May 3 2011Free alternatives for 3D shooter fans have grown rapidly in recent years, driven in part by micro-transaction revenue models. Military settings are among the most popular, but other popular and more casual themes are finding their way into these games as well. While the graphics are often a generation or two behind retail games, the price is definitely hard to beat. These are some of our favorite free online shooters for the PC.
This is a stand-alone remake of the famous Team Fortress mod for Quake that helped popularize online gaming back in the late 90s. Team Fortress 2 isn't the most sophisticated multiplayer shooter on the market, but it recaptures the player classes and teamplay of earlier games in the series beautifully. It features a distinctly cartoonish appearance that fits it extremely well and gives it an extra dose of character. It has received steady updates since its release in 2007, including plenty of new maps, and recently, a cosmetic item shop.
2. Quake Live
Quake is a landmark title in the history of the FPS genre, although it has been largely overshadowed by military shooters. Quake Live is essentially a free version of Quake 3 Arena with extensive stats and social features, launched through a Web browser. The graphics are dated, but the download is small, and is has a large variety of arenas and game modes. If you haven't played Quake in a long time you can brush up your skills against bots offline. It may not have the fanciest technology, but there aren't many free shooters as accessible or as competitive as Quake Live.
This sci-fi FPS from Hi-Rez Studios is set in a future where teams of special operatives are fighting against each other and an oppressive world government. Global Agenda has 3 classes, jet packs, and, like so many other recent shooters, an extensive progression system that lets you unlock a large array of high-tech weaponry. There are instanced matches of various sizes with maps for both PvE and PvP.
ijji hosts several F2P online shooters, the most recent of which is Alliance of Valiant Arms. This military FPS game has 3 classes, consisting of long-range snipers, short-range point men, and more versatile rifle men. AVA has a good selection of highly customizable guns and around 8 different match types. It uses Unreal 3 graphics engine and has impressive visuals for a F2P offering.
A mixture of shooter and simulation game, World of Tanks features 15 vs. 15 matches in a wide variety of WWII tanks. It does fast, multiplayer tank battles like no other game out there, and it's a nice change from the heaps of infantry-based shooters. They're onto something with this concept, but it currently only has one play mode, and it could really use tighter matchmaking, as well as larger maps with more players.
6. Combat Arms
Similar in some ways to Counter-Strike, Combat Arms is a F2P military-themed shooter from Nexon. The visuals aren't that sophisticated, but there is a good selection of game types and maps. Nexon has steadily added new weapons and items to the game since launch, so there is now a very large arsenal to acquire. Although quite conventional, Combat Arms is a solid shooter that's good for some fast, furious, fun.
SplashDamage and Activision released Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory as a free game right from the start, and unlike many F2P games, in this case there really are no strings attached. This is an excellent multiplayer first-person shooter built on the Quake 3 engine, with solid objective-oriented gameplay and a rudimentary experience system. It's also mod-friendly and open source. The player base has dwindled a little in recent years, but it remains more popular than later releases like Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.
EA's light-hearted shooter, Battlefield Heroes, is a major departure from earlier Battlefield releases. It has a cartoon-inspired look, comical characters, and installs through a Web browser. You play as either a Gunner, Soldier, or Commando and it offers an assortment of weapons and vehicles. They're hoping it will appeal to a more casual audience than hardcore shooters, so they've kept the learning curve and the system requirements very manageable.
If you were into online shooters at the turn of the century, you may have fond memories of playing the Tribes series. The games have since been made available for free, but the official authentication servers for Tribes 2 were shut down in 2008. The community bounced back with TribesNext, a mod that restores the game's multiplayer functionality. You can get both the mod and the game on their site, which has a server list as well. It is, however, showing it's age, and the player base is greatly diminished.