Thursday, April 23, 2009

weapons of choice: the shotgun!

stalwart ally, steadfast friend

You’re never alone in a video game – even if you’re wandering the creepy, empty halls of some burned-out mansion, you’re still surrounded. Not just by enemies, either – on every side, you’re surrounded by crates and barrels and power-ups, all waiting for you to find them, grab them and use them with extreme prejudice. Some of the coolest things about these games we play are the tools we use to get the job done. I think it might be good to talk about some of them.

Of all the guns in all the games I have played, one stands alone. Of course, because you started with the title of this post and worked your way down, you know I am talking about the good old shotgun! Chick-chick, boom!

It is a weapon that fits my particular play style, the one where I jump in headfirst without always looking at the enemies hidden behind the column or standing on either side of the door. I don’t always think everything out, and the shotgun encourages my lack of foresight – those enemies surrounding you are easy fodder for the shottie, with its close range and wide spread. This is a look at some of my most favorite shotguns, and you are going to read it!

Let’s start with a game we’ve all been talking entirely too much about lately, Resident Evil 5. I played very nearly the entire game using the handgun and the trusty shotgun just because there wasn’t much need for anything else. The thing could clear the room in two or three shots, and in one of the game’s many claustrophobic fight sequences it was truly invaluable. The game’s Mercenaries mode is essentially one long unbroken stretch of close-quarters fighting, and it’s great for racking up killer combos.

All shotguns are good for that sort of thing, though. When evaluating such a wondrous weapon from game to game, it’s sometimes not enough just to think about the things that any shotgun will do – context is important! Take, for example, the shotgun in Half Life 2. That game doled out new weapons at a slow but steady clip until the very end of the game, giving them to you just in the nick of time – this kept things interesting throughout, and has the side effect of associating particular weapons with specific areas of the game. The shotgun is given to you in the genuinely nerve-wracking Ravenholm stretch, a section of game that throws you into a near-deserted town filled with shrieking monsters and not much else. Since the enemies are simply too fast to allow for effective use of the handgun or machine gun, the shotgun is here especially indispensable, and remains satisfying for the duration. An excellent wepon, all around.

Naturally, the design of the shotgun is also worth noticing – they can’t all be sleek black implements of destruction. My second favorite thing about Bioshock, after the striking and unparalleled design of the city of Rapture itself, was the attention to detail. Each weapon is not just rendered lovingly, but thoughtfully – these tools look like they belong in an underwater city-turned-grave, where they were cobbled together by people desperate to either attack others or protect themselves. Looking closely, one can recognize normal household objects embedded into each of them – if you’re interested in seeing what I’m talking about, I definitely recommend that you take a look at some of the game’s concept art. It’s very enlightening.

So, these are a few of my favorite shotguns! What do you guys like?