What We Think: Top 5 Free to Play Shooters

Hearing that a game is free to play has completely opposite effects on people. In the first group, when they hear that an upcoming gaming is F2P, they're thrilled. No big launch day costs and simply pay what you want for the game.

To others, it's a curse. This group is plagued with fears that the game will not just be free to play, but pay to win.

Both sides have valid arguments, but the bottom line is this; free to play is the business model of today and microtransactions are not going anywhere. Even games that launch as a paid title end up converting to free to play eventually, it's the only way to stay competitive.

Why pay $49.00 for A when B is free to play?

With that being said, I gathered up the FPS General staff and we started debating about which F2P games deserved to be on a Top 5 List. Ultimately, we couldn't agree on anything. Thus, the next edition of What We Think was born.

Without further ado, click Read More to see What We Think the Top 5 F2P Shooters are, right now.


1. Team Fortress 2

Whenever a developer decides to go with the free to play business model for their game, it is my opinion that they should be forced to undergo an intensive 100-hour shock therapy session in Team Fortress 2.

This is how you do free to play, everything else has it wrong.

2. Uncharted 3 Multiplayer

When Naughty Dog announced their first foray into the F2P market by cutting out the multiplayer component to Uncharted 3 and releasing it separately, I wasn't sure what to expect.

What I didn't expect, however, was an incredibly flexible F2P model allowing you to systematically purchase level cap unlocks and even add on the SP campaign at your discretion. Naughty Dog is giving Team Fortess 2 a run for their money and I don't care WHAT Jonni says about that.

3. Offensive Combat

When Offensive Combat launched last year, my first impression was of a guy in a banana suit. As it turns out, that's not really the best first impression you can get of a game.

OC is much more than a banana suit simulator, it's a first-person shooter with quality microtransactions and addicting gameplay reminiscent of how hooked I can get on Call of Duty.

And with good reason, OC was designed by some of the very same folks who created Call of Duty from the ground up.

4. PlanetSide 2

When it comes to quality in a first-person shooter, you really don't need to look any further than PlanetSide 2. Sony Online Entertainment has the passion, determination, talent and dedication to create an amazing successor to the original PlanetSide.

This is a game we would gladly spend sixty bucks on, so the fact that it's offered up for nothing outside of optional purchases is a dream come true.

5. Battlefield Play 4 Free

Simply put, this is Battlefield without the unnecessary $60 price tag. Charging for games is SO 2011.

Easy Studios gets it. They also get that releasing classic Battlefield maps and weapons, pulled right out of some of the best BF games in the catalog makes for an incredible F2P experience.

1. Team Fortress 2

Team Fortress 2 is descendant of the granddaddy of all free to play shooters, Team Fortress. It’s sometimes hard to believe that the gameplay Valve fine tuned in TF2 has essentially been played non-stop for the last 17 years. The game features timeless, cartoony graphics and absolutely nothing in the way of upfront costs or currency-locked gameplay elements - everything earned is a true sidegrade or better yet, a cosmetic customization.

2. Tribes Ascend

Tribes Ascend rightfully earns a place on this list for being the fastest paced free to play shooter. If the idea of travelling at 250 MPH and nailing a one in the million midair sounds appealing to you, then you should probably download this right now.

They just released a new bundle too which will let you purchase all the various guns n’ stuff for one reasonable price, if leveling and earning loot isn’t really your thing.

3. PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 2 gets the number 3 spot because as a massively multiplayer shooter, it's top notch, the best around. But as a free to play title, it lacks a lot of the balance that other games on this list have struck between free and paid elements. It’s a tricky situation for Planetside 2 to be in, as it’s also the only one on this list that has a true character customizing leveling experience, but this just compounds the fact that at times, the balance is tipped towards pay 2 win, and less free 2 play.

4. Hawken

Hawken is a unique first person shooter in that you control not a person, but a mech.

In terms of gameplay, it’s hard to beat the arena-shooter feel of Hawken’s lightning quick mechs, and despite the fact that the game remains in beta, the game is fairly well polished with lots of content. It’s biggest drawback right now is a relatively small player base, but I expect this to improve as it draws nearer to release.

5. Blacklight Retribution

Blacklight Retribution gets a spot on this list thanks to fast paced gameplay and fun shooting mechanics, plus a very reasonable business model that let’s new players try out everything they could want for very little time investment.

On top of this, the game is well balanced with no weapon modules that feel over powered. BLR’s defining features are the single moddable weapon that players customize both mechanically and cosmetically, as well as the built in “wall hack” that every player possesses.

Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, it actually works out better than you might think!

When it comes to my top 5, I decided to only include the ones I've played enough to say with certainty that they're worth your time. For all I know, Battlefield heroes is better than all these, but having not played it I can't even consider it for my list.

#1. Team Fortress 2

Not even a contest really, every F2P title should aspire to be half of what TF2 is. It has done everything right, from community contributions, modding, consistent content updates, a nearly perfect Micro transaction system. Mix that with the lovable characters and you have the number one Free to Play shooter.

It’s been the best for so long, and nothing comes close to topping it, in my eyes. It’s been around for some time and it’s never too late to play it. it’s great for quick sessions or long binges, if you haven’t tried it out by now then you’re not really a fan of shooters.

#2. Gotham City Impostors

You might be asking why this one is at the #2 slot? I can’t give you a solid reason. The customization of weapons is better in Blacklight, PlanetSide 2 looks better, Tribes is like a freaking roller coaster.

What does GCI have on those?

Simply put, it's fun. That’s all. Have you seen the opening sequence? I’ve never seen such an honest game before, no bullshit and simply more fun that anything else I’ve played in a very long time. It’s more fun than the #1 slot. For that reason alone it’s crawled its way up this list to number 2. If you haven't tried it yet you must.

No excuse, go try it out.

#3. Blacklight Retribution

A huge step up from Tango Down, Retribution offers what you would expect from most shooters but with one unique twist. They allow you to see through walls as a feature. On top of that the level of customization in your weapons is beyond anything you might expect.

It’s a solid choice if you’re looking for a game to play. Go get your friends together and play a few rounds.

#4. Planetside 2

If you want a huge open world experience, where anything you do will contribute to the success or failure of your faction, with persistent outcomes, and huge infantry and vehicle warfare, then Planetside 2 is your place to be. There aren't many shooters that can offer what PS2 does, and that’s massive scale.

There is a lot to the game and tons of stuff to learn and places to explore. Another great experience in F2P Shooters that offers what others can't.

#5. Tribes: Ascend

Tribes is hands down one of the most unique shooter experiences out there. Most games are high damage automatic hit-scan guns set in a modern military setting. Nothing wrong with that but it’s certainly refreshing to play something so fundamentally different, and that’s why this makes #5 for me.

Sometimes you just want to get away from the standard shooter games and fly around the word with a jetpack, the whole world becomes a roller coaster. Its a true blast to play a game like Tribes: Ascend where the focus is based around mobility, accuracy, and timing.

Having most of the weapons in the game be projectile based makes for an entirely different type of shooter, and one definitely worth checking out. They just released their GOTY edition, you should go have a look if you haven’t already and if you've played in the past you should revisit it. 

Editor's note: Jonni has been playing shooters since the beginning of time and, as such, is better than all of us.

1. Team Fortress 2

I don't think anyone can disagree with this masterpiece being in first place. TF2 is the flagship title at Valve and set the standard for Free-2-Play excellence. Anyone can enjoy the game due to the great variety in playstyles between the 9 classes (lets face it, even a 2 year old could get frags as a pyro!).

The game has a real money economy and extremely active competitive scene which have helped sustain the game over the years.

It may not be the prettiest game ever made but TF2's graphics have aged very well and serve their purpose to the letter. Team Fortress Classic is not ashamed of its son and loves it very much!

Its not like this game needed any explanation but there you go: NUMBER ONE! NUMBER ONE! NUMBER ONE!

2. Quake Live

Most people will probably disagree on this one. I am not most people. Firstly, for most players, QL is a free game. For paying a subscription you get a bigger map pool and the ability to start a server for yourself.

Quake has been the purest form of FPS skill for more than a decade in one incarnation or another. Quake Live being the latest in the franchise, it is basically an improved version of Quake 3: Arena with a few more weapons.

The game runs from the browser and anyone, even with a 10 year old PC, can run it just fine. The Quake series has always been about depth. Item/Map Control, keeping time with respawns, strafe jumping, a massive array of powerful weapons, awareness of your surroundings and sounds. There is almost too much to think about and that is exactly what Quake is for. It takes months if not years to learn and for that particular oldschool way of thinking the #2 spot does not do it justice.

Quake Live gets #2 and a shiny gold medal for sheer awesome.

3. ShootMania: Storm

ShootMania is still in beta but openly available on Steam. When it is released the primary game modes will remain free and for a small price you gain access to the map/mod making tool and all other game modes. The last true thoroughbred oldschool shooter. In my eyes ShootMania is Quake for todays generation. It is tough to learn, requires pixel perfect aim and precise map knowledge. ShootMania is not only fast-paced but also has an advanced movement system which takes finesse to control properly.

