First-person games, where you see through the eyes of the character, can feel immersive and exciting. But there’s something more game-like about the third-person (3rd person) perspective. In 3rd person shooter games, in particular, seeing the avatar you’re controlling from above and being in control of it can be a thrilling gaming experience.
Controlling, rather than being, your on-screen avatar
The 3rd-person shooter game genre pulls the camera back to allow a player to say, “I’m that person” and both watch and control that person doing amazing things.
Sometimes you may have the itch to be a little bit removed from the action and not be the character. You control the on-screen avatar, as opposed to seeing directly through the eyes of your video-game protagonist. It’s the difference between playing a dress-up hero vs playing out battles with action figures.
Here, we’ve put together a list of the best 3rd-person shooters available for PC right now, for when that itch needs to be scratched.
1. Warframe by Digital Extremes
Following the “free to play” model of such titles as Fortnite or Apex Legends, Warframeis a run-and-gun, bash and slash, over-the-shoulder 3rd person actioner. Warframe gives a player control over a hyper-maneuverable, leaping techno-ninja who is armed to the teeth with all manner of energy guns and vibro-swords.
The name “Warframe” is derived from the full-body battle-suit that your on-screen player, an awakened warrior of a race called the “Tenno,” dons to do battle against the sinister forces of aliens, robots controlled by mega-corporations, and genetically altered, infected beasts.
Warframe casts the player as a member of the ancient warrior race Tenno, who awakens from a long, frozen cryo-sleep to find a world in conflict. Players choose from different “warframe” armor models that dictate play style and power statistics.
You can customize and upgrade your weapons and armor; either by grinding through gameplay and earning experience, or by outright cash purchase in the game’s online marketplace. It’s in the building process and tweaking of a player’s Tenno warframe that the game really shines.
Mission-based player vs. environment (PvE) tasks unfold in a large, ongoing, constantly-updated storyline that creates a kind of “living universe” of gameplay continuity. Upon beginning the game, a player chooses a basic Tenno, a handheld melee weapon, a primary weapon, a sidearm, and a ship.
From inside the ship, players select missions for their Tenno, to gain experience and loot. Completing certain missions opens new solar systems and planets (playable levels) to explore. This, in turn, unlocks resources that enable powerful, customizable upgrades to your warframe battle-suit and weapons.
A player’s ship can store more than one Tenno and battle-suit, but each one requires a storage slot on the ship, and the free-to-play base set has a finite number of such slots. Additional storage slots can be bought via micro-purchase.
The gameplay is constantly evolving across missions, and includes shooter, stealth, and role-playing game (RPG) elements. Online play with friends is possible but you can go it alone if you want. Unlike battle royale-style games, the missions in Warframe are cooperative, with up to a four-person squad.
Warframe encourages and fosters a real sense of achievement by its innovative and well-developed leveling system. Players and their equipment both gain experience and level up.
Weapons, armor, and equipment that gains experience also gain power and can be modified for different effects. This creates an incentive to tweak and optimize your Tenno and his or her warframe and gear to your particular skill set in a near-infinite number of combinations.
What sets it apart?
Although Warframe is free-to-play and weapons and gear are the draw, the game is specifically set up and designed to not be a “pay to win” model. Which is to say, every wearable warframe armor configuration, every weapon and upgrade, are all accessible via in-game play-based earning.
Monetizing the process and just buying gear outright only speeds up the process for gamers who want customized looks and options earlier.
The missions are played on randomly generated, tiled landscapes that provide new and unfamiliar territory with each playthrough, and developer Digital Extremes actively issues regular updates with fresh content, gear, missions, and storyline expansions.
Suggested rig for this game: The HP Pavilion Gaming desktop PC is an ideal gaming system for playing Warframe. This space-saving tower is customizable up to 32GB RAM, 3TB HDD storage, a powerful 9th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor with 8 cores and an NVIDIA® GeForce® RTX 2060 graphics card with 8GB of vRAM.
