12 | Gears of War 3 | Xbox 360
After a short five years, the Gears franchise finally comes to a conclusion with Gears of War 3, and the final title in the Marcus Fenix saga is just as bloody, as explosive, and as unapologetically violent as ever.
Gears of War 3 brings a lot of new weapons to the table in its fight to stay on top of the FPS market. One big gun in its arsenal is undoubtedly the four-player co-op, a series' first, along with a couple of completely revamped multiplayer modes. Horde Mode returns with "Horde 2.0," where players can now set up strategic command centers, build defenses, and get bonuses for holding ground against waves of Locust enemies. Flipping the mode on its head is "Beast Mode," where players attack COG Soldiers as the invading Locust, upgrading to more lethal enemy types over time.
New weapons, new playable characters (including female COGs), and new enemy types round out the game, and the main campaign reaps the benefits of all the improvements. Not only can you level up through frequent kills and feats of skill, but you can also swap money, weapons, and ammo in-game. Talk about teamwork.
11 | Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 | PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Handing off the vast majority of development duties on a monstrously huge video-game franchise like Modern Warfare couldn’t have been easy for either Activision or the newly formed studio, Sledgehammer Games. But by leading the development on Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 with help from Infinity Ward, Sledgehammer’s proved that they’re fully capable of steering the first-person shooter franchise in some exciting (and newish) directions.
Modern Warfare 3 has much of what you’d expect from such a high-profile action sequel -- an exhilarating single-player campaign that builds on the series’ cinematic vibe and storyline, more multiplayer bells and whistles, etc. -- but it’s more ambitious than merely “more of the same.” One of the biggest improvements MW3 introduces is the new Spec Ops Survival mode, which takes Modern Warfare 2’s popular, challenge-based Spec Ops missions, and infuses the experience with a gameplay concept similar to Treyarch’s Zombies mode from Black Ops/World at War. Only instead of mowing down non-stop waves of goose-stepping undead, your enemies in Survival are living, breathing soldiers capable of strategically taking you out.
The developer has also put a lot of effort into making Modern Warfare 3’s multiplayer more novice-friendly in that it rewards players of all skill levels, and not just the ridiculously good players who dominate leaderboards. While it doesn’t reinvent the franchise (nor, should it), Modern Warfare 3 is easily the strongest entry in the series yet.
10 | Battlefield 3 | PC, Xbox 360, PS3
Battlefield 3 is more than a mere shooter; instead, the epically scaled combat simulator encompasses nearly every aspect of the modern battlefield -- from the medic to the helicopter pilot to the troop carrier driver. With unparallelled realism, great sound, and an approach to multiplayer that puts other combat shooters to shame, Battlefield 3 is unquestionably one of the best war games of all time. The single player campaign, meanwhile, is underrated; though certain scenes and segments are cliche or simply uninspired, the realistic depiction of urban warfare is so nerve-wracking that you'd swear you were in Tehran.