The most popular game mode (Elite) is a real LAN/eSport game mode with only 3 players per team and a guaranteed clutch moment every round. Map/Mod making tools are easy to use and motivate people to create their own content, test it with friends and take it public.

By now you guys have realised that I don't like your average "Modern Military Shooter" and so for me this is a logical choice as it is one of only very few modern FPS games that still go by the long forgotten mantra: easy is not fun! My praise goes out to Nadeo for doing the oldschool shooter community a huge favor and reviving the true shooter genre!

4. PlanetSide 2

PlanetSide 1 was the first of its kind. An FPSMMO with 400 players per map, persistent battles and a leveling system. Everything you did impacted your faction as a whole which made it very hard to stop playing! It came out 9 years ago and the remaining die-hard fans only stopped playing because PS2 was coming. With PlanetSide 2, SOE has once again shifted the boundaries of what the FPS genre can be.

2000 players on a single map, complex bases, indoor and outdoor fighting with every vehicle type you can think of.

The 3 factions give everyone something to be proud of and have unique distinguishing features. Faction identity and the strong community behind it make for extremely heated conflict on the front lines.

It is, of course, completely possible to play the game 100% free without feeling like others have the upper hand because they spent money and the leveling system is set up in such a way that it is practically endless. Not to mention that like any good shooter, the better player wins a fight, not the one with the highest level.

All in all, PlanetSide 2 has its faults but with its amazing graphics, continuous developer support, endless battlefields and war-like atmosphere it truly deserves its spot in the top 5.

5. APB Reloaded

APB has had a checkered history with EA but everyone was happy to see it make a return under Gamers First. Enough said about that, though.

In its most basic form, APB Reloaded is GTA: Multiplayer. A 3rd person modern military shooter with cars in a big urban landscape. The customization options are truly amazing and even TF2 can't match those.

Your average player can play for free quite easily but the weapon renting system does force you to play a minimum amount per week to maintain your arsenal. For real cash you are able to buy permanent weapons, appearance customization beyond the basics and a few unique items which have only the smallest impact on gameplay.

You drive your car through the city with your homies in the back, doing missions against other groups of Baddies/Cops, firing your guns and generally behaving like trailer trash.

Over time this game has really matured into one of the few unique FPS experiences on the market today and lets be honest; nobody ever played Grand Theft Auto and DIDN'T want there to be a large scale multiplayer!

Now we want to hear from you! What are your Top 5 F2P Shooters?

Since pretty much all of our staff loved PlanetSide 2, we've got a handful of $10 Station Cash codes to give away. We'll hand them out to the best responses to this thread as a way to say thanks for sharing your Top 5 F2P Shooter list.



  • #16 TheUnNamedOne

    SOE are having double station cash this weekend (30-31st). I'm not sure if it works with these codes or only new purchases, but it'd be worth waiting until that goes live so you can get a bit extra.

  • #7 EvilNinjadude

    It's kinda been a week here... that Station Cash giveaway still a thing?

  • #8 NateRios

    Sorry, been swamped with PAX! I will do my best to get these sent out via PM on the site today. 

  • #9 EvilNinjadude

    Ah, thank you. I was keeping this open in a tab and almost forgot about it myself, and I'm not even going to PAX. 
    And, how many keys are "a handful"? :)

  • #10 NateRios

    Okay, so SOE got back to me - looks like I won't be able to send these out until Monday. Sorry for the delay!

  • #11 EvilNinjadude

    That's okay. The only thing keeping me up was the Suspense. Are there enough for everyone who posted?

  • #12 NateRios

    Yeah, absolutely :)

  • #13 ManlyManManson

    Hey, thanks Nate! Have a good Sunday!

  • #14 NateRios

    You, too!

  • #15 EvilNinjadude

    Will we be receiving them via Email?

    (And secondly, what Value will they have in station cash?)

  • #6 TheUnNamedOne

    1- TF2 - Hats.

    2- Planetside 2 - Nothing matches the scale of planetside. Hundreds of infantry together with large amount of land and air vehicles give a feeling of warfare no other game can bring. There are some issues in regards to performance, but if you can look past those you'll be sure to enjoy it. The cash shop items are a grind, but for the most part they're 'side-grades'.

