Bronze: Lost Planet 3 by Spark Unlimited
Don't get me wrong, Lost Planet 3 is not a great game. It is a reasonably good game at best which you should check out after it gets a price drop. But prior to actually playing it, both Isaac and I thought this game was going to be complete garbage. I didn't like the first two Lost Planet games that much and when I heard that the latest game in the series was going to be developed by the same folks that brought you games like Turning Point: Fall of Liberty and Legendary, it seemed inevitable that Lost Planet 3 was going to be a big ripe turd.
Oh how wrong I was, and I do love to be wrong! Lost Planet 3 is a surprisingly decent third-person shooter with solid weapons, great graphics and a well told story. The core shooting is certainly by the numbers and the multiplayer was trash but Lost Planet 3 was a fun game and I am actually curious to see what Spark Unlimited will cook up next.
- Ross Hartley
Silver: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons by Starbreeze
Monolith and Starbreeze were my favorite first-person shooter developers, creating interesting and inspired games in the genre that felt different than anything else out there. But Monolith is now a shadow of its former self, churning out mediocre Batman downloadable arena shooters and a fucking Lord of the Rings MOBA,. Now having just announced that they are moving on to a third-person action Lord of the Rings games heavily inspired by Batman: Arkham Asylum, I fear that Monolith's glory days are far, far behind us all. And unfortunately it seemed like Starbreeze were headed in that same direction after the large departure of their lead talent to form MachineGames, and the complete sales flop of the excellent and underrated Syndicate made me afraid that Starbreeze's reign would be over as well.
Indeed, after the announcement of Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, a platform-y puzzle-y thing that seemed to carter to the recent surge and popularity of platform-y and puzzle-y indie games I truly believed that Starbreeze were done for. Queue my total surprise then when after finishing Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons that I found out that not only how thoroughly excellent it was, but also how much it felt like a Starbreeze game. From the triple-A production values and its dark, mature storyline, Brothers felt completely like a Starbreeze joint, even if you weren't carrying a gun from the first-person perspective. Brothers not only impressed me because it was so brilliant, but also because even though Starbreeze might be moving away from first-person shooters, then at least their unmistakable identity and imagination would follow with them into any genre.
- Isaac Wagner
Gold: Call of Juarez: Gunslinger by Techland
I barely remember the moments leading up to Call of Juarez: Gunslinger's release. There was a pretty soft announcement of the game by Techland and Ubisoft, and a pretty miserable live-action trailer if I'm remembering it right. And also after the awful reception of Call of Juarez: The Cartel, I wasn't expecting much from Gunslinger. But holy crap, is Call of Juarez: Gunslinger a fantastic game! In a complete 180 roundabout, Techland reserved course from the awful The Cartel into the fantastic Gunslinger, an oddly smart first-person shooter that pushed the boundaries of a first-person shooter narrative and single-player campaign in ways that constantly excited and surprised me.
While it has been a pretty weak year for first-person shooters, Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is the best of all of them, and would've been a strong candidate for such an honor in any other year. Gunslinger truly did come out of nowhere and kicked my ass, and I wish that more games would do that.
- Isaac Wagner