Christmas Buyer’s Guide: FPS and Horror-Survival
Christmas time is coming. Which means you do not only have to buy something for your loved ones. It means finding something to buy for your loved ones. If you think a PC Game is the “just” present for him or her it might be a problem finding the right one. On one hand, you could just go with something that has just came out. So technically the most expensive game, which most likely in the past week got nothing but 10/10 praise. But, there is the alternative, you could buy something “special”.
This is the first part of our Christmas Buyer’s Guide series.
You can find links to all the games suggested here at the bottom of the guide.
This “Guide” is not so much the perfect shopping guide on how to buy games, but rather, a short list of games which I consider exceptional, not too mainstream, and as such likely to tickle anybody’s “happiness” bone. I will create a few subsections, all of which will answer to a specific genre. It might be hard, of course, to tell which game a person plays, but it really does not hurt to ask, check out their Steam/XBox Profile or anything equivalent. Let us start off with the most “popular” game genre (as far as I know) out there. The FPS games.
Do not be afraid to tell what you plan on buying, and do say why!
FPS games are plentiful. There are so many of them one could lose sanity merely glancing at their sheer number. But, luckily (or unluckily) for you, a lot of them are generic “Copy-Pastes” of one another, where the mechanics stay more or less the same, with a slightly differing story (debatable) and ever more pumped out graphics.
There are some classics worth trying out before you take on the “rising stars” (I am looking at you MW3 and BF3). It is hard, however, not to tread on the balance between Horror and FPS games (since the Horror section will have its own list). Let us kick off with a mildly old title, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, is what I considered a very first solid attempt at combining a relatively big map, with scavenging elements. Chernobyl went wonky, anomalies began appearing all over the place, and all manner of creatures became mutated monstrosities which are bigger, more frightening and often more deadly than their “normal” counterparts. You are a Stalker. No, you do not stalk people. You are essentially a freelance mercenary, who in his free time searches around the the darkest corners of Chernobyl looking for artefacts. Small items which are worth a bit of cash, and which offer all manner of useful properties (such as, stopping bleeding, granting you more speed or making you more resistant to radiation). You are the “Marked One”, a Stalker who is found in a toppled government “Death Truck”, and brought over to recover. All that is found on your person is a note which simply stated “Kill Strelok”, which leads you to begin your journey of finding the mysterious Strelok, which in the long run makes you realise the depth of the entire plot.
It might not have the best graphics, since the game is back from 2007. But what it cannot make up in graphics, it makes up in gameplay. Sneaking, searching, fighting, is the essence of Stalker. You get to use the weapons you want to use, with a limited inventory, being able to scavenge weapons from downed opponents, as well as any other useful items they might had had. There is a multiplayer, which today seems not used at all, but the number of mods adding a lot of spice to the game make it well worth the purchase. And of course, it is cheap. You could buy one of the newer sequels of the game, but if you had to make a serious choice here, buy the newest one (Call of Pripyat) not because it is the most expensive one, but because it contains all the content from Shadow of Chernobyl but also a spoonful more.
If you are after a multiplayer experience you could buy one of the “obvious” titles, such as a Battlefield game, or a Modern Warfare game, but you might as well get yours a Counter-Strike: Source. This game, is as old as they get, and more importantly it is really basic. It’s a team based shooter, one side being the terrorists the other being the Counter-Terrorists. There are a few map modes (VIP, Hostage, Bomb) and one side has to complete the objective, while the other one has to stop the objective from happening. There are no stats, or ranks, all you have to do is complete objectives/kill enemies to gather funds, then buy better weapons and equipment at the start of the next round, or pick them up from dead team mates/foes. It is still lively and popular, and although you need to learn how to work the game quickly (so that you do not end up at the bottom of the list) you cannot go any better than CS:S. Since it is using the Source Engine it does not look that outdated either. So just grit your teeth if you cannot destroy every single wall you see.
