“Realistic” Game Weapons May Have More Game and Less Realism

First-person shooters are murder simulators… The military trains recruits to kill using first-person shooters…

While we’ve all heard such rhetoric from critics of the FPS genre, a Popular Mechanics article suggests that even the most reality-based titles are enhanced by developers to play more smoothly or deliver a more exciting experience than that found in your every day, run of the mill gun battle. From Erik Sofge’s PM piece:

Unlike sci-fi FPS games such as Halo or Doom, military shooters have a tradition of so-called realism. Most of the in-game weapons are available now… Firefights look and sound like something out of Blackhawk Down… Will increasingly powerful PCs and game consoles allow military shooters to become more realistic than ever?

If Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is any indication, the answer is a big, fat “sort of.” …when it comes to the guns, the developers seem to have pushed the Tom Clancy series closer to the battlefield..

Except, of course, when the developers feel the need to cheat. All of the guns in RSV2 start out extremely accurate, based on factory stats and more, before game balance and player expectations come into play.

Ubisoft RSV2 designer Philippe Thieren told PM: 

I take these weapons, and look at what defines them, or what people think defines them. For an Uzi, people think it fires lots of bullets, and it’s really inaccurate. So I make it fire faster than it should. It’s about taking the personality of a weapon, and making it shine in the game.

These consoles are so powerful, when you fire a bullet we could factor all of it in: windfall, range, everything about the history of that specific weapon, friction values for the barrel, how many times it’s been fired since it was last cleaned. We could make it as anally realistic as possible. But we’re not trying to make a live simulator.

What about America’s Army, the Defense Department’s powerful recruiting tool? 

Adhering to realism is something of a sticking point for AA, since the last thing the Army wants to do is to present modern warfare as a series of high-octane action-movie scenes.

With consistent access to actual weapon systems and insight from current and former soldiers, you would think that AA’s guns would come out 100 percent accurate. [But] in America’s Army, the limitation is [the user’s PC] hardware…

When you’re hit in nearly any war-themed FPS… surviving means finding cover, then jumping back into the fight. This regenerative health system has no bearing on the story line or on reality.

Mega-hit Call of Duty 4 has garnered accolades for its realism, but, as PM reports:

The dev team for Call of Duty 4 also starts out with hyper-realistic weapons, then tweaks them for balance and personality… Realism, in other words, is almost always about the flavor of the game, and it’s as subjective as any element of genre.

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  1. 0
    Anonymous says:

    I hate the very fact that people always associate realism with boring.

    Neither arcade or realism is boring or fun in its own merit, how its applied defines the game.

    You could very well make extremely realistic weapons and still make a fast paced CQB game no problem.

    Or the otherway around, arcade feeling guns but with gameplay mechanics encouraging a more realistic approach.


    I for one despise the one thing people always seem to miss, ranges/distances.

    You always seem to be fighting in some fishbowl sized town with shotguns that cant kill unless 4meters away.



    I vote for a game very close to realism but leave out the bigger waits and runs to battles, but with long enough

    distances that you cant knife people from spawn to spawn (relatively speaking) like in CoD4.

  2. 0
    Anders says:


    I totally agree. Weapon sounds & looks must be realistic.

    And I think, that it always be left-side and rightside of peoples, i.e. left-side – who want _Fun_ and right-side people – who want _Realistic_ games…

    Strange, nobody mention NovaLogic games: DeltaForce, Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising…
    It’s great landscapes…. and great missions, like a mission to kill baron of drugs in a desert…. mmm :)

    Call of Duty 4 – haven’t landscapes… it’s only close-quarter combats :(

    P.S. I vote for Realism, and in-game Freedom! :)

  3. 0
    Aliasalpha says:

    As far as realism is concerned, I see it more as “authenticity”. The weapons in the games mentioned are more authentic to the “feel” of the weapon rather than getting down into simulating the real-world mechanics of it.

    Thats much like what one of the developers for the Brothers In Arms games were saying, they were trying to make it feel immersive rather than realistic.

    I’d love to see a genuinely realistic military FPS but I know that practically noone would buy it.

