13: Battlefield Play4Free
Buyers of video games, and indeed software in general, have come to accept that they’re not just customers. They’re also unpaid beta testers. If that’s true of expensive retail games, imagine the situation with ‘free’ online games.
Battlefield isn’t truly free, it might more reasonably be described as freemium, but it’s still a platform where you are guinea pig as much as you are gamer. It’s worth putting up with the sometimes rather clunky game mechanics though. If only for the sheer joy of jumping into a Hummer, gunning it across a map to where the enemy team is camping, and lobbing a grenade through the window — all in a browser window.
One note: Battlefield won’t run on a Mac, but it’ll let you get a pretty long way in to signing up and downloading content before that gets mentioned. Most modern Macs will boot into Windows just fine, so it’s not impossible to get it running, but it’s worth bearing in mind.
Battlefield is by no means the slickest online FPS, but it is by far the prettiest. And if we keep on sending in the bug reports, maybe one day it’ll be the best.
12: Pandemic 2
There are plenty of games where you get to play as the bad guy. This is the first one I remember, though, where I’ve been invited to eradicate all human life on Earth.
In Pandemic 2 you set the parameters of your virus, and let time take its course. Depressingly, from the point of view of a human being, the disease always seems to win in the end. The goal is to wipe out humanity in the minimum possible time.
As your disease spreads you rack up more evolution points, which you can spend on more infectiousness or drug-resistance for your pathogen. This is the kind of game that doesn’t require constant close attention so you can leave it running in a spare browser tab while you get on with something less genocidal. The perfect pastime for the more morbid, easily-distracted, gamer.
It’s Doom. What more do I need to tell you? This is near-flawless recreation of the Daddy of them all. The original shareware levels of the first major FPS hit are recreated with impressive attention to detail. Those maps that an entire generation of gamers know as well as they know their own homes are recreated in your web browser. Every monster, every power-up is in its place.
If you’re one of the original Doom generation, and haven’t seen you original floppy disks (remember them?) in years you’ll want to take one last stroll around the mazes that you know so well. If you’re one of the new breed, it’s worth taking a look to see what us old guys are going on about. But remember, no matter how much those Cacodemons or Lost Souls surprise you, you can’t jump.
I mean it. You actually can’t jump.