Shoot ’em up
Dead Nation — $8
Walking Dead, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising.. you get the idea. Zombie games are more ubiquitous than ever before, yet they still possess the uncanny ability to spur great video games. As a top-down shooter crafted by the same developing team as Super Stardust HD, Dead Nation treads a dimly-lit path in which the player must scour ten richly-detailed environments and combat a never-ending scourge of undead while collecting gold and searching for a cure for the virus that started it all. The two-stick gameplay is straightforward, regardless if you’re playing alone or alongside a companion online, yet it finds distinct grounding in the vast upgradeable arsenal and the sweeping magnitude of hidden bonuses. The plot and character design is ho-hum and lifeless — pun intended — but the incredibly eerie environments and assorted difficulty settings make it a quick thrill worthy of a second romp. That is, if you don’t get too frustrated by the spikes in difficulty.
Battlefield 1943 — $10
As you much as you might hope, few people play Battlefield solely for the single-player campaign. The multiplayer component of the title has always been where the FPS has thrived, fortified by supreme gameplay mechanics and an impeccably-balanced class system featuring your standard infantry unit, antipersonnel scout, and long-distance riflemen. The three Pacific-rigged maps may not be as dynamic and eye-popping as those coming to next-gen consoles — the game is going on 5-years-old at this point — but the tanks, planes, jeeps and other muscly vehicles add a greater amount of depth and tactical strategy to an otherwise lean and barebones shooter. Also, note that the title is exclusively built for multiplayer, meaning there’s no single-player campaign even offered, and pits two teams and up to 24 players against one another in varied WWII-era campaigns under a limited set of victory conditions.
Super Stardust HD — $10
To me, Super Stardust HD has always been the kind of game you get when you splice Atari’s Asteroids with Bizarre Creations’ Geometry Wars and Nintendo’s Super Mario Galaxy. It’s essentially an updated version of the former Stardust title, coupled with the same nonexistent plot and simple controls, but retrofitted for the high-def age. With Super Stardust HD, players pilot a space fighter atop a spherical shield surrounding five different planets, obliterating anything and everything in sight using either an upgradeable laser, shard gun or flamethrower. The arcade shooter can get especially tricky, especially when maneuvering alongside a buddy via local play, yet the sheer number of particles bombarding you at any one moment is a hallmark not hinderance. Like similar titles, the load times are minimal, the enemies varied, and the replay value high. Still, boss battles can still be a real bitch.
Sine Mora — $10
I’m sorry, but the classically-inspired, horizontal shooters of yesteryear have been beaten like a dead horse. However, Sine Mora is not one of the aforementioned titles. It’s a challenging horizontal shooter yes, but it’s cleverly rooted in time manipulation and a brutally-disheartening story revolving around a cohort of humanoid animals in the vain of Star Fox & Co. The short game catapults players into the beautifully-rendered, diesel-punk airspace of Seol — one dappled with typical 2D conventions such robust bosses and brawny power-ups — yet it relies on a more advanced time component than the generic health bar found on most shooters. Whereas being shot in a typical shooter may decrease the number of remaining lives, being shot in Sine Mora will decrease the amount of time you have left while destroying enemies will have the adverse effect. It may look kiddish at times, but forewarned, the anthropomorphic cat has a foul month.
Crysis — $20
Crysis may not have aged like a fine pinot gris since its initial 2007 release on high-end PCs, but that hasn’t made the first-person shooter any less worthy of picking up in the six years in between. Aside from the visual downgrades, the console version is nearly identical to the PC version, centered around one Nanosuit-clad soldier who must overcome an army of North Korean soldiers and an alien menace on an island in the Philippines. Despite the nerfed visuals, the expansive environments still look remarkably great, strengthened by a suspenseful soundtrack and fitting effects. The game’s phenomenal emphasis on choice is as rollicking as ever and equipped with an open-ended design sure to encourage a myriad of strategies in either combat and stealth scenarios. Even though the checkpoint system and AI are prone to disappoint on more than one occasion, as outlined in our Crysis Console review, it’s still a stroll down memory lane worth taking.
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