The seventh generation of consoles was really rough. While we did get some awesome games there were a ton of experiments as developers struggled with rising development costs and complicated hardware tech. With the rise of HD gaming, being games rendered in 720p or higher, there was also the struggle to evolve genres with this newfound hardware. First-person or third-person shooters struggled probably the most in this era as open-world games were evolved and, mostly, well done with games like Grand Theft Auto IV, The Elder Scrolls Oblivion, Skyrim, and Saints Row. Shooters were stuck in the past gameplay and design-wise. Corridor shooters with no story or interesting characters, and not to mention lacking an identity which helped make up for the lack of the latter. Your favorite shooters like Doom and Quake didn’t really have a good story or characters, but they had an identity that helped them stand apart from other shooters. The look, feel, weapons, and overall design were unique to that game. This just didn’t happen with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 shooters, and if it did, it was rare. We’re going to take a look at the worst and best shooters in this generation of consoles and why the genre stalled and didn’t really evolve much until the next generation cycle.
This will be a multi-part series due to the number of games. The next feature will talk about the worst FPS games of this generation.
Call of Duty was at its peak when it was released as a launch title for the Xbox 360. This was a huge console seller, and despite the “2” in its name, this wasn’t the second game. A few console exclusive releases came before this one, but this was a true follow-up to the original PC game. While not quite as good, it was still cinematic and it felt like there was some thought and love put into it, unlike future sequels. Call of Duty 2 looked amazing on Xbox 360 and was one of the best online shooters for a good year or so.
The development hell this game went through has been well documented and is one of the most tragic video game franchises of all time. Prey was a fantastic shooter that had its own identity among so many clones and boring games stuck in the past. The interesting use of portals, fun weapons, and a creepy alien atmosphere and setting were a lot of fun. Prey is so good it has high replay value and I replay this game every few years it’s so enjoyable. It was one of the first games to introduce me to the HD era of gaming on Xbox 360 and I have fond memories of this one.
The Call of Juarez series is forgettable yet enjoyable. It’s a fine shooter series, minus The Cartel, with varied themes and overall solid gunplay. The story and characters are absolute trash, but this has fun gameplay that makes up for that. Bound in Blood is set during the American Civil War where you play two brothers on a mission for…something. Gunslinger is based during the Wild West era in the late 1800s. Both can be bought for cheap and Gunslinger even found its way over to the Switch. They are fun enough to even be worth playing through again every once in a while.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Vegas Series
I remember this was the first reboot of the Rainbow Six franchise for quite some time. I rented both games when they came out and quite enjoyed the campaigns. They looked fantastic and had some great bombastic set pieces. The multiplayer wasn’t half bad either, and I really wish the series would go back to this style of tactical gameplay. The games are worth playing today for a fun weekend shooter and I don’t have much to complain about other than weird difficulty spikes.
Battlefield was already a huge franchise before debuting on consoles with Modern Combat. 2142 was a long-awaited sequel to 1942 that was set with a realistic military theme rather than WWII. The same gameplay proceeded, but with the power of PCs at the time we got massive maps, more modes, vehicles, and just classic Battlefield gameplay. While it did have a rough launch the game was eventually smoothed out and there are still people even playing today.
While the third sequel was released after everyone was sick of WWII shooters, and during a console transition, it was still a solid if forgettable experience. At this point, these games were being phoned in but still had a AAA quality to them that made them worth playing. Call of Duty 3 feels very dated compared to today’s shooters, and it was the last WWII shooter the series would dip its toes in for many years. The online multiplayer was fun for a while, but the game suffered from needing to be ported to last-gen consoles. Your typical WWII shooter stuff is here like planting charges, moving up waves of enemies, grenades that bounce around like rubber, and incredibly linear levels.
