Just having guns in a first person shooters is so passe’, so past it, so last year. Listen, we’ve gotten over the gun porn fetish we had in our youth – well mostly – and need more. Shooters that just have guns, no matter how fun they are to unload into bad guys, are no longer good enough to keep us engaged.
We need something else to go with all the wonderful bullet play, and thankfully developers have slowly cottoned onto that fact as the years go by. They’ve provided us with increasingly diverse gameplay sandboxes in which gunplay is king but where we do some much more than just kill things with massive ordinance, and here are some of the best.
Borderlands and Borderlands 2
You certainly can’t accuse Borderlands of not being gun based, after all it had ‘a bazillion guns’ according to it’s developer Gearbox, but happily it gave gamers more through its class system. The various classes not only got buffs on particular types of guns in the games MMO style random weapons creator, but each character had their own unique special abilities – and an up grade tree with which to tailor how those powers worked. When you chucked in it’s co-op element there was plenty to think about in Borderlands beyond just pulling a trigger. With Borderlands 2 looking to do more than the first game ever did on the RPG front, and a whole new set of classes with unique powers there’s the promise of variety galore to come.
Gotham City Impostors
Where does he get all those wonderful toys? While Gotham City Impostors, with its zany comedy Batman influenced art style and heavy player progression system, is very much just a cross between Team Fortress 2 and COD, it gives you some really neat secondary gadgets. Those based around movement are particularly good, like your grapple gun which lets you zip around maps as you blast people and Glide Wings which let you not only swoop around but dive bomb enemies. They make things in it’s frantic Team Death Match much more crazy – you often have to think more three dimensionally as enemies come from all directions – and there’s space for some interesting tactical tricks.
The all new Syndicate certainly raised some eyebrows when it was announced – you don’t change a classic RTS into an FPS without ruffling a few feathers – but the end result is looking like a solid shooter that has more in its futuristic bag of tricks than just guns. Your ‘Breach Powers’, which let you hack into AI in the environments, knock over enemies by hacking their weapons and force them to commit suicide or turn on each other are a real game changer. With it’s wider variety of enemies that each require a unique approach to kill, Syndicate is a fun shooter sandbox with a difference.
Not only did Rage have some of the most solid shooting we’ve enjoyed in years, and fantastic enemy AI it extended your arsenal beyond guns with a clever accessories system. It had you gather recipes (tech specs) and bits in the world to create things like Bomb cars, turrets, Spider Robots and more to help you battle enemies – you could even craft devastating new ammo. Our personal favourite was the Wing Stick, a kind of deadly boomer rang that could take off enemies heads with a single throw. Ironically it was this extension of the core combat system, rather than its impressive but somewhat superfluous open world that made Rage so engaging.
The Darkness and The Darkness 2
What could be better than a mafia hitman with dark supernatural powers? Not much, as the Darkness and now the Darkness 2 appear to prove. Playing as mob boss Jackie Estacado imbued with the awesome evil power of the Darkness is one hell of a treat as you use your demon arms and darkling helper to cut a (very bloody) swathe through your enemies. Not only can you smash, rip and gruesomely execute foes with the Darkness arms directly, but Jackie now has other powers like swarms of evil bugs and reality tearing worm holes that he can fling at them. As far as FPS power trips go the Darkness 2 is hard to beat because of its willingness to arm you with more than the mundane.
BioShock 1, 2 and BioShock : Infinite
BioShock franchise is arguably the Big Daddy (yeah we went there) of the shooter + genre. Not only were you gifted with an impressive array of Steam Punk inspired weaponry, but your Plasmid powers in both BioShock games gave you more ways to kill crazy Splicers than you could shake a stick at. But they weren’t just a way to kill enemies as your Plasmids even let you interact with the environment, hacking enemy robots and doors so you could get around the underwater metropolis. It all meant that there was so much more depth to everything you did in BioShock, and help make it feel like one of the most engaging and engrossing worlds in gaming.
That once again promises to be the case as we take a trip into another ‘BioShock’ universe in BioShock Infinite. As we imbibe Vigours and Nostrums that promise to give us a raft of brand new psychokinetic powers to kill high up in the sky flying city of Colombia, and battle alongside the monstrously powerful Elizabeth, its raft of Steampunk weapons could actually play second fiddle to all our cool new powers – and much as we love guns, we don’t have a problem with that.