Shooting games are ten to the penny nowadays. We now have shooter franchises such as Titanfall, Battlefield and #CallOfDuty dominating and headlining year after year. Don't get me wrong, they are excellent fun. After all, these games are built for their gameplay experiences, boasting chaotic multiplayer, deep upgrading systems and inspiring heroics.
What Are The Best And Most Realistic Shooters, And Why?
But there is a part of me that yearns for a time gone past when I'm running horizontally along a wall, jet-packing across the map and then getting ten shots to the body and still not going down. I know I'm not the only one who has a thirst for realism when it comes to shooters, #Battlefield1 proved that much. But whether 'realism' means no health regeneration or a more tactical approach to gameplay, I think I just like the idea of being challenged in games by certain real-life constraints. It's the opposite end of the spectrum, but can be equally enjoyable.
ARMA: Cold War Assault
The Operation Flashpoint/ARMA series started in 2001 with Operation Flashpoint: Cold War Crisis, but was originally named ARMA: Cold War Assault. To this day, I still believe the first game in the series is one of the most difficult shooters ever, and is the true first-born of the modern combat sim genre. Set on a group of fictional islands, you are placed in a fictionalized conflict between American and Soviet forces sometime around the mid 80s. You are given a map, a compass, a watch and a notebook, and sent on your way.
The idea behind the gameplay is that you are given a set of tasks to complete and you decide how to complete them. Using voice commands and a serious amount of planning, you have to choose your equipment and vehicles based on the task and then traverse across the pretty isolating 12 kilometers-wide islands, made up of forests and grassland, in search of your enemy.
You are not channeled into an alleyway or a tunnel, the maps aren't designed for anyone's benefits and conflict is harsh, unforgiving and often takes place across acres and acres of land. This means that—at least for its time—the game has a sense of unparalleled freedom and scale, but also danger and isolation. All of that culminates in a truly realistic experience, which can at times be truly frustrating. I found myself shouting at the screen begging for some assistance, but it never came.
After the first game, the sequels split off due to an argument within the development studios. But both the ARMA series, which were developed by Bohemia Interactive Studios, and the Operation Flashpoint series, which were developed by Codemasters, continued to improve on and create the most realistic combat simulations in the industry.
Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad
Now we are going back in time to the second World War to a PC game that focuses heavily on the infamous battle of Stalingrad. Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, which was released in 2011 and developed by Tripwire Interactive, is probably the most realistic WW2 shooter you can find. This game has a lot of flaws which includes its single player campaign, but it prides itself on the smaller details.
Killing, the thing we do in all shooters that never really feels quite like it should (probably (definitely) for the best), is utterly transformed in this game. Every gun in your arsenal behaves exactly like it should, with bullet drop and spin also included. There are also basically no HUD elements, which means you do actually have to count how many bullets you've fired to know when you need to reload. Every time you fire your ultra-realistic weapon, the weight and power of the bullet seems to scream as it hits your target. After the blood has spat out from the exit wound, the player is, most likely, dead.
But, in the instance the player didn't die, their health will not regenerate either through time or medical equipment. If they have a non-fatal wound, then they'll need to bandage it up to stop the blood loss. If they want to avoid getting shot again, they'll have to find cover quick, although the size and material of the cover means that there might not be much use in that either.
With this level of realism, every thing that you might take for granted in a COD game, is pushed to the forefront of the experience in Red Orchestra 2. Just try sprinting across an open battlefield or sneaking through an abandoned building to see what I mean.
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2
We are all eagerly awaiting the new Ghost Recon: Wildlands to be released next year, especially because of the sheer size and magnitude of the game. I love how how far the series has come in recent years, but it is a far cry from the original games in terms of realism. The originals, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 1 and 2, are more linear than the previous games I have mentioned, but definitely clean things up in terms of playability and squad tactics.
In the second game, you assume the role of the Ghost Team leader. This task is probably the best and most realistic thing about the game, as you can command your soldiers to flank, attack, hold, regroup or suppress using a pretty decent system. The later Ghost Recons can also learn a thing or two about Squad AI from this game, as it really did feel like you had a team of intelligent beings behind you. The downside was that if one of them died, they were out of the campaign for good. This meant that your choices felt like they had a real impact on your squad.
The general feel of all the Ghost Recon games is pretty genuine, but the second game felt the most like you were an unromantic and pragmatic team leader that was planted in the middle of a conflict that you just had to deal with.
Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway
The last game on my list holds a special place in my gaming heart; Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway is the best example of that perfect combination between realism, story and all out hell. As you can see in the video above, the developers were focused on historical realism when it came to forming the game's setting, the story, the weapons and also the tactics.
In Brothers in Arms: Hell's Highway, you absolutely need your squad. Players who run through the battlefield alone will die. Believe me, I tried. What you soon realize is that almost all of the conflicts and problems you are faced with in the game can be, and must be, overcome using a clear set of tactics and squad mechanics. These tactics come straight from real-life, having been employed by the very same soldiers that took part in the European assault which the game is based on.
All of the game takes place in small towns and villages and their surrounding countryside, which means combat is usually pretty close quarters and very, very intense. The game, with its destructible cover and gore systems, as well as the action camera, has aged very well. On top of that, the storyline and characters will stay with you for a long time afterwards.
But by far the best thing about this game is the progression regarding your usage of tactics. As you push further and further into enemy territory, the threat levels get higher and higher, and therefore the game requires much more from you. In the first few moments of the game you are taught the basics in flanking and attacking, and during the following missions it is up to you to adapt and to build on what you have learnt to out-maneuver your enemies.
By the end of the game, you will start to notice how your military mind has improved. You will notice how quick you can analyze a combat situation and give commands, as well as how quickly you'll be able to think on your feet. I recommend you try each and every one of these experiences!
Do you have another game to add to the list? Tell us in the comments section below!
Also, if you missed this gameplay video from the new Ghost Recon: Wildlands, you can watch it here!