Far all its enduring popularity, there’s one aspect of the venerable first-person shooter that fans have always found rather disappointing: you can rarely see your character. The third-person shooter solved the problem zooming out and placing the perspective above and behind the character’s shoulder.
Now, with our character visible in full 3D glory, (well, their back, but you can’t have everything you want), the door was opened to a raft of gameplay possibilities, including more fluid melee combat options, complex traversal and platforming, and the peek-over-the-wall view needed for the rise of the cover shooter.
And with these new avenues of gameplay came new levels that took full advantage of the type’s unique perspective.
So, what are the best third-person levels that took the genre and mastered it, producing gaming experiences unmatched anywhere else?
To get as many stellar candidates as possible, the definition of what a third-person shooter is has been kept fairly broad. The game must have a strong action focus (so no stealth titles) and should lean towards shooting over melee (no pure brawlers). It must also have clearly defined levels/quests, with adventure, sandbox and RPGs welcome, as long as they adhere to the rules above. Lastly we're focusing will be on single-player campaigns, to bring it all together.
Beware, mild spoilers ahead.
10. Rolling Thunder/The Big Push - Gears Of War 2
Technically, Rolling Thunder and The Big Push are two separate levels, but with the former flowing seamlessly into the latter it feels natural to pair them up for this list.
The level kicks off with protagonists Delta squad taking their place in the vanguard of an armoured spearhead sent to crush the Locust horde. But things don’t go to plan, and the vanguard quickly finds itself neck deep in a hellish Locust counterstroke.
The gunplay here is pure Gears of War fare: genre-defining, smooth-as-butter, cover-shooter combat, so that’s not what sets it apart.
No, what this level does well is scale. Its opening sequence, with the gunships escorting the imposing assault derricks as they snake through a narrow canyon, truly makes you feel part of a massive military campaign. And when the Horde begins to swarm, even though you fight alone, you still feel a part of that bigger picture, that your desperate fight for survival is being echoed along the entire front.
Its real Hollywood war film stuff: gritty, intense and cinematic, a true Band of Brothers experience that few games succeed in capturing the essence of, yet is pulled off with aplomb here.