  4. 0
    11binf says:

    the developers get lots of thing wrong mostly small. when it comes to weapons. most anoying to me is the sound of certain weapons being fired. It like they all use the same templante. What weapons look like and act when being fired. How weapon are held. And lots of times what side of the weapons the brass actually comes out of. When developers make games they could at least do reasearch into the weapons animation. The weapon may look like a m4 or saw but it sure as hell doesnt act like on.

  5. 0
    Momgamer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Just to provide a bit of context, Eric Sofge, the writer of the article is the same one who penned the recent article on Slate slamming Gary Gygax after his death (see http://www.slate.com/id/2186203/).

    And as the mother of a real soldier going into real action, that last sentence on the Army page is where I quit reading. I’m sure that was funny in his own head, but it certainly lost something between there and the keyboard.

  6. 0
    chuck ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Popular Mechanics goes on for pages to come to the stunning conclusion that computer games are not real life.

    Is it any wonder I haven’t read that rag since the 70’s?

  7. 0
    illspirit ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    One of the biggest problem with “murder simulators” is the sight picture. To aim in real life, one must point a firearm in the general direction of the target, get the rear sight centered on the target, then line up the front sight with the rear (though some people do the last two steps in reverse). To fine-tune the shot, or aim at something else altogether, one must constantly realign the front and rear sights. This is especially hard to do while moving, as it only takes one or two degrees difference in the alignment to totally miss a shot.

    In most games, however, the guns are fired from the hip, and the sights somehow magically align with the cursor/reticle. Even in the zoomed “precision modes” where you actually look down the sights, the sights remain perfectly aligned to the cursor no matter what. At least they have in every game I’ve played.

    As for being based on real equipment, I saw screens of one of the big tactical shooters where the M4 had a $20 Wal-Mart holosight on it instead of an EOTech or Aimpoint. If you used one of these in combat, it probably would break after five minutes. If it didn’t break on accident, you’d probably take it off and stomp it after it lost zero from the recoil of the first few bursts of automatic fire.

  8. 0
    Ebonheart ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Realism, in games? Realism means “Well it looks like the real deal! Oh and same amount of ammo!” From first hand experiance, M-16 in games handle nothing like they do in reality. Besides, I’m a better shot in reality than in games.

    And Anonymous, the DE. 50 is reffered to as a “Hand Cannon” for a reason. In Stalker, guns where realistic as far as the look and feel, AK-47 is one of the BEST weapons on earth.

    AK meaning Automatic Kolisnakov, 47 being the year it was first produced. Here’s the kicker, the Ak-47 is still in use to day with only 3 parts of the gun having been retrofitted.

  9. 0
    Anonymous says:

    I hate that realism thing.

    Not because of the godamned grey and brown but because they often get things wrong. After a bit of research, the desert eagle is prolly the shittiest gun this side of the galaxy.

    If they ditch the realism thing and call it “verisimilidute” instead, then I tolerate it. Because it is its real name. Believable in the story’s universe.

    Besides, if games were realistic, nobody would shoot for the head.

    And it isn’t like Halo started all this, I remember Halo as pretty catoonish and that made it somewhat cool. I mean, look at the alien guns!

  10. 0
    Ian Cooper ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    To me, more realism is more enjoyable because it adds a random element (like gun jams) that you have to adapt to. Without that, games get boring fast. Of course there are aspects of realism that you don’t want to simulate (like hours of doing nothing) but a well made simulation skips over those.

  11. 0
    Predatorian234 says:

    @Black Ice

    Its a really good game, and not like normal FPS. But it can get VERY annoying. You have to Constantly save, because there is no real auto-save feature.

    I stopped playing because I went about a solid hour of playing, collecting items, getting this, collecting that. And totally forgot to save.

    Got into a random fire fight, and couldn’t hit dick. Got killed, and realized I was back at the beginning.

    So, if you get it, SAVE OFTEN

  12. 0
    Artifex says:

    As far as realism is concerned, I see it more as “authenticity”. The weapons in the games mentioned are more authentic to the “feel” of the weapon rather than getting down into simulating the real-world mechanics of it. It wouldn’t be hard to simulate a cartridge jam, a mechanical failure, dirt and crud building up in the barrel, wind resistance, barrel heat, friction rates, bullet mass, grain counts, having a weapon kick so hard that it dislocates your character’s shoulder, and so-on…but at the end of the day, we aren’t making a scientific simulation program, we’re making a game. Games are meant to be FUN, and really let’s be honest here, 100% accurate to real life is NOT fun.

