There’s been an over saturation of first person shooters in recent years–to say otherwise would be denying the obvious. That said, this year’s E3 FPS crop packed a surprising amount of creativity and refreshing originality. Many of the shooters I played, or saw demoed, featured unique gameplay elements that set them apart from one another. Here are some of the best FPS games spotted on the E3 show floor.
Counter Strike: Global Offensive (PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Counter Strike carries a reputation of being brutally unforgiving to newcomers. Frankly, saying that the game takes skill is an understatement, as dedication and persistence are necessary to become a worthy opponent. So when Valve announced that Counter Strike would head to consoles, I thought it would lose its hardcore gameplay to accommodate console gamers. I’m glad to report that Counter Strike, in the form of the upcoming Global Offensive, is as hardcore as ever. I demoed the game twice, once on the PlayStation 3 and once on the PC. Both experiences were near-identical, except for the inherent control differences (a mouse and keyboard on PC, a controller on PS3). Both times I played on the classic map Dust, which featured slight changes to optimize balance.
Fans of the series might remember the deathtrap at the center of the map where sharpshooters would tear you to pieces in a matter of seconds if you dared cross. That section of the map remains, but there’s now an underground passage that you can use to get around to the other side. The classic CS formula remains: it’s terrorists vs. Counter Ops. Terrorists are tasked with planting a bomb or eliminating the opposing team; Counter Ops must vanquish the opposing team or defuse the bomb. Kills give you currency that’s used to buy new weapons, so team work is essential.
The PS3 controls were extremely responsive, which made for a pleasurable gameplay experience, but I preferred the keyboard and mouse combo. Good news: the PS3 version will also support keyboards and mice, and the PC version will support a controller. Before you go on and start thinking this kills balance: relax. Valve’s stated that it will have a system in place which tracks your progress, and matches you up against players of the same skill level. In fact, Counter Strike: Global Offensive even goes as far as to match you against players using similar controls. It will only cost $14.99 when it hits Steam, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 on August 21, 2012.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Medal of Honor‘s new faction-based multiplayer gameplay is the shot of adrenaline the genre needs. Players choose different Special Op factions and compete against others. Each faction plays radically different from the rest, and accommodates different play types. Snipers will probably stick to the Navy Seals. Quick, offensive players might go with the less armored OGA, a group of extremely nimble and fast operatives.
Gone are the days of shamelessly using the successful tactics repeatedly–but there is room for error. Developer Danger Close Games has to tread carefully and make certain that no one class is more overpowered than the others. This has been the downfall of many games–anyone remember the MAG faction fiasco? Hopefully, the game’s balance will be in place before the games October 23, 2012 release date.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II (Wii U, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
Treyarch calls Black Ops II the most ambitious Call of Duty ever. I’m impressed with the change of setting, the game takes place in the year 2025 , which brings about new weapons and foes. Chances are if you paid attention to the Microsoft conference you saw the first level of the demo. This demo introduced a new weapon: an x-ray-powered sniper rifle that you can use to take out enemies even if they’re behind cover (reminiscent of Perfect Dark‘s FarSight).
However, the demo truly shocked me by showcasing new RTS-like gameplay. You can pan back the camera or you assume control of any drone or soldier on the battlefield. If Treyarch continues to surprise us with gameplay innovations like that, Black Ops II will be a winner. The futuristic action begins on November 13, 2012
Far Cry 3 (Xbox 360, PC)
Far Cry 3 walks the same path as its predecessors. The game is an open-world FPS that takes place on a lush jungle island overrun with violence and scruple-less individuals. The game’s protagonist, Jason, is an average guy with no real issues or personal quarrels. As the game progresses the violence and anarchy begins to drive Jason mad, and as he performs more acts of violence we begin to unearth more about his character. There are also several drugs that Jason can ingest, which alter gameplay and enhance Jason’s abilities. It’s an interesting and disturbing mechanism .
