I’m not a fan of guns in real life – mostly because I’m afraid that if I ever used one at a firing range, I would find some way of harming myself or others. That’s why I enjoy using them in games. It’s cathartic, and it’s safe.
A lot of games feature guns, but not many of them master all the elements that make them enjoyable to use. It’s not enough to point it at things and see them disappear. There need to be aural cues, and flairs to the animation to make it truly pop. This is especially true for shotguns, where you’ll likely be spending as much time reloading as you do shooting.
This isn’t just a list of the most effective shotguns. It’s a list of the most enjoyable to use.
A list about shotguns wouldn’t be complete without one survival horror entrant, and the grand-daddy of the genre is no stranger to them. Across multiple different titles, the Resident Evil franchise features over 30 shotguns to its name. But with so many to choose from, why did I select this one?
Resident Evil 4’s introduction of the shotgun is the first real moment of player empowerment. Frantically escaping from angry Ganados, you dodge axes and barricade doors. You scramble up the stairs of a decaying house, wondering how you’re going to deal with the horde of hicks baying for your blood.
And then there it is. A 12-gauge beacon of hope mounted on a display.
Your fighting chance.
The first shotgun you encounter in Resident Evil 4 may not be the most powerful, but it perfectly encapsulates the tonal shift that that the series wanted to establish. Also, it’s just damn satisfying to blow off Ganados’ heads with.
Killing Floor is a cheesy first-person shooter full of bad cockney accents, a dreadful-but-great butt metal soundtrack, and a swathe of weapons to choose from. But between the exotic katanas and assault rifles, one weapon stands above them all.
The hunting shotgun isn’t just satisfying because of the noise that it makes, or the fact that you can fire both barrels at once. It’s the minor things on the periphery; the screen shake that accompanies every blast, the kinetic energy that pushes your character back if they fire it mid-air. It isn’t just powerful by the numbers. It’s powerful in its presentation.
Now hold on, hear me out.
While this may not be your typical shotgun, the mechanics surrounding it certainly are. Morphling is a hero in DOTA 2 with the ability to swap between two different attributes – strength (for bonus health), and agility (for bonus damage).
At max agility, one of Morphling’s abilities (Adaptive Strike) deals a huge burst of magical damage. Mix this with Ethereal Blade – an item which deals a chunk of damage based on your primary attribute, and makes the target more vulnerable to follow-up spells – and you have a hero that can reduce most targets to a fine paste in a matter of seconds.
But the main part of this combo that elevates it is the bass. There’s a rolling rumble that accompanies the Ethereal Blade projectile, which is then punctuated by the sharp hiss of Adaptive Strike.
F.E.A.R. is a game about running away from a scary little girl, while you shoot dudes in slow-mo. People fondly remember the horror title’s jump-scares and flailing melee combat, but the real star of the show is the VK-12. Monolith were in a difficult position – not only did they have to make guns that were enjoyable to fire in real-time, but also in slow-mo. The result of their efforts is a shotgun that delivers a unique rhythm to the firefights.
In real-time, shots are heavy in bass, and tear enemies to shreds. In slow-mo, another level of detail opens up. Racking your next shot brings discordant clanging noises to the brief moments of quiet between enemy deaths, and when the last body falls you hear the high-pitch chime of a shell hitting the floor. It sends a shiver down your spine.
That is all.
Those were some of our favourite gaming shotguns. What are yours? Let us know in the comments below!