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Rockstar Games have been making open world video games longer than every video game studio in existence, so it should come as no surprise at this point that they know what they doing in that department. Still, that doesn’t take away from the achievements of their latest magnum opus, Red Dead Redemption 2. Featuring a huge world to explore and what feels like an endless amount of tasks at your disposal, it is not hard at all to get lost within the massive, immersive realm that Rockstar has built.
Thankfully, a wonderful story filled with a captivating cast of characters keeps things grounded, as does the game’s commitment to realism. Once again at the forefront is Red Dead’s famous “Dead Eye” system, in which the game completely slows down time in order for you to select the most accurate (and often most brutal) ways to take down your enemies. Not only does this make for a clean, smooth shooting experience, but it also channels the feelings of being an Old West gunslinger in ways that are, frankly, just oh-so-very cool. And if that’s not the appeal of a great shooter, then what is?
Despite some hiccups upon its initial release, Halo: The Master Chief Collection has grown into one of the most spectacular shooter experiences that you will find on the Xbox One platform. Comprised of every mainline installment of the Halo series up to Halo 4, The Master Chief Collection supplies literally hundreds of hours of quality entertainment, with a variety of modes at your disposal to boot.
If you want to engage in one of gaming’s most spectacular sagas, just jump into any of the four main campaigns, fully remastered to take advantage of the Xbox One platform. And if you are itching to work together with a friend, you can even play every single campaign online or with split-screen mode (up to four players).
If you are in the mood for a little competition, dive into the collection’s massive arsenal of multiplayer options, featuring every single map from Halo 1 to 4 (and even the later games’ popular Forge mode, which lets you play on user-created maps of your very own). Pound for pound, you won’t find a more satisfying shooter experience on the Xbox One than Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
In a sea of new battle royale and free-to-play experiences (see below), it's easy for yet another first-person shooter to get lost in the mix. But it’s a testament to Blizzard’s impeccable construction of Overwatch that, even three years after its initial release, the game feels as vibrant as ever. Overwatch drops you into a future Earth immediately following a period of scientific enlightenment and advancement, and the sheen of its arena-like stages truly brings that to life.
An entirely multiplayer experience, Overwatch focuses heavily on the pillars of teamwork. You're assigned to a team with five other players in an intense 6-versus-6 mode. Of course, the shining star of the Overwatch experience are the different heroes you get to play. As of this writing, it features a roster of 31 characters. Each hero has unique attributes and gameplay styles, and it’s up to you to decide which suit you (and, on a broader scale, your team) the best.
The battle royale subgenre of shooters has taken the world by storm in the past few years, with games like Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds capturing the public consciousness in ways video games, let alone shooters, rarely do. But it's really one of the newest challengers for the battle royale crown that takes the cake as the best currently available on the Xbox One: Respawn’s Apex Legends.
A pseudo-extension of the Titanfall universe, Apex Legends operates similarly to many other games in the Battle Royale genre: you jump from an aircraft, land in an isolated, huge map, and fight to survive by picking up distinct gear and weapons, using it to take down your enemies until you (or in Apex Legend’s case, your three-man squad) are the only ones left standing. But it's the game’s rock-solid shooting mechanics, responsive movement system, and unique class abilities that really put Apex Legends ahead of the battle royale pack.
While there can be plenty of fun in playing a game simply for the visceral thrill of shooting virtual things, for a shooter to really transcend its genre, it has to hit equally as hard in the narrative department. And when it comes to storytelling in shooters, let alone video games in general, one would be remiss not to mention both Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite, contained in one set via Bioshock: The Collection.
The original Bioshock, released in 2007, takes you into the atmospheric and beautiful failed utopia of Rapture, an undersea would-be paradise now left in ruin. Your silent protagonist, Jack, traverses the game’s incredible landscapes in hopes of finding a way home, all while following the instructions of the mysterious man known only as Atlas. Bioshock’s story earned high marks upon its release, but it’s really the game’s sequel, Bioshock: Infinite, that took the franchise’s narrative aspirations to new heights (literally and figuratively).
Infinite takes place in the flying city of Columbia, a staggering blend of sci-fi trappings and mind-bending metafiction. The story of Booker and Elizabeth unfolds in the game’s main campaign, and the twists and turns will leave you breathless. So the fact you can get it and the equally great originally all in one bundle makes for quite the deal.
The Gears of War franchise has always been known for its intense, cooperation-heavy gameplay. Even with the series getting something of a soft reboot, including a brand new squad of characters and a massive 25-year time jump from the previous game, co-op is very much on Gears of War 4's mind. The whole campaign is once again entirely playable with a friend in either local split-screen or online co-operative multiplayer, and you’re going to need the help if you hope to make your way through the brutal, often challenging, world of Gears of War.
Featuring mind-blowing visuals (especially if you utilize the full power of the Xbox One X) and a plethora of interesting and varied missions, it’s nearly impossible not to be wowed as you make your way through the game’s immense world of Sera. New additions to the series include a variable weather system that constantly keeps you on your toes, and new weapon types such as the Dropshot explosive drill and Buzzkill ricocheting sawblades.
But of course, what people love about the Gears of War series (the shooting mechanics, the intricate gore, and chainsaws attached to guns) is very much front and center here. And there's no better way to bask in those pleasantries than with a friend at your side.
Not all role-playing games involve swords and sorcery in a medieval time period. Perhaps the best example of how different an RPG can be is the creative and inventive Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the latest mainline entry in the long-running series.
Deus Ex is a first-person shooter, yes, and a very good one at that, but going in guns blazing is the quickest way to fail a mission. You play as Adam Jensen, an agent who augmented his body with cybernetic abilities, and your task is to solve the case of a train bombing in Prague while uncovering a massive web of conspiracy theories and secret organizations pulling all the strings.
First and foremost, Deus Ex is an RPG and contains all the hallmarks of the genre: experience grind, customizable superpowers, wide open skill trees, an adaptable narrative, dialogue trees, and branching choices that affect multiple endings.
With the main story lasting dozens of hours, plus a huge selection of side missions at your disposal and two full-fledged downloadable add-on packs, there’s plenty of content in Mankind Divided that will have you toiling in Prague for years to come.