    3- Tribes Ascend - Nothing feels quite as good as nailing that blue plate special. Tribes is a very challenging game, but it becomes very rewarding when you get the hang of skiing and aiming the spinfusors. The cash shop items are difficult to get without paying, but you can get a lot of your money, with various starter packs unlocking significant amounts of gear for $5-15, and more recently the GOTY version, which unlocks everything.

    4- Warframe - Who said it had to be PvP? A fast paced co-op third person shooter with melee and wall running is one of the many recipes for fun. Warframe offers a fair payment model, with the cash shop items being able to be crafted with the loot you find during missions.

    5- Blacklight Retribution - A very fun FPS with the HRV and Hardsuits adding interesting gameplay elements. The customisation on weapons is fantastic and you can arrange your weapon to do exactly what you want. The cash shop model isn't that great, but it's worth a shot nonetheless.

    Last edited by TheUnNamedOne: 3/19/2013 6:24:19 AM
  • #5 ManlyManManson

    At the moment, my top 5 would have to be

    1) Planetside 2: I've spent so much time with this game, ever since beta! The idea of massive scale battles happening throughout a real-time world is what I've been searching for, and I believe the PS2 (even in its current state) delivers. The best part is knowing that it's going to get even better! The Devs are so open with their community and the fact that they have the "Roadmap" detailing milestones is just perfect.

    2) Hawken: Really awesome game. I decided to give this F2P a whirl after being let down with the direction Piranha took MWO. I loved the MechWarrior series as a child, but MWO just doesn't do it for me. I like Hawken because everything in that game is streamlined and simple. You've got boost, weapons, a utility, and a repair drone. Sure, different mech classes, but it's not as complicated as say Call of Duty in terms of loadout combinations. Hawken is a game that really gets your gears running (lol) when you get in that zone of managing weapon cooldowns and utilizing your boost effectively and efficiently.

    3) Blacklight: Retribution: Another excellent F2P game that's all about face-paced fps action! Camping is essentially extinct thanks to the readily available wall-hack "HRV" that comes standard on all soldiers. This, as well as the recent patch that tightened up cone-of-fire for several weapon categories, come together to create a game that is easy to pickup (albeit, the menus are a bit confusing to new players, what do I have unlocked?) if you've played other shooters on PC. Definitely a "Must Try."

    4) Quake Live: If you are a fan of Arena Shooters....... then you already know about this one. Quake Live is an old goody reborn again and is easily accessible on any system! This is especially important for any F2P game as it allows you to expand your market to anyone that isn't running a "Boss Rig." Quick matches are ideal for those that just want to shoot something and go fast. Super fast. The skill ceiling is also miles above any other F2P on the market. This means that serious players will always have a goal to strive for that will keep them interested for months to come and the common "Cheeseball" tactics present in AAA shooters *cough* Call of Duty *wheeze* are not present. You won't be seeing spawn-campers here. But fret not, new and interested player, Quake Live offers tutorials to accelerate your learning and skills to make you competitive.

    5) Team Fortress 2: Last, but most certainly not least, TF2. This game exemplifies everything F2P is all about. New weapons released can be easily accessed due to crafting blueprints so you don't need to spend your hard earned money to have the latest weapons (as long as your have the necessary materials of course.) A large and thriving community! You will meet great and interesting people on the servers you visit. TF2, being a source game, gives the end user the ability to customize their experience as much as they'd like! Custom hit sounds, custom HUD profiles, etc. This is one game that you should definitely check out!

  • #4 ItsFrozn

    Aight i'll give it a go, though my list is pretty much up there already!

    1)Planetside 2. I first heard of this game back in the summer and after a long and painful period of time where i had a beta key hanging on my e-mail account with no PC to use it on i finally got a new rig loaded up the game and haven't looked back since. There is such a depth to this game that not many people can grasp. Oh and boy is playing in an outfit great! Explaining why this game is so awesome would require an article of it's own, but luckily it's free so you can just find out for yourself people!

    2)Blacklight Retribution. Many people claim this game to be somewhat Pay to win, but hell i end up on the top of the board with default guns whenever i play this game, if anything they give you too good of a gear from the get go! It's a very easy going, noob friendly shooter that you will enjoy playing. I can't wrap my head around it, but killing in this game is just so satisfying.

    3)Gotham City Impostors. Oh boy did i enjoy this game when it first came out. As a matter of fact, i liked it so much i got it for my PC after already having it on my PS3. It's fun, goofy, fast paced and doesn't take itself too seriously. 

