics aside, I thoroughly enjoyed ODST, even as a relative disappointment after the massive event that was Halo 3. It’s partly a victim of Call of Duty usurping Halo as the 360’s premier franchise and, I think, partly down to people simply getting bored of the games, and I hope that Reach is different enough to win people back around.

So yes, a disappointment. But playing it, I was reminded of how much I enjoy Halo. To say that it’s been made irrelevant by Modern Warfare is extremely unfair because they play very different games, and I love Halo’s unscripted, free-form battles just as much as Infinity Ward’s brand of breakneck, scripted Hollywood action. ODST further courted my affections by somehow feeling more like the original, possibly down to the added vulnerability that comes from needing health packs, and it was a welcome challenge after playing through two Halo games in which you’re the baddest motherfucker in the galaxy.

Plus Firefight was pretty awesome. Expect to see variants of Gears 2’s Horde mode showing up throughout 2010’s shooter line-up.

Halo still needs a kick up the backside, though. Most will pick Modern Warfare 2’s success as the thing to do it, but I think that me only putting it seventh on this list will be the thing to do it. Wait until Bill Gates sees this…