Feature

The 2017 Shooter Of The Year Awards

by Matt Bertz on Jan 06, 2018 at 04:10 PM

Given that 2016 was a landmark year for shooters with standouts like Doom, Battlefield 1, and Overwatch, 2017 had big combat boots to fill. I think you can argue that the year more than held its own. 

Whether you were looking for a cooperative romp, competitive firefights, or a story-based campaign, 2017 had you covered. Ghost Recon Wildlands put the dormant Tom Clancy brand back on the map with a fresh take on open world tactics. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus made us smile, laugh, and stare in wonder with its schizophrenic story and pulse-pounding action. Whether you rolled, solo, as a duo, or in a group, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds proved to be the most addicting shooter of the year, racking up more than 30 million players in less than a year despite it being a rough early access experience for most of the year.  

Studios also supported prior releases extremely well in 2017. Overwatch had a steady stream of new heroes, maps, and seasonal events. Rainbow Six Siege continued its improbable rise. Battlefield 1's expansions kept players coming back to World War I. 

So which games won over the Game Informer staff? Check out the awards. 

Best Campaign: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
The second Wolfenstein game from MachineGames took hero BJ Blazkowicz in surprising directions that required a hefty suspension of disbelief. His cast of fellow freedom fighters grew considerably as the resistance efforts expanded into mainland America. Over the course of the zany journey, our buzz-haired hero confronted the demons of his past, raised his Nazi body-count by a couple hundred, and took the fight against Hitler to space once again. The memorable moments are so overflowing from this stellar campaign that we had a hard time picking our favorite sequence. The New Colossus may confuse you and test your limits for zigzagging plots, but you certainly can't forget it.  

Best Setting: Bolivia – Ghost Recon Wildlands
One of the most diverse biomes in the world, Bolivia served as a fantastic backdrop for the Ghosts' black ops war against the Mexican Santa Blanca drug cartel. The sprawling country features everything from dangerous mountaintops and cascading coca farms to swamps and salt flats, giving your team of Tier 1 operatives several breathtaking vistas to enjoy while you dismantle the cartel piece by piece.  

Best Character – General Engel – Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
A short-tempered leader, loveless mother, and cruel administrator of justice, General Irene Engel served admirably in her promoted role as the central antagonist in The New Colossus. One of the most memorable and well-acted villains in the past decade, her deadly dance with chief rival BJ "Terror Billy" Blazkowicz comes to a satisfying head.

Best Graphics – Star Wars Battlefront II
DICE's Frostbite may struggle in being adapted to new genres, but for first-person shooters, it's the game engine equivalent to a Ferrari. A repeat winner after Battlefield 1 won this category in 2016, DICE perfectly captured the look and feel of the Star Wars universe, whether you were shooting it out on the forest moon of Endor or navigating an X-Wing through the bays of a Star Destroyer.

Best Audio – Star Wars Battlefront II
DICE is known for its amazing sound design, and Star Wars Battlefront II didn't disappoint in this department. The voiceover stand-ins for heroes like Han Solo and Luke Skywalker may not sound the best, but the audio recreation of cacophonous blaster fire, frantic lightsaber whirring, and intense space battles made it sound like you were in the middle of a Lucasfilm production. 

Best Weaponry – Destiny 2
Destiny fans were disappointed with the way Bungie reconfigured the weapon loadouts for the highly anticipated sequel, but that didn't diminish their desire to seek out interesting exotic weapons like the powerful Sunshot hand cannon, Merciless power fusion rifle, and Sweet Business auto rifle. One of the funniest moments of the year occurred when PvP players embraced the ridiculously overpowered Prometheus Lens trace rifle for a weekend until Bungie patched it out of the Crucible. 

Best Gunplay – Destiny 2
Ever since the original Halo, Bungie has had a way with adopting first-person shooter controls to a gamepad. Destiny 2 proved the Seattle studio is still at the top of its game. Many other high-end shooters have good handling guns, but few feel as right as Destiny 2. Bungie also extended its control mastery to PC for the game's debut on the mouse and keyboard platform. 

Best Remaster – Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition
Published by Gearbox Software, the remaster of this underrated People Can Fly single-player shooter improved texture resolutions and also let players replace protagonist Grayson Hunt with shareware fan favorite Duke Nukem. We don't think anyone was asking for that, but we enjoyed it nonethelesss. We wished there were more extras outside of a few challenge maps, but it was still nice to see this great game get a second life.

