December 7 2011
Ever since Quake started offering options for play over the Internet, multiplayer first-person shooters have been a dominant force in online gaming. Today FPS fans have a remarkable variety of settings and mods to choose from. These are the titles I would most recommend for the PC - the list is not based soley on the game's popularity. Hands-on experience, user feedback, and an active community are among the things I consider when compiling these lists. The emphasis is on current games for current computers, not classics that peaked before the turn of the century. They are ultimately just my opinion, so if you feel I've missed something, you're welcome to make a suggestion. If you're looking for free shooters like Quake Live and Team Fortress 2, they are on the top free online shooter list.
The latest addition to the Battlefield series has few rivals when it comes to spectacular graphics and environmental destruction. In this iteration they've brought back jets, 64-player maps on the PC, and several other features not seen in the franchise in a long time, such as deathmatch. Battlefield 3 is a very solid combined arms experience whether you just want to jump in and shoot some guys in the face, or you want to make the effort to get organized enough to work as a team. It has improved on its predecessor, Bad Company 2, and you'll likely get good mileage out of it unless you've completely had your fill of modern warfare FPS games.
Military shooters have become a staple of online gaming, and there seems to be another installment in the Call of Duty series every year now. Call of Duty: Black Ops is the 2010 addition, and once again it offers a robust multiplayer component along with the single-player campaign. Unlike CoD: Modern Warfare 2, the PC version of Black Ops has dedicated servers and it supports up to 24 players online (as opposed to MW2's 18). One new feature that is creating some buzz are the Wager Match modes, which lets people bet CoD Points on the outcome of a match. Along with the expected exotic locations and nifty new weapons, the option to play MP maps against bots has been added, and the ever-popular zombie mode makes a return.
The sequel to the hit horror-themed FPS Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 features a new set of survivors and new melee weapons like axes, chainsaws, and (you guessed it) frying pans. It also has a new multiplayer mode called "Scavenge" and an improved AI Director. You'll fight your way through 5 campaigns set in the cities, swamps, and cemeteries of the Deep South. Left 4 Dead has been highly-praised both for its co-op play and its "Versus" mode, which puts one team on the zombie side.
More a simulation game than a shooter, ArmA 2 goes to great lengths to provide a high level of realism in both infantry and vehicular combat. Proportions are accurate and weapons are detailed replicas of the real thing, although the game uses fictional settings rather than historical ones. ArmA 2 has a very steep learning curve and a default configuration that dispenses with many FPS conventions. Coupled with a sparse GUI and a vast array of controls, the complexity of the game is too much for many people, while the hardcore fans wouldn't have it any other way. There are a variety of multiplayer modes including co-op, but the community is quite small, so finding the kind of match you're looking for isn't always possible. Try the demo before parting with your money. Combined Operations includes both the original and the Operation Arrowhead expansion.