The PC has always been a platform rich in innovation, experimentation, and weirdness. From the bedroom programmers of the 90’s, to the rise of modding, right through to today’s thriving indie scene: PC gaming has been able to make its own mistakes while growing up. And, like any teenager with an open mind and no parental guardian in sight, sometimes things can get a little freaky.
Some of the wildest excesses of PC gaming gunplay comes from the seedier corners of the mod scene (like the scientist shotgun) or the rampant, unrestrained imagination of isometric or even text-based RPGs (as in Wirt’s leg). There’s plenty of craziness to be found hidden in easter eggs (just search fore ‘Mr Toots’) or melee weapons (such as the infamous San Andreas dildo or TF2’s Holy Mackerel).
But we’re not going to delve into such obscurity – because you have to draw a line somewhere (although we wish someone had told the Postal 2 development team that). This is a collection of guns (ie, projectile weapons) that you can get up-close and personal with in a vanilla (ie, unmodded or extended) first/third person shooter. Strap yourselves in as we tour the seven strangest guns in PC Gaming, past and present:
1. Seeker Boombats – Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
To be honest, you could pick out just about any one of the ammo types for Oddworld’s celebrated crossbow. The game’s sole weapon cocks living, hyperactive critters and launches them at your enemies. Rather creepily, the critters stare at you as you walk around the game world, as if judging your every move. The critter list boasts chatty chipmunks, angry bees, bitey rabid hairballs (like tribbles with teeth and psychological disorders) and gimp-skunks (well, kinda).
The weirdest of the bunch, though, has to be the Seeker Boombat. These flying little dudes have dynamite strapped to their back which, with delicious inevitability, explodes on impact. They sit on your crossbow quivering like heroin addicts, one eye bulging, the other covered by a piratey eye patch. Unforgettable.
2. Mind Control Bolts – Rage
The second crossbow on this list comes from ID’s most recent shooter: Rage. A bit of a critical flop, Rage struggled to make an impression in the busy post-apocalyptic wasteland sub-genre. Fallout 3 offered more depth and better weapons, combined with a strong identity and story. Borderlands 1 and 2 both offered, well, more depth, better weapons and a stronger identity. Rage landed awkwardly between them like an unexploded world-war two hand-grenade in a children’s party bag.
But it did offer little glimpses of flair – not least in the special ammo types. Chief among them stands the crossbow’s Mind Control bolts. These inject swarms of tiny mind-altering nanobots into your target’s bloodstream, or something, with the end result that you get to control their movement for a short period.
Bringing the weapon to life, though, Rage offered two twists to the classic mind-control formula. Firstly, your target would resist the psychic invasion, lumbering awkwardly, head in hands and contorting in mental pain (like myself by last orders on most Friday nights, but I digress). Secondly, those nanobots were explosive – eventually going full Miss Dynamite-ee in a lovely cloud of old-fashioned gibbage.*
* Also not unlike me come Saturday morning.
Voodoo magic doesn’t really crop up enough in games. The 90’s indulged in a veritable acid trip of mystic weaponry: Heretic’s magical charms; Daikatana’s time-travelling disappointment-machines; Rise of the Triad’s hoodoo hokum. But the funkiest of the lot was Blood’s Voodoo doll.
Alright, so it’s not really a gun. But it acts like one – point your effigy (no giggling at the back) at an enemy, prick the doll with a needle, and watch your unfortunate victim’s life ebb away. In a nice touch, if you stabbed the doll when no-one else was around, it would drain your life.
Oddly, stabbing the doll would cause gushing fountains of blood to pour from your foe, no matter the constitution of the evil undead minion in question. Still, the game was called Blood, after all, and just about all of its particles effects were rendered in clouds of claret – no matter how inappropriate.
When it came to logic, fairness and a sense of proportion or moderation – Painkiller threw the rulebook out of the window. With a cluster grenade strapped to it. This wonderfully daft attitude gave us such barmy wonders as the freeze ray-cum-Shotgun, the rocket launching mini-gun (oh, yes) and the stake gun with a grenade launcher strapped underneath.
It’s most brazenly mental move, though, was the Electrodriver. It’s part shuriken launcher, part tommy gun, part lightning gun. That’s right – shurikens and lightning bolts. Sadly, it lacked a little punch when compared with some of the mightier weapons on show, and struggled to compete against the charm and fun of the stake gun. But the Electrodriver was a wonderfully imaginative piece of wtf-ery and deserves its place on this list.
5. Cat Silencer – Postal 2
Speaking of wtf-ery, I present Exhibit E: the cat silencer.
It’s basic science really. Stick the wrong end of a cat on the barrel of a rifle, fire a bullet, and the many layers of cat-stuff will reduce the velocity of the bullet enough to suppress the sonic boom which makes a gun go ‘bang’. Repeat until the cat-stuff is of insufficient density to slow the bullet.
Admittedly, the cat’s screams remain a bit of a problem.
Postal 2 wasn’t exactly a cultural, moral or entertainment milestone in the evolution of PC gaming, so we’ll move right on to something a little more innocently eclectic.
6. Atomic Toaster – MDK2
The MDK games – which might stand for “Murder Death Kill” or “Max Doc Kurt”, depending on your leaning – were absolutely mental. A Bargain Bucket of crazy. I mean there’s no two ways about it, these old third-person shooters were just stark raving bonko.
Gameplay in MDK went something like this: you press the left mouse button down to fire, and hold it for ten consecutive minutes. While maintaining this manoeuvre, you side-step and circle-strafe (remember that, gamers of yesteryear?) to dodge incoming fire and prance recklessly through shooting galleries, then relax your trigger finger for a few minutes during some lightly psychedelic platforming.
Most of MDK’s weapons are variants of machine guns and sniper rifles. The second game mixed things up though, by letting you play as the mad scientist Doc. He’s more of a tinker than a fighter who specialises in combining items. His basic weapon is the Atomic Toaster: propelling slicers of radioactive (you can tell because it’s bright green) toast towards your opponents. Classy.
7. Land Shark – Armed & Dangerous
Armed and Dangerous is an oft-overlooked gem of the PC shooter scene. It survives now in the memories of a few core gamers who look back with great fondness on a game with one of the most creative arsenals the PC has seen.
A&D is a very simple third-person shooter, spiritual successor to the slightly-less-forgotten Giants: Citizen Kabuto. Its brilliant imagination and hilarious script are, admittedly, undermined by repetitive and not particularly convincing gunplay. But some of the toys that it gives you are utterly unforgettable.
There’s the topsy-turvey mine, which turns the whole world upside-down, causing your enemies to fall hilariously up into the sky (only to land painfully when gravity is restored). Then there’s the world’s smallest black hole, which sucks enemies into its all-devouring path.
And there’s the Land Shark – the cult classic of gaming’s weirdest weapons. It’s like a rocket launcher, only it fires sharks. The sharks swim under the ground, dorsal fin lighting up their path, then go full-Jaws on any unsuspecting bad dudes they encounter, guzzling them whole. It’s truly one of gaming’s weirdest, most ridiculous and satisfying sights.
So there we have it – seven wonderfully weird projectile weapons from the (often a little murky) archives of PC gaming.
Reckon I’ve missed anything? Want to broaden the discussion to include your favourite melee weapons or spells? Know of any particularly strange RPG weapons from the isometric days? Let us know in the comments below!