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The Evolution Of The Video Game Gun…

This isn't so much a blog about favorite video game weaponry from past to present as much as it is a blog that talks about how far we've progressed in representing and recreating the experience of shooting a gun in the virtual world. I'm certainly not going to chronicle the timeline from black powder muskets featured in games like Sid Meier's Gettysburg! - to the dreaded blast of the legendary BFG used by the space marine from Doom.

Dictionary.com defines a gun as:

gun [guhn]

noun

1. a weapon consisting of a metal tube, with mechanical attachments, from which projectiles are shot by the force of an explosive; a piece of ordnance.

2. any portable firearm, as a rifle, shotgun, or revolver.

3. a long-barreled cannon having a relatively flat trajectory.

4. any device for shooting something under pressure: a paint gun; a staple gun.

For the sake of this blog, when I say gun I'm primarily referring to your typical pistol or rifle based on real world equivalents, but I suppose in some instances it could apply to futuristic or imaginary firearms that you might find in games like Borderlands or Halo. Also, this timeline captures games that were relevant and impactful to me. You quite possibly will have a different perspective on the matter. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts.

I can't recall or at least I can't definitively say what the first game I ever played where I used a gun, probably because I'm (a) old and (b) have played a lot of games that use them, but I do recall playing...

Boot Hill

Boot Hill is old and just about as primitive of a game as you can imagine. It's actually a spinoff of an even older game titled Gun Fight, which I think I've also played but can't say for sure. I know without a doubt I've played Boot Hill, so I'm going to use it as the starting block.

Basically, you're a cowboy on one side of the screen and your opponent (either human or A.I.) is on the other side. When the round starts, you shoot at your opponent while trying to avoid getting shot yourself.  You have a rudimentary ammo counter and your bullets are represented by a block of clunky pixels. Not very realistic or convincing, huh?

The next game that had a major influence on my observations of the evolution of the gun in gaming would have to be the cult classic and legendary game that nearly every game that followed was labeled a clone of, and that is none other than Doom.

Doom I and II

I don't want to take too much time and talk about the history and significance of Doom in the evolution of the shooter genre. Either you know it or you don't. I will say that it was a very influential game for me and witnessed many "firsts" - including the first game I played online against another opponent. Looking at it now, I'm amazed at how far we've come and that I used to be mesmerized with its game play. Although you had a selection of weapons to choose from, about the only way to figure what your enemy was armed with was the color of the pixilated rounds coming your way or the distinctive sounds of the different weapons. It was also the first game I recall playing that had a few animations to show the weapon firing as well as the reload sequence, though they were still basic at best. I have a lot of fond memories of this game...a game that some say started it all and made the First Person Shooter (FPS) what it is today.

While Doom I and II were great games, it wasn't until Quake came along that I really started to see a difference in weapon representation in the shooters.

Quake Series

I didn't play all the games in the Quake series, but I did play I and II. I was never very good at the multiplayer online modes, so when Quake announced they were making a MP only game, or at least a game with no single player campaign (Quake was one of the first games I remember that forfeit a single player campaign and relied solely on the online MP experience), many of us were dumbfounded and feared it would fail. Little did we know that more games would follow this pattern and that one day, more games would focus more on the online MP mode than the single player experience? But alas, this is a blog focusing on weapons, and weapons...Quake had.

Quake II really got me excited with how the weapons were represented. The animations were getting better and the weapons handling was adding special affects to their simulations. My two favorite guns in the game were not the most powerful, but I liked them because of how real they felt. One was this submachine gun that would literally "walk" or "climb" if you fired it on full auto. Its a little detail, but one that if you've shot the right sort of real guns you appreciate because you've experienced that affect.

Muzzle climb refers to the elevation of muzzle of automatic and rapid-fire semi-automatic firearms caused by combined recoil from multiple shots being fired in quick succession. Muzzle climb has an adverse effect on accuracy, causing the target to be overshot. -Wikipedia

The other was the (sadly, I was never that good with the rail gun, so you won't see it on my list) hyperblaster. What I liked about this gun was it had a very mechanical feel to it when you fired it. This canister would spin up and fire these projectiles off round after round. Another neat affect was the projectiles were illuminated, so if you shot a couple of them down a long narrow twisty and dark passageway, the lighting affect that travelled down the corridor was rather captivating. It was then I realized we would eventually witness some major breakthroughs in how weapons were going to be represented in future games. And future games like the Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear, Raven Shield and Vegas all proved this was true.

Rainbow Six, Rogue Spear, Raven Shield and Rainbow Six: Vegas

Of all the shooters I ever played, Rainbow Six and its successors were my favorites. Modeled after real world special operations groups specializing in close quarter combat and using actual weapons, many (myself included) regard Rainbow Six as the birth of the tactical shooter. As the series progressed, it was one of the first games that actually showed you what weapons and equipment each operator was equipped with - frags or flashbangs clipped on their vests...is that a Glock or H&K holstered on their side? Get close enough and you could tell. The games relied more on tactics and planning than brute force and firepower. It was also a game where bringing along the right weapon made all of the difference in the success of the missions. If the game had an element of stealth, you better believe you're equipping your primary and secondary firearms with suppressors. My favorite was the silenced MP-5, and having watched (and listened) to some DEA agents firing theirs off at a military range, I'd say the games did a remarkable job getting it right.

With a new Rainbow Six game on the horizon, my hope is that Patriots upholds the level of realism with its game play AND with its weapons representation that the former games offered.

Battlefield 3 - As far as real world representation, I think Battlefield 3 is just about the most realistic game out there, while still maintaining an element of "fun". The sounds are surprising real; the guns are beautifully rendered; the action and reload sequences are believable; recoil is often modeled in; attachments and customizations (when included) add to the immersion; real world physics like bullet drop are often a factor...for someone who has shot a number of weapons, including some exclusive to the military, I'm comfortable and content with how they are represented in Battlefield 3 - not bad for a video game. Not perfectly real, but truth be told, we don't want perfectly real. And for those who are fans of the M203 or equivalent hardware (also known as the noobtube) who ever tried aiming one of those things with the iron sights, don't worry...it's just as clumsy and archaic in real life too. You just kinda wing it. Gotta love splash damage. I also love how you can equip your weapons with a tactical light that can be used to disorient your target. Nicely done.

Honorable Mentions

Halo - I know I said I was going to mention games that featured weapons based off of real world equivalents, and clearly Halo doesn't really meet that description, but it is worth mentioning that Halo really achieved some major advances with its weapon simulations. Just to summarize the major innovations that I enjoyed: reload animations, melee attacks with weapons, and sniper / pistol scopes.

ARMA II - I only played the demo for ARMA II, but I've read a ton of information on the game including a number of the mods that have been generated for it. As far as shooters are concerned, this game is often regarded as the most realistic representation of combat of any game. From iron sights to bullet drop over long ranges, this game isn't just a game, it's a military simulator. I'm not sure I'm ready to embrace this level of realism as I do appreciate some of the cinematic sequences and set pieces found in some of the other games. It is good at what it sets out to do, and I appreciate that, which is why I mention it here.

Obviously this is just a small sampling of some otherwise great shooters that are (or were) available. Certainly some will think there are better examples, but for me, these were the games that had the biggest influence of luring me into being the fan of shooters I am today. As always, I encourage you to share your own thoughts (or war stories) on the topic.

Until next time, keep your head down and your powder dry.

 

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