What Makes A Good Video Game Gun?

What Makes A Good Video Game Gun?

Many games feature guns. It's a shame so many of them can't feature them properly.

Like, a gun isn't just an outlet for player commands, a thing that shoots other things at things. A good video game gun should give something back in return: a sense of heft, or power, or satisfaction, or even all of the above.

In an attempt to pin this down, game designer and blogger Michel Sabbagh has written some commandments to making a good video game gun and I'm sharing them here because they look pretty solid.

Basically, they need to look good, sound good (read: LOUD), feel good (read: powerful animation and recoil) and shoot good (by including a distinctive or alternate firing mode that makes it seem unique).

What Makes A Good Video Game Gun?

I'd add another, more nebulous factor, one as reliant on a game's engine as any individual developer's ability: how "snappy" it is. Call of Duty has owned the shooting world for over a decade not for it's setting or storyline, but because it has achieved (or got close on console) a framerate of 60FPS. Married to the way its guns snap in and out of iron sight mode, this has long made the pulling of a trigger in the games — the one thing they needed to get right over anything else — an absolute joy.

Sabbagh lists a few games that have got it right, from the woefully underrated Black on PS2 to the Syndicate FPS game. What would you add? Destiny's guns have always been a blast for me, and while Doom's variant has its fans, I've always thought Half-Life 2's shotgun was the better example...

And then, of course, there's any game smart enough to include an M1.


    All I know is that today developers are cheating by putting in hit markers to trick the player into thinking the gun is good with instant and noticeable feedback.

      I actually don't mind it personally. I live in regional Aus and connection problems are just a part of living out yonder, but recently it has been REALLY bad. Just the other night I happened to be wailing on a guy only to notice my bullets had no impact on him. (I think I may have recorded the incident.)

      Personally, I like to know that I am actually hitting a guy. It calms me a bit when I know the death I just had is not just my incompetence as a gamer. :P It was the CONNECTIONS fault. When I don't see the hit markers I feel more cheated out of a kill etc. This might just be me though.

    Have you seen the latest Star citizen video about sounds design? I think they have done a good job on making their guns have some power and aggression to them.

    I find the most satisfying guns are the ones where the sound just hits a certain..... chunky or perhaps 'mechanical' sound. Something with a really satisfying thud. Meaty.

    The worst ones are where the sound is just too loud or drastically overdone.

    My favorite guns in video games would have to be Earthwom Jim's.

    I liked the guns in Far Cry 2. Specifically the degradation.

      Too bad they removed that...

        the only problem i had with it was that is way way way to quick and it wasnt based on the amount of bullets fired but rather the number of reloads so after 20 reloads of firing just 1 round each time would cause the gun to blow up in your face.

          Oh shit was that the reason!? That's so awesome!! I've always been wanting games to better treat clips rather than having people reload after every dead enemy.

            I'd agree the algorithm could have been refined, because you sort of knew when you would be getting close, but I liked having to account for the fact it might not work when I needed it to, a I liked being forced to use anything I could get me hands on, rather than just power though with a favorite weapon of choice. It would have been cool that it could have degraded in other ways, ie accuracy, backfiring, rendered useless by enemy gunfire, y'know that sort of thing.

      Far Cry 2 beats them all even by today's standards.
      The chack ching noise of the bolt action is unbelievable
      And the AK-47... i have never heard a symphony of 7.62mm rounds so sweet in any game.
      Shame the rest of the series doesn't pay proper respect to the sounds effects. Mostly now they all sound like bb-guns. DICE also makes some decent shooting sounds.

      Gotta jump on the Far Cry 2 bandwagon here. Loved those guns and the whole game really.

      Pretty sure it's also the only game I've ever played with the targeting reticle and such all turned off. Fantastic experience.

      Last edited 08/09/15 4:00 pm

    In no particular order, some games that generally got it right (although the standard assault rifle is pretty average in most of them):

    Unreal 2 - Seriously, almost every gun in that game was awesome
    Perfect Dark - Laptop Gun, Slayer, Farsight...the list goes on...and on
    Painkiller - Stake Launcher, SHURIKENS AND LIGHTNING
    Far Cry Blood Dragon
    Max Payne (1, 2 and 3) - More the game mechanics than the weapons per se, but immensely satisfying
    Wolfenstein - The New Order - Just generally really solid mechanics and good variety
    Syndicate (the new FPS - I know it got bagged, but it was actually pretty good as an FPS)
    Call of Duty (1 and 4 immediately spring to mind) - M1 Garand

    Most of those games included a secondary fire mode which makes a big difference imo.

