For many first-person shooters, including a multiplayer mode is almost mandatory. Whether your personal preference is Quake, Call of Duty or something in-between, there’s certainly no shortage of shooters to rope your friends into playing with you, either competitively or cooperatively. Even the open source scene has a fair selection, with free games such as Xonotic and Warsow available.
However, there are still a number of good FPSes out there which, for one reason or another, have flown under the radar. They might have too few servers, appealed to a very specific niche or are merely just victims of bad luck. Today we’ll be examining a few of these commercial classics which should definitely appear at more LANs.
Any of the Serious Sams
The Serious Sam games are already a maniacal frag-fest in single player, but multiplayer deathmatch ups the ante considerably. However, the main reason for its inclusion on this list is for the excellent cooperative campaigns that feature in every title. There’s nothing quite like implementing the highest difficulty and taking on an endless assault of monsters as a team; indeed, it’s the ideal party game with tons of laughs guaranteed and is best experienced with loads of junk food and beer.
Players are spoiled for choice: there’s The First Encounter and The Second Encounter, Serious Sam 2, Serious Sam 3: BFE, the HD remakes and the fan-led Serious Sam Classics: Revolution, with assorted DLC, mods and community maps available. Picking the best of the bunch is nigh-impossible, because they’re all damn fine and they were all designed from the ground-up with co-op in mind.
All are available on Steam, which means there’s plenty of hours of readily-available fun guaranteed. You’ve really got no excuse not to experience it.
Quake 4 is a pretty cool FPS that fans of the genre often count amongst their favourites, but the multiplayer aspect didn’t impress reviewers at the time. Simply put, it never lived up to the hype and community of its much more famous predecessor. It’s a crying shame too, because this game’s deathmatch is every bit as enjoyable as anything else in the Quake series.
Keeping in line with the overall story, its deathmatch mostly eschews Quake III‘s occult themes and instead relies on dark, gritty sci-fi and industrial tropes. Weapons are an updated mixture of what was seen in the previous titles, though the balance is different and new strategies must be considered. Power-ups from Quake III are present, along with the familiar announcer whose voice we’ve had imprinted on our memories.
It’s still up for grabs on Steam, and a cursory Google search will reveal a surprisingly large amount of third-party maps to expand your experience. If you wanna get in some practice offline, I recommend the SABot multiplayer bot. Be warned though: they’re quite brutal, even on the easiest difficulty.
Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
The original Half-Life was quite popular online back in the day. The second game’s multiplayer never reached the same recognition: perhaps it was Valve’s decision to release it as a separate, paid product. Whatever the reason, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch is a considerably more obscure entry in the Half-Life series, and as such has an incredibly small community. Which is a damn shame, because this game is good, old-fashioned fragging fun with a few interesting twists.
The biggest draw is the inclusion of Half-Life 2‘s famous gravity gun, which is available to all players from the onset. Everybody can pick up and throw various objects in order to crush one another with savage glee. It’s obviously just an excuse to demonstrate the Source engine’s highly flexible physics, but it actually works really well. The included map list is kinda sparse, but they’re extremely playable and are modified versions of the game’s single-player levels which gives them a novel quality. There’s also a slew of third-party maps available which you’ll likely find on rotation on the last remaining servers.
The game is still being sold on Steam for a measly $4.99. Get the goods here.
Nexuiz (the 2012 commercial version)
Nexuiz started out as fairly popular freeware FPS based on a heavily-modified Quake 1 engine. It was so popular, in fact, that it was picked up by a commercial publisher and released in 2012 as a paid product. This version, developed by IllFonic and published by THQ, is based on CryEngine 3 and bears almost no resemblance to its free predecessor, which has since been spun off into Xonotic.
Nexuiz‘s emphasis lies on team deathmatch and extensive use of game-altering mutators, which are often swapped around several times in a single match. It plays havoc with the overall balance and often serves no practical purpose whatsoever, but it’s clearly meant to be far more lighthearted than most competitive shooters, particularly with the weird alien weapons, bright visuals and electronic soundtrack.
You may have noticed that I mentioned THQ earlier. That’s the bad news: thanks to the company not existing anymore, Nexuiz has all but disappeared from retail and no longer shows up in the Steam store. Folks who purchased it on Valve’s platform can no longer even run it, though the included beta version will still operate. Even worse, all servers have been taken offline, so chances are you won’t be able to play it any time soon. If you’re one of the few who got a copy before it went under and you have a friend to play with, consider yourself lucky. Hopefully we’ll see a revival in the future.
Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force’s Holomatch
A decent FPS whose main attraction was placing gamers inside the USS Voyager right at the height of the Star Trek spin-off’s popularity. It was pure fan service as players got to use weapons and encounter characters straight from the TV series.
The multiplayer aspect, amusingly called Holomatch, sent the game back to its Quake III: Arena roots, complete with all the familiar Star Trek tropes; yes, that means you can shoot Borg with your phaser (which is permanently set to kill) and other goofy, futuristic weapons. The maps are often more interesting than those in Quake III‘s roster, though the action is noticeably slower-paced. Regardless, it’s a refreshing change from the darker, gorier tone of most of the other games on this list.
Getting a copy these days might prove a bit difficult as the game can’t be found on GOG.com or Steam. You may have better luck scrounging around Amazon or any second-hand store.
Ah, SiN. In the aftermath of Half-Life, SiN and its peers had a lot to live up to. Despite some innovative features for the time, the game was plagued with bugs and glitches which pretty much rendered the experience intolerable. Later patches fixed these issues, but it was too late and the damage was already done. It’s actually an underrated classic that doesn’t deserve to be consigned to the trash can of history, and the multiplayer is still an absolute blast to this day.
Based on the Quake II engine, deathmatch romps have that classic feel that made id’s games so famous, but the weapons are more varied and the maps are more interesting. It famously includes a macro map wherein players can duke it out as if they’re the size of mice in a gigantic room. For better or worse, this started a minor trend in shooter games and is still featured in some titles, including the popular freeware game World of Padman.
These days you can obtain SiN and its expansion from GOG.com, which includes fixes to make it run on modern systems. If you can’t find anyone to play with or you feel you need some offline practice, you can always install these third-party bots which actually play pretty well.
Are there any other titles you feel we missed? Let us know in the comments section below!