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My Love/Hate Relationship with the Video Game Shotgun


Being a player of video games, I enjoy the occasional spree of virtual gun-related violence. It cleanses the gamers’ soul like Americans slaughtering poor people in The Purge, except nobody actually gets hurt. But what does your choice digital firearms say about you?

It says a lot, actually. Most modern video games are mediums of personal expression, virtual worlds you can explore at your leisure and wreak havoc in whatever ways you see fit. When the game in question relies heavily on the player shooting things, then the all-important choice becomes what to shoot them with. These things matter.

Gaming styles tend to dictate personal preferences in this regard, but that pragmatic prick, necessity, is always breathing down our necks. Just like in real life, there’s the way we want things to be in video games and the way they actually are, and only in the most fortuitous of circumstances do the two overlap perfectly. Take my old frenemy, the shotgun…..please.

video game shotgun

Such a brutish and imprecise weapon; it sprays a pile of pellets like so much saliva splashing your enemy’s face with a deadly raspberry barrage. It’s crude, it’s ugly, its effective range often doesn’t reach further than your arm, you have to manually reload shells like a caveman, and you usually don’t even get to properly rock that ka-chunk! sound when you load another shell into the magazine irl. So why do we continue using this thing?

My gaming style is defined by technique and strategic tactics over brute force. Tanking is for people compensating for something and trying ceaselessly to prove their manliness without realizing that the essence of true manliness is in not needing to prove it. I’m a “you can’t hit what you can’t see” kind of guy. I like to travel light and hit fast and hard before my enemy ever knows what hit him. Submachine guns and sniper rifles; now that’s the armament of a professional. Nice, neat, clean, and precise. Why should I get down and dirty and end up covered in your nasty viscera? Shotguns are the epitome of big, dumb, vulgar force. Walk up to opponent, pull trigger, reap death. Yawn.

gears of war shotgun gib

Pictured: “gibbing” like a boss.

Remember when Gears of War was a cover shooter? One where you had to stay in cover because a team of people withassault rifles would cut you to pieces if you ran around like a dumbass? It only took until the sequel before the only way to succeed was….well, running around like a dumbass so you could one-shot somebody with a Gnasher shotgun because nobody worked as a team anymore and you could eat like a whole clip of rifle bullets as long as you rolled or wall-bounced and could then splatter the other player with your filthy buckshot.

Back then you only had one life per match so you had to watch other players until the match’s conclusion once you got fragged. After a while it was just sad. Watching two players with shotguns roll in circles around each other while shooting in the wrong direction after each roll for half a minute before one finally manages to coincidentally kill the other made me really appreciate games like Halo.

halo shotgun

Well, at least the cinder block is in range.

Speaking of Halo, is anyone else baffled that over 500 years in the future, the United Nations Space Command Marines are using a weapon that would be just about useless in combat by modern standards today? The so-called “M90 Close Assault Weapon System” has an effective combat range shorter than the Covenant’s energy swords, which are a far more elegant weapon from a more civilized age.

Like most FPS shotguns, the damage is does is unreliable and it’s not even semi-automatic. If you can touch the enemy with the barrel, it’ll kill them in one shot, but anything else is like throwing dice at the enemy. Good luck. If they see you coming before you’re point blank, all they have to do is back away to render you as harmless as a kitten. So again, why would I want to use this crummy excuse for a weapon or any of the others just like it in other shooters?

Because I’m so damn good with it. No matter what game I’m playing, at some point I realize that if I pick up that shotgun, Imma wreck some fools. Whether I’m creeping in caverns and bases in Halo multiplayer rocking buckshot bukake on these dopes who think rushing forward while staring at their motion detector is the best strategy or leaping from my perch to rock some death from above, it gets me kills.