    Actually, as far as I know most US developers do field research. As in, they go out and fire the real weapons themselves, in the real world, with real bullets. I certainly know that I have. Let’s not push the ‘nerdy developers don’t go outside and do anything’ stereotype, please. :)

  13. 0
    11binf says:

    the funny part about the whioe thing is these makers who call realism probably never shot any weapon in their entire life and base it on what they think it ahould be

  14. 0
    Predatorian234 says:

    Anyone Play STALKER?

    If I remember correctly, that game had the most realistic (or so advertised) weapons in a video game.

    And it was impossible to hit someone who was 15 yards away with an AK47.

  15. 0
    Andy_UK says:

    for me, a game should be fun. its a form of escapism. If games are too realistic I don’t play them.

    E.G. Gran Tourismo or whatever it is called is boring. driving around a real track in real cars.

    Thats not escapism.

  16. 0
    GrimCW ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    back when, the Rainbow Six and Ghost recon games were pretty realistic in most regards.
    but ever since Ubisoft bought them out theyve bastardized the games and made them more arcade style in any regard.
    theres no realism anymore, once there was a little, not going to say much cause back then tech was more limited whereas now it could be better, but there was a little.
    i recall using the MP5 to snipe across the smaller maps just fine in Rogue Spear for instance. Not “fair” maybe to those using rifles, but it was realistic in its imbalanced weapons.
    people whine to much at imbalanced games though (as was one complaint i used to hear about Quake 3 and why people hated it)
    i miss the attempts at realism that once were as compared to the claim of realism in these kiddied up arcade games.
    i agree with Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw, FPS games have gone down hill ever since they decided to follow Halo like it was the only one to have ever been a hit.

    whats worse honestly is how badly balanced these games are anyways, where an MP5 is more powerful than most assault rifles, and ten times more accurate whereas in reality the rifle should be both more accurate and powerful.

  17. 0
    11binf says:

    games also reuse the same weapons sounds and seem to make certain things impenterable to gunfire. what game makers could do to make it more realist is add some strategy into it like the original rainbow six and make you think what weapons you want for what sit, or what cover best suits you against what weapon. driving a uparmored vehicle through a hostile area and give ther player a choice on whether or not to take certain routes or flank certian enemies. put the player in a postition were he has to use his brain on wether bringing a m4 to a heavy weapons fight is a good idea. allow the player the freedom to coordinate team movements to capture streets using diffrent arrays of weapons and give the player the option of making the tough descision of should i go through that alley and get to my obj fast or sit back in call air support and wast time. Basically give player the freedom of a non linear path with non linear weapons. that would make a game realistic and put the player in the decesion making shoes of a soldier

  18. 0
    Belgarion89 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:


    I’m guessing you were at Benning, too, given that you have you MOS in your screenname. Are you talking about the qualification range simulator that plugged into an NES? Or the one that looks like a pinball machine with an M16A2 on it? The closest we got to real was reflexive fire simulations in the ESS 2000, but even then we were shooting at black and brown silhouettes.

  19. 0
    Gameboy says:

    Let’s take other factors of realism into account. Damage. In other words being hurt/killed. Being shot in the arm three times is not going to kill you, but it would hurt like hell and make it hard to fire a weapon. Being shot in the torso is much more fatal and would also make it more difficult to fight. Of course, many games don’t factor that kind of thing in. This is likely due to concerns for balance, entertainment, and actually letting the player have a chance.

  20. 0
    11binf says:

    as a soldier myself i look at the soldier training argument as a joke. most of the so called simulators the military use are years out of date and are mostly used as a way to increase reaction speed. As for the realism of so called realistic games their laughable. weapons sounds are allways off including clancys games and enviroment destruction is off. Ex you shoot a 50cal at a table or anything short of solid metal it will go through. Same thing with rates of fire of weapons and how long till overheat. Body physics and damage are allways way off. you shoot people with high caliber weapons their gonna have more than small bullet holes in them. in truth if devolopers made a truly realistic war game it would probably be more interesting then these so called reall games.

