We're more than a month into 2012, which means there are less than 11 months left until the world ends. That's according to the Mayans, of course, who have tabbed December 21, 2012, as the "end of all days." While no doubt some of you will continue raging your faces off 24/7 until that prophecy comes to fruition, why not do some prep week for the big day by playing video games? The apocalypse (and its after effects) have always played a big part in gaming culture and we found six titles that stand out among the rest. So melt into a couch, pick up a controller, and do your best to ensure the continued survival of the human race.
Left 4 Dead Series
Systems: Xbox 360; PlayStation 3; PC
These shooters from the creative minds at Valve (Counter-Strike, Half-Life, Portal) is set in pandemic-ravaged post-apocalyptic Pennsylvania (L4D) and Savannah, Georgia/New Orleans (L4D2). They consist of four survivors doing battle against endless hordes of infected zombies. Powered with the ever-pleasing Source engine, the single player features co-op for up to four players as you work your way across up to seven different “movies” containing four separate chapters each. The “Director,” perhaps one of the more elegant pieces of the Source engine, is a program that actively "directs" the course of the game. In short, it's an artificial intelligence system that controls the spawning of zombies, interactive items (gas and fuel tanks), and weapon placements. Why is this important? Well, it ensures that each gaming experience is unique for all players and provides for a rich replay-ability factor.
In addition to the countless number of “regular” infected freaks charging toward you in an attempt to rip your face off, there are a number “special” zombies that add to the fun. There are Hunters, which prowl along the rooftops waiting to pounce on you and tear into your flesh; Smokers, which are able to use their mutated tongues to strangle survivors; and, of course, the Tank. These are just a few of the uncommon infected, which are all playable characters in the online multiplayer Versus mode.
Alongside the 4-on-4 multiplayer Versus mode is online campaign mode, in which each team has an opportunity to play through the chapter, with the other team playing as special zombies attempting to incapacitate the survivors. Whichever team makes it the farthest without being stopped wins. There is also a recently added "Mutations" online game mode, which changes each week between such special game types as “Everyone Plays As a Tank” and “Last Gnome Standing.” Game modes are now available to be voted on by users.
Loaded with a decent arsenal of guns, melee weapons (including, as seen in the video above, samurai swords, baseball bats, and axes), and grenades, the L4D series provides gamers with an exciting fast-paced post-apocalyptic zombie thriller experience. With maps ranging from abandoned hospitals and airport terminals to amusement parks and creepy cornfields, players are in for hours of non-stop killing. If you like killing zombies, you must get this game.
Systems: Xbox 360; PC
As far as apocalyptic thrillers go, Valve seems to have found the correct recipe. Half-Life is one of the most recognizable video games series of the past 15 years, and the second installment was hailed by some as the best game of the decade.
You play as Gordon Freeman, a theoretical physicist employed by the Black Mesa Research Facility to investigate the nature of a suspiciously crystal artifact. Through a series of unfortunate events, the scientists inadvertently rip existence a new crap hole in the form of a dimensional rift between our world and the alien world of Xen. In an attempt to cover up the mistake, a Marine Recon unit sent in to clean up the mess constantly hunt Gordon and the remaining survivors of the disaster.
A stocked arsenal of timely and futuristic weapons makes destroying your soon-to-be alien overlords that much more fun. The game is a linear story-based first-person shooter that comes with a terrifying array of enemies, from Headcrabs to Antlions. As on Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 2 is powered with the Source engine, which gives the game realistic physics to go along with the deadly alien and corrupt dystopian police onslaughts. One of the best reviewed games of all time, Half-Life 2 provides you with all of the glorious zombie-alien killing mayhem you could desire.
Systems: Xbox 360; PlayStation3; PC
Bethesda Studios, the masterminds behind the critically acclaimed phenomena known as Skyrim, brings to the table an apocalyptic RPG that is as customizable as it is unpredictable. In terms of playability, Fallout 3 is similar in almost all aspects of player control as one would have in Skyrim, Oblivion, or any other of Bethesda’s massive video game epics.
Equipped with the V.A.T.S. -- Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System -- players are presented with a visually stimulating H.U.D., which displays information regarding health, weapon ammo, and environment facts. The game is set in the year 2277, 200 years following a nuclear apocalypse that devastated the world as we know it. The cause of the war was increasingly hostile relations between America and China, which culminated in the nuclear destruction of humanity during the Sino-American War, in 2077.
Born in a Vault — an underground bunker where humanity attempts to survive — you are completely unaware of the conditions outside the metal walls. Upon your 18th birthday (about 15 minutes of gameplay) you are sent out into the world and left to explore its awesome, eerie mystery.
From groups of bandits to insane corrupt settlement leaders, you are constantly engaged in combat with somebody -- or some thing. Weapons in the game are basically anything the player is able to pick up. Pieces of metal or wood can be used as weapons in addition to the scattered and make-shift guns lying around the map. The AI system is also entirely unique and non-restrictive to level. That means that the instant you leave the Vault and find a weapon, say, a gun, if you are able to kill an enemy with it, you’ve got yourself a gun. No waiting. In addition, the first-person combat system is built around a Havok physics engine (see video above), which provides for hours of entertainment.