The 2017 Shooter of the Year
2017 was a strange year for shooters, featuring odd contenders with glaring flaws nonetheless dominating charts of sales and active players. Big franchises like Call of Duty and Battlefield continued plugging along with new titles and DLC, while Star Wars Battlefront II crashed and burned before it had even released thanks to EA's bungling of the game's economy.
On the brighter side, 2017 was a year of retro fun with titles like STRAFE and Quake Champions finding different ways to celebrate classic PC shooting games. Prey put an interesting spin on first-person combat by allowing stealth, tricks, and fun sci-fi gadgets in equal measure with gunplay, while Arkane's other 2017 title, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, refined the established franchise formula to provide even more to love for those who enjoy heavy doses of sneaking with their combat.
There have been stronger years in the past for the shooter genre as a whole, but rarely have seen so much experimentation and so many unexpected surprises in the world of digital gunplay.
Runner-up: Splatoon 2
Mario and Zelda may have grabbed most of the attention this year for the Nintendo Switch, but Splatoon 2 gave the new console a deep, charming, and totally fun "shooter" that continued the genre-defying antics of its predecessor (only now on a system far more people will actually play). Splatoon 2's basic zone-control shooting gameplay is a perfect way to adapt the tactics and competition of a team shooter into a more kid-friendly package, but Splatoon 2 is a game that young and old gamers alike can enjoy.
Splatoon 2 is hectic and action-packed, and offers a blend of combat and strategy that is distinct and refreshing in a world of all-too-similar shooting games. Top-notch liquid physics, bright and vibrant visuals, and one of the year's top soundtracks all combine to make Splatoon 2 one of the best shooters of 2017.
Runner-up: Destiny 2
Bungie's always-polarizing sci-fi shooter has been plagued by fan discontentment and a lack of meaningful end-game content since its launch, but if you can separate yourself from the cycle of Bungie-bashing it's hard to deny that Destiny 2 offered a damn fine shooting experience in 2017. Colorful alien worlds and an eclectic collection of sci-fi weaponry made moment-to-moment gunplay in Destiny 2 more fun and satisfying than what you could find in any other new title.
While the story could be muddled and the first expansion pack struck many as being too shallow, when it comes to shooting aliens Destiny delivers dozens of hours of pure joy. Each weapon is distinct and rich in detail, and the wonderful world of shaders provides customization-minded gamers with an endless supply of flashy colors to splash over your cosmic sci-fi armor.
Destiny 2 blends shooting and MMO elements together in a way that makes it much more of a social experience than a typical shooting game, and its focus on Clans, Factions, and Fireteams adds entertaining team-focused elements into the mix. The game isn't perfect, but it offered some of the very best shooting gameplay of 2017, and it did it in a world full of color that you can easily enjoy with your friends.
Runner-up: PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
PUBG was rough around the edges for most of the year (and still has plenty of issues waiting to be polished away) but that didn't stop it from being a huge phenomenon. It set new records for concurrent players on Steam while still technically in Early Access, and it became a hit with game streamers thanks to its rapid rounds, tense gameplay, and easy-to-understand match structure. While initially only a 3rd-person experience, a traditional first-person view was added along the way, along with elements like squads, custom games, vehicles, fog, and other content that enriched the free-for-all shooting experience at the game's core.
The appeal of being the lone survivor from a group of strangers and the high-stakes drama that comes into play as the number of players remaining ticks down offers pure excitement, the result of years of development experience refining the battle royale genre. It's truly remarkable that the game's single map provided so much longevity, and with the recent introduction of a new map along with the game's Miramar update PUBG has entered an exciting new stage. The game is likely to grow even bigger in 2018 with its expansion to the Xbox One, and while its success means it will have to contend with imitators like Fortnite, it's in a great position to continue to be one of the most popular and dominant games in the world.
Winner: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Is it weird that the best shooter of 2017 doesn't actually have the best shooting mechanics of the year? Because the shooting in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus is good, but it's nothing revolutionary. You can lean around cover, and throw grenades, and take enemy weapons, and you have a few different ways to make Nazi heads explode in glorious splashes of blood. Dual-wielding can be a blast, and the game's weapon upgrade system is tight and meaningful, with enough upgrades to give you interesting options while still keeping each individual upgrade substantial.
But the shooting in Wolfenstein II isn't the best shooting you could do in video games in 2017, and isn't substantially better than many other good shooters that have come before it. No, what makes Wolfenstein II the shooter of the year is everything else surrounding its shooting mechanics. It's an unapologetically political game that tells its single-player story so well it earned our Narrative of the Year award. It swings from depressingly grim to audaciously funny and has some of the best cutscenes ever put in a video game. It somehow manages to both be a fun shooter game in which you kill hundreds of enemies and a game where death and injury feels meaningful and real when the game needs it to.
Wolfenstein II is a pure single-player shooter of a kind we don't see often anymore. It looks and sounds great, it's surprising and innovative where it counts, and it combines one of the year's best stories with a solid FPS core. It doesn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to shooting, but it doesn't need to, because it executes at such a high level in every single other area.
Congratulations to Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, winner of GameCrate’s 2017 Narrative of the Year!
Check out our full 2017 award list for more.