  21. 0
    Mulletman262 says:

    I’m a gun enthusiast. I fire all kinds of weapons, both my family’s and my family’s friend’s, ranging from exotic pistols to assault weapons like SKS’ and M 16’s. Games always get guns wrong, and this is not necessarily a bad thing. But what gets me are nitpicks. Reloads, actions, recoil, what side the shell ejects from, etc. The only game I’ve seen get an M 16’s reload right is Rainbow Six 3-Raven Shield.

  22. 0
    jarrod ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    if you want to make a shooter game realistic, changing the weaponry to more life-like guns isnt enough. you must take into account a lot of other things such as the surrounding environments, emotions, etc. realistic games can be fun, just because a game is more realistic it doesnt make it better.

  23. 0
    AM ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Interestingly, one of the closer to “realistic” games out there, “Full Spectrum Warrior,” makes very little of its weapons. Naturally, you’re armed, it’s a war game, but as KayleL said, it’s about tactics, not weapon types. I have no idea how realistic the weapon behavior in FSW is, but I rather doubt it’s terribly relevant.

    Microprose, a company once known for its simulations and now long dead, put it best, I think. To paraphrase (because it’s been years…) one of their flight simulators had, in the manual or some other printed material, this goal: “We keep the parts that are fun, and leave out the parts that aren’t.”

    That’s what separates a game from a genuine simulator.

  24. 0
    Keith K ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    For me, realism in a shooter has absolutely no bearing on the weapons. I think this has to do with the fact that I know absolutely nothing about such weapons and frankly couldnt give a damn.

    Realism for me comes from the complete interactivity with the environment. I may know absolutely nothing about the real specs of an Uzi, but I do know that if you shoot one at a street sign, it will puncture the metal and leave a hole. That hole will be see through and will not spontaneously repair itself as though it were a glitch in The Matrix.

    In this way, realism is largely ignored in all video games, as such subtlety rarely influences the factors of the game itself and ultimately waste valuable resources.

  25. 0
    KayleL ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The games that the military train on is highly modified, and they use it for practising not firing, but tactics. The only person who is calling them ‘murder simulators’ is Jack Thompson, but he has much bigger issues.

  26. 0
    Void Munashii ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Does this really surprise anyone? The average gamers wants it to feel realistic, not actually be realistic. Actually being realistic would take a good portion of the fun out of it since reality tends to make things not work exactly the way you want them to.

    Plus reality tends to not be balanced for multiplayer.

  27. 0
    Soldatlouis ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Actually, I’ve never considered all military FPS as “realistic”. Or it depends what “realism” means. Does it mean “closest as possible to a war movie” ? In this case, “Medal of Honor” and “Call of Duty” series fit the criteria, for sure. But if it means “closest as possible to a real war experience”, that’s another story.

    To me, “truly realistic” military and/or tactical FPS are very rare : the first “Rainbow Six”, its sequel “Rogue Spear”, “Operation Flashpoint” and “Armed Assault”… There aren’t many. To me, most FPS that are put in a moden combat context (“Call of Duty”, “Battlefield”, the latest episodes of the “Rainbow Six” franchise…) use this “realism” or “pseudo-realism” as a varnish, but when you take it off, you get the same experience as “Halo 3” or any other sci-fi shooter. It doesn’t mean they are bad games : I love many of them and I have a lot of fun with them. But I take them for what they are : fun and entertainment, no more.

  28. 0
    Elalonna ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Games are about fun, balance, and immersiveness.

    Where does reality come into play? I can point out one problem: If I spasm or twitch at the controller(I have never been able to hold still), it’s ok as long as it didn’t affect the thumbsticks. It might even be okay If I used a mouse. If I do that in real life…

    Secondly, I’ve never seen a aimer pop up in real life. Even if you used the blind skull in Halo 2 & 3, or something similar in another game, it still wouldn’t matter. The gun will still always be magically aligned to the center of the screen, or close to it anyway. I can understand it maybe in futuristic games with helmets that maybe there’s a computer interface, but that doesn’t help us here in the year 2008.

    And what about third person? That is not going to happen. Ever.

    And how about saves, or respawning? That’s not happening either.

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