It didn't matter if you wanted to play with or without company; if you were looking for an expansive, open-world bundle of gunplay, or a tightly focused corridor shooter; it didn't matter if you preferred your MP co-operative or competitive; whether you were a fan of the super-serious, or the terrifically tongue-in-cheek...2012 had what you needed, and it had it in swathes.
NB. Click on the thumbnails for price comparisons and the game's title for the relevant review where available.
Like the very best mad scientists, Binary Domain proved incredibly entertaining, stuffed with smart ideas, and occasionally got things wrong. But the very fact that it tried to innovate in such a relatively lazy genre was worthy of applause. Boasting some incredible boss battles, slick gunplay, and a cracking story, Binary Domain threw off any Gears-clone tag it might have attracted and became a barnstorming title that married the best East and West had to offer.
As usual, Call of Duty delivered another comprehensive content package this year, with Treyarch making tweaks here and there to expand and enhance rather than overhauling. Reliably excellent fun as always, the simple -yet brilliant- revolution of giving players total freedom to tailor their loadout made Black Ops II a joy to play. Not many new modes to speak of, but existing party favourites, deathmatch options and shiny futuristic boomsticks made it a surefire online MP hit, with an excellent singleplayer campaign to boot. Another stunning content offering that saw Treyarch step out of Infinity Ward's shadow and become COD's premier dev team.
We described Borderlands 2 as "the best co-op shooter of its generation" and it still holds true to that accolade. Outstanding AI, superlative scripting, one of this generation's finest villains in Handsome Jack, and more loot than we knew what to do with, Borderlands 2 was a huge step up from its predecessor. Not that Borderlands 1 wasn't great, it's just that its bigger, badder, bolder brother was so very pleasing.
Far Cry 3 undoubtedly takes took the SP crown in the shooter category this year. Magnificently epic in scale, stuffed with things to do, and set in a living, breathing jungle, Far Cry 3 empowered the player to become the ultimate tropical predator, with a cracking story and lashings of immersion.
343 Industries were up against it, the pressure must have been huge. Yet, with Microsoft's biggest frnachise in their hands, they pulled off the incredible: not only did the match up to Bungie's predecessors, they even managed to surpass some of them. Halo 4's campaign was excellent, but it was in the multiplayer modes that 343 really pulled out all of the stops. War Games is still giving us tons of fun, with expanded loadouts and greater gameplay variety than ever before. And then there was Spartan Ops: yes, there were examples of some lazy content recycling, but we've simply been having too much fun to care. An utter blast.
Providing probably the most striking narrative we've seen in the shooter genre for some time, Spec Ops: The Line was Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Coppola's Apocalypse Now relocated to a seemingly post-apocalyptic Dubai. As a pure shooter it was admittedly lacking, but excellent presentation, a storming Vietnam-era soundtrack, thought-provoking writing, and a barnstorming performance from a nearly unrecognisable Nolan North rendered it one of the greatest surprise packages of the year.
Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3, and Halo 4 all wound up with the same number of votes at the end of our highly democratic internal ballot. Borderlands 2 had the hugely memorable characters, the phenomenally addictive loot-gathering, and a masterful douche of a villain. Halo 4 delivered the consummate content package, with an impressive approach to weekly, free DLC, and arguably the finest competitive multiplayer of the year. But it's Far Cry 3 that edges it. The dynamic jungle of Rook Island was simply too breathtakingly beautiful, too deliciously dangerous, and too excellently empowering to be ignored. Forget Assassin's Creed III, this was Ubisoft Montreal at their best - letting you become the sort of stealthy, shadowy harbinger of death that Connor and Codename 47 could only dream of this year. Of course, being a shooter, it helped that the combat mechanics were top notch too, with a cracking set of multiplayer options that included a bespoke set of co-op chapters. By the end of FC3 we knew the definition of insanity: it would have been not getting stuck into our Shooter of the Year.