Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
You probably have. For years, Tyrian 2000 was as close as the PC got to a truly great vertical shooter, in a field of... well, basically three. Tyrian was great. Apogee's Major Styker pretty much sucked. Raptor: Call Of The Shadows was initially pretty, but a bit of a bore. Was Tyrian great compared to the greatest shooters on other platformers? No. But compared to the competition in the 90s, it was an arcade revelation.
It's not just the shooting, across a zillion planets and with about as many updates. It's that Tyrian was a box of toys that never seemed to run out. Just when you thought you'd seen everything, it would casually give you a code for a ship that looked like a carrot. Every new upgrade was exciting, and married to a surprisingly complex story of main character Trent versus the evil Microsol corporation, evil ales and weirder. My favourite part though was the DESTRUCT code, which unlocked a real-time, two-player spin on the old Scorched Earth that I remember thinking had the potential to be turned into a full game. With somewhat better graphics, of course.
Tyrian, in short, had everything. It was shareware at its most exciting and generous, offering something that the big commercial companies had no real interest in bringing to the PC, and providing yet more proof that the PC could go toe to toe with the consoles. The absolute best in vertical shooters? No. But chances are that if you were playing one on the PC at all back then, it was good enough, and it's still pretty fun. Best of all? The whole thing is available on GOG.COM for free.