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Things That Make You Go Boom: Video Gaming's Greatest Guns

Made possible by Bethesda: From DOOM's shotgun to more creative killing machines in Turok 2 and Unreal Tournament, here's gaming's most badass arsenal.

The 'DOOM' shotgun in action

This article is part of DOOM Week on VICE Gaming, exploring the legendary 1993 title and its 2016 counterpart, released on May the 13th, and the wider world of shooters – of which this piece is a part. This content is made possible by Bethesda.

Without wanting to put myself on any watchlist, I like guns. I like big ones, and I like small ones. I especially like the the 30mm M230 chain gun mounted to the underside of an AH-64A/D attack helicopter, truly mankind's finest killing machine.


I don't play around with real guns, of course. You realise that, right? I just play a lot of video games, and doing so has given me a fine appreciation of things that go boom.

For many aficionados of things that shoot other things, DOOM was revolutionary, every gun a work of art, a unique implement with which to bring the pain, from the room-clearing BFG to the devastating plasma rifle. In honour of DOOM's return to the FPS arena, here's a look at some of the best weapons of video gaming, an industry that largely seems to exist just to produce ever more impressive weapons of war for us to fetishise.

Putting the shotgun through its paces in the 'Brutal DOOM' mod.

DOOM's Shotgun

Be honest, you expected the Super Shotgun from DOOM 2, didn't you? You're wrong. The Super Shotgun's pump-action big brother is the real star of the DOOM series, somehow managing to be the most satisfying weapon in a series famous for its array of great guns.

You get your hands on the shotgun early on in DOOM, and it quickly becomes your most reliable companion. It works best up at an intimate range, and with DOOM's ridiculous pace the demons of hell are often within an arm's length, meaning it's your constant go-to when things inevitably get up close and personal.

Sure, the chainsaw might be more brutal, and the BFG's green ball of hate does a lot more damage; but the simple-on-paper, pure-killer-in-practice shotgun's versatility, graphics and the fact it'll straight up murder someone up-close makes it DOOM's most iconic weapon.


That'll work.

Turok 2's Cerebral Bore

The Cerebral Bore is a small, weird-looking thing, leaving an unassuming first impression. The projectile it fires looks as good as harmless, a golden orb that's about as threatening as someone tossing you a Christmas bauble.

But appearances can be deceptive. The Cerebral Bore is a fire-and-forget fuck you to any enemy unlucky enough to be in its crosshairs. It locks on to brainwaves, and when the orb is activated it propels itself towards the unlucky target. On contact, it affixes itself to their head before drilling down into it, and finally exploding.

The Cerebral Bore is such an excessively aggressive weapon that it's nearly offensive. Thwacking the enemy in the skull with a speeding golden egg would be enough for most of us – but digging in and then popping it into a thousand pieces? That's savage. So it's little wonder that as soon as your crosshair locks on, most enemies start to panic, running away from you while flailing their little arms. It won't save them.

Love it or hate it, when the AVP is aimed at your head, the only advice is to duck.

Counter-Strike's AWP

One shot, one kill: that's the promise of the AWP, an instant-kill sniper rifle that will stop an enemy pulse in an instant, if successfully aimed anywhere above the waist.

Few weapons are as polarising as Counter-Strike's mammoth sniper rifle, and its appearance in the game's public lobbies tends to rile up the participants like nothing else, from version 1.6 all the way to its more recent entry in Global Offensive. This extreme level of infamy earns it an instant place on this list.


Every Counter-Strike player has an opinion on the AWP. Perhaps you believe that it's a magic wand you can wave at anyone you want dead, or maybe you're a devotee who believes the weapon requires a certain skill: a mix of reflexes, patience and precision that only the finest users possess. But whatever you think of it, you can't deny it has a certain something. Even if that something so regularly winds up lodged in your avatar's brain.

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If it can turn a wall this thick to rubble, just image what it'll do to your skull.

Red Faction's Fusion Rocket Launcher

But enough of the elegant killing machines – now for something that's just pure destruction. The Red Faction games have always been about making things explode, but it was the original entry in the series, released back in 2001, that brought us the gun with the biggest explosions.

Developers Volition put a shitload of solid weapons into their game, a tense FPS about miners rising up to overthrow an oppressive mega-corp. But even a standard-isse rocket launcher wasn't enough to sate their appetite for destruction. Enter the Fusion Rocket Launcher, which fires miniature nukes, obliterating pretty much everything.

