I can't play Bioshock (sniff), so what should I play?
March 1, 2008 5:57 PM   Subscribe

Half-Life 2 rocks my world. What should I play next? Note: my PC cannot handle much more than Half-Life 2.

I'm new to the FPS genre, and it appears that I've started with one of the absolute gems. My computer cannot run Bioshock, the game I most want to play next, and I can't bring myself to buy a new computer or an Xbox for one game.

So ... are there any other immersive/storytelling games of a similar caliber to HL2, that don't require much more processing horsepower? It doesn't have to be FPS, but I'd like it to be as amazing as possible. Open-source is great, if possible. (Also, I own a PS2, so if there's anything there that is similarly world-class, I'd love to hear about that, too.)
posted by jbickers to Computers & Internet (39 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Well, seeing as you can run HL2, then I'd recommend either of the two post-game episodes or Portal. Of course, perhaps you're playing HL2 because you bought the Orange Box, in which case, you're already covered in that regard.

Other than that, the Thief games from Looking Glass / Eidos still hold up remarkably well, even years on. Thief 2 is a favorite of mine to this day, and though it was not as well-received, the 3rd of the series (Thief: Deadly Shadows) is very well done. For immersion, you can't do much better than a game that relies so heavilly on stealth for success.
posted by grabbingsand at 6:05 PM on March 1, 2008

Immersive? Storytelling? This could be a long list..

For the PC, I'd recommend The Longest Journey and its sequel, Dreamfall. They're both puzzle games in essence. And both games felt like playable movies. Be warned, they're part of a trilogy, so expect many loose ends. But one of the most unique gaming experiences I've had. And a fantastic story, to boot.

For the PS2, I loved Shadow of the Colossus. I've nothing but praise for Ico, which is often mentioned alongside SotC.
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:07 PM on March 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

+heard.. I've heard nothing but praise..."
posted by theiconoclast31 at 6:10 PM on March 1, 2008

A lot of people liked System Shock 2, which is available at Home of the Underdogs as abandonware.

I really liked Morrowind for its open-endedness, although some people disliked it for the same reason.
posted by pravit at 6:15 PM on March 1, 2008

Deus Ex is a game with great immersive story telling with fun action and challenge tossed in.
posted by baphomet at 6:17 PM on March 1, 2008

Team Fortress 2 is the best.
posted by mpls2 at 6:21 PM on March 1, 2008

Far Cry doesn't have a very thick story, but it has sort of a story. And it's fun because you can sneak around, or go in guns blazing. It takes a little more horsepower than HL2 to run, but not much -- my 2.8GHz P4 w/ancient AGP graphics runs it just fine at 1024x768 and okayish at 1680x1050.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 PM on March 1, 2008

Deus Ex is my favorite game, any genre. You should absolutely dig up a copy of it - they can be found around for $20 or so, new in box. Hardware requirements are far less than HL2 so that won't be an issue at all.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:26 PM on March 1, 2008

I have a similar constraint as my pc can't run anything higher than HL2 too. Call of Duty 1 is very cinematic and I loved it.
Vampire: The Masquerade is more of an RPG but the gameplay is somewhat FPSish. However you MUST patch it before playing it as it's full of bugs.

grabbingsand: Well, seeing as you can run HL2, then I'd recommend either of the two post-game episodes or Portal.

Actually, it doesn't work that way. I can play Half Life 2 with no problems but Portal forced forced me to change the resolution to 640x480 to avoid a hellishly slow framerate and even then it was annoying to play. I'm guessing both Team Fortress 2 and Episode 2 suffer the same problem. Episode 1 also has higher system requirements than Half Life 2 but the difference is not that much.
posted by Memo at 6:33 PM on March 1, 2008

I look back on Alien v. Predator very fondly. It captured the feel of the movies quite admirably.
posted by cowbellemoo at 6:33 PM on March 1, 2008

Star Wars: Battlefield II is good, but there isn't much of a story (it's weak at best). The gameplay is great, though -- you enough variety (including some spaceship action) to keep you entertained.

For a slight twist, give SWAT 4 a try -- the point is to shoot as few people as needed (which makes it more strategy-themed), but it's a good overall FPS. It was made 3 or 4 years ago, so it'll run on your machine.
posted by spiderskull at 6:40 PM on March 1, 2008

All of the games mentioned thus far are great. Since you indicate you want to play Bioshock, you might be interested to know that Ken Levine, the Creative Director/writer for Bioshock also worked on Thief and System Shock 2 (both mentioned above).

Speaking as someone who worked on Bioshock's story/voiceover a little myself, however, the best game story I've ever seen is Planescape: Torment. It's not for everyone, and not the easiest to get into, but the rewards once you do are unparalleled. Check it out.
posted by Ryvar at 6:41 PM on March 1, 2008

I really liked Halo. The first one I think is still the best of the lot and should be easily playable on your hardware.

