It’s a moment every gamer’s experienced at some point in their button-pressing career. Pinned down behind a small wall or a pile of crates, the player, armed only with a hopelessly underpowered pistol with two bullets in it, cowers beneath a hail of screaming hot lead.
But then, just when all seems lost, the player spots a rocket-propelled grenade lying nearby, and suddenly, the balance of power has changed.
To celebrate the exhilarating rush of violent instances like this, here’s a selection of ten such satisfying, weapon-based moments in videogaming…
Machine gun – Rolling Thunder
Namco’s 80s side-scrolling shooter is an early example of the scenario outlined above. For much of the game, its skinny secret agent protagonist spends his time cowering behind warehouse furniture, as an army of hooded goons take pot shots at him from the other side of the screen. A kind of proto cover shooter, the average game of Rolling Thunder boiled down to the agent and his foes ducking behind crates and occasionally returning fire with slow-firing pistols.
That was, until the player acquired a machine gun, which sent off a volley of high-velocity lead screaming across the screen at the touch of a button. With the enemies melting satisfyingly in the wake of the cannon’s bullets, the player could bask in a few moments’ god-like invincibility, until the damn thing ran out of bullets. Well, it was fun while it lasted.
BFG 9000 – Doom
One of the many things that id Software got right with its seminal FPS Doom was the way its levels and action gradually increased, from the atmospheric early stages where the player skulked around dark, sparsely populated maps with a pistol or a shotgun, to the later areas where the BFG 9000 was wheeled out in all its glory.
An insanely powerful weapon, the BFG unleashed vast gobs of luminous green plasma into the demonic horde, destroying everything it touched in a shower of sprite-based gore and body parts. The slight delay between pressing fire and the resulting destruction only added to the weapon’s cheer-inducing sense of power.
Cougar Magnum – GoldenEye 007
For its time, the N64’s mighty first-person shooter GoldenEye featured a generous armoury of automatic firearms, with the game being among the first to give players the glorious ability to dual-wield 9mm machine guns.
Awesome though its machine guns were, GoldenEye’s most brilliantly powerful weapon was surely the Cougar Magnum. Quite apart from the Dirty Harry-style blam noise the thing emitted each time you fired it, nothing quite compared to the first time you realised the Magnum could not only fire straight through a steel-reinforced door, but also continue on straight through the five dim-witted soldiers lined up on the other side. Spectacular.
Hammer of Dawn – Gears Of War
While there’s no shortage of grin-inducing ordnance in Epic’s first Gears Of War entry, nothing quite compares to the wave of glee felt when the player gets to unleash the furious Hammer of Dawn for the first time.
The weapon’s devastating power is made all the more satisfying thanks to the infuriating sequence that comes before it; trapped in a mouldering building with a colossal Berserker, the player was forced to goad the rampaging beast into smashing its way through what felt like a dozen doors until it finally crashed out into the open air. Get your timing wrong, and on-screen avatar Marcus Fenix would be crushed into a space marine-shaped puddle, and you’d have to try again. And then again.
Thankfully, once the Berserker had finally been lured outside, the player could use call down the full fury of the Hammer of Dawn, an orbiting laser satellite that capable of burning the beast to cinders.
Seeker Rifle – Singularity
An unfairly overlooked sci-fi shooter, Raven Software’s Singularity deserved far more attention than it got, in spite of its flaws. Bearing some similarities to BioShock, Singularity mixed fairly realistic sniper rifles and heavy machineguns with startlingly powerful sci-fi powers, including the ability to manipulate time and blast enemies and flimsy wooden objects alike with Impulse plasma bursts.
For truly spectacular kills, however, look no further than Singularity’s marvellous Seeker Rifle. While the fact that it could only unleash one bullet at a time made it a poor choice when the player was trapped in the open and under fire, the Seeker was absolutely perfect for long-distance kills.
This was ably demonstrated in one segment on a bridge, where around a dozen enemies were fimly dug in behind walls and bullet-proof trucks. With the Seeker, the player could guide each bullet like a cruise missile, following the slug from behind as it swooped through the landscape towards its target. And each bullet made a devastating impact once it hit home, turning enemy soldiers into a flailing pile of gibs and gore.
Gravity gun – Half-Life 2
While not a deadly weapon as such, Half-Life 2’s gravity gun turned almost everything it touched into a projectile of some sort, making it a kind of physics-defying toy for the terminally morbid. Few will forget the frankly awesome moment when they got to use the gravity gun’s powers to launch circular saw blades flying into enemies, slicing them in two in a shower of green viscera.
The super gravity gun, acquired later in the game, was even more satisfying, giving the player the ability to pick people up and send them flying dozens of feet into the air like rag dolls.
Dual-wielding Model 1887 shotguns – Modern Warfare 2
You can probably blame John Woo for modern gamers’ unquenchable desire to dual-wield guns, and it’s now a common practise in today’s first-person shooters.
In Modern Warfare 2, the ability to wield the insanely powerful Model 1887 Shotgun was among the game’s most joyous things to discover, turning the player into a Terminator-style unstoppable killing machine. In fact, the ability to dual-wield these weapons made the player so insanely powerful that Infinity Ward had to release a patch to reduce their effectiveness.
Brute Shot – Halo 3
A slow-firing yet devastating piece of kit, the Brute Shot is perhaps one of the most satisfyingly destructive weapons in Halo 3. It may not always be easy to hit more nimble enemies with it, but the Brute Shot was capable of making an almighty mess when its shots hit home, and it was supremely effective at close range. Oh, and you could also use it to propel yourself into the air, just like the rocket jumps in Quake or Unreal.Grenade launcher – BioShock
A game that favoured slow build-up and storytelling over non-stop violence, the earlier moments of survival horror FPS BioShock were filled with unremitting tension. A place of long shadows and palpable dread, the undersea kingdom of Rapture is inarguably one of the most memorable settings in any visual medium, not just videogames.
Wandering around Rapture’s dank corridors and atriums with little more than a wrench or a pistol in BioShock’s opening hour or two, the player learns to fear the hulking Big Daddies, a breed of genetically-altered humans in metal diving suits.
It was a moment of incredible relief, then, when the player acquired the power to kill a Big Daddy for the first time. While other players may have favoured other weapons (and Plasmids offered an entire range of deadly possibilities on their own), I bagged my first iron monster with a grenade launcher, a moment of savage revenge that I’ll never forget.
Cerebral Bore – Turok 2: Seeds Of Evil
A cerebral bore may sound like someone a person who backs you into a corner at a party and goes on for hours about the tolerances of tiny screws, but it also happens to be the name of one of gaming’s most imaginatively bloody weapons.
Clearly inspired by the floating ball thing in the 80s horror movie, Phantasm, the cerebral bore was a small projectile that latched itself onto the cranium of your target enemy, before drilling into the luckless individual’s skull with a drill.
Turok 2 may have lacked the finesse or lasting adulation of that other great N64 FPS, GoldenEye (and if you didn’t happen to own the memory expansion cartridge, you had to play the game in a haze of green fog), but its range of inventive weapons made it one of the most memorable console shooters of the 90s, and few will forget the first time they evacuated the brains of an enemy with a spout of crimson claret. Nice.