Most of the guns in Red Faction could be in here, to be honest. I'm a big fan of the Eraser-style railgun which can obliterate an enemy from the other side of a wall. But the Fusion Rocket Launcher is here for its sheer power. Point this at someone you don't want to exist anymore, and they won't.


Here it is. Doesn't look like much, does it? But wait until you take it for a spin.

Duke Nukem 3D's Shrink Ray

Once upon a time, the name Duke Nukem used to be associated with Good Games. The Duke himself used to mean something, and that something wasn't "misogynist cockweasel".

Back in 1996, Duke Nukem 3D had the Shrink Ray. It does exactly what it says, shrinking your enemies down to the size of an action figure. Now you have an angry enemy standing nine inches tall: what's a Duke to do? Why, stamp on the him with his size 13 boots, of course.

Really, it's the stamp that's the attraction here, the crunch of tiny bones as you turn them into bad-dude puree. Better yet, this works in multiplayer too, letting you completely humiliate your friends by turning them into tiny versions of their former selves. Another fun fact: by firing this at a reflective surface you can make yourself pint sized, too.

Putting up shelves with this would probably end in tears.

F.E.A.R.'s 10mm HV Penetrator

The 10mm HV Penetrator is a complete horror. Nothing called a Penetrator has ever been a good thing, surely; but the HV Penetrator is a beast of a nail gun that fires humungous and deadly stakes at your enemies. It's brutal, effective, and will pin your enemies to the walls, floors and ceilings if you kill them with a round from it.

It's slow to fire but accurate, something that gels well with F.E.A.R.'s time dilation mechanics, allowing you to slow down time before ploughing a stake through their face, embedding them in the walls.


In a game about where unspeakable horrors and intelligent enemies are continually backing you into a corner, the Penetrator is your way to fight back. Even unthinking, unfeeling AI has to be scared of the gigantic spikes it kicks out and, if not, the grisly murals of impaled enemies you leave in your wake might well do the trick.

Related, on Motherboard: When Big Guns Go Down

For me? Shucks, Alyx, you shouldn't have.

Half-Life 2's Gravity Gun

While the Gravity Gun is only as good as your imagination, many players' experiences with the Gravity Gun are fairly similar.

When you're given it early in the game, you'll use it sparingly – tossing explosive barrels at enemies, beaning the occasional guy in the face with a crate, perhaps even catching grenades out of the air and firing them back to enemy.

Then you go to Ravenholm. There's an achievement in Half-Life 2 for playing through the zombie-infested town of Ravenholm using just the Gravity Gun, and so you'll step up your game. Suddenly you're fighting with saw blades, radiators and even mattresses, and you haven't seen half of what the Gravity Gun can do yet.

Towards the end of the game, your Gravity Gun is given the ability to pick up and launch just about anything, including enemy soldiers themselves. When it gets this far, Isaac Newton can get fucked. Gordon Freeman doesn't give a shit about stupid things like the laws of physics.

PC Gamer explains why the Flak Cannon is the best gun in PC gaming.


Unreal Tournament's Flak Cannon

Painted in that bright yellow you see on construction sites, lacking a barrel and covered in pistons and servos, it's easy to imagine the Flak Cannon as some sort of building tool from the future. But there's no doubt as to its sole purpose: to kill. The only thing it can build is broken families as it tears through another batch of enemies.

A click on the left mouse button flings a spray of white-hot yellow pellets across the screen. A click on the right: a grenade like a mortar, exploding when it hits something solid in a shower of pellets that ricochet around the area, almost randomly.

Either mode can kill someone immediately, slicing them into confetti. It's an area denial device in a game where everyone moves perpetually, and as a result catching someone right in the chops with the larger frag round is always satisfying.

Slicing and dicing in 'Gears of War 2'.

Gears of War's Lancer

Unlike the Cerebral Bore, the Lancer indicates its intent from the second you first lay eyes on it. It's an assault rifle with a sodding chainsaw strapped to the front. It's big, it's unwieldy, it's heavy and it's stupid; you can't even aim the thing while you're revving its chainsaw.

It's bloody fun though, and perfectly encompasses the ridiculous world Marcus Fenix and his fellow COGs inhabit. Everyone in the Gears of War universe can take entire magazines of ammo, because of their tougher hides or massive armoured suits, so of course it makes sense that something as simple as a chainsaw should be one of the more effective ways to end their days.


Get your timing all wrong though, setting your saw spinning when you're not so close to anything to carve it into, and you can quickly get your comeuppance. Chasing an enemy around the map with your chainsaw furiously revving makes you feel like a badass, sure; but it also makes you more susceptible to catching a fatal case of lead poisoning as you're running around like a twat.


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