By far some of the finest shooting you’ll play during the HD era of gaming. The Resistance series was helmed by the Spyro the Dragon and Ratchet & Clank creators Insomniac Games. Originally teased as I8 during E3 2006 the series had tons of hype. It looked next-gen and felt like it upon release with Fall of Man. The series has a decent story, but the classic Insomniac weapons are what makes the game so fun. Each weapon has a unique alt-fire and each weapon is carefully crafted to be needed for certain situations so you’re always switching up your weapons which is one of the most key things in shooters that almost no one seems to understand. The games look absolutely fantastic even for today’s standards. This is a trilogy that every shooter fan must play.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series was never released on consoles, but it has a huge following on PC. The sequels Call of Pripyat and Clear Skies just improved the game more. The series is a hardcore survival shooter where you must preserve every bullet and item for healing. Running and gunning will get you killed and it can be very daunting and intimidating to play. It’s for the hardcore only. The game released a buggy mess, but over time players have modded the game to near perfection and is one of the best post-apocalyptic open-world games to date. Some of the developers later went on to form 4A Games and create the Metro series.
The Darkness is based on the comic of the same name. The original game is one of my favorite shooters of all time. The atmosphere, story, characters, graphics, and the ability to use your demons on your shoulders to command minions and mutilate people were so much fun. The sequel was good, but felt more arcade-like and had less of a slower-paced haunting atmosphere, and didn’t feel as bleak. The sequel is still tons of fun and retains the same great voice acting, but has a less memorable story.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid Prime 3 was a huge juggernaut for the Wii upon release and was one of the few really good shooters that the system got that wasn’t a port of some sort. Improved graphics, great use of the motion controls, and overall just classic Metroid gameplay and clearly the best in the series. Corruption was a big system seller and is easily one of the best shooters of the HD era of gaming. Even though the Wii lacked the horsepower of the PS3 and Xbox 360 Corruption still looked fantastic on the aging hardware.
The Halo series peaked with the Xbox 360. Halo 3, Halo 4, Reach, ODST, and Combat Evolved: Anniversary were great games. While I don’t really care for ODST or Halo 4, the series reached its best with Halo 3 and remains one of the best shooters of that era. The games still pushed the 360 to its limits graphically and remained the top multiplayer game through its entire life cycle. The series hasn’t seen this many releases since, but you can now play these games remastered on PC and Xbox One which is awesome. They are still fun to play on the original hardware just to see what it was like back in the day. When a Halo game launched it sold consoles big time and everyone played Halo at least once during this time.
Team Fortress 2 was a huge deal on consoles. Despite never receiving updates and being shut down and abandoned the game had lots of players. I played this game for many hours on Xbox 360. I would come home on my lunch breaks from work just to get a few rounds in. The game looked good and ran very smoothly on consoles, but I just wish it got the features or some maps that the PC version got for at least a couple of years. While I wouldn’t bother playing on consoles these days, the PC version is still alive and well and one of the most played multiplayer games to date.
While originally only released for PC, The Orange Box was a huge hit giving console gamers Valve’s best work for one cheap price. The games ran and looked great on the dating hardware, and I was a huge fan of The Orange Box. Upon release, I didn’t have a PC that could play these games and I was so excited when this was finally released. I did play Half-Life 2 on an older computer as well as Episode One and loved them to death, but they didn’t look great. With achievements, there was a ton of replay value here, and it’s still worth a pick-up if you don’t play PC games.
Crysis is famous for being a go-to benchmark game for PC hardware. I remember seeing this game for the first time at E3 2006 and it blew me away. The textures, lighting, physics, and everything that went into this game were truly ahead of its time. So much so that Crytek had to demo the game running in SLI mode with two graphics cards to get it running. There wasn’t a single GPU that could run the game at 60FPS maxed out at the time. I remember when I got my first real gaming computer in 2010 I was blown away I could finally run Crysis. Even then it pushed my laptop to its limits and I still couldn’t run it at maxed-out settings. The second game was highly anticipated and my laptop couldn’t run it above 30FPS maxed out. Crysis 3? Forget it, but I did end up playing the game at 20FPS. These games didn’t have a great story or characters but instead had incredibly tight gunplay fantastic visuals and decent weapons.
Unreal Tournament 3
There’s no coincidence that UT3 looks exactly like Gears of War. It has the same color palette and even similar character design. UT3 wasn’t nearly as popular as UT2004. I remember I just couldn’t get into it as much as I did UT2004. Something felt off about the way the game felt. I didn’t have a PC that could run this game at the time so I picked it up for PS3 years after release and it was mostly dead then. The game just felt so far away from Unreal Tournament that I couldn’t play it, but it was still a solid multiplayer shooter for PS3 and PC at the time and was solid despite feeling different.
