We’re finally rounding the bend from 2020 into 2021. It’s been, for lack of better phrasing, a year. But as frustrating as some of the real-life events were over the past 12 months, we still have some fantastic games to show for it, particular of the shooter variety. When the year got us down, these games were waiting to pick us back up. Here are some of our favorite shooters from a year we really needed this kind of explosive stress relief.
Previously in Swaraz’s Best Games of 2020: Action, Adventure, Horror
Doom Eternal (8.5)
One of the most iconic shooters of all time returned in 2020 with another hard-hitting, visceral entry that expanded upon 2016’s Doom reboot in every single way. Players take on the role of the Doom Slayer once more as they battle the demonic forces of Hell, armed with weapons like the Combat Shotgun, BFG 900, Plasma Rifle, Chainsaw, and more. More than just a simple shooter, it requires strategic rip and tear tactics combined with aggressive combat. It was a great way to get those 2020 frustrations out and exemplary of the shooter genre as a whole.
“Doom Eternal is a brilliant game, one that is a worthy successor to the previous release. While the game does stumble here and there, trying to be something that it really shouldn’t be, the outstanding gameplay more than makes up for any issues. Going by the campaign alone, Doom Eternal is well worth your time and money, particularly so if you liked Doom. I’m not sold on the multiplayer, as it feels just a bit too threadbare.”
Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War (8)
The latest entry in the Call of Duty series is another quality campaign with multiplayer options that feel more expansive than ever. The retro-styled campaign heads back to the past and follows the CIA’s Russell Adler, who tracks down the spy Perseus, who’s dead set on removing the United States as a global power. It continues the Black Ops narrative in a big way while making important iterations on the same Call of Duty multiplayer goodness we’ve loved over the years. Oh, and there’s a new Zombies mode as well.
“Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War is as close to true call of Duty as you’re likely to find in recent years, for better or for worse. The campaign does branch out a little, offering you side-missions that are unlocked through evidence gathering, which is fun. It’s also engaging, featuring a good number of entertaining set pieces.”
Deep Rock Galactic (8.0)
Nothing could ever dwarf Deep Rock Galactic’s influence. Take on the role of a space dwarves with some very important business: taking out targets, mining minerals, and what-have-you. The caves on Hoxxes IV are rife with things to do, biomes to explore, and alien arthropods to destroy. Choose your class (Engineer, Gunner, Driller, and Scout) and work with other players to move through the ranks and explore the planet’s various missions. With plenty of different, unique missions to enjoy and fantastic co-op, this is a game you’ll come back to time and time again.
“Deep Rock Galactic features everything a first-person shooter needs to be great: excellent mission variety and character design, an engaging gameplay loop, smooth co-op and huge amount of content. New players will feel a little overwhelmed by the various customization options, but those willing to invest time in learning all of the gameplay systems will find an extremely polished experience that will keep them engaged for a very long time. These dwarves are a little rowdy, but they are tough, and they are here to stay.”
Valorant is Riot Games’ equivalent to squad-based hero shooters. It also happens to be one of the best of the year, forcing players to rely on strategy as well as their wits to succeed. There are several agents to choose from that you can adapt to with your own play style while working to plant or defuse a high-tech bomb. If you enjoy games like Overwatch but need something more challenging and meant more for pro-oriented players, Valorant may very well scratch that itch for you nicely.
“Valorant doesn’t stray too far from Riot Games’ plethora of hero-focused titles. With the fusion of high-level gunplay and hero mechanics, Valorant is both highly competitive and unfortunately too highly skill focused for casual players to enjoy.”
Star Wars: Squadrons (7.5)
Star Wars: Squadrons was a surprisingly competent space shooter that captured our imaginations. Both its status as a great new Star Wars game and action-packed adventure with a satisfying campaign made it a contender for our list as well. It packs the blockbuster space battles the movies are known for into a satisfying series of missions that any sci-fi fan, especially those who have fantasized about becoming starfighters, won’t be able to get enough of.
“Star Wars: Squadrons is a mostly-successful throwback offering impressive sights, intense action, and the opportunity for fun multiplayer throwdowns. Some mechanical quirks, a couple irritating missions, and a lack of depth holds Squadrons back from being a true bullseye, but those who have missed blasting TIE Fighters should find the game worth the ride.”
BPM: Bullets Per Minute (7.5)
What happens when you combine a shooter with the framework of a rhythm game? You get something like BPM: Bullets Per Minute, which is an exciting mash-up of genres that finds you shooting enemies, jumping around through levels, and dodging gunfire as you make your way through randomly-generated levels. There are several characters to choose from, a heavy metal soundtrack, and a variety of weapons to cleave through every baddie you find with. But you’ve gotta do it all to the beat, or your moves will all be for naught.
“BPM: Bullets Per Minute is an old-school shooter with a twist, adding in roguelike mechanics as well as rhythm-based gameplay. Jump, dash, shoot and reload to the beat to advance through a host of monster-filled levels, collecting keys, coins, equipment, and stats to try and get through the seven stages that constitute each playthrough.”
Serious Sam 4 (7.3)
One of the most exciting parts of some shooters are the seemingly never-ending waves of enemies you have to slay if you want to progress. The Serious Sam series has always been great for exactly that, and Serious Sam 4 is exemplary of how much fun it can be to get caught up in hordes of enemies that want you to die a slow, horrible death. Just when your escape feels hopeless, you get to blow your way through the baddies while turning off your mind and having a blast.
“Serious Sam 4 takes us back to a simpler time in first-person shooters, where massive guns and well-timed one liners make up the bulk of the action. There’s a bit of jank that’s impossible to miss and Croteam isn’t breaking any new ground here but Serious Sam 4 is a great way to just shut off any critical thinking and blast away at a few thousand aliens for an afternoon.”
There were plenty of shooters in this tumultuous year to keep us sane. With next-gen consoles receiving a smattering of new titles in the new year, it should be fun to see which shooter options shake out. Did I miss any of your favorite shooters this year? Be sure to hit up the comments and tell us all about it. Then, look forward to more Swaraz GOTY lists as we strafe, roll, and rocket jump into the new year!