With premier titles like Halo 4 and Borderlands 2 garnering headlines and the revenue juggernaut Call of Duty dominating the sales charts once again, the shooter genre turned in an impressive 2012. Naysayers view the category as lacking innovation or surprises, but nobody predicted the open-world greatness of Far Cry 3 or that the narrative of Spec Ops: The Line would stick with you long after you turned off the game. Which games stood out the most? Read on to find out.

Best Story: Spec Ops: The Line

Most military shooters walk the same straight and narrow line: the world needs saving, and your trigger finger is the key to victory. Not Spec Ops. When Captain Walker and his Delta squad enter the Dubai disaster zone after a cataclysmic sandstorm to find out what happened to Colonel John Konrad, they come face to face with the horrors of war and they’ll never be the same.

Best Campaign: Far Cry 3

No setting left a better impression on the shooter fans in the office this year than the islands of Far Cry 3. We’re not fans of the trust-fund protagonist Jason Brody, but scouring the island to find his friends, joining the native Rakyat in an effort to drive the drug and slave traders from their homelands, and interacting with the many crazy inhabitants of the island was an unforgettable experience we encourage all shooter fans to seek.

Best Multiplayer Map: Exile – Halo 4

Combining high-octane vehicular battles with close-quarters infantry combat, the large-scale Exile map offers something for everyone. The donut-shaped map allows vehicles to patrol the periphery, but drive too slow and someone will pop out of a trench and commandeer your ride. Those who prefer infantry combat can stick to cover in the outer edges and use tunnels to make their way indoors without getting run over by a Warthog.