Whether your preferred weapon of choice is an MP5 or a plasma assault rifle, the extensive list of shooters on the PC has an epic history that stretches right back to ID Software’s Hovertank 3D – a predecessor to Wolfenstein and Doom released in 1991 by the (now) legendary ID Software.
After the enormous success of Doom and other shooting games that ruffled sensitive feathers back in the early 90s, the first-person shooting genre is packed full of titles spanning virtually every country, world or theme you could ever think of.
We’ve rounded up some of the most overlooked PC shooters you might not have played that are still worth playing today – many of which can be played on a computer with very modest specifications.
Created by the men who brought you the Unreal Tournament and Gears of War franchises, Bulletstorm is most definitely one of the most underrated games to come out of Epic Studios. Despite the positive reception from critics in 2011, Bulletstorm was little more than a blip on the radar of most gamers at the time.
Whilst it may not have sold as well as Electronic Arts would have liked, Bulletstorm is a loveable, ridiculous romp that rewards players for the most ludicrous and creative kills imaginable.
If you have fond memories of Serious Sam, you’ll be right at home with this shooter that’s also particularly pretty, and is a blast in both single player and online co-operative modes.
2. Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix
In 2002, gamers looking for a more realistic alternative to Counter-Strike were treated to Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix – Raven’s second title in the series. As well as a gory single player campaign, it offered an intense multiplayer first-person experience with six game types that are now the bread and butter of modern shooters.
The original was known for its graphical violence, which was only exaggerated further in the sequel’s single-player campaign, with more realistic physics and up to 36 ‘gore’ zones that allowed for gruesome dismemberment.
With a combination of the real life weapons and a star-studded voice acting line-up that included Mark Hamill, Double Helix became somewhat of an unsung classic that – at one time – was one of the most popular multiplayer shooters on PC.
3. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
If you’re looking for an online World War II shooter that’s steeped in history, then Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad should most definitely be on your must-play list.
Set in the battlegrounds of the famous Battle of Stalingrad, this realistic first-person shooter is a far cry from the more forgiving WW2 shooters in the Medal of Honour and Call of Duty series. To hit a target cleanly, bullet drop and spin must be taken into account, and if you forget to manually check your ammo or don’t manage to use the limited cover successfully, you’ll need to bandage your wounds to avoid losing too much blood.
The standalone expansion ‘Rising Storm’ was released in 2013, taking the theatre of war to the Pacific whilst further improving the realism and map variety.
Prey became somewhat of a joke amongst PC gamers in the late 90s and early 2000s, as it seemed to have been cursed with the same never-ending delays that plagued Duke Nukem Forever. When it finally arrived in mid-2006, the game was positively received and went on to sell more than one million copies. Beyond the slightly stereotypical depictions of Native American culture shoehorned into a few too many grey environments, there’s a shooter that is genuinely worth playing.
Powered by ID’s Doom 3 engine (known as Tech 4), the game employed gravity tracks and portals (before the idea was taken on by Valve in Portal) that allow you to guide your character (and his spirit-hawk) up walls and onto ceilings aboard a giant alien space ship.
Don’t let the Doom associations fool you, there’s plenty of gameplay variety and the weapons are amongst the most unusual ever created for a space shooter. One particularly unusual level sees the protagonist Tommy shrunk down to a minuscule size to fight aliens on a planet no larger than a football.
5. The Darkness 2
Released in 2012, The Darkness 2 is yet another sequel on our list of overlooked shooters, and whilst the original is arguably the better game, it was never released on the PC; fortunately the second title is still most definitely worth playing – if you can hack it.
The action is pretty rampant from the beginning, and offers a unique dynamic of quad-wielding a variety of weapons as well as a massive tentacle and pet demons to summon. There is a never ending array of ways to violently do away with the onslaught of baddies as well as a dark/light system that gives the game a tactical edge.
A twisting and turning story features gangsters alongside demons and psychiatric ward nurses, whilst a separate cooperative campaign allows up to four people to slay their way through a story that runs parallel to the main campaign.
6. Star Wars: Republic Commando
Although most Star Wars games are set in predictable territory of the good guys slicing and dicing their way through waves of faceless Stormtroopers, Republic Commando gives players an insight into the world of an elite squad commander set just before the events of Episode 3.
A simple shooter this is not. On your quest to destroy any Wookie that stands in your way, you must use your squad’s talents to your advantage, which adds a perilous tactical edge to what could have easily been a more mundane arcade-style shooter.
