A first-person shooter is like comfort food: They’re unhealthy, they’re not subtle, and they’re best enjoyed in pajamas when no one is looking. The holiday winter is around the corner and threatens to keep us indoors, so you’ll probably want to snuggle up and shoot noobs in the face with a shotgun.
But what’s the best game for that? Inverse has selected the biggest, baddest triple-A FPS games since September and broke them down to a few categories:
Campaign: Does it have a single-player story?
Co-Op: Can you play the story with friends?
Multiplayer: Can you play online?
Split-Screen: Can you play with friends sitting next to you?
Replay Value: Will you want to keep playing?
How Different Is It?: Because you could still play GoldenEye on N64 instead.
Destiny: The Taken King (Available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Bungie’s first original game since Halo came in the form of Destiny, a sci-fi hybrid online FPS. It had a rocky freshman year but is now the popular kid in school after the great The Taken King expansion made seriously necessary changes.
Campaign: There is a story mode. It’s not very good and suffers from repetition until you play the actual Taken King expansion which is marginally better.
Co-Op: 4 players can play story mode missions, PvE (player vs. environment) playlists, and compete in PvP (player vs. player) multiplayer.
Multiplayer: It’s excellent. PvP matches are called “The Crucible” and have their own variations of skirmishes, from straight deathmatches to variations like king of the hill. There are also PvE missions that allow you to team up with friends or strangers to take on raids and “strike” missions, which are basically you against a giant horde of enemies in a closed space.
Replay Value: Your mileage may vary. Destiny was criticized for being grind-heavy, but there’s a reason people felt compelled to keep going: It’s fun! And The Taken King improved leveling and valuable loot drops, so just playing in general will net you XP. If you easily see through the “grind” in games you’ll be turned off within the first few hours, but it’s a much better experience than last year.
How Different Is It? Destiny is a marriage between MMO and first-person shooters. The MMO aspects come out in between missions, when you’re at The Tower or other social spaces and see players buying equipment, weapons, dancing with each other, or talking to the Vanguards to accept their next mission. There isn’t a “party chat” function like in other MMOs, which is odd, but it’s certainly different than Halo or Call of Duty. I wish clans were a bigger thing.
Halo 5: Guardians (Available now for Xbox One)
Under new management since Halo 4, Halo 5: Guardians is a huge improvement over 343 Studios’ previous 2012 outing. The game continues the overly complicated story of the Master Chief going rogue against the UNSC to rescue his beloved Cortana, who has gone to the dark side or something. Stars Nathan Fillion from Firefly and Castle. (No, really.)
Campaign: Of course there is, and it’s probably the weakest part of the whole game. It’s not engaging. Is 2010’s Reach the last time Halo had anything close to a good story?
Co-Op: 4 players, and it’s probably the best way to enjoy the campaign.
Multiplayer: Oh yes. In addition to expected multiplayer variations, there is the massive Warzone, a 24-player fight with objectives but enemy A.I. Covenant and Forerunners are there to mess up everyone’s party. Microsoft is also holding the officially sanctioned “Halo Championship Series,” their official dive into eSports. The prize pool is at $1 million.
Replay Value: You don’t control a character who levels up, you just have a profile that goes up in rank with no major difference except armor pieces. The playlist variations are enough to keep you and your friends busy for a few months.
How Different Is It? Actually not very different from other FPS games or even Halo, but it is refreshing. Guardians plays differently than previous Halo entries in regards to its core gameplay, but Destiny remains the best shooter when it comes to actual shooting.
Fallout 4 (Available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
If there’s any game you’re looking to get lost in, Fallout 4 is your best bet. More of an open-world RPG than it is a “shooter,” Bethesda’s post-nuclear romp through a wasteland is going to force gamers across the seas to call in sick for the week.
Campaign: Yeah, it’s the only thing. Not to undersell Fallout, of course, but there’s no multiplayer. It’s not that kind of game.
Co-Op: No. There’s no multiplayer.
Split-Screen: [sigh] No.
