screenshot from Project: Snowblind
AP / Eidos Interactive
"Project: Snowblind" features some nifty weapons, such as this electromagnetic pulse rifle.
updated 3/30/2005 9:44:33 PM ET 2005-03-31T02:44:33

Most longtime gamers trace the first-person shooter era back to 1992's "Wolfenstein 3D," id Software's frenetic blend of combat and horror. But let's not forget "Duck Hunt," the 1986 Nintendo classic that had many of us trying to shoot birds out the sky while avoiding the hunting dog who snickered at our futility.

Some of us can even date our FPS experience back to ancient, pre-video arcades. In an old-school shooting gallery, you could grab a rifle — a fairly realistic one, except it shot light beams — and start blowing away fake beer bottles. Today, with games like paintball and laser tag, you can enjoy the thrill of firing a weapon at your friends without anyone getting hurt.

Yes, we like to play with guns. It's still legal, as long as you aren't firing real guns at real people. I find it therapeutic to defuse my frustrations by blasting away at hordes of aliens, or robots or Nazi zombies.

So here are three new first-person shooters where the bullets fly fast and furious. Fire when ready.

"Timesplitters: Future Perfect"
(Electronic Arts, for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube)
The latest in the "Timesplitters" series is that rare FPS with a sense of humor. You are Cortez, a marble-mouthed parody of Vin Diesel, and your job is to prevent the alien Timesplitters from tearing the space-time continuum asunder. The time-tripping gimmick guarantees a new environment for each mission: You'll storm a Scottish castle in 1924, take on the Russians in 1969 and blast aliens in 2401. If you're not careful you may slip into a wormhole and run into past and future versions of yourself. "Future Perfect" has lots of fun with shooter and sci-fi cliches, introducing characters in each era who are delightfully unfazed by the sudden arrival of a warrior from the future. (Harry Tipper, a groovy '60s spy, is particularly charming.) You'll have lots of fun trying out all the weaponry — from an old-fashioned Luger to a modern machine gun to a futuristic plasma rifle — and trying to keep up with the brain-bending, enjoyably silly story.

"Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30"
(Ubisoft, for the PS2, Xbox, PC)
"Brothers in Arms," on the other hand, is ultra-serious, a return to the grim World War II milieu immortalized by Steven Spielberg, Tom Brokaw and about a hundred other games. Despite the "been there, done that" feeling, "Brothers" offers a fresh take on the D-Day invasion. You are Sgt. Matt Baker, dropped with your fellow paratroopers behind enemy lines to disrupt the German defenses before the Allied troops land on Normandy. The gameplay is an absorbing mix of first-person shooting and squad-based strategy: You need solid aim and a quick trigger, but you also have to maneuver the other guys on your team to get the upper hand on the Nazis. The settings, weaponry and strategy all feel painstakingly authentic. And Sgt. Baker isn't your typical videogame super-soldier, so be prepared to die. A lot.

"Project: Snowblind"
(Eidos Interactive, for the PS2, Xbox, PC)
Lt. Nathan Frost, the hero of this game, is one of those super-soldiers. He's been physically enhanced with technology that lets him slow down time, see in the dark or become invisible, and he has nifty weapons — like robot attack spiders and an electromagnetic pulse rifle — to go with the standard-issue guns and grenades. But the cybernetic enhancements don't help much during the chaotic firefights, and the story line doesn't rise above the cliches of the genre, with your hard-boiled hero trying to prevent a renegade militia from launching a doomsday device. Still, "Snowblind" looks great, taking advantage of its near-future Hong Kong setting with dazzling set pieces in a Buddhist temple, an opera house and a corporate high-rise. When you're trying to escape down a corridor as windows explode all around, you may find yourself so pumped up that you'll forgive "Snowblind" for its by-the-numbers plot.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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