Lastly, if you are after gore, Painkiller. I really cannot say much about the game, other than you being one bad-ass mother-hubbard, using a mobile staking gun to impale enemy’s onto walls and other obstacles. You have a wide selection of guns, multiple enemies and it is always about one thing, killing everything that moves. You jump between numerous different maps and settings, with highly climatic boss fights, and graphics which to the “scholarly eye” will look outdated, certainly do not feel that way. In terms of story you (Daniel) and your wife (Catherine) are driving a car, and have an accident where both of you die. Catherine goes to heaven, while you remain in purgatory. In order to reunite with your wife you have to beat down an invasion from Hell which threatens heaven and so begins your lengthy crusade to defeat the armies of hell… it might seem cliché and simple minded, but hey, Painkiller is about causing Pain not deep philosophical pondering. There were some stand-alone expansions about, which although add more content are not really needed until you try the first original Painkiller. There is a Demo about so in case you are in need of testing it beforehand be free to do so! Just do not get sucked in.
If WW2 is your thing, give Red Orchestra 1 a go. Certainly, RO2: Heroes of Stalingrad is considered on a few levels better, but RO1 is still very fun, and there is a sizeable number of people playing it online. Even if it does not tickle your fancy that much, the Axis Soviet conflict there is a huge free expansion Dark Hour where as the US/Commonwealth you are pitted against the Axis, from 1944 onward. Although you cannot try a demo anywhere consider these facts. There are no stats and levels. Tanks have only three slots (most of the time) and AI does not fill up the empty slots. When a server has custom content it will be downloaded onto your PC (be it new vehicles, maps, or anything else really). Some would say the maps are much bigger, which is true, but the bigger the map, the longer the came could last (and you might never see the foe even!).
FPSs are usually action oriented. What about Horror-Survival games? A cheap thrill or a terrorising experience? We have something for that too!
Amnesia the Dark Descent tops my chart. It is terrifying. If you ever hoped to play a game that is both original and using a lot of pre-seen horror methods, but expertly, this is the title. This is not some cheap “Hack ‘n Slash” where you find an axe and chop away at enemies. Here, everything is your foe, and you must think quickly in order to survive. You cannot fight an enemy outright, most of the time you have to hide and pray to god you were not spotted, then run down a dark hall when your lantern runs out of oil and you hide inside a dark room, close the door and then listen how the… “Things” are smashing against the wooden boards, about to butcher you. This is not for the soft-hearted, and try as you may Amnesia knows how to drag you down into insanity together with itself.
Project Zomboid is also up there. Even though the producers had numerous problems in the past their title was not at all affected. In Project Zomboid you and your wife end up in a deserted house and you (being the husband) have to do whatever is necessary for your and your wife’s survival. The problem, are zombies. Lots, and lots, and lots of zombies. Unlike in other Zombie games Project Zomboid states blatantly “You will not survive here, if you do not think”. You character will get hungry, can get wounded, if seen will be followed by the undead, and in future updates you will clench your teeth whenever you hear a single moan. See, one of the selling points of Project Zomboid as a Survival-Horror is that any damage suffered from a zombie carries with itself the chance of being infected. Since there is no cure to be found you always have to be extra careful when facing even a single zombie. It always feels everything is against you (which is indeed the case) but without a challenge what is the point in Survival-Horror. Now, although the game is not finished you can buy it early and get access to the newest versions all the time. Give the Demo a go if you are undecided but you should definitely consider it.
Metro 2033 is not a bad choice either. Although it has that ever present STALKER feeling the truth is that it’s much more linear, and the emphasis on the horror element is somewhat clearer. Do not take me wrong STALKER also has its horror moments, however there are way more action and stealth elements in STALKER than in Metro. To name one scene, when myself and a group of other soldiers were passing through a gigantic air lock of sorts mutants of different sorts began pouring into the dark, claustrophobic room from every single air duct present. Or when you have an encounter with “Shadows”, which appear to act like the haunting spirits of the dead, unable to acknowledge that their time is up and they should move on. It is much more demanding hardware wise than STALKER, as such you should double check before a purchase that it will run on your computer/laptop. Do note the lack of a multiplayer, but the singleplayer campaign should more than cover your needs.
Alex “WriterX” Bielski
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