16 of gaming's finest shotguns: A loving tribute

Halo 4's M45D

Rarely has a video game shotgun been so businesslike in its offense yet so undeniably cool in its countenance. Just look at the thing. The perfect blend of militaristic heft and slinky, sci-fi sensuality, the brutal slam of its firing sound nevertheless maintains the realistic mechanical vibe of modern fire-arms. A delightfully old-school slap in the mouth amid all those primary-coloured lasers.

Halo 4's Scattershot

In contrast, the M45D's Forerunner counterpart is the dazzling, showy, Mardi Gras float of the shotgun world. Oozing sexy, pseudo-organic design and firing shards--none of your pedestrian pellets here, thanks--of lethal gold, it appears to effuse molten sunlight from its barrel when in use. And when those shots start rebounding around the room like lethal glowworms, the effect is like fighting through a shimmering disco of death.

Modern Warfare 2's SPAS-12

Possibly the most ruthless action-bastard of a gun on this list, Modern Warfare 2's variant of the SPAS is tuned perfectly for savagely effective run-and-gun carnage. Quick to fire, and with devastating range for a shotgun, its nimble efficiency of function is mirrored delightfully in its "gun-feel". The understated thump and light metallic chime of its shots are followed by a delicately mechanical reload noise and butter-smooth cocking animation. All of this makes MW2's SPAS-12 the slinky but unpretentious weapon of choice for efficient shooters with a lot on their hands.

Gears of War 3's Sawed-off

If CoD's SPAS is the unassuming, efficient, well-kempt businesman of the group, Gears of War 3's sawed-off is the drunken, bellowing, wild-bearded redneck. Equally loved and loathed for its stupendous power at close range, it doesn't so much feel like a fire-arm when used, but more like an instant vapourisation field affecting a 180 degree radius. Rough, unsubtle, and utterly devoid of any finesse, it's understandably reviled by its victims. But if you've ever successfully used it on someone, and you tell me that you still 100% hate it as a weapon, then frankly I don't trust you as a person. You're either lying or insane.

The Quake 3 Arena shotgun

Eschewing the showmanship of Doom's shotguns in favour of fast-flowing effectiveness, iD's follow-up firearm is nonetheless a natural descendant of its pixelated parents. Combining the Super Shotgun's double-barreled ferocity with the original's elegance, Quake 3's shotgun is an enjoyably chunky, meaty little staff of death. Its shots echo forth an ominously deep explosive rumble, while the lightly-toned rattle of its chamber refilling adds the dash of refinement that a quick, precise game like Quake demands.

Resident Evil 4's shotgun trinity

Resident Evil 4's shotgun selection is possibly the best example of understated refinement on this list. The initial starting model is the most elegant of the lot, unleashing its shots with a precise whip-crack, and detonating a short-range cloud of death at once vague enough for crowd control and accurate enough for clinical executions. The beautifully-named Riot Gun adds a bit more snap to proceedings, while the Striker is a fat, drum-loading monstrosity whose satisfying heft gives way to the kind of clout upon firing that makes one feel as if armed with a small, handheld tank.

Bulletstorm's Boneduster

Representing the decadent heights of the shotgun's evolution to date, Bulletstorm's quad-barreled beauty is a huge but highly maneuverable creation. Aiming it feels for all the world like poking the enemy with the outstretched hand of a four-fingered fiend from the depths of Satan's pit, while firing it delivers a reassuringly solid recoil, like being lightly stamped in the chest by a small horse. Oh, and if you charge it up, it will melt the flesh and bones of anything put in front of it. It's not impossible that it actually was forged in the bowels of Hell.

Triggered any memories?

So there's my current best-of list. But how about yours? Have I missed any that you're particularly fond of? I'm bound to have. So put your tributes in the comments.

And while you're here, check out some of our (vaguely) related content. I'd recommend The most ludicrously impractical FPS weapons, or if you're all gunned-out, maybe its RPG-themed cousin.

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.