The series is by far one of the best that graced the HD era of consoles. Quality shooters at this level were rare and I remember just how hyped I was for the game upon release. I remember getting so excited and counting down the minutes for the demo to drop on Xbox LIVE. I bought this on launch day and it was one of the most memorable gaming experiences I ever had. I was also hyped for BioShock 2, but it wasn’t as memorable. A good game, but was too safe. Infinite got me as hyped as the first game, if not more, and I even went to the midnight launch at GameStop for it. This is an incredible series and thankfully they have all been re-released on newer consoles.
Frontlines: Fuel of War
I remember seeing this one at BlockBuster along with other generic-looking military shooters at the time. I passed it up numerous times despite the decent reviews. At first glance, it looks dull and boring, but it has great gunplay and fun multiplayer. While the former no longer exists there’s still a fun weekend campaign here and you can pick up the game at bargain bin prices these days. There’s no reason not to pick this one up. Just don’t expect a deep story or any type of character development.
Bad Company was a smart departure of the series and helped reboot the series for consoles. The two games actually featured fun and interesting characters with witty dialog, and of course, the gameplay was tight and tons of fun. Both games also featured impeccable sound design with the sound of bullets changing inside buildings and somewhat destructible environments. The multiplayer portion was insanely popular and a lot of fun. Especially the Conquest mode. Servers are gone now, but you have two entertaining campaigns here worth playing over a weekend.
The third and final installment in this highly anticipated series. Brothers in Arms was considered the “grown-up” WWII franchise as it wasn’t as arcade-like as the other games. It required strategy, a bit of thinking, and you could command your squad. It also was the only WWII shooter that had gore in it. Hell’s Highway had a mostly forgettable experience, but it sure was fun and a blast to play through. It really stands out from the crowd at a time when WWII shooters were waning and becoming a flea on the industry’s hide. Well worth a weekend playthrough despite the servers being shut down.
Specifically, Far Cry 2, 3, and Blood Dragon were released during the seventh generation of consoles. I didn’t care for Far Cry 2. I bought in a bargain bin purchase as BlockBuster was shutting down and found it dull and boring. However, in hindsight, it’s not quite that bad. Far Cry 3 is by far still the best game in the series as Vaas is a strong antagonist and remains so to this day. Blood Dragon is one of the most fun and unique spin-offs ever. Being a love letter to 80’s sci-fi action movies like Terminator, Robocop, and Blade Runner, you can shoot T-Rex’s, and everything has a Tron/Cyberpunk feel to it. It’s very short, but has witty dialogue and is just so unique. Some consider it the best game in the franchise. These Far Cry games were the peak of the series and it has been falling fast ever since.
Every once in a while we get a decent Bond game. Quantum of Solace, based off of the same movie, was a sleeper hit and was surprisingly entertaining despite how forgettable it was. It felt like a bond game. It was fast-paced, had great feeling weapons, and didn’t overstay its welcome. This is probably the best Bond game of the HD era as Blood Stone was a bore-fest. Well worth a bargain bin purchase for a fun evening.
Cryostasis isn’t an action-packed shooter. It’s more of an adventure game where you unravel a mystery on a derelict ship. The game has a haunting atmosphere and you must really use your bullets wisely here. It was a graphical powerhouse when it released and pushed PCs to their limits. I remember my gaming laptop at the time struggled to run this game. It used, at the time, brand new DirectX 11 visuals which made it look “next-gen” and beyond anything the PS3 or Xbox 360 could muster up. Sadly, it’s been pulled from Steam for some time now, but keys do exist online at various retailers. It’s worth a playthrough for something more unique and interesting.
While the first game was released during the sixth generation of consoles on PC (PS2/Xbox) it did get an “HD” release on PS3 and Xbox 360 but wasn’t nearly as good as the PC version due to lowered graphics and framerate issues. However, F.E.A.R. 2 and 3 were made with these consoles in mind. While the story of the series is convoluted and pointless, the second game had quite a bit of excellent cinematic moments and some creepy segments. While mostly forgettable it was fun. The third game had solid gunplay, but pretty much took out the creep factor entirely. The first game remains the best in the series and is a classic. It pushed PC hardware to its limits and made me want a gaming PC at the time.
