Veteran’s Day has passed. So instead of going to work, just take a minute to reflect on the deeds of our armed forced by reading this list of the 10 Greatest Military Shooters. We decided to include only one entry per franchise on this list, so that it wouldn’t become flooded by Call of Duty and Battlefield titles. Armed conflicts have been one of gaming’s favorite topics and they go back as far as Scorched Earth for the PC and Guerrilla Warfare on the NES. But these military shooters are less retro and more traditional, employing squad tactics, cover mechanics, vehicle combat, and tons and tons of guns. These are the 10 Greatest Military Shooters.
When everyone was going crazy over Goldeneye for the N64, Rainbow Six gave us an alternative to the mine laying golden gun kill fest. It was based more on stealth and squad tactics than run and gun gameplay, which was an oddity in this age of shooters like Doom and Quake. It rewarded slow thinking and exhaustive planning and helped to refine the stealth game genre. That is why it’s on our list of the 10 Greatest Military Shooters.
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising
Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising may be one of the best games that you never played. It had an awesome campaign that featured a squad of four soldiers. When playing the game in single player it would be you and three computer controlled companions but you also had the choice of playing the whole thing in multiplayer from beginning to end. The game featured incredibly realistic weapon physics and over 50 different vehicles to pilot. It was enough to make hardcore military simulationists drool.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Another great game you never played, Red Orchestra 2 features two separate single-player campaigns. You could choose to play as either the Germans or the Russians in the Battle of Stalingrad, and would be able to see key points in the battle play out differently from each side. This was another game that greatly advertised its realistic bullet physics, as bullets suffered drop off, speed decrease, loss in penetration power, and more as range increased.
SOCOM 2 was a third person tactical shooter that was a great choice if you had a PS2 and couldn’t jump in on the Halo craze. It was one of the first PlayStation games to focus on online play. The game had a huge list of 12 new maps, 10 online retro maps from SOCOM 1, and three promo maps that you could get from an issue of Official PlayStation Magazine. That’s 25 maps, which is better than most modern day shooters!
Medal of Honor: Frontline
Many gamers consider Medal of Honor: Frontline to be the quintessential World War II shooter, which is saying a lot considering how many World War II shooters came out in the age of the PS2, Xbox, and Gamecube. Frontline was known for its incredible single-player which put you in a variety of missions ranging from all out gun battle to tactical stealth and espionage with some submarine combat in between. Heck, the PS2 version of the game had no multiplayer and it was still received quite well.
Arma 2 is the military shooter for hardcore simulation freaks. Soldiers are incredible fragile and there is as much a focus on resource management as there is on shooting your opponents. The bullet physics are deep, modeling both penetration and drop-off. You even get to command other squads on the map in a sort of RTS style in order to control the momentum of battle. The choices in Arma 2 are staggering. There are 11 factions, 80 different weapons, 130 different vehicles, and a map editor so you can make your own single and multiplayer campaigns. However, the real reason it got on our list of the 10 Greatest Military Shooters is because without Arma 2, we would have never seen its most popular mod: DayZ.
Counter-Strike is one of the most successful mods ever to be created. Honestly, if you don’t know what Counter-Strike is you have to have been living under a gaming rock for the past decade and a half. It’s a military shooter mod for the Half-Life 2 engine that focused on cover and tactics because of how fragile players were. It was also one of the first games to really focus on the loadout, as you used cash you earned through kills to change your weapons each round. It was a huge multiplayer sensation, enough to make it officially recognized and distributed by Valve.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2
Bad Company 2 gets to be our Battlefield entry for this list. The game did so many things right, from an interesting class system to huge multiplayer battles to expanded vehicle combat and more. Even though Bad Company 2 only had five game modes, you could sink hours into it grinding out the multiplayer for levels. It had a deep focus on teamwork so finding a good group to play with was important. Unfortunately, this is also why many people didn’t like the game as random shooter fans on the internet usually wouldn’t be described as “team players.”
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare
Now we have the Call of Duty entry on our list. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare flipped the entire CoD series on its head. Until then, our concept of “Military Shooter” was firmly rooted in past conflicts like World War II or Vietnam. Modern Warfare took us out of the past and into the future, forcing us to come face to face with the horrors of nuclear war. It had a powerful single-player and a multiplayer suite that pretty much defined the Call of Duty model for the foreseeable future. To many gamers, this is the military shooter, if not the best shooter period, but we have one more on our list that trumps it.
Spec Ops: The Line makes it to the top of our 10 Greatest Military Shooters list because it didn’t do one thing that all the other entries on our list did. It didn’t glorify warfare. Instead, it forced you to come face to face with the horrific nature of war itself. It forces you to use white phosphorus rounds on unarmed civilians and then makes you walk through the carnage. It makes you chase an unrealistic goal while controlling a soldier whose fervor for hunting down his enemies borders on psychopathy. It lets you know that war isn’t fun, and that we are all a little sick for enjoying the senseless murder of the shooters we play.