2. Grand Theft Auto V (HD re-release) by Rockstar Games
Originally published in 2013 as the fifth installment in Rockstar Games wildly successful sandbox-style crime-and-vehicle-racing sim series, Grand Theft Auto V got a re-release in 2019 with a complete high definition graphic overhaul.
Full 4K and 60 frames per second make the stunning and sprawling setting of the fictional Los Santos and Blaine County areas of California an even more impressive backdrop to lead a lawless life of violence and theft.
The single-player game story mode follows the illegal exploits of unlucky criminals Trevor Phillips, Michael de Santa, and Franklin Clinton. It’s a twisting series of heists and betrayals, in which they’re stealing vehicles and committing casual felonies every few minutes.
But what really draws players in is the open environment to explore and get side-tracked, as well as the inclusion of Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Online with your purchase of GTA V.
Grand Theft Auto V’s single-player story mode follows the connected lives of three criminals, who become controllable player characters. An over-the-shoulder, third-person point of view allows you to see your onscreen miscreant and the beautifully rendered, sprawling squalor of Los Santos as you run, jump, shoot and melee attack when controlling the character. Nabbing a vehicle allows you to ride (or, in some vehicles, fly) through the streets and cause unending mayhem.
Completing missions moves the story along, but between missions, players can switch between characters on the fly and have free reign to explore and play with the environment and the non-player characters (NPC) who inhabit it.
Assemble garages full of tricked-out rides, visit cinemas or strip clubs, access an in-game internet where you can use your ill-gotten funds to invest in an ongoing stock-market mini-game. The possibilities are nearly limitless, but also usually “moral-less.” Customizing and unlocking character outfits, accessories, weapons, and tattoos all go into the open-world gameplay style.
Grand Theft Auto Online’s mode takes that kind of “massively single-player” experience of exploration and adds team-based multiplayer modes, missions, weapons, and gameplay styles that keep the action fresh and exciting. Coordinate with other players (especially friends you trust) to perform in-game missions or attend actual live-DJ’d parties, which makes it something a player can constantly return to.
What sets it apart?
One of the top 3rd person shooter games out there, Grand Theft Auto V’s gameplay is now a time-tested recipe for fun; hopping between character control and any on-screen vehicle. GTA defined and set the stage for the “sandbox” style of gameplay and the revamped version of GTAV makes it that much prettier to look at. Others have provided variations on the same general theme, but GTA is the granddaddy of the genre for a reason.
Continued, unstructured (or self-structured) playability has been the hallmark of the GTA experience. The Online mode takes this same enjoyable - but lonely - experience and mechanics, and provides an ongoing multiplayer funhouse of content and experience.
Suggested rig for this game: Get the full 4K experience of GTA with the HP OMEN Obelisk desktop PC, which is engineered for gaming performance. It’s configurable up to a speedy 8-core Intel Core i9-9900K processor with liquid cooling. Up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti (with 11GB dedicated GDDR6 vRAM) provides real-time ray-tracing technologies for immersive, hyper-realistic graphics.
3. Risk of Rain 2 by Hopoo Games
In a marketplace full of games that have hours and hours’ worth of intricate, complicated histories and lore, it’s refreshing when a game remembers that it’s a game, and gets straight to the action.
Risk of Rain 2 is an action shooter where you don’t have to consume a novel’s worth of continuity to know what’s going on. You’re on some planet, running and shooting, fighting enemies and bosses, and that’s pretty much all you need to know.
This second installment in the franchise makes the leap from the 2D side-scrolling, stylized retro-based graphics approach of its predecessor Risk of Rain to a fully realized, 3rd person, overhead camera view.
And it still keeps the same general feeling and vibe of the original. Think of the jump from the 2D Mario games to the 3D gameplay of Super Mario 64.
Risk of Rain 2, like its predecessor, is what is referred to as a “Rogue-like” game. This is a reference to the original computer dungeon-crawling game from way, way back in the day of 1980. Rogue was a game with ASCII character (i.e., text and letters) for graphics, and presented the player with randomly generated levels and monster spawns.
