Posted on March 27, 2008,

Just How Accurate Are the Guns in Your Standard FPS?

james-bond-ppk.jpgIt’s an age old question: are the guns in games really all that accurate? Oftentimes in the process of reviewing a game, reviewers will praise a game for its realistic weapons – but realistically, the average game reviewer doesn’t know the difference between a Walther PPK and 5″/38 caliber guns. (The former is the gun James Bond has made famous, while the latter is something you’d find on a battleship.)

Popular Mechanics takes a look at this subject by diving in and taking a look at the way various games handle weapons, including Rainbow Six Vegas 2, Call of Duty 4, and even America’s Army.

[A]ccording to Philippe Theiren, an RSV2 designer at Ubisoft Montreal and the team’s self-described “gun guy,” bullet penetration now takes into account incredibly fine details, like whether the target is wearing leather or cloth. “It’s actually an excessively complex formula,” Theiren says. “If someone shoots through a plant, then a car door, then it hits Level 3 body armor, all of that effects the force of the round.” Actual ballistic data associated with the guns in RSV2, then, determine whether you can fire a burst through a wooden table and take someone out.

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. A shotgun firing buckshot, for example, has significantly more penetration in RSV2 than it should. Why? “People associate shotguns with powerful, close-range weapons,” Theiren says. So a shotgun blast will punch through walls and armor just fine, even though buckshot is known for its lack of penetration in the real world.

“I take these weapons, and look at what defines them, or what people think defines them,” Theiren explains. “For an Uzi, people think it fires lots of bullets, and it’s really inaccurate.” That, he knows, has nothing to do with reality—if anything, Uzis are considered some of the most reliable and accurate submachine guns around. But the 80s (and Miami Vice in particular) offered us the Uzi as a low-life villain’s weapon, spit-fire and out-of-control. “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,” Theiren says.

It’s a pretty interesting feature and might go a long way in explaining why the same weapon is so dramatically different from one game to the next, even when they’re all giving off the vibe of a realistic shooter.

Now, I need to go back out to my yard so I can keep practicing with my Phalanx CIWS.

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9 Comments on Just How Accurate Are the Guns in Your Standard FPS?


On March 27, 2008 at 10:16 pm

They’re as good as my aim… horrible.

The accuracy rating of games is not such an issue, except in hyper-realistic war simulations, due to the fact that games are to be fun. I was surprised that Rainbow Six was so complex, but it was a good surprise. However, if I were to find Quake ran those many checks, then… well, see you later.

Joseph Merrick

On March 27, 2008 at 11:19 pm

All you gun-nuts need to check out STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl. The guns are astoundingly realistic, and each bullet has individual calculated physics. Last night for example I’d been in a train car surrounded by military grunts, and as a desparate measure I’d shot through the walls of the car using armour-piercing subsonic rounds. I actually killed most of them that way, and I noticed that many of the rounds had ricocheted both off the concrete outside as well as the inside of the train car.


On March 27, 2008 at 11:34 pm

Amusingly enough James Bond is depicted holding a Walther P99 rather than the PPK in the photo above.



On March 27, 2008 at 11:54 pm

Skippy, I thought it’d be ironic if I knocked game reviewers for not knowing their guns, and then doing it myself. But a picture isn’t obvious enough, which is why I tacked on the line about having a CIWS in my backyard.


On March 27, 2008 at 11:55 pm

Good catch, though.

COL James Slate

On March 28, 2008 at 12:13 am

It is interesting that this came up as a topic, I agree with the designers, people have certain expectations.


That youtube video doesn’t do justice to the actual sound of the Phalanx


On March 28, 2008 at 1:53 am

You’re right James; if you want a slightly better impression of what a CIWS firing sounds like, check this one.

Or, if you want more badassery of this sort, check out Fantastic website.


On March 28, 2008 at 12:09 pm

All in good fun Chris. I enjoyed the article and wish FPS devs would pay more attention to real world behavior and physics. It’s seems to have become a huge selling point for the race car genre.

havoc of smeg

On March 28, 2008 at 3:03 pm

this is defintly one of the most interesting reads.

they should also take recoil and weapon weight into account.
if you were, stuff like mounted MG’s and various shoulder mounted rocket launchers would be noticably more realistic.