The shooter, long standing staple of the hardcore gamer's diet and 2012 has been an especially vintage year for lovers of all things guns, bullets and carnage. From beginning to end we've seen a non-stop procession of classics and now with some even bigger releases to come, this looks like it could be one of the best years for the genre yet.
High time then to pick from the finest selection that have passed under our guns, as well as tipping the biggest titles you can look forward to as the Christmas release schedule hots up. So here they are in strictly alphabetical order and if there's any we've missed, please feel free to nominate your own in the comments section below. You can also let us know which of this year's big guns you've enjoyed or are looking forward to the most. So without further ado, strap in, load up and get ready to spray and pray.
Don't forget you can vote for your favourite shooters, plus the rest of your favourite games in this year's 30th Anniversary Golden Joystick awards 2012 - make your vote count in sixteen categories with more than 150 possible titles deserving of your gaming love
Gearbox's sequel to its acclaimed shooter offers a brand new open world setting and more weapon combinations than you can shake a stray howitzer at. Its unique cel-shaded look has always made Borderlands 2 stand out form the shooter herd, but now, with vastly improved enemy AI, a megaton more guns and much cooler characters including the brand new Mechromancher, who can summon giant robot allies, Borderlands 2 is one of this year's standout blasters. Our Borderlands 2 review called it, 'utterly compelling, with can't-stop-yourself loot collecting ...a great world, backed by some razor-sharp wit'. However just like the epic Left for Dead series, where Borderlands 2 really shines is in co-op play, as you team up with your mates to unleash unholy online carnage on your unwitting foes.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
It used to that Infinity Ward's numbered and Modern Warfare titles were seen as the primary Call of Duty games, but Treyarch broke the mould with the original Black Ops and now Black Ops 2 or BLOPS 2 as it's affectionately known, is set to sweep all before it this Christmas. Moving the action of the single-player game to a nightmarish near future where combat drones and military hardware have been turned against their masters, Black Ops 2 is set to add a layer of tactics and even a branching storyline to its usual rather linear offering. Yet, as always, it is in multiplayer that Call of Duty will really shine, with a heady new mix of perks, weapons and equipment adding even more options to your annual dose of online carnage.
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Prior to the release of the 2012 incarnation of the tactical special forces versus terrorists shooter, there were fears that this year's version simply couldn't live up to the series' merciless, hardcore reputation. Foolish really, since the game was in the hands of master developer Valve and it made a game that not only delivered one of the best first-person multiplayer shooter franchises the PC had to offer, but added console support, additional layers of polish, superb balance and a brilliantly worthy sequel. Our Counter-Strike: Global Offensive review called it 'a glorious experience that sets a benchmark for all multiplayer shooters' and a successor which will once again sear the phrase 'Go Go Go!' into gamers' memory banks.
The Darkness 2
Jackieeeeeee! What's better than being able to dual-wield a pair of shooters? Being able to dual wield them accompanied by a giant pair of great demon arms able to rip your enemies apart of course. Digital Extremes' (kind of) heart-warming tale of decadent mob-boss Jackie Estacado and his long lost girlfriend may have revelled in its hardcore violence and epic body count, but they masked a surprisingly tender, even daring finale if you happened to pick the non-canon ending. Still it's the shooting action which concerns us here and the combination of demon tentacles, a weighty arsenal and a tendency to emphasise the truly bloodthirsty approach to progress resulted in as our Darkness 2 review said, in some 'genuinely entertaining massacres'.