Overall, the most immersive game I've ever played was Knights of the Old Republic. Obviously, it's not an FPS but I would highly recommend it.
posted by pombe at 6:42 PM on March 1, 2008

I haven't played HL2 (yet - it's on my list for when I have a non-crappy computer). But I'd recommend Far Cry - as someone said above, it's light on storyline, but it's beautiful. And Thief 3 has a great world behind it. Not really a huge *plot*, but there's a lot of thought put into giving you the history behind the world. Thief 1 and 2 are on my list for When I Have Time.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 7:00 PM on March 1, 2008

Oblivion, which followed Morrowind correctly recommended above.
posted by gnomeloaf at 7:17 PM on March 1, 2008

Ye gods, if you haven't played Planescape: Torment, do so. Do so now.

Also, if you've never played it, Fallout is beyond fantastic. As someone above suggested, the Longest Journey and Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines are also quite amazing. If you like traditional elves & wizards fantasy, the Baldur's Gate series is highly lauded.
posted by Nelsormensch at 7:22 PM on March 1, 2008

My system barely runs HL2 either and I don't have a lot of problems with Oblivion, so that would be a good one. Between it and Morrowind, you would be covered for fantasy games for a LONG time.

This site has actually been pretty helpful for what I can or can't run.
posted by slavlin at 7:43 PM on March 1, 2008

Seconding Planescape Torment.

For FPS, if you can run HL2, you should be able to rock:

Vampire - The Masquerade: Bloodlines.

Stubbs The Zombie - Rebel Without a Pulse

Max Payne and Max Payne 2.
posted by porpoise at 8:10 PM on March 1, 2008

Oh, I thought that there was a reskin of the original Deus Ex (it's faaaaaantastic, Deus Ex 2? Give it a pass.) with higher resolution textures and stuff, but I can't seem to find any mention of it right now.
posted by porpoise at 8:13 PM on March 1, 2008

Seconding Deus Ex and System Shock 2 right there. They're both up there in my list of the top five games of all time.

If you can live with the outdated graphics and you're not limited to FPS, Fallout 2 (and the rest of the series) has a brilliant story and is terribly engrossing once you get past the initial 10 minutes or so of the game.
posted by doctorpiorno at 8:20 PM on March 1, 2008

Also, you might like Jagged Alliance 2. It doesn't have much of a story, but the gameplay is great and the characters are hilarious.
posted by pravit at 8:26 PM on March 1, 2008

To add a note to grabbingsand's comment on Thief 2, there's an add-on to the game called "T2X: Shadows of the Metal Age" which is a 13-episode fan-made adventure and is a great testament to how much people like this game. It's a free download, and the official site is here, and a good review of it is here. If you liked Thief 2, then you'll really like this as well.

If you do have a look at Deus Ex, and it is a great game, (although you must remember that the graphics will be dated as it's fairly old) be sure to go to this site "Sunglasses at Night" for all the chaos and nasty stuff that you can get away with, for fun. *Note* - SPOILERS ABOUND! If you are planning on playing the game, do not go to the site.

Have you tried Max Payne 1 and 2? Not really FPS, but pretty fun. Doing a bit of searching for the modifications which add more weapons and moves for added slo-mo coolness is recommended.

On preview: yeah, basically seconding porpoise's comment.
posted by Zack_Replica at 8:34 PM on March 1, 2008

Oh, and if you decide to check out System Shock 2 (which you should), you'll want to have a look at the SS2 Rebirth and SHTUP graphics mods. The game is still going to look a bit dated even with those installed, but you'll have forgotten about the graphics before you're past the Cryonics airlock anyway. ^_^
posted by doctorpiorno at 8:39 PM on March 1, 2008

If you have your heart set on BioShock, you should try renting a 360. I don't think Blockbuster does console rentals anymore, but Rent-A-Center has a page for it. Be bold -- your gaming happiness is at stake!
posted by Rhaomi at 9:25 PM on March 1, 2008

If you want to try some comedy games, not as dark as HL2 but pretty immersive, you could try out the new Sam & Max games. They are more puzzle/adventure games, but still fun, and not too heavy on the hardware.
posted by gemmy at 10:16 PM on March 1, 2008

If you're into sneaking, try the Hitman series (2 and onwards, the first one was crap). Hitman also has an FPS camera view, but it's not *quite* an FPS game.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:38 PM on March 1, 2008

nth the suggestion for Deus Ex. The graphics are dated and the voice acting is ridiculous, but otherwise it's a fantastically immersive game that offers you real choices about which path to take through the plot.