    4)Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory. Wow has it been 10 years already? Doesn't matter this game is still one of my favorite F2P shooters on the market. I've spent more hours on this game that i dare to count and those hours were well spent! Also for any rookies, play this game untill you rock a k/d of 2 or over and you will know why the new kids on the block are called easy mode shooters!

    5)Team Fortress 2. Well i guess it's inevitable. The game is just damn near perfect and i mean come on, who doesn't love hats?! Need i say more?

  • #3 Gamepro03

    After reading through the opinions above and agreeing with most of it (And being reminded I need to try APB), my top 5 FPS F2P games would be...

    1) Planetside 2- As a leader in Planetside 2, and leading over 200 people at a time on Mattherson as a leader of The Ascended, I can honestly say that most of my FPS fill has come from PS2. Even though lately there has been its ups and downs, continued support and development has helped the issue and keeps people in. For me though, combat and strategy keep me apart of the game, and whether it's on land or in the air, vehicle fights, sniping across canyons, or close quarter fights, I've always felt the battle would be incredibly fun, win or lose.

    2) Team Fortress 2- As most have said already, the combination of teamwork and use of various tactics in smaller fights has been thrilling and incredibly fun. Though it sort of leads into my number 3 game which isn't on any list here, but is still close to my heart...

    3) Global Agenda- Alright, not really under development anymore, but still one of my go-to games for a fun, thrilling match. Easy to level up, learn the game, and get into action, without having to pay. Incredibly fun tactful fights, and shares a lot of the same reasons why Team Fortress 2 is so much fun to me.

    4) Battlefield Play 4 Free - I haven't actually played BF1 or 2, so the maps are a bit unknown to me from whats been said above, but it combines aspects of BF3 which I played, with the aspects of any free game that I would enjoy. Larger scale, more modern battles, bring me to a field where control of people and shooting people in the face is very even on the battlefield. Just a fun gameplay experience in general.

    5) Tribes: Ascend - It's unique, and the feel and gameplay is so much different than any other game that it allows to experience a whole new level of playing ground that you wouldn't in any other game. While it's been a bit since I've played, it's a good game to go to if ever bored of the standard FPS genre that has been out and barely changed since the beginning of time.

  • #2 EvilNinjadude

    My Top 5 list? Well, here goes...

    #1: Team Fortress 2

    Cosmetic purchaseables, painting options, and the rare unlock of a weapon that looks like it would help you, but none of those are required. Stuff drops by itself, and you can even get hats without paying anything, even more if you paid even a few cents. New F2P games can learn a lot from this. Not forcing people to progress via money will discourage people less than Pay2Win.

    Plus, its wacky style allows it to put in an insane range of cosmetic items without breaking "immersion". As if that was ever a focus of the game!

    #2: Tribes Ascend

    With the new GotY edition, HiRez has covered all payment options. Whether you just want one weapon, or the whole package, it's got you covered. All things that matter can be unlocked with XP, the grinding times aren't too high either. Especially with the slashed costs recently.

    #3: Planetside 2

    Most of the unlockables feel the same as the stock weapons, which may be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. The stock weapons are really good, and paying gets you all sorts of neat stuff. Plus, it's an MMOFPS, not many good ones of these are around, and I'm surprised it hasn't sparked more attention than it has. FPS mechanics are really solid if your PC can play it.

    SOE has also listened a ton to player feedback, which is always a good sign. They've even set up their own feedback interface, called roadmap, allowing the whole community to vote on features they like or dislike with minimum effort.

    #4: Blacklight Retribution

    I'm not choosing this for its F2P model as much as I did with the others. It IS F2P, but paying cash will give you a lot of permanent easy unlocks, a wide range of play styles, and time. 

    No, what I REALLY admire about BL:R is its customization system. If you played the game you would know: Everything about a gun can be changed. From the barrel to the stock and even little tokens you hang from it. And each little thing has stats attached that will keep any MinMaxer content for weeks.

    #5: Gotham City Impostors

    I haven't played this, for the simple reason that Games 1-4 have kept me busy with their quality and free-ness. However I have a slot to fill, and I've seen many many videos on it, and I want to say: Like TF2, it mixes hilarity with skilled gameplay very well. Mechanics are largely well implemented, there is a wide range of weapons to choose from with different mechanics. 

    The Gameplay of this game has me very impressed indeed.


    Well that was my Top 5 list, hope you like it.

  • #1 Itsurmom306

    Pretty obvious TF2 is king (they got hats...everyone loves hats).  But i'm also a new fan of Planetside 2, Hawken, and Blacklight Retribution.  The quality of these F2P games is going through the roof.  Def a lot of fun to be had....FO FREE!

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