Replay Value: The entire campaign, basically. Reviewers are estimating some 50 to 70 hours in the main adventure.
How Different Is It? From other Fallout games there are key distinctions, but against other FPS games this season it’s the most “player experience” focused. While the story may be disengaging, that has never been Fallout’s real sell. It’s letting you loose in a world that’s collapsed. Joseph Campbell isn’t needed here.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Available now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
It’s Call of Duty cranked way the hell up. Continuing the Black Ops tradition, the game takes place further into the future in the year 2065, so you’re playing with a lot of speculative weaponry like nano-bots and remote drone hacking.
Campaign: On Xbox One and PlayStation 4 only. If you’re gaming on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, you can only play online multiplayer and Zombies.
Co-Op: 4 players in Zombies, 2 in campaign.
Multiplayer: Campaign, Zombies, and the traditional multiplayer can be played online.
Split-Screen: For Xbox One and PlayStation 4 only. It is unavailable for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Replay Value: The multiplayer will hold you for how long it typically does and the campaign isn’t too difficult on Veteran. But you could try “Realistic,” in which you’re killed after one shot.
How Different Is It? Here’s the thing: It plays great, it looks gorgeous, and it gives you what you want from Call of Duty. It tries new things but it’s still totally Call of Duty, so “different” isn’t part of its strategy. Compared to other games on this list it’s probably the most quintessential FPS, but if you’re someone who wants that then Black Ops III is perfect.
Star Wars: Battlefront (Available November 17 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
Whatever fantasies you had about Star Wars, the new Star Wars Battlefront is how you live them out. EA and DICE went into development with that particular philosophy in mind. You play as either soldiers of the Rebel Alliance or an Imperial Stormtrooper. Tear shit up in battle and you’ll be able to control the likes of Luke, Vader, Boba Fett, and Leia, Han, and even the Emperor.
Campaign: If you were hoping to recreate moments from the movies beat for beat, Battlefront won’t let you. It is entirely a multiplayer game with some offline missions you can do solo, online, or with friends on your couch.
Co-Op: 4 players can engage in co-op missions or multiplayer.
Multiplayer: Hell yes. Up to 40 players across 12 maps (at launch) recreated to excruciating detail from the movies.
Split-Screen: Only for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Replay Value: The game hasn’t come out yet so it’s difficult to evaluate, but you are able to unlock weapons and gear and customize characters. Unlocked items can be shared with teammates during battle.
How Different Is It? It’s using the Star Wars license to its utmost. This isn’t a game so much as it is a giant virtual collection of Star Wars toys that are unbelievably real and you’re playing with people from around the world. It’s disappointing it isn’t allowing you to relive the movies, so you can’t be Luke fighting Vader like in Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Available December 1 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
The Tom Clancy games are back. While The Division stole the show at this past E3 and is probably the real new Tom Clancy game to look forward to, Rainbow Six Siege is promising fun co-op missions in destructible environments. There is a heavy emphasis on tactics so you can’t just run and gun. You have to think too.
Campaign: There is no single-player campaign, but the game does have a unified setting. Actress Angela Bassett plays Six, a new leader who resurrected the Rainbow Program and she’s leading them to war with a new enemy, the White Masks whose goals are unknown.
Co-Op: It’s the game’s entire sell. Up to 5 players online can take on “Terrorist Hunt” missions which can also be played solo. At E3, Ubisoft showed off a suspenseful hostage rescue.
Multiplayer: Available, but unlike most shooters there’s an emphasis on strategy. Players will pick classes with separate perks, abilities, and equipment, so not everyone is exactly shooting from the hip.
Split-Screen: Nope, and Reddit is pissed.
Replay Value: Like Star Wars: Battlefront the game isn’t released yet so it’s difficult to judge. There are characters and weapon skins to unlock and the game supports microtransactions.
How Different Is It? Um. So the game hopes to hook you with co-op and hardcore strategy. This isn’t a game where you can rain down bullets, it’s all about picking your spots. If you have three friends willing to dive in it could be a lot of fun, but compared to the rest of the games this season it might be the weakest.