Even with the inconsistent damage output, I find that a shotgun blast/melee combo puts any player down under the worst of circumstances and imagining the look on their face when they run into around a corner to find themselves dead with my crotch on their helmet before they even knew I was there brings me much satisfaction. You’ve been shotgun ninja’d, fool!

hand on the pump

Lala la la, lala la laaaaa…

Plus, I’ll never forget the level in Halo: Combat Evolved where an endless gauntlet of Flood was plaguing the day and the shotgun was just what the doctor ordered to get me to the other side intact. Or how about when Gears 3 came out and everyone was arguing about the 180 degree range of the sawed-off and I was trolling haters by posting the video for Cypress Hill’s Hand on the Pump? Good times. I think on some level, I may actually love the shotgun.

When I think back to playing Fallout 3, who was there for me for most of the game when I needed a lightweight close-range weapon to compliment my stealth sniping assault? My sawed-off shottie, of course. When I emptied my sniper clip into a pack of super mutants and they kept coming as I ducked into an alley, it was my sawed-off that saved my ass.

When I was getting killed in the Destiny beta’s Crucible trying to snipe on maps where there was way too much cover to make that a valid option and my auto rifle wasn’t happenin’, it was the shotgun that got my K/D back where it oughtta be. Whenever I get the option to use a shotgun in a video game, I always turn my nose up at first, yet when things don’t end up as neat and pretty as I like and crunch time kicks in, some down and dirty shotgun work pays the bills.

For so many years I’ve derided the shotgun as a noobstick; an ugly, inarticulate weapon that ruins shooters. But I never really stopped to think about how important it has been to my gaming experiences. Having a high-powered close-range threat offers balance to long-ranged firearm-based gameplay, forcing players to be aware of their surroundings and not just looking through their scopes to snipe before being sniped. Shotguns demand mobility and even a little tactical strategy to get enemies into its kill range. The weapon itself may be dumb, but it serves a valid strategic purpose.

And there are a lot of great moments that can only be brought to us by shotguns. Like my first duel in Borderlands 2 where a random challenged me and I used Zero’s Deception ability to send a hologram of myself at him while I jumped over his head in active camouflage and shotgunned him in the back of the head while he was hilariously vocally panicking and shooting at my decoy. That’s how you make a “don’t fuck with me” statement.

And I’m not even mentioning the games that do shotguns right and make them work like…you know, actual guns. Left 4 Dead’s auto shotgun is a crowd control beast and Uncharted has some pretty decent shotgun mechanics as well. Sure it seems like a primitive weapon favored by wannabe alphas, but it’s a definitive part of any shooter’s offensive arsenal and gaming just wouldn’t be the same without it. Thanks for saving my ass all those times, Uncle Shottie. I’m sorry I acted like such a jerk.


About Nick Verboon

I am a guy on the internet who writes stuff sometimes. Try and keep up. I used to write reviews Amazon and other sites under the moniker trashcanman before semi-retiring from my unpaid career for a while. But now I'm back in action writing columns for Unreality and Gamemoir. Enjoy. I

5 responses to “My Love/Hate Relationship with the Video Game Shotgun

  1. I’m happy with the accuracy cone for bullets. I remember being able to snipe with the shotgun in Doom. Then with Doom 3 I couldn’t. It became a closer range weapon like it should be. LOL and about Halo yeah there’s a lot of stuff in future games that boggle my mind.

    • Yeah, it’s kind of a utility vs realism kind of thing, I guess. Too much range makes it OP and not even power at close range makes it worthless so you end up with a OHK machine with the range of a pocket knife.

  2. Prof.mcstevie ⋅

    The kick of a shotgun when you fire it and the raw damage it does in an instance always makes me feel good, I don’t mind too much if its not particularly powerful as long as I can actually ENJOY firing it.

    • My favorite is in Borderlands and Destiny when you can actually see the individual pellets’ damage. Makes you feel like a beast.

      • Prof.mcstevie ⋅

        I do in fact like Halos shotgun, at least in the first game. It kicks like a beast, lets you fire mid reload and can be used easily to blow a floods arm off leaving them alive but weaponless to just stare at you.

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