It's a really good time to be a fan of virtually shooting your friends in the face. The late-year rush of huge game releases is bringing no less than five major shooters with it, from the usual Call of Duty launch to long-awaited new versions of Gears of War and Battlefield.
But if you're a casual gamer (or have the cash for only one game this season), walking into a game store and having to pick between five game boxes with gruff, gun-toting dudes on them can be an intimidating proposition. With that in mind, we've broken down all of this fall's big shooters to help you decide which form of digital running-and-gunning is for you.
Destiny: Rise of Iron
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Platforms: PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: Sept. 20
Price: $30 stand-alone, $60 as part of Destiny: The Collection
Overview: While Destiny: Rise of Iron is technically an expansion, there's practically a full new game's worth of content here. Rise of Iron injects Bungie's popular RPG-flavored shooter with a new story campaign, a ton of new gear and weapons, and new maps and modes for both co-op and competitive play. For hardcore players, there's a brand-new Raid mission that looks like it will challenge the most hardcore of Guardians.
Who it's for: Destiny is as much of a role-playing-game as it is a tight and satisfying shooter. It's a game that's all about leveling up, tackling tough missions with friends and finding those elusive pieces of rare gear, a grind that can be both repetitive and extremely rewarding. It's also grown to have lots of story-based and competitive content. Rise of Iron likely won't sway anyone who doesn't already like Destiny, but it marks a great starting point for newcomers ― you can get the base game and all of its expansions (including this new one) as part of the $60 Destiny: The Collection.
Who it's not for: Those looking for a quick fix, or folks who prefer playing solo. Getting the most out of Destiny requires you to put some serious time into the game, and its challenges (especially the daunting Raids) are best experienced with friends. If you're looking for a more traditional single-player experience, or just want to play a few rounds of team deathmatch every night, you should probably look elsewhere. Rise of Iron is also not for folks clinging to their older consoles; this is the first Destiny expansion to officially leave PS3 and Xbox 360 behind.
Gears of War 4
Platforms: Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Oct. 11
Overview: Gears of War 4 marks a fresh start for Microsoft's beloved third-person shooter franchise, telling the story of new heroes JD (son of longtime series protagonist Marcus Fenix), Kait and Del as they take on a menacing new crew of gooey-looking enemies. Look forward to the same meaty cover-based co-op shooting, tons of competitive multiplayer options and the return of Horde mode. Gears 4 is also one of the latest Xbox Play Anywhere titles, meaning you can buy it digitally once and play it across Xbox One and Windows 10, complete with cross-platform co-op play.
Who it's for: Fans of playing shooters cooperatively. Gears 4's campaign can be played through with a friend either locally or online, and the upcoming Horde 3.0 mode should provide hours of wave-based monster-slaying fun for you and up to four buddies. The game's robust suite of competitive multiplayer modes is nothing to sneeze at, either. It's also a heck of a value for new fans; for a limited time, you'll get free copies of Gears of War 1, 2, 3 and Judgement with the Xbox One version of Gears 4.
Who it's not for: Those seeking something truly different. Gears 4 looks great, but it's still more Gears, so if the series didn't resonate with you 10 years ago, it probably won't now. Gears is also on the slower, clunkier side of things when it comes to multiplayer, so those seeking lightning-fast action should stick to Call of Duty or Titanfall.
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Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Oct. 21
Overview: Battlefield 1 takes the large-scale shooter series back to its old-school roots, with a World War I setting that will let you battle with bayonets, mustard gas, biplanes, tanks and horses (no, seriously). You'll get the same gorgeous destructible environments and 64-player multiplayer that Battlefield is known for, as well as a sprawling story campaign and narrative-based competitive modes that have teams fight across multiple maps.
Who it's for: Fans of huge battles with lots of cool weapons and vehicles, or anyone tired of the futuristic aesthetic of just about every other modern shooter. Battlefield 1 is a nice callback to the era of historical shooters, and there's no other game on this list that can match it in terms of sheer scale.
Who it's not for: People who don't like playing as a team. Battlefield's class-based gameplay encourages you to pick a role (such as assault or medic) and coordinate with your squad, so lone wolves hoping to wildly run-and-gun probably won't have much fun. Battlefield games put much more emphasis on completing objectives and securing a team win than racking up your personal kill count.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Oct. 28
Overview: The follow-up to everyone's favorite humans-meet-robots multiplayer shooter, Titanfall 2 looks to double down on its predecessor in every way. There's a whole bunch of new playable Titan robots that can fly, set things on fire and shoot lasers, and some fresh abilities that will make Titanfall's fluid on-foot combat even more fun. There's even a proper single-player campaign this time around, which will explore the heartwarming bond between a soldier and his trusty, ever-slaughterous Titan.
Who it's for: Anyone who's ever wanted to pilot a friggin' robot. Titan combat is one of the biggest draws of the Titanfall series, and you'll now have a choice of six uniquely deadly mechs with which to decimate your living and synthetic foes. That said, Titanfall also boasts some of the smoothest on-foot combat of any shooter, as you can wall-run, double-jump and even grapple-hook your way up to a Titan before placing a well-timed explosive. This David-and-Goliath dynamic is what makes Titanfall so refreshingly addicting.
Who it's not for: Anyone who's tired of sci-fi, prefers realistic shooters or just has a severe bias against robots. Titanfall 2 is one of the most inviting games on this list, though its success will likely hinge on how well Respawn supports it post-release. (The player base for the original Titanfall fizzled pretty quickly.) If you want a similarly frenetic shooter but don't care about the whole Titan
thing, there's always Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: Nov. 4
Price: $60, $80 for Legacy Edition with Modern Warfare Remastered
Overview: It just wouldn't be fall without a new Call of Duty. November's Infinite Warfare takes the shooter series back to space (2013's Ghosts had a brief, odd interstellar segment), with a futuristic story campaign that lets you battle on-foot in zero gravity and engage in epic spaceship battles. You'll get the rich multiplayer options and campy co-op zombies mode that the series is known for, and the $80 Legacy Edition inlcudes a remastered version of 2007's Modern Warfare: the game that helped make Call of Duty the yearly blockbuster it is today.
Who it's for: Folks who like their shooters fast, super-cinematic and packed to the brim with content. It will be hard to top Infinite Warfare in terms of sheer value, thanks to its solo campaign and robust competitive and zombies modes. Heck, some fans plan on buying the Legacy Edition just to play Modern Warfare again.
Who it's not for: While Infinite Warfare introduces some neat new mechanics and has a cool sci-fi setting, you're still pretty much getting the same movie-esque campaign, co-op zombies mode and frenetic competitive action as any other Call of Duty game. Also, the relentless speed of Call of Duty multiplayer might turn off folks who are more used to something like Halo, Gears or Battlefield.
There's a shooter for just about every type of gamer, and it's hard to pick a clear winner out of these five very distinct games. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and Titanfall 2 have the most pick-up-and-play mass appeal, while the co-op-heavy Gears of War 4 and large-scale Battlefield 1 help fill a unique void that's been missing for a little while. And then there's Destiny, which can be as life-consuming as some of the best massively multiplayer games out there.
Let's also not forget games like Halo 5, Rainbow Six Siege and Overwatch, which are still getting significant free updates well after they launched. There are a lot of shooters competing for your attention right now, and regardless of what you choose to play, the real winners are us players. Happy slaying.