Killzone is a strange beast. It’s not exactly the most polished shooter out there. The first game on PS2 was an absolute technical mess despite trying new things like long realistic reload times and pushing that poor system beyond what it could do. Killzone 2 was pretty much the biggest hype around the PS3 with the questionable pre-rendered demo shown at E3 2006 and being pretty impressive upon release. I remember it was a reason I wanted and bought a PS3 in 2009. The game looks great even today and has fantastic gunplay despite a forgettable and pointless story. The third game was more polished but felt more forgettable due to bland-level design and a continued pointless story with lame characters (I really can’t stand Rico), and it had a great multiplayer suite. The first game got an HD release in the Killzone Trilogy. Some of the best shooting you’ll play during this console cycle.
While Dark Athena isn’t quite as memorable or impactful as Escape from Butcher Bay the former game was included as an HD version with this game. Dark Athena was mostly more of the same, but with less memorable locales and it didn’t do enough that was new to make it stand out more. Still, the Riddick games remain some of the most interesting shooters of that generation and are worth a play through whether you like the movies or not. They have a great atmosphere, fun gunplay, and stealth mechanics.
The Conduit Series
A very much hyped FPS series on the Wii, The Conduit was a fun sci-fi shooter with interesting guns, but it was pretty run-of-the-mill as shooters go. We didn’t get many non-on-rails shooters on the Wii so when they came along they were a big deal. The Conduit was fun to play as it used the Wii hardware well and looked good too. It was nice to not get another military shooter and it’s probably why the game stood out from the crowd.
Originally released for Wii and then later on PS3 using the Move controller, Extraction was a sleeper hit and considered one of the best games in the series. Sure, it was another Wii on-rails shooter, but it had atmosphere and had some great scenes (cutting off your hand in space for example) and just felt tight and fast-paced. I picked this up new when it came out and replayed it a few times. It has high replay value thanks to its short length and entertaining shooting and scenes.
The ARMA series is a PC exclusive military simulator and probably one of the most realistic out there. There is a huge mod community behind all three games, and they look fantastic. When I talk about simulators I mean it. A single bullet could kill you and the maps are large and expansive, there’s no hand-holding here. You must cooperate with your squad and everything from physics to not knowing where the hell enemy fire is coming from exists here. It’s some of the most rewarding cooperative squad-based gameplay in existence and it can only be experienced on PC.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Similar to ARMA, but with a little more user-friendly and arcade-like gameplay thrown in. It’s a long-running franchise and it still requires tight cooperation with squad-mates. I picked this up at a bargain bin for PC but didn’t realize how much was involved and never got past the first mission. I appreciated the visuals, the realism, but non of my friends are gamers, so I was stuck playing solo and it wasn’t very fun.
Borderlands was a game no one saw coming. It pretty much created the “looter-shooter” genre that is so popular today. I picked the first game up when it was released and played it solo. It was a lot of fun and had a lot of character, but later games were pretty much the exact same. If you played one Borderlands you played them all. These games are best played with a friend, but the interesting NPCs and weapons keep you coming back despite the dull environments and visuals. The Pre-Sequel is one I couldn’t get through, but it’s not bad. There is also the Telltale Games adventure Tales from the Borderlands which is fantastic and worth a playthrough.
Who would have thought this would be one of the best-selling shooters of all time and continue on for over a decade? Who thought that it would be the most played multiplayer game for that long as well. The first two games in the series were fantastic. Bombastic and well-designed campaigns and revolutionary multiplayer for the time. Both games had impeccably designed maps and the ranking and unlock system became addictive. Tight gunplay, clans, and state-of-the-art visuals helped sell these games. Modern Warfare 3 was just more of the same and people were starting to tire of the series by this point. Surprisingly, the Wii and DS had decent ports as well that were tailored for the hardware.
The first Black Ops game is still the best. The different setting of the Cold War was a nice change of pace and the multiplayer and zombies introduction made it stand out from the crowd. The second game was decent but had the best zombies mode. Black Ops is an interesting experimental side series of the main Modern Warfare series. It was darker, grittier, and had more of a government conspiracy theme to it. There are also great ports to Wii and DS as well. The series has been all over the place since and to be honest feels redundant at this point.
