The "action" and "action-adventure" categories within the realm of gaming have always been broad in comparison to more focus genres like RPGs, which tend to have variation in narrative and combat/fight systems, but nearly always encompass some sort of epic story, often with a high degree of emotional involvement. This is not to say that one doesn't get all wrapped up any type of game but an RPG, because this simply isn't true. This was the first factor I considered for this list, the degree of engagement by the player, which is subjective by definition. These are certainly not the only titles I've gotten sucked into, and I know plenty of gamers who I know will totally disagree with some of these, even though I still respect them. Unless they disagree with #, in which case we have nothing more to talk about, sir. Nothing.
In any case, here are my favorite 10 Action Games for PC!
Some days you start out as a barman and end up confined in a top secret lab, owned by the Abstergo Corporation, which happens to be run by Templars, who apparently still exist in 2012. Desmond, the barman in question was once a member of a modern day faction of the Assassin's Brotherhood, a group that was historically at odds with the Templars. He also happens to be a descendant of one of the members of the original Brotherhood, Altair ibn La-Ahad, and using a device known as the Animus, Desmond must try to access his "genetic memories" in order to recover artifacts known as the "Pieces of Eden", which are rumored to give the possessor the power of mind-control. Naturally, the Templars want to use this power in conjunction with an orbiting satellite to enslave the entire planet. Like you do.
Health within the game is dependent upon how accurately Desmond's memories match those of his ancestor, with damage being depicted as degrees of deviation from from the actual memory. When health is at 100%, the "eagle vision" feature becomes available, which highlights all visible characters in a given scene as either red or blue, depending on whether they are friends or foes. Utilizing elements of stealth, historical fantasy, and science fiction subgenres, Assassin's Creed is a groundbreaking series that has informed a lot of subsequent titles.
Duke Nukem 3D
The Duke Nukem titles, a series of first person shooters featuring the snarky, alien-infested adventures of one Duke Nukem, are so popular that when a new generation title was announced, Duke Nukem Forever, gamers the world over rejoiced. Then the title was postponed again and again, and was eventually thought to be dead in the water for good. That is, until the morning of September 3, 2010, when we walked into the PAX Prime Expo hall only to discover that Duke Nukem Forever was alive and well at Gearbox, with a playable demo, pee jokes included. Still no official release date, but in the mean time there is Duke Nukem 3D to tide us over.
Even though this title is nearly 15 years old, it is still so popular that people have ported it to OS X, several Linux distress, and modern versions of Windows. There are over 2000 fan-made levels that have been included in official spin-offs and add-ons and even an early demo, LameDuke, that was released in 1997 as a bonus version.
Sure, the graphics are terrible by today's standards, and maybe the action is a little choppy, but on the other hand, not every game is awesome enough to have its theme song covered by Megadeth. If it's good enough for Dave Mustaine, it's good enough for me.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Another first person shooter, this title is the fourth installment in the Call of Duty series, but the first to deviate from the WWII setting of the previous games. Set in 2011, Modern Warfare follows the story of civil war in Russia after the execution of a Middle Eastern leader by a radical faction. Fighting takes place in multiple locations throughout the world, including Pripyat, Ukraine, a now-abandoned city right next door to the scene of the notorious Chernobyl disaster.
With access to modern weaponry such as rocket propelled grenades and C-4 explosive, gameplay is a natural continuation of previous titles with regard to movement, damage, and AI teammates. Both the single-player campaign and multi-player modes received critical acclaim, though the game took some flak for not revolutionizing the concept of the first person shooter. Personally, if that's the biggest issue, I'm content to play anyhow. The graphics and general realism of the environments more than make up for any perceived lack of innovation with regard to gameplay. Bonus Fun Fact: The ending credits feature a rap performed by Mark Grigsby, who happens to be Modern Warfare's lead animator.
Left 4 Dead series
Ah, the Zombie Apocalypse. A topic near and dear to my heart, and I know I am far from alone in that capacity. There is an obnoxious quantity of zombie-related games, but both of the Left 4 Dead games are particularly intriguing in that the co-op mode doesn't just involve playing together, or helping each other out. In certain instances, a player actually needs his or her co-players, like when the player respawns in a locked closet, or needs healing but is not carrying any form of medicine. Teammates can bring one another back from the brink of death with a defibrillator or lure the infected away from other teammates with a pipebomb.
If one takes it as a foregone conclusion that the goal of a first person shooter is to simulate a situation for a player to experience, then the L4D and L4D2 are the clear leaders in the zombie category, due to the fact that players must help each other through verbal communication, strategize together, and depend upon one another, which is more challenging than it sounds. There are certainly a lot of people that hate these games for this exact reason, and while this is totally a matter of personal preference, one has to wonder how long these folks might last in a real zombie apocalypse. Not that those of us who are lucky enough to have the luxury of being gamers are probably going to be leading the Zombie Resistance when the apocalypse goes critical anyway.
Enjoy tasting delicious, fellow numb-butts!
This title, released by Hothead for PC in October of 2010, is potentially going to be the most controversial on my list, due to the fact that this game was not particularly high profile, and a lot of folks dismissed it due to the cartoonish graphics, and that it includes clear elements of an RPG. However, both the original Deathspank and the sequel, Thongs of Virtue have been some of my favorite games this year, and I would argue that at best, the mode of gameplay, which is similar to Diablo, is and RPG-action hybrid. It certainly helps that the dialogue is full of cheeky smartarsery, and the world in which Deathspank exists is so absurd that after a while, players don't bat an eye when given quests which involve collecting unicorn feces or buying felt from a traveling salesman. While the original is more heavily dependent on melee weapons and features a more RPG-oriented aesthetic (unicorns, right?) the second game takes place during a war which references WWI and features more ranged weapons and a few science fiction elements, as well.
