Just this last Sunday, we cast our nostalgic gaze back to Goldeneye's 'Facility', a level we loved considerably. However, it's not like Bond's urinal-shattering Soviet op is the only FPS level we deem fit for a feature article. In fact, we have ten in mind, from crashing on a lost alien structure, sniping in the irradiated ruins of Chernobyl, to dropping our first companion-cube down a rift in space/time. So, and drum-roll please, Dealspwn presents the Top 10 FPS Levels!
10. All Ghillied Up (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare)
Call of Duty has its fair share of spectacular levels, and I almost plumped for Black Ops' jaw-dropping prison break, 'Vortuka'. But, in the end, I settled for Modern Warfare's flashback to 1970s Pripyat, where a young Lieutenant Price joins the late Captain MacMilan for a special op as they track a nuclear arms deal in the hope of assassinating one Imran Zakhaev. It's a cracking level, as you sneak or crawl past enemy patrols, dropping guards with a suppressed round from your sniper rifle. Notice how hard MW2 strives, but fails, to replicate this experience?
9. Notre Dame, 1895 (Timesplitters 2)
Timesplitters 2 is simply overflowing with wacky but wonderful levels. I'm particularly partial to the wild west detour. However, I just can't overlook your trip back to 17th century France, and a cathedral overrun with zombies. It's classic Timesplitters, tongue firmly in cheek, brimming with great humour and even better design. It's tough deciding what crazy era-related adventure to decide from in TS, and in the end it was the plight of a poor hunchbacked gentleman you can rescue that swayed my hand.
8. Great Pyramid (Serious Sam 2)
Despite it's title, serious is not a word we'd use to describe the adventures of Sam Stone. It's a mad, wild ride, replete with miles long vistas, thousands of enemies, hundred foot or more tall bosses, and some of the best guns in the genre. For SS2, we settled on the 'Great Pyramid' level, where Mental's HQ, fashioned as a giant Egyptian pyramid, reveals itself to be a heavily armed, weaponised structure. It's a level chock-full of classic Serious Sam stuff, like vast environments crawling with hundreds upon hundreds of enemies hurling themselves into your sea of bullets, as the Great Pyramid itself lurks on the horizon.
7. Butcher Bay (Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay)
I loved Chronicles of Riddick, and your arrival at Butcher Bay is very, very special. You arrive at the titular prison, having been caught by bounty hunter, Johns, only to escape your shackles and dive into the prison's air-duct depths in order to escape the automated turrets. Like the shadow-bound predator Riddick is, you slink past guards or simply snap their necks. Then (spoiler alert) you glimpse a literal light at the end of a grimy tunnel, only to be roused from sleep as Johns' ship rattles in its descent towards Butcher Bay. It was all a dream. Wow.
6. Shores of Hell (Doom)
We owe a lot to Doom. It's the progenitor, and we must recognise this. Personally, I loved me some 'Shores of Hell', where the wonderfully named Doom-Guy travels to Deimos, which has been warped and twisted by the demonic influence slowly seeping from the inter-dimensional rift our own scientists wrought. It's dated, true, but it has that seminal feel to it, and a classic vibe you can't find nowadays.
5. Ravenholm (Half-Life 2)
Half-Life 2 is a masterpiece of variety, equally capable with atmosphere and mystery as it is with run and gunning, action bravado. 'Ravenholm', on the other hand, is a great example of HL2's survival-horror strengths, as Freeman is stranded in the titular, zombie-infested town. It is, quite honestly, a terrifying level, with great visual design and pitch-perfect pacing, finding the right balance between leaping zombie-action and eerie solitude.
4. GLaDOS (Portal)
Your climactic showdown with Portal's puppet-master is like nothing before it. Instead of battling a weaponised GLaDOS, all you have to contend with is the malevolent AI's taunts and teases, as you disassemble her from the inside, removing each precious peace that makes her whole. It is honestly heart-wrenching as you tear her apart, 2001's influence so very obvious. This list isn't just for intense, adrenaline-fulled battles, and Portal demonstrates that with aplomb.
3. Fort Frolic (Bioshock)
Oh, how I love 'Fort Frolic'. It is my fondest Bioshock memory, leapfrogging your initial arrival at Rapture and even the "Would You Kindly?" plot-twist. Fort Frolic is like Rapture's Las Vegas, where residents could unwind, indulge in the arts, or music, or even gambling. It was spearheaded by one Sander Cohen, who is, quite frankly, insane, and disables Jack's communication with Andrew Ryan and enlists his illegitimate son to deal with a few thorns in his proverbial side. It's a masterclass in level design, visual bravado and writing of a calibre we're not often graced with. Fantastic.
2. Facility (Goldeneye)
At Dealspwn, Goldeneye's 'Facility' kick-started our new line of 'Why We Love...' features. Suffice to say, we like it, and with good reason. Even by today's standards 'Facility' is good, slowly but surely amping up the risk and tension as you progress from dispatching Soviet guards in toilet cubicles or at urinals, to planting remote mines on gas tanks and triggering them to blow as your captors finally catch up. It's classic Bond, and perhaps the best film tie-in we've had the rare luxury of enjoying. Hence it's place so high on this list.
1. Halo (Halo: Combat Evolved)
Decisions, decisions. The Halo trilogy is packed to the seams with great levels, from 'Assault on the Control Room' to 'The Covenant'. However, it's only fitting that we plump for our first foray on a Halo ring on this list. The appropriately titled 'Halo' sees Bungie at their best, as Master Chief survives a fatal crash onto alien terrain, and must rendezvous with scattered marine patrols as the Covenant close in. Jumping into a Warthog and bounding across the ring's undulating terrain is an indelible experience.
What's your fondest FPS memory? Did we hit the notes you expected? Or did we miss out a key few candidates? As usual, drop your feedback in a tidy box below!