    Honourable mentions to

    Unreal Tournament 2003/2004 - Flak Cannon
    Serious Sam (1st/2nd Encounter) - Cannon
    Half-Life 2 - Crossbow, Pulse Rifle and obviously Gravity Gun

      Oh my god, those new Wolfenstien (Old Blood and New Order), so good.
      Also agree on Syndicate, very under-rated, worth the import.

    Turok 2 - Cerebral Bore & The 5 chamber Rocket Launcher from Unreal Torney

    I generally judge a shooter by the quality of its shotty, and I think Half Life 2 still takes the cake as best shotty in a game ever.

    Maybe tied with the super-shotty in Doom 2.

    Or maybe 3-way tie with the trench shotty in MOH: Allied Assault.

    Ah shotties, so good.

      for me its the hunting shotgun from Fallout New Vegas. it has the damage and sound to put it at number 1 for me, followed by the chaser-13 in Stalker CoP and SHoC

    damn was hoping this was about gun add ons like the g-con. Bring back light gun games as a genre please even if it does involve a sensor bar!

    Last edited 08/09/15 12:55 pm

    The Smart Pistol in Titanfall made everyone happy.....

    Hardly on topic, but I used to believe nothing would knock the 'BFG' off the top of my "best named weapons" list until just last week. Mad Max's 'Thunderpoon' now takes that top position.

    Every game should just sample it's gun sounds from the movie Heat. That shootout sounds phenomenal.

      OMG YES! How good is the main heist scene? You really felt the power of the assault rifles. Good flick too :D

        That's because the sound was recorded on site and not added in later. So you get the sounds of the guns as well as the echoes from the gunfire returning off the buildings..

    The Killing Floor weapons have really nice sounds, animations and response. Even the default pistol is a joy to shoot.

      My issue with guns in games like Killing Floor, or games with modes like CoD zombies, is that the guns start to have this seriously disconnected feeling when it begins taking multiple shots to the head of a basic enemy to kill it. Absolutely kills the experience with the weapons for me personally.

      But then, I've always felt the "Just add more health!" school of enemy and encounter design was lazy anyway.

    I'm going to say for the game that got guns right was quake 3 I'm sorry but I just can't go past rocket jump. Guns that shoot lightning and the all loved rail gun and also in unreal tournament 3 the fact I could carry all my guns just made the game great. And also bio shock for the same reason. Once I could only carry two guns I felt so sad. Was so happy the new wolfenstein brought this back and duel wield and over armour

    No love for CS? I honestly think they have some of the best feedback and feel of a gun around. CSGO has some issues with this, but for the most part you always felt like guns did the sort of damage and spray you'd expect for something of its class.

    EDIT: Oh and BF2, always felt the gunplay in that game was ace :D

    Also BF:Bad Company 2. Sniper rifles felt on point in that, BF3 onwards they never felt like they had the oomph a precision rifle should without having to resort to some .50 calibre beast like a Barrett.

    Last edited 08/09/15 2:04 pm

    SPAS-12 from Rainbow Six Vegas 2. Good times.
    Fourth Horseman from Destiny.

      ungh i died so many timed to spas while getting rushed in coop on the realistic setting.

        In the hands of a 'terrorist' it was like a sniper.
        I miss the good old Terrorist Hunt.

    Black was indeed under-rated.

    Last edited 08/09/15 3:36 pm

    For the love of god, COULD WE PLEASE PHASE OUT PUMP ACTION SHOTGUNS?? There are so many awesome automatic shotguns out there now, IRL and games, that the pump action shotgun needs to be put to bed. It's so low tech. And it's inclusion in Halo was stupid.

    Turok (remake) on the Xbox 360, every gun sounded pathetic.
    It would have been a good game if there was some oomph to the weapons. The shotgun, for example, you want a loud boom, but instead it sounded like a fizzer.
    Every gun sounded gutless, weak and pathetic.
    It was the biggest reason the game failed to review well.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now