Before Destiny 2, Call of Duty: WWII, or Star Wars Battlefront 2 swoop in and demand sixty of your dollars, consider investing in these already-great, cheaper shooters. I give these recommendations with a simple rule: none of these games are in Steam's top 100 concurrent players list at time of publication.
Released: March 23
Price: $20, with a free weekend coming soon
Based on an Insurgency mod, Infamy's co-op map-clearing is spectacular casual fun. You plonk down dozens of dumb-but-accurate AI soldiers with your friends, respawning only if the next objective is completed (or if a teammate retreats back to a resupply point at spawn). Infamy is a reminder of how diverse and interesting WWII's weapon set is: the limited optics and small mag size of the M1 Garand and other guns (and flamethrower) fosters drama and moments of vulnerability. Just watch out for Infamy's merciless artillery.
Released: August 22
Price: $30 (eventually free)
My favorite FPS right now. I was initially skeptical of the changes Champions was bringing to Quake: character abilities, paid loot boxes, and the plan to move to F2P after paid Early Access. After putting a bunch of time into it, I feel like these revisions don't erode the feeling of tagging someone with a railgun across the map, or snatching up the Quad Damage before going on a lightning gun spree. Champions is still Quake at its core: blistering and athletic, played on maps that look like Hell's waiting room. All Champions needs at this point are some netcode improvements and a few more maps.
Released: December 14, 2015
Somewhere between Arma's simulation and Battlefield's chaos sits Squad, a trudging, deliberate, 50v50 shooter set in modern day maps modeled after Afghanistan and Iraq. It's been in alpha for more than a year and a half, but has grown a lot in that time, with big changes to animation, movement, and weapon handling arriving recently. Offworld Industries is currently working on adding modding support. If organized, large-scale firefighting and authentic radio chatter are your thing but you dislike the open-endedness of Arma 3, give Squad a look.
Released: August 7
Price: $22.49, but free to try now through this weekend
PC gaming isn't a popularity contest. Yes, LawBreakers hasn't had a great launch, but that doesn't invalidate its clever weapon and movement mechanics, which are some of the most inventive I've seen this year. From my review: "Each role has a fun micro-skill or two to learn, adding depth and steepening the learning curve in most cases. Gunslingers teleport in 15-foot bursts like Tracer from Overwatch, but the first shots from either of their dual pistols are buffed immediately after you blink. If you fly backwards as the Harrier, you shoot lasers from your boots that can fend off pursuers. As Harrier, I have to mark a target with a debuffing dart, then grit my teeth as I paint an enemy with my Iron Man-like laser beam. The simplicity of the Battle Medic's grenade launcher is great: left click throws grenades that detonate on impact, and right click pops out ones that bounce. I like the moment-to-moment geometry I'm asked to do to decide which grenade will be more effective."
LawBreakers also sports some of the best netcode on PC.
Released: May 30
Antimatter Games and Tripwire make ambitious FPSes. With Vietnam, the studios continued Rising Storm 2's bold focus on asymmetry with faction-specific spawning mechanics in addition to distinct weapon sets. The Viet Cong can create tunnels; the Americans can phone in helicopters for air support.
Otherwise RS2 strikes a sweet spot between authenticity and accessibility with features like weapon mounting, prone/lean, and a commander role that can call in air strikes and other support. It's a shooter about attrition, teamwork, playing the objective, and about slithering your way into a blind spot just behind the enemy's advance and racking up as many kills as you can before you're found out.
Released: June 2015
You don't see too many people talking about it, but Dirty Bomb's average concurrent player count is up 38 percent in the last year. DB's low recoil guns and the low deceleration penalty for jumping translates to excellent and tense dances, close-range duels where the movement decisions you make have a major impact on the result. Its payment model is pretty inoffensive, and like other F2P games, there’s a rotation of free mercs.