30. Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
Developer: Infinity Ward
The tipping point between Call Of Duty as a World War II shooter for quiet PC gamers and what it is today, an increasingly sci-fi shooter for very noisy console gamers. Modern Warfare was one of the first post-Half-Life 2 shooters to be a true blockbuster. With its dramatically shifting locations, timelines and perspectives (admittedly much more commonplace today), it successfully destabilised the idea that shooters were about one man running through a bunch of tunnels until he killed the big nasty thing at the end. With some shock outcomes, it also introduced a new sense of mortality to our usually superhuman shooter protagonists. While later CODs overplayed the role of NPC buddies and embraced a numbing cacophony, Modern Warfare managed to retain a sombre, fearful quality despite all the explosions and whatnot. It also set the standard for present-day shooter multiplayer, albeit without quite so much focus on unlockable gizmos.
Notes: Please be sure to play the campaign through to the end, because you’ll unlock the Ragtime Mode, which remains the best cheat mode ever.
Where can I buy it: You can get a remastered version on Steam.
What else should I be playing if I like this: An infinite number of other Call Of Duties, I guess. There’s also the Battlefield series, now COD’s arch-rival. If you want an alternative to this Team America stuff, there’s Spec Ops: The Line, which some people think is an inspired deconstruction of battlefield trauma, while others think it is simply mediocre. Guess which camp we fall into.
Why the expansion pack, and not the original (confusingly named) Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II? Jedi Knight was an exceptional game. As was Dark Forces before it. LucasArts (RIP) were making some of the most remarkable FPS games of the 1990s, though people only tend to remember them for their adventure games. Oddly MOTS offered something less than Jedi Knight itself. The morality choices were gone, fixing you on a path of light, which meant many of the Force powers were no longer available. But what you got instead was a far greater emphasis on the light sabre, realising it as one of the most exciting in-game weapons ever, along with a depth of narrative that was – at this point – rare in the FPS genre. LucasArts were pioneers of the early 3D FPS, and it’s time for that reputation to restored. Also, you can be Darth Vader in multiplayer.
Notes: The 2009 Steam version has a whole host of issues, fixes for many of which are listed here. Reportedly the more recently-released GOG version comes with most compatibility fixes built in.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic does lightsabers by way of roleplaying, and was the precursor to the Mass Effect series. Jedi Knight III is where to look if you just want to stab dudes with lightsabers rather than have to talk them first.
Read more: Our retrospective on Jedi Knight.
28. Crysis (2007)
For many, the golden age of the shooter is the Doom and Duke Nukem 3D era. But there’s another era to remember. The age when several big companies were trying, and often failing, to set all their shooters in an open world. You’ll see STALKER elsewhere in this piece, which is the high watermark as far as I’m concerned, but I have a lot of time for early Crytek’s attempts to offer the player their own playground. Now that they’ve moved into slick and focused linearity, I oddly miss that which I once griped about: their tendency to default to over-powered monsters in the third act out of some (presumed) fear that freeform dude-shooting wasn’t interesting enough for an entire game. At least Crysis, unlike the earlier and in some ways superior Far Cry, hands you fantastical boons too: the highly tactical Nanosuit which enabled superjumps, supersprints and superpunches, wondrous for navigating the huge environments (and getting into huge fights) in the game’s first half. What Crysis does so very well is to give you a generous toolbox. What it eventually does wrong is to lose confidence that the toolbox is enough.
Notes: What should have been the best multiplayer mode in the world sadly wasn’t, and in any case was recently shut down. So if you pick up Crysis, be aware that you’re only getting the singleplayer side of it. Also, no, your PC probably still can’t run it well at max.
What else should I be playing if I like this: The first Far Cry does better and grander island-hopping, semi-stealth warfare to my mind, but there are more irritations and it lacks the glee of the Nanosuit. I’m going to say Prototype if you want more superpowered sandboxing, even though that’s a little underwhelming.
27. Rising Storm (2013)
Developer: Tripwire Interactive
Publisher: Tripwire Interactive
Before the big publishers came bumbling back to World War II, Tripwire’s Red Orchestra series was the de facto torch-bearer for the historical shooter. Far closer to simulation than any Call of Duty or Battlefield, it’s very much a specialist game, with a clarity of vision that delights its audience. Standalone RO2 expansion Rising Storm was where the more realistic (i.e. unforgiving, i.e. brutal) approach to warfare really hit its stride. The asymmetrical sides (American and Japanese), the glut of period weapons, a squad-based ethos and true variety to the maps. This is not about speedy supermen at war, and nor is it about chasing meta-rewards. It is about becoming very skilled at something very difficult: war.
Notes: The Game Of The Year edition includes most of the stuff from Red Orchestra II, so get that version if you can. Even if you don’t, you can get various free content packs via Steam.
What else should I be playing if I like this: There’s Battlefield 1942 if you want a poppier World War II, or if you want more brutal realism, take a look at World War I shooter Verdun.
Read more: Our Rising Storm review.
26. Apex Legends (2019)
Publisher: Electronic Arts
When Respawn said they were making a battle royale game, several mouths in the RPS treehouse opened and breathed out a long, rattling groan, like the ancient croak of dead wood. Not another battle royale for the graveyard, we moaned. Then we got our hands on it. And oh my, Apex, what excellent bumslides you have. What solid shootsing you offer. What a delightful bunch of canyons and swamps you’ve plonked us in. We should have known better than to doubt the makers of Titanfall 2’s robot antics. Since its launch Apelegs has added new characters (with new weirdo skills) and a new map, along with some fun changes to the first congregation of valleys and slums (a giant portal in the sky, a stunt arena with a flaming hoop). It’s such a solid murder hike that our shooty writers Matt, Astrid and Brendy once went on a six-hour dying spree one Sunday, playing match after match until they were exhausted. That’s not even a work day. They could have been in the pub!
Notes: Players love landing in Skull Town for some horrible reason.
Where can I buy it: It’s free-to-play on Origin.
Read more: Our Apex Legends review said it is “the best battle royale game we’re going to see for a long, long time”. Sometimes character abilities combine in surprising ways. A complete guide to all character backstories.
What else should I be playing if I like this: Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds is the other titanic battle royale, as is something called Fortnite.