The shotgun is an incredibly fun weapon to use in just about any game, being introduced so dramatically in Doom. Generally it’s a close-range weapon only, scoring almost certain kills within 5-10 feet, but reducing to near ineffectiveness once the enemy is very distant. Some games rely on the shotgun to be easy to use and allow the player to fire fairly quickly, but in general games limit their rate of fire with extensive recoil or reload times. However limited it is, the shotgun is nearly always one of the most satisfying weapons to use, from the sound to the effect it has on opponents. Few gamers don’t crack a smile when they find the very first shotgun in a new game.

Halo ShotgunHalo 3

When it comes to ferocity, the Halo shotgun is a standout. Its huge muzzle flash covers almost a quarter of the screen with fire, sparks and smoke, and the sound is beefy with a very long echo trailing off. The impact effects are unfortunately very small, although there are enough pellets that it leaves a satisfying number of divots in the terrain afterwards. The impact on enemies is again fairly subtle, although the enemies will almost certainly play a hit reaction… if they survive the gunshot at all. If they do die, the enemies topple backwards with a nice sense of force. In the video, the brute shows off another nice bit of design. While they are tough enough that they can’t be flattened with a single shotgun blast, their armor generally gets knocked off with the first shot, giving the player a sense that he accomplished something rather than is continuously piling bullets into a relentless pile of meat.

Resistance ShotgunResistance: Fall of Man

Compared with Halo, Resistance’s shotgun is a bit more subdued. Its muzzle flash is softer and less “hot” looking, and the weapon jerks back far enough that it appears to be firing towards the ceiling. Its sound effect is also a little hollower and lacks some of the “boom” of other shotguns. The world impacts are nice however, with the pellets causing many prominent sparks or sprays depending on the surface. The impacts on enemies, again, is mainly shown in their reactions, from hit animations to being thrown backwards as a corpse. It is another classic shotgun in that it is quite effective at taking enemies out in 1-2 hits, but in general it requires a very solid bead on the opponent to score an instant kill.

Half Life ShotgunHalf-Life 2

Living up to their precision credo in weaponry, the Half-Life shotgun is different in that its spray is much tighter than other game shotguns, perhaps being tuned for more realism or longer-range shootouts. In terms of visuals, the muzzle flash is 1-2 frames but is conical and meshes well with the nicely-animated weapon recoil. The sound effect is dramatic, but doesn’t rely on echo as much as other shotguns. The world impacts are once again dust and tiny bits, but come in a quantity that is satisfying in a “realistic” fashion. The impact on enemies again will come from the blood seen on the wall behind the enemy rather than the impact itself. In general, this weapon feels very satisfying without being overly “big”, with its tight shot spread making it deadly at a longer distance with only the six shot capacity as a weakness.

Quake 4 ShotgunQuake 4

This shotgun has a softer muzzle flash that is a bit difficult to see, mainly because it is attached to the barrel of the gun after it recoils upwards. Since the fiery “action” is pulled towards the upper right of the player view, this shotgun’s impact effects provide most of the visual “punch” of this weapon. Unfortunately, the impact sparks are much less prominent than they were with Quake 4’s machinegun, perhaps due to performance reasons with the number of particles generated. The sound effect is a nice combination of “punchy” and “crunchy” without having to rely on a long echo… The impact on an enemy can be a mixed bag. The standard misty spray of blood is generated when a character is hit, but it doesn’t always animate in response. However, if the enemy is killed, it flies back very far (which can be quite satisfying). This weapon is a good member of the Q4 arsenal, except for its criminally long reload time.

Doom ShotgunDoom

Every first person shooter owes the Doom shotgun a great debt… When it came out it was the coolest damn weapon players had ever wielded, unmatched for years for its raw sense of power as well the satisfying recoil-and-cock animation after the shot. The hand-drawn muzzle flash itself of course looks dated these days, but the cocking motion up and left still provides a nice perspective view of a weapon that otherwise is only seen from an extreme back angle. The sound is throaty and dangerous-sounding even now, and the environment impacts provide a fairly good cloud of dust. Best of all, when hitting a grunt enemy, from a soldier to an imp, Doom’s shotgun doesn’t disappoint. Most baseline foes perish in one hit, flying backwards in a bloody arc that still grants a satisfying experience.

Deus Ex ShotgunDeus Ex

The sawed-off shotgun is one of two in Deus Ex, but I used it because it is more “typical” than the game’s semi-auto shotgun. The muzzle flash sprite, like the other Deus Ex weapons, was again very hard-edged with not enough brightness to make it look “hot” (likely due to using alpha instead of additive transparency for the sprite). Since the gun recoils far up and to the right, your eye focuses more on the impact of your shot, which is marked by only a few bits of wall flung about. Similarly, only a few tiny bits of blood are visible when striking an opponent although a hit reaction animation was nicely more common. This weapon has a “boomy” sound is as similarly overstated as the pistol, feeling a bit too cartoony to listen to over the course of an entire game. Finally, since I wanted to compare weapons at a skill level more suitable to first impressions, so once again Deus Ex’s skill system gave me a very low accuracy with this gun. For a weapon that I pick up and expect to be satisfying, this might have higher realism, but it felt the most impotent of the shotguns.

Bioshock ShotgunBioshock

Nice to end on a high note… The Bioshock shotgun was truly a surprise to me when I filmed it, even though I had already played a fair amount of the game. The muzzle flash is large and is accompanied by a nice satisfying cocking animation that evokes Doom’s. Unfortunately the recoil brings the weapon far to the right like the pistol, which provides the awkward-looking arm positioning seen in the pistol as well. The firing sound effect has a nice “crack” with a long echo trailing off, but the best part are the world impacts, which stir up huge chunks of the ground, leaving dust, sparks, and huge divots. When striking an enemy, the big ol’ blood splash comes through for us again, giving us juicy feedback that we just hurt someone bad. Overall this is a good weapon that can take an enemy down in a couple of hits, and makes you feel good whether you hit or not… everything a shotgun should be.

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