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Wage war on a budget with 10 fun and free first person shooters for PC and Mac

The landscape for free-to-play shooters is more robust and impressive than ever before, lined with an assortment of notable hits like Team Fortress 2 and the interstellar Planetside followup. They may not offer the same production values as the newest Call of Duty or Halo release, but then again they won’t cost you upwards of $60 either. Here are our top picks for the best free shooters, so you can spend less time entering payment options and more time getting your frag on.

Related: Our favorite, free MMORPGs for when you don’t want to pony up the cash

Team Fortress 2 (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Team Fortress 2

Boasting beautifully-rendered graphics and a well-balanced class system, the lauded Team Fortress 2 still appeals to casual gamers and pros alike, garnering what is still one of the largest player bases on the Steam marketplace more than seven years after its initial debut. The game is a steadfast hybrid of fast-paced combat and intense strategy in which every one of the game’s nine classes exhibits it’s own powerful strengths and crippling weaknesses.

Game modes are straightforward, primarily pitting two teams against one another in an effort to move a cart, capture select points, or steal a briefcase. It’s highly competitive in nature, but it still caters to all skill levels. Like most multiplayer titles, it’s about exploiting the Achilles heel of your enemies while protecting your own, but it still relishes a stylized brand of humor that’s become iconic for the Team Fortress brand. Few games have held up as well over the years, and to be honest, few probably will.

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America’s Army (Windows)

America's Army

Although the U.S. Army originally designed America’s Army as a simple public relations and recruiting tool, the tactical first person shooter series developed enough popular support through the years to warrant multiple sequels and earn community praise. It’s deeply tactical, placing players into small fireteams, while reveling in the modern weaponry and tactical outfits of the day. Instead of offering a bevy of commonplace game modes like free-for-all deathmatches, the title’s assorted game modes are grounded in squad-based combat.

The game still has a slew of bugs, but the utter realism and authenticity of the game’s missions easily overshadow any qualms regarding the subpar visuals and limited map set. America’s Army also requires that players train, use certain weapons, and learn real-world first aid, the latter of which players must properly implement to heal teammates.

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Tribes Ascend (Windows)

Tribes: Ascend

In Tribes Ascend, players maneuver using a jetpack and skis, traversing massive environments at breakneck speeds, whether by their own accord or using a variety of in-game vehicles. The game features a wide variety of modes, and nine unlockable classes, each of which offers its own distinct set of weaponry and skills obtainable through the game’s progression system.

The enormous maps are also great fit for the objective and defense-based game modes, focusing on a breadth of aerial dogfights and mid-air explosions, instead of emphasizing cover and well-rehearsed strategy like most titles. Furthermore, the character models are finely polished, and the gameplay allows up to 32 players to compete in hallmark game modes such as capture the flag, team deathmatch, and five-on-five arena battles. The menu navigation and feature set may not define it, but the high-speed combat and Tribe Ascend‘s consistently-expansive updates certainly do.

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Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux)

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory picked up quite a bit of steam since it was originally released as a multiplayer-only title in 2003. It garnered considerable support for its classic ranking and experience system, die-hard community, and innovative class system – even though the graphics were never quite on par with competitive offerings, even then.

Easy to play but difficult to master, the game allows players to take on the role of either Axis or Allies, pitting them in team-based combat spanning a variety of objective-based scenarios. Up to 32 players can chose from one of five distinct classes and compete on three maps, each of which is linked to an over-arching campaign. However, the title’s true lasting appeal lies within the aforementioned class system, providing a welcome set of battlefield promotions that come coupled with enhanced skills and additional weaponry such as land mines and the mobile MG-42. Moreover, what Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory lacks in coordination, it makes up for with Nazis.

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Splash Damage

Planetside 2 (Windows)

Planetside 2

With planet-spanning battles and three diverse factions, Planetside 2 ups the ante on everyday first person shooters. Everything the player does affects their faction’s success in battle, from killing enemies to buying vehicles and taking enemy control points, all of which takes place on a massive scale featuring lean animation and exceptional skill trees. The diverse combat ensures no two matches are ever the same, placing players against one another in custom tank battles one minute, and urban firefights and aerial onslaughts the next. It all gives players the opportunity to unlock weapons, attachments, skills, and other components through the game’s intuitive leveling system.

The core of Planetside 2 revolves around holding crucial territories and claiming key resources, with hundreds of players fighting it out over the course of multi-day and week-long battles. Turning the tide takes teamwork — and sometimes being a cog in the machine isn’t so bad.

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