Best Comeback – Ghost Recon Multiplayer
In the early days of Xbox, Ghost Recon was one of the most popular multiplayer shooters available. But as the series evolved and Ubisoft put more of an emphasis on near future gadgetry, that luster was lost. We didn't expect much from the free Ghost Wars expansion for Wildlands considering it came out well after the game's original release, but Ubisoft delivered a memorable and addictive 4v4 competitive mode with interesting classes, great pacing, and intense thrills.

Best VR Shooter – Robo Recall
With popular titles like Raw Data, Arizona Sunshine, and Superhot VR, the virtual reality platforms have no shortage of shooting-centric experiences. Our favorite of the year was Robo Recall, which debuted alongside the Oculus Touch controllers last March. This battle against rogue robots recalls the on-rails lightgun shooters from the glory days of arcades, but takes the experience up a notch with the ability to warp around the map and dismantle enemies with your hands in close quarters skirmishes. 

Best Shooter As Service – Overwatch
The introduction of Orisa, Doomfist, and Moira captured the headlines for Overwatch in 2017, but the game also received three new maps, a deathmatch mode, and several themed events to keep players invested in the popular hero shooter. The new content did way more than just keep players coming back intermittently; many Game Informer staffers logged in and played nearly every day. In May, Activision announced Overwatch's membership in the Billion Dollar Franchise club, having achieved that remarkable feat in less than a year. 

Best Cooperative Multiplayer – Ghost Recon Wildlands
A four-player cooperative campaign that can span well beyond 60 hours, Ghost Recon Wildlands let bands of special forces fighters do whatever they wanted to do at any given time. Perhaps one soldier provided overwatch with a suppressed sniper rifle while another person marked enemies with a drone, with the other two soldiers moving into position for a base infiltration and hostage extraction. Or maybe you just had one idiot friend charge into the base like Leeroy Jenkins and turn the carefully orchestrated operation into a free for all. Either way, we had a hell of a time. 

Best Competitive Multiplayer – PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
Even with blockbuster shooters like Call of Duty and Destiny in the mix, no big-name game could match the surprising fun of this mod turned multi-million dollar franchise from the mind of Brendan Greene. PUBG's deft mix of survival, looting, and firefights captivated the imagination of more than 30 million players, with more than 3 million players often playing the game concurrently on PC. The recently released Xbox One version is still rough, but at least console players can see what the fuss is all about. 

Best Multiplayer Map – Erangel – PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
Perhaps since Counter-Strike's famous Dust 2, no multiplayer map has been more studied, scrutinized, or talked about than Erangal, the lone location that shipped with PUBG. Before each round begins, teams plan out where they play to parachute in to find weapons and vehicles. Knowing your surroundings is a must if you want to get to the later rounds of each battle royale match, as walking into a hot spot or known hiding spot ill-equipped will get you killed nearly every time.

Best Innovation – PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
Multiplayer shooters have featured giant maps and scaled up to and past 100 players before, but none have been as successful as PUBG at making the gameplay intense and accessible even when you are seemingly crossing an empty field alone. The constant threat of having a band of rivals over the horizon or hiding in the brush keeps you on your toes at all time, and even if you end a match with an untimely death and no kills, you know that each match is completely different so it doesn't discourage you from loading right into another skirmish.

Biggest Disappointment – Star Wars Battlefront II
Backlash against chance-based rewards and pay-to-win game design dominated headlines in 2017, and though it wasn't alone in its misdeeds, Star Wars Battlefront II became the poster child for how not to build a multiplayer experience. EA tried its best to respond to the criticism, but the design flaws are so deeply ingrained into the annoying progression system that there truly was no saving the game. We just hope EA learned enough from this egregious mistake to make sure next year's Battlefield title doesn't suffer a similar fate. 

Shooter of the Year: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
It may have just left early access in late December and still has its share of technical hiccups, but there's no denying the allure and addictiveness of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. Though it wasn't the first battle royale game, it's the first to reach mainstream appeal thanks to its fantastic design and we widely expect every publisher under the sun to create its own take on the budding genre in the years ahead. Fending off copycats won't be easy, but as long as Bluehole and PUBG Corp keeps building on this excellent foundation we think this already successful game will only keep getting bigger.