5 Video Game Weapons That Work Way Better In Real Life

I've spent many, many years of my life wasting dudes. Mostly in video games.

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Also often in my imagination while using public transit.

So I've naturally developed some pretty reliable instincts about the best ways to go about this wasting. Every video game is different, but within a genre (here I'm mainly thinking about first-person shooters) there are enough similarities in them that when I'm handed a gun or other wasting implement, I'm already pretty confident how to handle it. You probably are too. We're all fucked up here.

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We all need to take out our public-transit-induced rage somehow.

And some weapons I know just to never touch at all. These are weapons that are so consistently (and surprisingly) ineffective and unreliable that I know to not bother with them. Here's what they are.

#5. Flamethrowers

To judge by looks alone, flamethrowers are everything. They take fire, mankind's first and best invention, and apply it liberally to aliens and Nazis and other things that need it. Game designers seem to lavish attention on this weapon, devoting all sorts of effort to making bad guys smoke and burn and run around screaming about how much they hate being on fire.

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There'll be more of that where you're going, you damned Nazi alien.

Which is great. When they work right. Which they don't.

In most games, flamethrowers have three big problems. The most obvious is that they have a limited range. Which is a realistic limitation; flamethrowers in real life can't shoot jets of flame indefinitely far. Even in video games, where we rightfully toss realism out the window if an alternative is more fun, their range is still limited for reasons of gameplay balance. Flamethrowers are meant to be a tradeoff between high damage and short range. A compromise that already precludes these from being a primary weapon, considering how useless they are when you stumble upon one of the cavernous rooms that are so popular in alien Nazi lairs.

The second big problem with flamethrowers is that you can't see what the hell is happening. With most guns you can see the results of your dude-wasting efforts instantly. A guy falls down, or explodes, or doesn't, and within a fraction of a second you know whether you need to keep shooting or change to another target or whatever. But because flamethrowers fill half your screen with fire, you have no idea if you're even hitting the guy you're shooting at, or if he's already dead.

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Yeah, you got 'em, hero.

These two problems could potentially be worked out if you practiced a bit with the flamethrower, which brings us to the third problem -- you never get to practice with them. They're almost always introduced midway to late through a game, by which point you're fighting pretty tough dudes who you can't afford to experiment on, not when you already have an arsenal of useful, universal weapons you trust. And flamethrowers always seem to have limited ammo, preventing you from doing the screwing around necessary to get good with them.

Which is why, every time I (and probably you) get one of these supposedly badass instruments of destruction, we say, "Huh, cool," and toss it over our shoulder.

#4. Grenades

This will be somewhat controversial, because in some games grenades can be quite useful, even mandatory to use at higher levels of difficulty. But that's not always the case; every game seems to have a different take on the damage and blast radius and delay for these things, and in many, many games I've found grenades to be about as deadly as a gently tossed dinner roll. You can throw dozens of these things at bad guys and do nothing more than tell them where you are.

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"Alarm! Die carbs!"

And they used to be so much worse. At least modern games now seem to deploy grenades with dedicated buttons or quick-fire grenade triggers, allowing you to toss one out without switching from your main weapon. Back in the bad old days, we had to select grenades as a separate weapon, making them even less usable. And like the flamethrower, ammunition is typically an issue with these; you just don't get enough of them to figure out their quirks with practice. Their damage potential means that I'm always saving them for something else, until I realize I'm at the end of the game and throw them all in a heap at the feet of the very last dude, only to watch them bounce harmlessly off him.

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At best they just cause Space Hitler to evolve into his final, ultimate form.

#3. A Partner

This might seem like a cheat, but if being raised by Jean-Claude Van Damme movies taught me anything, the most dangerous weapon of all is Jean-Claude Van Damme. So I'm going to include it. A partner, whether delivered by level design, a power-up, or some other means, is a weapon.

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Though rarely as effective as the platonic ideal.

Having a teammate or other person at your back would seem to double your effectiveness, and, in reality, they can do a lot more than that. A teammate can give you extra eyes and ears, allow you to cover each other with suppressing fire, or concentrate firepower. Teammates don't just provide an additive effect, they provide a multiplicative one; there's a reason every branch of the military trains soldiers, ships, and airplanes to work in groups.

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And not, you know, hand everyone a plane and tell em to "go at 'em."

But holy shit are video game partners complete assholes. They often as not can't shoot -- I'm not sure I've ever seen an AI teammate hit a bad guy. And who was the maniac that thought they should exist in games with stealth mechanics or land mines?

The rest of the time they're running directly in front of your gun, or wasting ammo, or generally doing the exact opposite of helping. It is a very rare game indeed when the best course of action isn't to pretend your teammates aren't there at all and just do everything yourself.

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Chris Bucholz

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