Green space marine or purple alien, who will triumph? Only careful study of the paint swatches' entrails will divine an answer.

Released: 30 September 2003
Developer: Bungie
Selected titles:
Marathon (1994)
Myth: The Fallen Lords (1997)
Oni (2001)

I'd be stupid not to know that putting this game here at all would possibly be a questionable decision. I'm stupid in enough other ways as it is, I don't need any more bloody mental impediments. Lots of people look back at this game very favourably, and even I do in some ways. I remember the first time I played the opening of The Silent Cartographer level on a demo Xbox in a store on its release, and being very, very impressed. The approach, the landing, the fight, the Warthog. The opening of The Silent Cartographer is far too good to be in this retrospective. The rest of Halo belongs.

Pariah thinks it's got what it takes. Has it got what it takes? Perhaps it has!

Released: 3 May 2005
Developer: Digital Extremes
Selected titles:
Extreme Pinball (1996)
Unreal (1998) [Co-developer]
Dark Sector (2008)

Oh boy. You hear that? No, not that, that's my stomach. I mean the STOMP-STOMP-STOMPing. That's the ominous march of incoming space marines, protectors of the mediocre shooter, and I've just met their vanguard, waving a flag of peace cunningly attached to a big glowy gun. When you are making a game and have precisely no idea of your own, you turn to the space marines for aid.

Thankfully, Pariah doesn't cast you as an actual space marine, you're just busy shooting 'em. And we're actually on Earth, not in space. And, in actuality, I'm not even entirely sure that these guys I'm shooting are marines. But you can't fool me that easily. This muddy brown jackboot stamping on my head stinks of space marine.

Next to possibly proudly have the Looking Back Medal of "Meh" pinned to its dinner jacket is one of the hard-to-discriminate-between Bond games. Perhaps it's really good?

Released: 18 November 2002
Developer: Eurocom / Gearbox Software
Selected titles (Eurocom):
Batman Begins (2005)
Predator: Concrete Jungle (2005)

Goldeneye 007 (2010)

Women. Girls. Babes. Objects. THINGS. Whatever you're going to call the air-headed lesser sex in this misogynistic parallel world, James Bond is sick of them. I know this, because for a precious few hours I was Bond. I saved the world, you know. And I did it despite the fact that every five minutes I had to shake off the latest female trying to dry hump me. I reckon that beneath that greasy fa├žade James Bond is actually tired of the two-dimensional adulation from the opposite sex. I bet he just wants them to leave him alone and let him disarm bombs and deactivate laser beams, because when you're doing that Nightfire can, sometimes, be quite good fun.

Our arduous journey begins with a stop by the little town of Chaser, known for its orangey-brown sights and sounds. And smells.

Released: 30 August 2003
Developer: Cauldron HQ
Selected titles:
Conan (2004)
Soldier of Fortune: Payback (2007)

Secret Service (2009)

Chaser is a 'what if?' sci-fi/horror mesh. In the near future, mankind has reached the stars, colonised Mars, made great strides forward in the sciences. The player is dropped into this reality at a point where our own creations have begun to turn against us. Cold, unfeeling constructions that we created to serve us. Yes, you guessed it, doors.

"Go, set the world alight."

These are apparently the words that birthed the Jesuit movement, when some saint said it to another saint. That's what a Jesuit PDF I found via a Google search claims. It also notes that the words weren't meant to be taken literally, which is good, because there's enough history of Christians setting fire to other people's stuff (and its owners) as it is. Regardless of context, it's a very inspiring sentence. I can imagine it preceding great things being done by the speaker's target. I can contemplate it being spoken to a fresh-faced, short-arsed Lieutenant Buonaparte or at the beginning of Pink Floyd's "The Wall" tour. I can even envisage John Romero's ghost* whispering it to Gabe Newell in 1996.

This column's purpose is to revisit a series of first-person shooters. None of them are Half-Life. Our subjects were typically released in the first five years of the second millennium**, or during the sixth generation of consoles if you like; history has largely forgotten about them because they're, well, mediocre. And here it comes: or are they?

Mostly, yes.

We will discern how badly (or well) these games hold up after several years' passage, and it would be nice if we could find something unfairly treated at its release that time has vindicated: maybe not set the world alight, but at least combusted little bits of it.

The other reason I opened with the whole Jesuit thing is because Wikipedia says they're known as "God's Marines," which is just cool and worth repeating.

*Dead to me.
**"The second millennium" sounds infinitely more grandiose than "the 21st century".

"Is this a world you want to be a part of? Look around you! Look at all the suffering that this man has caused!"
"No visionary leader is without his critics."

- Exchange between Dr. Barislov and Chancellor Demichev.

Taken in isolation, this line doesn't help frame my experience of the game. But my reaction does. I grinned from ear-to-ear.