Originally released on Xbox and PC back in 2005, Republic Commando is widely considered one of the better Star Wars games around, and although it’s starting to look a little dated by modern standards, it is still a very playable game (though you’re unlikely to have much luck finding an active multiplayer game).
7. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger
If you’re bored of the same old space and war-themed shooters, then Call of Juarez: Gunslinger came as somewhat of a breath of fresh air to the genre in 2013.
This arcade-style cowboy shooter improved on the original in many respects, and ditched the multiple protagonists in favour of a single lead – the enigmatic Silas Greaves. The gameplay revolves around Greaves recounting his stories to men in a bar, a story that wavers and deviates as he retells it, causing the game’s environment to change dramatically – depending on whether the other men in the bar challenge his lies and inconsistencies.
Pretty Old West-inspired graphics and fun gameplay mechanics combine with a slew of experience points, specialist weapons and collectibles to give the game genuine replay value.
8. Spec Ops: The Line
War is a sensitive subject, and few modern shooters manage to balance the macho idea of war with the sensitivity of such murderous scenarios. Spec Ops: The Line was released in 2012 to critical acclaim, but wasn’t much of a hit at retail – perhaps because people wrote it off as yet another military shooting game.
The game is based around Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, set in a war-torn landscape that was once Dubai. A number of memorable set pieces take this shooter beyond the call of duty and into a realistic battlefield that challenges the player and makes you question the sanity of your squad.
Whilst the gameplay itself isn’t the most polished, the engaging narrative from Bruce Boxleitner and voice-acting stalwart Nolan North makes Spec Ops: The Line an emotionally charged experience. Take the time to get into Spec Ops and you’ll unearth a deeply evocative piece of interactive storytelling that was unfortunately largely ignored and left bleeding in the desert sun.
Published by the same company that brought us Call of Duty and developed by Raven – the people behind Quake 4 and 2009’s Wolfenstein reboot – Singularity had a lot of pedigree to live up to when it arrived on PC in June 2010.
The plot sees an American solider sent into Russian territory only to find himself transported back in time to 1955, where his actions cause the future to change irreversibly. Singularity mixes an interesting plot with visceral action and a variety of puzzles that are bound to keep players engaged, whilst actions throughout the game will determine which of the three endings you get to see.
The Time Manipulation Device along with some rather cool weapons, intense action and an engaging story helped to set Singularity apart from other shooters, even if the core gameplay mechanics were nothing new.
10. The Operative: No One Lives Forever
If there had been a PC game based upon the Austin Powers movie franchise, you can guarantee it would have turned out something like The Operative: No One Lives Forever. Originally released for PC in November 2000 (and subsequently for PlayStation 2 and Mac), ‘NOLF’ still stands out as a genuine classic amongst other humorous shooting titles.
The garish 1960s-inspired art direction, inventive level design and consistently hilarious writing helped NOLF to create its own genre – the comedy first-person shooter. Despite critical acclaim, this amusing title was only superseded by a solid 2002 sequel called ‘A Spy in H.A.R.M.’s Way’ and a spin-off that was largely panned by fans of the originals entitled ‘Contract J.A.C.K’.
Though some have tried to resurrect this classic shooter, the complicated state of the series’ intellectual property left the project in disarray, with threats of legal action from Warner Brothers and uncertainty from those looking after the records of the now-defunct Fox Interactive (who originally published the game).
Unfortunately this ongoing debacle has made it rather tricky to find a copy of NOLF on any of the popular online stores, although second-hand copies can be found on eBay for just a few pounds.
11. Heavy Bullets
If you prefer your shooters to feature interesting alternative art styles, rather than realism, then Heavy Bullets will be right up your alley. It’s visually similar to Superhot, and its unforgiving difficulty level might make you wish that you had the power to slow down time. Alas, that’s not the case.
Armed with only six bullets in your revolver, Heavy Bullets sees you crawl through randomized dungeons taking on large-fanged spiders, bush worms, turrets and more. It’s continually fast-paced and incredibly satisfying once you master rebounding shots to take down multiple enemies. Oh, and because your revolver only has six bullets, you’ll have to collect spent ammo to re-use it. Heavy Bullets is a nostalgic blast that dares to do things differently, making it a top pick if you’re seeking a unique and challenging FPS.