Far Cry 3 is a graphical marvel with mazing lighting effects and the highly textured environments that are some of the best I’ve seen in a video game. There’s also a co-op mode–a first for the series. Unfortunately, the full island isn’t available in co-op. Instead, the island is broken up into six levels ranging in playtime from 45 minutes to an hour in length. Thankfully, the co-op mode supports two players locally. Far Cry 3 has a September, 4 2012 release date.
Halo 4 (Xbox 360)
I’m a huge Halo fan, so I quite concerned to learn of Bungie’s departure. It took Bungie over ten years to craft a balanced multiplayer and to establish a series heavily built by the community. Fans have nurtured the series by creating unique content including maps and custom games. So when Bungie announced that it would be handing the reigns over to 343 Industries is shocked many gamers. I can happily tell other fans to rest easy.
343 Industries has taken all the things we love about Halo and improved them. Visually the game looks like a next-gen title; the muddled textures are gone and replaced with highly detailed ones. Mesh patterns are visible on gloves and in-between armor plates, colors are vibrant (especially the red and blue on each team’s armor), and seeing the shimmers of light bounce off the armor is beautiful. It’s surprising that this is the same graphic engine that powered Halo: Reach, but with some alterations. Gameplay’s also improved: Sprint is no longer an armor ability and is available to everyone, and the new ordinances, new weapon drops, and abilities earned through kill streaks add a new dynamic to matches. This is really shaping up to be the best Halo yet; now all we need is a solid Campaign. Check our in-depth Halo 4 multiplayer impressions for the whole scoop. Halo 4 lands on store shelves November 6, 2012.
Borderlands 2 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC)
My time with Borderlands 2 was minimal. It was enough to conclude that the game stays close to its predecessor, but with vast gameplay improvements and new classes. I spent a few minutes with the Gunzerker. It took me a while to get used to the Gunzerker’s dual-wield ability, but once I did, I wreaked havoc. When you activate dual-wield, your character automatically equips the weapon you have in your hand, and the one you had previous to that. The ability is a bit over-powered, but 2K is still tweaking the class.
The cel-shaded graphics looks great; they’re sharper, less jagged, and brighter than the original’s. Like the first Borderlands, no weapon looks alike or shares the same properties. The result? Thousands of combinations possibilities. The RPG elements return, too, with weapon-based status effects (for example “lowered defense”) that you can use against enemies. The level up system returns along with new skill trees. The demo ended just as I got a hang of things and I’m actually excited to play the finish product. The game will hit stores on September 18,2012.
Before I go on, I have to say that this is easily the best shooter I played at E3. Hawken is a free-to-play FPS that puts players in the cockpit of massive mechs. These mechs, however, are neither slow-moving or clunky to control. On the contrary, the game is highly accessible as it was created with the Xbox 360 in mind. That said, a seasoned pilot can pull off some impressive maneuvers.
The game controls like any other PC FPS. The ASDW keys handles movement, the mouse controls the reticle, and the space key causes your mech to jump or fly. In terms of gameplay, Hawken reminds me of Counter Strike. It’s emphasizes teamwork; lone wolves get picked to pieces. I learned that lesson quickly. During our first match, team 2D-X was decimated. We ran around aimlessly and didn’t communicate well. We then regrouped and destroyed our opposition, through quick coordination and effective teamwork. My mech was a heavy build, so I drew enemies out so my team mates could ambush them.
Speaking of builds, you can customize your mech by either making it light (but brittle), or a slow, massive tank (that’ can withstand punishment). Hawken’s creative team stated that there will be many other ways to customize your mech by the time the game’s released. Hawken’s developers, Adhesive Games, has partnered with Gaikai’s open cloud streaming services to ensure that gamers everywhere can experience this game–regardless of rig. The game doesn’t exit closed beta on 12-12-12, but it’s looking damn good.
So there you have it. Those were the best shooters at the show this year. As you can see the list is large and you can expect the bullets to fly aimlessly come this fall and winter. Let us know what shooter you’re looking forward to playing.