The Bow And Arrow, Not The Gun, Was This Era's Best Video-Game Weapon

The Bow and Arrow, Not The Gun, Was This Era's Best Video-Game Weapon

These days, guns and action games go together like spoons and Nutella. And yet when it comes right down to it, there is a video game weapon that outclasses the gun in most every respect: The bow and arrow.

I don't think I'd go so far as to argue that the last generation of gaming was defined by the bow and arrow, but I'll certainly offer that it was my favourite way to take down digital bad guys. There's just something cool about the instrument itself. The bow wears its mechanics on its sleeve, a simple tool writ large. It is an elegant weapon for a more civilised age.

(OK, really it's a more primitive weapon for a more primitive age, but whatever. Also! Interesting reading: This thread from reader senselocke about proper bow technique, and how rarely people use bows correctly in games and movies.)

In honour of Last-Gen Heroes, I'm bumping up an article I wrote back in March in which I ranked the bows from five major recent games. Since we're going generation-wide, this would be a good place to say that both the Torque Bow from Gears of War and the bow from Wii Sports Resort deserve praise, though they were a little too old for the purview of the original article.

Since March, we've also gotten at least one new video game bow and arrow: The excellent, trusty bow from The Last of Us. So, an addendum to the existing list:

The Last of Us

The Bow and Arrow, Not The Gun, Was This Era's Best Video-Game Weapon

How it works: Hold down L1 and your character will raise the bow and prepare to fire. Press R1 to release an arrow.

How you cancel a shot: Release L1.

How you aim: The game draws an arcing line for you, which traces the trajectory of your arrow. It feels awkward at first, but eventually starts to make sense -- arrows don't really go in a line, they move in an arc, restrained by gravity. It gives the game's arrows a lift distinct from other games.

One hit? One kill, though clickers require a headshot, and bloaters… well, you probably don't want to take on a bloater with a bow and arrow.

Better than a gun? It really is, in the right circumstance. Many of the game's enemies, particularly human hunters, can be picked off one by one with the bow and arrow. It's not great once the action heats up, but if you're getting your creep on, the bow is easily the most lethal weapon in the game.

Greatest Moment: [SPOILERS] Winter, in its entirety. First, Ellie stalks a deer in the woods in a rare moment of peace. It's a sharp, deliberate juxtaposition to the chaos that preceded it, and a lovely bit of player manipulation. We don't even know if Joel is alive! And now we have to patiently hunt a deer? Argh! Later on, however, Ellie is chased by a group of David's hunters into a cabin resort on a frozen lake. The subsequent game of cat and mouse, with Ellie taking down a dozen heavily armed men with her bow, was easily one of the high points of the entire game for me. [END SPOILERS]

Fakest thing you can do: TLOU's bow generally felt pretty realistic; the only thing that felt fake was how consistent it was at killing enemies. Sure, a guy had just taken an arrow to the arm. But he didn't even cry out? But ok, yeah, ok. Video games.

John Rambo says: "In town you're the law; out here it's me. Don't push it. Don't push it or I'll give you a war you won't believe."

Overall Opinion: I didn't initially love the bow and arrow in The Last of Us, but it grew on me. At first, I thought it was inferior to bows like the ones in Far Cry 3 and Tomb Raider. But the more I used it, the more I came to appreciate the way it's designed. Aiming is simple, and the arc of the arrow feels organic and makes successful shots feel somehow more satisfying than other bows. And on the harder difficulty settings, it becomes indispensable -- I was constantly checking Joel's backpack, aware of precisely how many arrows I had left. That number informed how prepared I felt to take on a given situation. In the final ranking, I'd put it right alongside Far Cry 3, though Lara Croft's iconic Tomb Raider bow slightly outdoes it in terms of utility.


Last-Gen Heroes is Kotaku's look back at the seventh generation of console gaming. In the weeks leading up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, we'll be celebrating the Heroes -- and the Zeroes -- of the last eight years of console video gaming.


Comments

    (OK, really it’s a more primitive weapon for a more primitive age, but whatever. Also! Interesting reading: This thread from reader senselocke about proper bow technique, and how rarely people use bows correctly in games and movies.)

    Missing link is missing.

    Last edited 17/10/13 1:16 pm

      Could think of soooooo many better games with a bow than last of us?

      Skyrim, Tomb Raider, Crysis3, FarCry3
      should I keep going?

    The best weapon of this era, and every other modern game era, is always the shotgun.

      Except when it's the cerebral bore.

        Wasn't that gun omitted from the AU release of Turok 2?

          If that was the case, no one bothered to tell my copy.

            I must be wrong. Something just tugged at my memory about it.....

    Loved the bow in Crysis 3!

      same! So much fun.

      I wish they'd go back and put it in Crysis 1.

    I do archery I shoot a longbow and a horsebow. If you like shooting the bow in video games, pick up a bow and give it a go.

    Archery certainly beat the heck out of swinging a melee weapon around in Skyrim. I'm also finding it very effective and satisfying in Mount & Blade Warband.

    Of course, the best bow & arrow ever was in The New Zealand Story.

    I have to disagree with some of what was said...before weighing in I have to say that I LOVE that Bows have been so heavily featured recently, I am an avid Archer and Bow Hunter, I shoot both traditional re-curve and super modern compound (compound is my preference). Personally just for feel and and accuracy of use I think that its a straight tie between Skyrim and Tomb Raider for best use of the bow, (excusing Tomb Raiders..."lets fire arrows in stone then climb across bollocks".) My issue is with the one shot one kill use of the and the idea of head shots...I shoot a 70lbs mathwes compound and I couldn't be sure of a kill on a skull hit...arrows are long range knives, you fire at the heart and lungs and cut the life out of your prey, heavy bone like the skull deflect and soften the impact on an arrow, if not down right destroying them. I know that this is a gameplay mechanic designed to enable the player a means of quietly and quickly shanking a foe but if your talking about accuracy its way off.

    Bows are cool and all. But if you shoot at the head with a bullet, the reload time is faster and the damage i s equal (in game)

    OK, really it’s a more primitive weapon for a more primitive age
    I think you mean an elegant weapon from a more civilised age.
    And bows, and archery in general, is awesome, both in games and real life, given the option in games I always default to the bow.

Join the discussion!