The Science of Videogame Weapons – Part 3

The Science of Videogame Weapons – Part 3

The first two articles in this trilogy were very serious; we looked at plasma weapons and space lasers. Now we’re going to shed all common sense and look at some of the most entertaining weapons in videogame history. I’ll warn you now – there’s not actually much science to be found here.

Weapon: Cerebral Bore (Turok)

Bullets are boring. That’s why games these days try everything to come up with new methods of slaughter. So why not shoot a drill at someone to dig into their skull as if you’re looking for oil? Why not indeed! There’s something soothing about the shrill whine of the drill as it deposits explosives beneath the cranium.

weapons 1The ironic thing about this weapon is that, of all of the technologies I’ve looked at in “the science of”, this one is the most plausible. Drills are real, and come in hand-held sizes. Explosives likewise. So why not marry the two in a union of sadistic capabilities? In principle the cerebral bore is identical to any Armour Piercing (AP) round used by the military. These generally have toughened shells to burst through layers of metal, and contain an explosive set to detonate once the round has penetrated its target. Spin that thing up and add some serration, and you’ve essentially got a cerebral bore. But, as we said, bullets are boring, and AP rounds are no substitute for the real thing.

The Turok series loves weaponry of this ilk; a personal favourite of mine is the ‘Chest-Burster’ seen in Rage Wars. You fire a projectile into the enemy, which incubates over a few seconds before causing a monstrous creature to burst from the victim’s dripping rib-cage. Glorious. It was biological warfare at its most gruesome.

Weapon: Energy Sword (Halo)

The energy sword is, in my opinion, the coolest weapon in all of science fiction. It’s not just the Halo incarnation, there’s also the godfather of energy swords – the light sabre. It’s a shame, then, that of all the weapons we’ve (seriously) looked at, this one is the least plausible.

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The problem with the energy sword is that while it suffers from all of the same problems we looked at with plasma guns and space lasers, it also suffers from another catastrophic problem. You see, while there’s nothing theoretically impossible about creating a laser beam, or even a plasma beam, energy swords require the technological witchcraft of magically cutting that beam off at a predefined point, creating a blade of light. There’s not much else to say about it, other than how much of a shame it is for wannabe Jedi’s everywhere. It is as if a million scientists cried out with theories and were immediately silenced. OK, no more bad Star Wars jokes.

Weapon: Atomizer (Resistance 3)

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In real life, an Atomizer is basically something that makes an aerosol. Boring. In Resistance 3, it’s a big-ass gun that disintegrates anything in your way. Awesome. The Atomizer zaps your target with a burst of electricity that causes them to vaporize with a shiny gleam of agony. This weapon is as implausible as it is gruesome, although to be fair there’s little information available on how it works, other than that it runs on some form of electricity. Thanks, Captain America.

It does, however, have an interesting secondary fire mode – a localized gravity well. Fire one at a baddie and watch him be dragged into the ensuing vortex. Gravity based weapons always raise significant questions for me; if there were a gravity source strong enough to pull people into it then one would assume that it were stronger than Earth’s gravity. Impressive a feat it might be, but there are serious implications to creating such a phenomenon so close to the ground. A gravity source of that magnitude would wreak havoc to the planet. Think about it, if the gravity of the object was equal to Earth’s, the moon would suddenly feel twice the pull usually experienced. While it might not tumble out of the sky you can be sure its orbit would be affected. So unless there’s more than meets the eye to the Atomizer, my verdict is “no it’s not plausible, and thank Thor it isn’t!”

Weapon: High Frequency Blade (Metal Gear)

The Metal Gear series holds something in common with Saint’s Row: they both feature vibrators as weapons. Granted, one is long, purple, and moist, and the other is a precision slicing machine that is as scientifically interesting as it is fun to use. The High Frequency Blade (HFB) is a katana-like sword that “resonates at high frequencies, raising its temperature, thereby increasing its cutting ability”, according to the Metal Gear Wiki. It’s basically a Gillette Mach 3 on steroids.

weapons 4It’s undeniable that vibration and heat are intrinsically linked (it’s hard to write this without everything sounding like double-entendre). What you and I perceive as heat is basically a result of how fast atoms in an object vibrate. The hotter the object, the faster the atoms are vibrating. So there’s nothing wrong in principle in creating a blade that vibrates so fast that it heats up, allowing it to slice through enemies like a chainsaw through a marshmallow.

The only issue with this is magnitude; the hotter you want your blade, the faster it needs to wobble. Have you ever tried one of those novelty electric-chairs in an arcade? They work by vibrating and they’re not very comfortable – hence their being a paid challenge. If your HFB handle was not properly insulated from the blade’s vibrations, you’d be likely to wiggle your hand clean out of its socket.

To give you an idea of the power of a good vibrator, I’d like to call upon my favourite phallus of science: the rocket. When a rocket takes off, the pad is usually doused in as much as 300,000 gallons of cool water. This protects the pad and the rocket from acoustic energy: vibrations caused by the sheer noise of the rocket. I’ve heard it said that if a person was to be stood within 500 feet of a non-suppressed launch-pad, their internal organs would be turned to mush by the vibration alone. As Destiny’s Child would say, I don’t think you’re ready for that Jelly.

I hope you liked our journey through the coolest video-game weapons. If you think we’ve missed any, feel free to tell us in the comments below. We’ve gone from plasma to space lasers, from skull-drills to glorified sex toys. What more could you want from the medium you love?

Anthony Richardson


I'm Anthony, but you can call me Anthony. I once fit 20 grapes in my mouth, and 40 pencils in my hair. I haven't written a book, but if I did I would give it a confusing title, and I'd make every effort to ensure you hadn't a clue what relevance it had to gaming. Oh, and also I write about games.

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