“Rogue-like” nowadays means that the game is an all-action-crawl through random, procedurally generated levels, and a one-life, perma-death policy (i.e., when your character dies, you have to start the level over).
One to four players storm a landscape full of hostile creatures to survive long enough to find a randomly placed teleporter pod. They can then activate and defend it against waves of monsters and boss-monsters until it can be used to exit the level and gain experience and rewards.
The longer the game goes on in a level, the more the difficulty increases. Gaining experience and currency unlocks playable characters and upgrades, and affects weapon-drop availability.
What sets it apart?
Risk of Rain 2’s arcade-style gameplay and approach make for a game that is easy to jump into and start playing. The fast-paced, constant, twitch-reflex running, dodging, and shooting brings 2D platforming style mechanics to a 3D, third-person perspective and continued play rewards players with a more robust set of possible items to find and power-ups.
Its stylized color palette and design are welcome, light, and breezy fun that makes it feel like an actual old school game-like game, while being presented in the same POV as modern 3rd-person actioners.
Suggested rig for this game: Immerse yourself in playing Risk of Rain 2 with the HP Pavilion 17t gaming laptop, which provides a 17.3-inch diagonal FHD, anti-glare, and WLED-backlit screen with a sleek, narrow bezel for maximum viewing experience. And the full-size island-style backlit keyboard with numeric keypad is ideal for control and tactile feedback.
4. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) by PUBG Corporation
Before there was Fortnite, there was PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, or PUBG (pronounced pub-GEE) as it is often referred to. The unusually titled game has an unusual origin. PUBG was created by amateur coder, but serious gamer, Brendan Greene, whose online gamertag handle was “PlayerUnknown.”
Inspired by the Japanese cult-hit film Battle Royale and the book The Hunger Games, Greene created a variant mod of an existing mod(!!) of a game called ARMA 2. He took the mod DayZ which turned the open-world tactical shooter ARMA 2 into a zombie-apocalypse game, and turned it into DayZ: Battle Royale! where players were pitted against each other and the zombies, in shrinking safe zones.
This mod was so popular and well-received that Greene, a homebrew, self-taught modder, was scooped up by Sony to develop games. He was then poached by a South Korean gaming company to develop and refine the addictive Battle Royale gameplay style into its own standalone title.
This produced the blueprint for the most successful video game genre in the history of gaming, which has spawned imitators like Fortnite, Apex Legends, Realm Royale, and many more.
One hundred online players parachute weaponless onto a sprawling map that is peppered with loot drops of weapons. They must boost items that they find to use against one another in a last-man-standing fight for supremacy, as the safe zone of the map shrinks. This, in turn, forces all remaining players into an ever-tightening circle until only one player remains.
If you think you’ve heard this concept before, it’s because PUBG invented it and it’s been copied numerous times ever since. And according to many of the 200 million active players worldwide, PUBG perfected it.
What sets it apart?
PUBG, in addition to innovating the genre, remains one of the most balanced and well-tweaked Battle Royale games out there. It features a more “realistic” graphic treatment and array of weapons and vehicles that are available to players compared to more sci-fi or cartoony entries into the free-to-play Battle Royale genre that PUBG began.
Suggested rig for this game: Play PUBG as it’s meant to be played with the HP OMEN X 2S 15.6-inch laptop with a 144 Hz refresh rate or the optional 4K (2160p) with a 240 Hz refresh rate. This innovative gaming powerhouse is also the world’s first dual-screen gaming laptop, with an integrated, industry-first 6-inch 1080p resolution touch screen mounted directly on the keyboard. This second screen lets you interact with other applications like Spotify, Twitch, Discord, and more (all without interrupting gameplay).
About the Author: Jolene Dobbin is a contributing writer for HP® Tech Takes. Jolene is an East Coast-based writer with experience creating strategic messaging, marketing, and sales content for companies in the high-tech industry.
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