I remember picking this up new shortly after release. Despite being a co-op shooter you really didn’t need to communicate with people to enjoy it. I didn’t have a PC that could run either game at the time so Xbox 360 it was. It played and looked great on the system and had some of the most realistic-looking zombies at the time. Each character felt unique and you really had to pick a way to play and that included the weapons. The maps were well laid out and the fast-paced horde shooter stood out from games like Dead Rising and Resident Evil.
The now-defunct Zipper Interactive developers of the mega-blockbuster SOCOM series decided to take advantage of the PS3 hardware and pit 256 players against each other in a realistic military shooter. The idea was sound on paper, but what we got was a buggy mess. This is about as generic as shooters get. Despite the occasional fun moment running into dozens of enemies in a game that was mostly unheard of outside of PC space, the game just flopped. The level-up system was clever, but the game didn’t sell enough to iron out all the bugs and glitches and sloppy animations. If the game had more time in the oven it could have been bigger than Call of Duty.
I remember being so hyped for this game. While it wasn’t as good as AVP2, it looked amazing, in fact, one of the best-looking games at the time taking full advantage of DirectX 10 on PC, and had a pretty sweet triple campaign all around. The multiplayer was pretty boring, but you felt like the Predator and Alien, but sadly, the Marine campaign was the worst of the three. It’s worth a play-through today.
Fallout 3 was one of the most played games for me of all time. I spent nearly 100 hours between the main game and all four DLCs. The best character in the game was the world. Everything told a story. A skeleton in a washer, text on a computer, a note left on a desk in an empty vault. There was so much detail crammed into this game you could get lost exploring for dozens of hours without completing a single mission. The guns felt good, the game looked mostly decent at the time, but it was a super buggy mess in general. New Vegas was even better with a crafting and ammo system and had a better story and characters to boot. New Vegas looked incredibly dated when it launched and was also a buggy disaster, but eventually got patched and the modding community is insane. It’s one the most modded games of all time and is a must for anyone playing on a PC. Both of these games are full of life and character and if you like RPGs or just great storytelling, you must play them.
Bulletstorm was made by the guys behind the excellent cult classic Painkiller series and some developers from Gears of War. What we got was a bombastic and crazy shooter that wanted combos of carnage to rack up a score and killstreak. It was so fun using your lasso, tossing people up in the air, shooting them down, and even kicking them into environmental death traps. The story and characters were stupid, but it didn’t matter. The game looked fantastic using an advanced version of Unreal Engine 3 and tapped both consoles max power. This is a must-play, and the newly remastered version is the best way to go.
Homefront isn’t just another Call of Duty clone. This one tried to create a story with characters and mostly succeeded. Set in an alternate timeline where North Korea basically takes over the world, you are a rebel group trying to stop them. The beginning scene is one of the most memorable in gaming history. Seeing soldiers execute people and having your bus crash. The cinematic gameplay is tons of fun while it lasts. There’s a lot of humanity pumped into the game so it’s not just another game of Whack-a-Mole. The multiplayer wasn’t good enough to keep the game alive, but the campaign is one entertaining evening.
This was probably one of the most anticipated games of the HD generation. Warren Specter’s return to one of the most popular PC games of all time was a huge welcome. Despite major technical issues, this was one of the first games to use DirectX 11 on PCs and I remember my poor gaming laptop just couldn’t do it. The game looked dated, and pretty awful on consoles, but it gave us tons of choices to approach various situations. Stealth, non-lethal, guns blazing, hacking to get more info to make conversations go your way. It was all up to you. Despite a bland story and uninteresting characters, there was enough here to keep you moving along.
This was kind of a sleeper hit. Despite having an awful story that was almost non-existent and stupid characters, the crafting system and overall open world of killing zombies was a blast. It looked great too at the time and had decent gunplay. Despite the game being a lot of fun while playing it you won’t remember any of it after a while. It’s a very forgettable experience, but it’s not a bad game. There is a clunkiness to the game and lots of bugs and glitches even after a few patches, but it’s one of the only good open-world zombie games out there. Totally skip the “sequel”.
