If nothing else, 2012 was the year of variety in the videogame world as publishers and developers finally seemed to have discovered that it’s not the best idea to try to take a peek over the shoulder of their rivals in an attempt to replicate the success of others.
Then again, perhaps it was all a coincidence, but this year was certainly one of the best in a long time for fans of first-person shooters who have a taste for realistic military themed games, sci-fi settings, genre blending titles, off-the-wall humour, co-operative action and supernatural thrills.
Here’s a look at some of the very best first-person shooters released in 2012 that all (mostly) managed to carve their own identity into the gaming landscape this year:
Gotham City Impostors
When Monolith Software is at its best, the studio and its writers are able to create some of the most hilarious scenarios and setups in gaming, and the high concept of Gotham City Impostors alone is enough to get a chortle. Wannabe vigilantes and villains styling themselves on The Batman and Joker using homemade gadgets to bounce, fly and zoom around competitive online arenas?
Gotham City Impostors isn’t just a fun idea, it’s an excellent shooter, too, with tons of customisation options and unlocks to keep you coming back – a highly recommended team-based multiplayer game, available for download on Xbox LIVE, PlayStation Network and Steam.
Medal of Honor: Warfighter
It took two years for the follow-up to 2010’s Medal of Honor reboot to appear, and with the full might of EA behind the title and the expertise of developer Danger Close, Medal of Honor: Warfighter hit a lot of marks, but also fell short of expectations for fans of the series.
Graphically, the game is amongst the best out this year with an incredibly affecting storyline and very interesting multiplayer features, including the two-man Fire Team and the chance to fight for your country and push your nation up the leaderboards. While there are better shooters out this year, Warfighter does a lot right to make it an interesting game for fans of military shooters.
Far Cry 3
It turns out there was nothing to be worried about when Far Cry 3 was delayed by a month, because Ubisoft has delivered one of the most talked about and most highly praised games of 2012. At its core, it’s an open-world sandbox shooter, but the addictive activities on the sprawling and lush Rook Islands will keep you busy for hours while the gripping narrative and unbelievable characters set a benchmark for games.
Extensive competitive multiplayer and co-operative modes included in Far Cry 3 complete a package that was already filled to the brim with the singleplayer campaign alone. A must-play for shooter fans.
Call of Duty: Black Op 2
Activision and Treyarch this year delivered the freshest Call of Duty experience we’ve played in years as characters and themes from 2010’s Black Ops return, only in a futurist 2025 setting where advanced national defence systems have been hijacked by a terrorist out for revenge. The strategic ‘Strike Force’ missions add another way to play while choices and actions in the game have direct influences on the way the bombastic story unfolds.
Add in the signature Call of Duty multiplayer experience which has once again dominated the videogame world (which includes new features of its own), and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 becomes a no-brainer for those looking for their money’s worth in online gaming.
The Darkness II
Digital Extremes finally found its feet again with the studio’s latest game in the form of The Darkness II, a supernatural-themed action shooter set in a cel-shaded and colourful criminal underworld. Not only is the game’s story, mood and pacing perfectly set up but the ‘Quad Wielding’ gameplay is a first for the genre, allowing you to violently shoot down enemies with two guns at once, while rending and shredding your foes to bits with horrific demon arms, controlled by cursed protagonist Jackie Estacado.
An utterly unique world combined with exciting (but brutal) ways to literally tear through anyone who stands in your way makes The Darkness II a fantastic option for those looking for something a little different.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
The world’s number one online shooter returns in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and after having its crown stolen by the Call of Duty series, Valve is keen to put the classic Counter-Strike series back in the top spot with a multi-platform approach The team- and round-based shooter has received a graphical upgrade with new modes and maps, as well as a bevy of social integration features.
Buy gear, plant the bomb and protect the VIP like never before. Just don’t die ten seconds into the round or else you’ll be forced to wait for the more experienced players to finish up…
The first fully fledged Halo game from developer 343 Industries finally arrived this year and dazzled fans with an all-new graphics engine, new weapons and enemies, and a much more personal story exposing the humanity of Master Chief and the vulnerability of his AI companion, Cortana.
The break-neck campaign (playable co-operatively) soon makes way for the game’s rich multiplayer options with enough modes and maps to keep Halo fans busy for months, while the weekly Spartan Ops missions add even more value and longevity to this sci-fi shooter.
The first entry to the Reclaimer trilogy of Halo games may have played it a bit safe, but that classic Halo gameplay never goes out of style.
DOOM 3: BFG Edition
Whatever your thoughts on the original version of DOOM 3, the BFG Edition from id Software aims to flush your memories of 2004’s game and replace them with an updated version of the horrifying shooter, sporting improved visuals and multiplayer support, as well as the game’s expansion pack and a brand new series of missions.
Also, the flashlight is now always available to you – the wonders never cease.
The crown jewel of DOOM 3: BFG Edition is the inclusion of both the original DOOM, as well as DOOM II, both complete with online multiplayer and co-op support, which are arguably the package’s strongest features. Great for nostalgia seekers and horror fans.
Maybe it didn’t fully live up to expectations and it may not have been the remake everyone wanted, but Syndicate from EA and Starbreeze was a very entertaining cyberpunk-themed shooter set in a dystopic future where corporations, not governments, determine how the world is run. Playing as a highly trained and skilled combatant tasked with completing clandestine operations of sabotage and subterfuge, Syndicate is a smart game with cool to spare.
The four-player online co-operative missions were extremely fun, too, while the multitude of ability upgrades were exciting to tool around with. Unfortunate, then, that the game won’t receive further co-op support, but what’s there is good for at least a few solid hours with friends.
Following up on one of the most over-the-top, off-the-wall shooters in years, Borderlands 2 from Gearbox Software has set a new standard for hilarity and four-player hijinx. Set on the alien world of Pandora and tasking you (and potentially three other players) with hunting out yet another secret and powerful Vault, the bombastic, explosive action of Borderlands 2 is unmatched as players loot, shoot and upgrade while facing off against deadly creatures, cutthroat bandits, towering robots and the game’s antagonist, Handsome Jack.
With a massive cast of colourful characters, animals called ‘Barfing Skags,’ colossal metallic monstrosities lovingly nicknamed ‘Saturn’ and one of the most depressing (yet hilarious) robotic companions around, Borderlands 2 is an action jaunt you cannot miss, and won’t soon forget.
If you enjoyed this feature, be sure to read the rest of El33tonline’s 2012 Buyer’s Guides (so far):