CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Revolutionary is rarely a word used to describe first-person shooters. It's no surprise, really, given the nature of the genre, which at its core boils down to simply aiming and shooting at whatever threat opposes the player. This hasn't stopped shooters from becoming some of gaming's most popular franchises, with names like "Halo" and "Call of Duty" transcending the gaming world to become pop culture icons.
Recently three of the biggest FPS franchises around released new entries. And even though "Halo 4," "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" and "Far Cry 3" fall short of completely revolutionizing the FPS genre as a whole, they do introduce significant innovations within each brand. Here's a quick look at each game:
Developer: 343 Industries. Publisher: Microsoft. Available for: Xbox 360 ($59.99). Rating: M for mature. Score: 9.2/10
Any concerns over the departure of franchise creator Bungie were put to rest the moment Master Chief awoke from the cryogenic sleep aboard the Forward Unto Dawn. New developer 343 Industries takes the "Halo" series in a bold new direction, placing a renewed emphasis on the story and exploring the relationship between Chief and his AI construct, Cortana.
New enemies, new weapons and a new environment to explore set the stage for the most open-ended "Halo" gameplay yet, allowing players more freedom in how they approach battles. "Halo 4" not only raises the bar for the series from a gameplay standpoint, it is also the most visually stunning "Halo" game to date and one of the most beautiful games I've ever seen. In addition to the outstanding campaign, "Halo 4" delivers a stellar multiplayer suite that should please any fan of the series, including the new episodic Spartan Ops co-op mode.
With "Halo 4" setting the tone for the series' second trilogy, it's clear that the future of Microsoft's marquee franchise is in great hands with 343 Industries.
"Call of Duty: Black Ops II"
Developer: Treyarch. Publisher: Activision. Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 ($59.99). Rating: M for mature. Score: 8.8/10
The "Call of Duty" brand has become one of the biggest in the industry, with each yearly release a cause for celebration amongst hardcore and casual gamers, alike. Sales of "Black Ops II" have already eclipsed the $1 billion plateau, and the popularity of the franchise shows no signs of slowing down.
"Black Ops II" takes the series in a bold new direction, moving the action into the near future and adding an element of player choice through optional objectives into what has otherwise been a rigid campaign. The story that drives the campaign is the most compelling the "Call of Duty" franchise has seen, with players taking on the role of David Mason, the son of "Black Ops" protagonist Alex Mason. The introduction of Strike Force missions adds a layer of strategy that, frankly, the series could do without, but they do have an effect on how the campaign progresses, which is pretty cool.