Hard Reset didn’t make it to consoles, but it is a sleeper hit hardcore FPS on PC. The story is lame and pointless, but the cyberpunk graphics, weapons, enemies, and overall atmosphere were fantastic. The ads on the streets trying to sell you products, the weird nearly broken server bots, and the overall color palette of the game are amazing. Sadly, it’s still a linear corridor shooter and can be downright brutal difficulty-wise even on normal. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Red Orchestra Series
Red Orchestra is a multiplayer-only WWII simulator that a lot of people don’t know about because it was never released on consoles. In 2006 Ostfront 41-45 was a major hit on PC with fantastic visuals and realistic gameplay. Get into a tank with several other players and coordinate each part of the tank just like in real life. Weapons fire so accurately that you even had bullet drops and weapons would jam. It was an amazing experience and only got better with Red Orchestra 2 released in 2011. RO2 had a single-player campaign, but it was plagued with crashes and bugs, and sadly, the series has never been as big as Call of Duty despite the care and effort that went into it.
The Payday series is fairly popular as a fun co-op heist game. It’s addictive and can get quite involved and there’s plenty of DLC. The first game wasn’t as good as the second and felt a lot more low-budget and amateurish compared to how great Payday 2 is. The game won’t blow you away visually, but there’s a lot of fun here with tightly made maps, well-balanced classes, and tons of maps to play. If you want a co-op shooter to play with friends it doesn’t get much better than this.
Serious Sam 3 was a long-awaited and highly anticipated game. While it’s mostly well known in the PC and Xbox space, this was the first game to grace Nintendo and Sony consoles. The game had state-of-the-art tech for PC and pushed my poor gaming laptop beyond its limits upon release. It looked great and was a lot of fun during the first play-through. Sadly Serious Sam games are incredibly repetitive wave shooters and it gets old fast. There’s a lot of humor though, and it still looks great today.
Barely related to the series before, Syndicate went from a tactical strategy game to a fast-paced first-person shooter by EA. The game had a lame story and wasn’t very memorable, but it was a lot of fun to play. It had quick gunplay, tight controls, and looked pretty damn good to boot. Sadly, it drowned in the plethora of shooters in the early ’10s and was quickly forgotten and never sold well. Thus, knowing EA and knew IPs, chucked it in the bin to be forgotten forever. It was also one of the last games developed by Starbreeze Studios.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
One of the few times Counter-Strike has been released on consoles, Global Offensive is still played to this day and is the latest version of Counter-Strike. There are still worldwide championships, eSports tournaments, and overall toxicity in the community raining high. Lawsuits, arrests, and SWATTING, Global Offensive is still one of Valve’s juggernaut franchises going strong. There’s a reason for this. It has impeccable map design, solid gunplay that’s well balanced, and the newer loot box system is addictive to those who can’t keep their wallets closed. There are constant updates made to the game and if you haven’t jumped in yet don’t worry, the servers are alive and active with hundreds of thousand of players daily.
Stealth-action games aren’t released very often, and Dishonored was a fantastic mix of stealth and FPS gunplay. The fantastical abilities of Blink and the use of various pistols and knives made the game a ton of fun. The interesting story and characters also helped, but the freedom was awesome too. You could stealth your way through everything or blast your way. The choice was yours. You can also choose to knock out or kill your enemies. There’s also a loot system so you can buy upgrades and ammo and various healing items. The game was dated visually when it was released, but it still had a wonderful art style.
Metro is one of my favorite game series of all time. It was developed by ex-S.T.A.L.K.E.R. creators and they built an amazing atmosphere and weapons system. While the first game’s stealth was flawed and frustrating it still told a chilling tale and had a haunting atmosphere and creepy monster designs. The weapons felt clunky and unreliable and home-built like they might in a post-apocalyptic setting. The game looked and ran best on PC, but the Xbox 360 version was adequate and was the first I played upon release. Later, Last Light pushed my gaming laptop to its limits and didn’t run very well, but it looked absolutely stunning. It looked really dated on PS3 and Xbox 360, but at least it was running well. These are some of the most original shooters for this generation as they weren’t straight-up Call of Duty clones and had no multiplayer!