Over the past decade there has been one particular genre that has repeatedly dominated the gaming charts. In fact, it can even be claimed that the first-person shooter has defined the previous generation of consoles. As your usually silent protagonist cuts through hordes of enemies with automatic firearm, the genre's success has seen it remain steadfast in the ongoing console war.
The protagonist is an unnamed scientist who throws himself backwards through time to stop the traditional, maniacal madman from changing history and taking over the world. To aid you in this endeavour your character donned a highly experimental 'time suit' that allows you to access an array of temporal powers. Making use of these you were able to slow down, stop, or even reverse time for short periods; up until the point the appropriate on-screen meter ran out of juice and had to be recharged. In certain circumstances these 'time' powers were required to solve particular puzzles. For example, in a situation where a large crane blocks your path with a big crate, the only way to get through is to reverse time to a point when the crate was originally raised, giving you enough room to move past. It can be difficult to get your head around the unique process at first but the game quickly gets you used to this mechanic and how to use it best in any given situation. The game also featured multiplayer for up to sixteen people which was, admittedly, not as enjoyable. For a start, the 'time' powers seen in the main campaign were replaced with grenades that produced their own bubble of your chosen temporal effect; and there were never a great number of players online even upon the game's release, which meant that there was always such a limited competition.
Overall however, if you're looking for a fun, time bending experience I would highly recommend it, just for the storyline alone. If you are ever lucky enough to get a few friends together for an online deathmatch then there are some DLC options for a few extra maps which you can bet most other people haven't even seen!
I came to buy Borderlands on its day of release, so I had no real expectations of it outside what I had read. But I had heard good things during its build up. Sadly as my Media Diploma took precedence, the game ended up unopened on my shelf where it remained for a whole year. Eventually I picked it up again, and I have to say that I was completely blown away by it. Initially I was put off by its cel-shaded graphics, a style which I had never been a huge fan of in the past. However the rather important lesson I learnt was never judge a game on first glance. With this game you have the choice of four different characters, each with their own distinct personalities and have their own unique specialities to utilise during combat. Roland is your traditional soldier-type, who specialises in assault rifles and shotguns. Lilith is mystical Siren who uses elemental powers, phasing her entire body into another dimension to become invisible and invulnerable. Next is Mordecai, who is the team's resident sniper. And finally there's Brick, who is a melee brawler and loves explosives. The powers each character holds are all upgradeable and the story takes them on a hunt for a legendary vault, containing a great fortune.
The true joy of this game is that it offers four player co-op, allowing players to drop in and out at any time. The game also uses a procedural content creation system that can randomly generate over three-million different variations of weaponry. This same system also works for the enemies too, allowing for each adversary to develop its own unique way of fighting back. To add to the sheer amount of variation, there are an insane number missions and side quests to complete, including a range of downloadable content which expand game events in the aftermath of the story.
This game cannot be missed out on. Even if you are not a big FPS fan, the sheer level of variety and the RPG elements make it worth a look. That is before you consider the great fun of the co-op gameplay. The one thing I can say with utmost certainty is that if I had played this when I first bought it, I probably wouldn't have done so well at college.
With the local denizens of the city having been driven to insanity, it is not long before our hero is forced to protect himself through the use of the strange substance known as 'Adam', which fuels 'Plasmids', granting the player access to an arsenal of mutant-like biological powers. These range from the more traditional electric shock attack, to the more obscure swarm of killer bees, as well as others. Fortunately for the psychotic 'Splicers' who are running amok in the ruins of Rapture, you cannot unlock all these abilities at once, and must search every nook and cranny of the maps in order to find them. When all else fails, you still have your trusty side-arm or Tommy Gun for back up; with helpful vending machines able to dispense additional ammo when you run low. There's even a wrench, in case you suddenly feel like having a nostalgic trip back to Half-Life and reignite your old love affair with rusty tools.
To add a slightly more sinister twist to the gameplay you always have two choices when you wish to power yourself up with Adam. Either you may use small vials that will give you a relatively minor boost to your Adam count, or you may go ahead and kill the numerous young girls being held in Rapture. Simultaneously, these girls, known as 'Little Sisters' are generally guarded by their heavily armoured and lethally protective 'Big Daddies' which you may choose to face down at various points in the game in order to harvest the Adam.
The locations in the game are beautifully realised, which was what had initially peaked my interest, while the inherent mystery of the storyline can keep you enthralled for the duration. Additionally, the game offers a surprisingly challenging experience which I find many FPS games lack these days. Upon discovering its existence I was eager to take on the 'Brass Balls' achievement which challenges you to play through the entire game on the hardest available difficulty and without using the game's in-built resurrection chambers. In the end, after testing my gaming skills to their limits I felt a deep sense of satisfaction. It must be said that at this point, I certainly felt like Rapture had lived up to its name.
ii. Halo 3
Of course the true draw of the entire Halo franchise since its origins has been its frantic and action-packed multplayer, with which Halo 3 does not disappoint. Long after the campaign has been completed and Master Chief has saved the universe you will find yourself playing online repeatedly until you feel you have suitably mastered every inch of each map and know all the perfect places to snipe from. Years have passed however, and we have since had Halo 4, and while that was a grand experience in itself I still find myself returning to the third installment time after time to relive old glories. 343 Industries may be taking the franchise into its latest trilogy, but it was Bungie who originally gave us this great universe to play in.
The good thing about the future as of late is that we now know we will soon get the chance to play the halo series for the next gen, with the release of the Master Chief collection later this year on the Xbox One.
i. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
The atmosphere in all of the levels fit the desired mood perfectly depending on your final objective, and just like all Call of Duty games you get the sense of not being the big hero, but merely being a little cog in a much larger machine as your squad mates return enemy fire. Unlike almost all other FPS titles you will tend to find yourself merely picking off the opposing force one by one, rather than running in guns blazing; a tactic which will ultimately get you killed just as quick as it would in real life. There is a surprisingly in-depth story to CoD 4, and while it might come across a little melodramatic and cliché it does fit the tone of the game perfectly. However, ultimately, and just like Halo 3 the true replay value behind this game is the multiplayer. Once you are in an online team deathmatch you can't help but feel as though you are a big kid playing war. You endeavour to cover your squad mates and try to outflank the enemy before they outflank you, and sometimes if you get really good you can become the dreaded, cold as ice sniper.
There is no doubt that Call of Duty 4 deserves this top spot if only because of the care and attention gone into creating a modern war simulation, and while it's sequels may have lost some of the franchise's lustre, this first venture into the 21st Century war is one that I will return to repeatedly.
Pew! Pew! Pew! Ch-chich. Bang!
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