What can be said about the Doom series that hasn't already been said? These games are immensely satisfying, and it's hard to pick just one. However, there's so much disparity between each game, particularly between 3 and the first two, that they really have to be looked at as separate entities in this case. Doom 3 does uphold the tradition of having Earth threatened by the minions of Hell, but this time, teleportation experiments conducted by a military-fortified corporation on Mars have accidentally opened a gateway, releasing demons who are intent on heading towards Earth.
Even though the thought of demons and the walking dead taking over a military base on Mars and piloting stolen spacecraft to earth sounds moderately hilarious ("Hey, Beelzebub, can you drive a manual transmission?"), the game unfolds at such a pace that there isn't much time to contemplate the realities, as one of the humans associated with a visiting team is revealed to be cooperating with Hell to facilitate the invasion. Loading with exploding guts and blood splatters, gameplay is about what one would expect for a Doom game. Gory, satisfying, and not without a touch of black humor.
Team Fortress 2
This game is another first person shooter, but can be a nice break from the seriousness of other titles on this list. Two teams representing rival corporations, Reliable Excavation & Demolition (RED) and Builders League United (BLU) compete against one another for various objective determined by the mode of gameplay. Some maps involve arena/team deathwatch mode, where players do not respawn after they've been killed, but others are focused on objective similar to "capture the flag", where both each team is trying to steal information from the other team's base, or are attempting to capture and defend a specific point on the map. All the while, teams are berated by the voice of an unnamed woman who is clearly in charge of something, but exactly what it never made completely clear. She is voiced by none other than Ellen McClain, who Valve fans will recognize as GLaDOS.
Play as one of 9 character classes, each with unique weapons that encompass at least one ranged and one melee each. This game can be good for killing a whole evening, but is also fun for a few casual matches. Its comic style provides a welcome contrast to the gritty realism depicted in many other shooters.
Half Life 2
Gordon Freeman wakes from stasis to find that a lot has changed since he defeated Nihilanth and was subsequently plucked from Black Mesa by the G-Man. As Freeman comes to, he comes to know that the Earth has been taken over by a hostile alien civilization known as the Combine. He must pass through various Combine-operated security checkpoints to get to wherever he is going. However, before he can figure this out, he is detained by a security officer and taken to an interrogation room. The officer then reveals himself to be a former co-worker, and introduces Freeman to Alyx Vance once in the relative safety of Dr. Isaac Kleiner's Lab, where they've contracted a rudimentary teleporter to send themselves to the anti-Combine base resistance base known as Black Mesa East. Unfortunately, Dr. Kleiner has a pet headcrab named Lamarr, who interrupts the teleportation process, causing Freeman to teleport to a few open locations before landing just outside the lab. This alerts the Combine to his presence, and he must fight his way to Black Mesa East, not knowing what awaits him there.
Fans of the original Half Life seem to have taken to the sequel just as easily, but it has also attracted new attention from gamers. Additionally, HL2 was released as part of the Orange Box in October of 2007, which also featured 2 additional HL2 episodes, Team Fortress 2, and surprise favorite Portal, which was so successful in its own right that a sequel is now due in spring of 2011.
Far Cry 2
This game is fairly polarizing, and I don't blame anyone who completely disagrees with me on this. I loved this game because it is beautiful to look at, and the story mode is very thought-provoking. The main character is essentially a mercenary who's been hired to help take out a war-profiteering arms dealer who's been supplying both sides of a civil conflict in eastern Africa. In gameplay, weapons degrade over time, the weather can be unpredictable, and players can get killed for doing absolutely nothing at all.
Sometimes the missions can feel quite repetitive, and many people don't like the mechanism by which one looks at the map is a bit awkward. Vehicles often must be repaired before they are drivable, and anti-malaria medicine must be taken in real time in order to stave off blurred vision and eventual death. In story mode, the player eventually has "buddies" who are NPCs that can assist during difficult missions or often simply provide moral support. It might sound ridiculous, but I had to euthanize my buddy during a mission at one point by shooting him, because I had to keep the syrettes, which are used to heal, but can also be used to overdose a fatally wounded buddy for an easy death.
This experience hit me harder than it should have, but it was also at this moment that I realized I loved Far Cry 2, in spite of some of the tedious and tense missions. It provides a higher degree of realism than a lot of games out here, because let's face it: being a hired gun trying to take out a warlord in a third world country would probably involved just as much tedium as it would danger. Far Cry 2 isn't for everyone, but you'll know almost immediately if it's for you.
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
It was difficult to pick a GTA title, even though it was obvious that there needed to be one on the list. However, after looking back over the main contenders, Vice City is the one that strikes me as being the best all-around game. Play as Tommy Vercetti, recently released from prison after serving a 15 year sentence for murder (Like, a LOT of murder). Tommy's boss, Sonny, doesn't want him hanging around and drawing attention to his organization, so Tommy gets shipped off to Vice City to oversee some cocaine deals, because it is 1986. Needless to say, the initial meeting with the dealers goes awry, resulting in the loss of both the coke and the money, and in order to save his own skin, Tommy must recover these things and track down whoever instigated the ambush.
Vice City features A-list voice work from the likes of Dennis Hopper, Fairuza Balk and even Gary Busey, which is a compelling enough reason to give it a shot if you haven't already. However, the best part of this game, in my opinion is the fact that you can listen to the radio while you're in a vehicle, and switch the station among a variety of genres that were popular at the time. As an Iron Maiden fan, I stuck to V-Rock most of the time, but each station has a pretty decent array of hits, which were released as a compilation later on.
Really, all of the GTA titles are good, but this one stands out for me as the best. Or at least the most memorable.
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