This isn't a "me too" post -- I just wanted to point out that you can get it for $9.95 on Steam!
posted by neckro23 at 11:41 PM on March 1, 2008

People pretty much hit the head on the heavyweights of older games. Deus Ex, System Shock 2 (which is still one of the most tense and frightening games I have experienced), and Halo all have atmosphere and entertaining game play galore. One to add that isn't a single player experience is Battlefield 2, if it gets your goat then you be got.
posted by Odinhead at 2:47 AM on March 2, 2008


Thanks for pointing out that Steam link! I used to have a pirated copy of Deus Ex but felt a little bad about it, so I never finished the game. Then it was really hard to find. Problem solved!
posted by Shepherd at 3:59 AM on March 2, 2008

Gotta agree with Odinhead -- there are still a ton of folks playing Battlefield II online. If all you're looking for as mindless multiplayer mayhem, it's pretty bad ass. And cheap. (Don't even bother with the expansion packs...)
posted by ph00dz at 5:34 AM on March 2, 2008

Nobody's yet mentioned No One Lives Forever, which is a real classic. It's set in the late 60s/early 70s, with a female lead.... Cate Archer is pressed into service as an operative when most of the male staff is killed. The voice acting is absolutely superb, the story is excellent, and the whole game just oozes style. It's the best game, stylistically, short of Team Fortress 2. The technology's old, but I think it stands tall next to Half-Life, even after all these years. If your system will run HL2, it'll run NOLF very nicely.

The sequels were much, much worse. NOLF2 has some individual levels that are a lot better than NOLF1, but taken as a whole it's far inferior, IMO.

I'll reinforce the suggestions for some other favorites:

The Longest Journey (absolutely amazing adventure game: hard, though, so use a walkthrough and don't worry about it. You'll get plenty of enjoyment anyway.)
Deus Ex
Planescape: Torment
The Thief series

I'd say to avoid Dreamfall, because it's only half a story, and there's no guarantee it will ever be finished.
posted by Malor at 5:38 AM on March 2, 2008

try the Hitman series (2 and onwards, the first one was crap)
No it wasn't. Contracts was something of a disappointment though, iirc.

Minerva is a really, really good single-player mod for Half-Life 2. Also Source engine powered, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic was fun, and had fairly satisfying melee combat. Oh, and it should go without saying that you should play the original Half-Life, and also the extensions Blue Shift and Opposing Force.

Switching genre completely, Another World was remade a couple of years ago. For a 1991 game it's pretty amazing. onEscapee is in the same vein, but a fair bit newer, and also free. Flashback was great too, but you'll have to dig around to find a copy.

What hardware do you have, btw?
posted by Freaky at 7:14 AM on March 2, 2008

Also, there is no way you'll be playing Battlefield 2 if you can barely run HL2.
posted by pravit at 9:21 AM on March 2, 2008

posted by kldickson at 10:29 AM on March 2, 2008

The original Far Cry should work on your system. Quite possibly one of the most enjoyable games I've ever played.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:26 AM on March 2, 2008

This is a comment in which I echo previous suggestions, in what I consider to be lessening degrees of similarity to HL2:

Orange Box party, including the brilliant but short game Portal.
Deus Ex
Max Payne 1, then 2
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory
Battlefield 1942
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Unfortunately, I haven't played System Shock yet, but plan to.
posted by billtron at 12:06 PM on March 2, 2008

Wow, I can't believe I forgot NOLF 1 & 2. Malor's 100% right - the game didn't receive a 9.3 from GameSpot for nothing. The situations are right out of a James Bond film, and are amazing - England, the Caribbean, Morocco, free-falling from a burning plane(!), to H.A.R.M.'s evil orbiting space station. The specific dialogue is written in the wry 007 Connery style, but all from a competent woman's point of view, and the general speech (for characters and incidental people) is hilarious, and the villains are both deadly and obtuse. Get this game! And by "this game" I mean NOLF. Part Two was... ok. Having to travel to exotic Akron, Ohio was funny and there were a few other levels that were really good, and Cate had finally lost those purple gloves, but the whole thing isn't as good as the first.

A note here on System Shock 2 - I'd loaded it up on my computer last night, and couldn't get the game engine to run, just crash to Windows. The system I'm using is way higher than the recommended specs, too. I went to this site - Strange Bedfellows - and downloaded the patch from this page and everything works fine. Apparently it's an issue with WinXP.
posted by Zack_Replica at 12:47 PM on March 2, 2008

One more voice here for System Shock 2, for many reasons. The graphics may be dated, but the audio design is a masterpiece. Also, the game flows in an outstandingly smooth manner, and although you get a lot of freedom in how to proceed in each situation, you are never completely aimless, even when you are nearly dying, holding your last bullet. In most games you would have to give up and go back to where you last saved the game. In SS2, fear might just keep you alive.

The ways in which this game instills fear are creative and numerous. You will soon learn that you are no hero, your precious skills and tools will fail you, and, ultimately, your most reliable survival strategies are to run away in panic or crawl into a corner, hope that nothing sees you, and pray for the terrible noises to fade away.

Set difficulty to hard, and turn the lights out.
posted by Anything at 3:41 PM on March 2, 2008

Oo, how about the Grand Theft Auto series? San Andreas and Vice City will run smoothly on your machine, and while they're also not strictly FPS, they're a lot of fun to play.
posted by spiderskull at 9:30 PM on March 3, 2008

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