Experienced Points: Time to Put the Two-Weapon Limit Out of its Misery

By Shamus
on Feb 17, 2015
Filed under:

I need to start this one off with an apology. Last week we talked about the two-weapon limit and Halo. (The conversation actually spanned multiple episodes of Spoiler Warning: Half-Life 2: Episode 1.) Everyone said what they had to say and we all moved on. So it will probably come off as obnoxiously passive-aggressive that my column this week is basically having the same argument all over again. Sorry. At one point in the debate I realized this was a lively enough topic for an article, and I really wanted something catchy after the collective “meh” everyone gave my column last week at The Escapist.

Writing for a game site is so different from writing on a blog. Here, I can post any dumb thing and you folks will at least give the first paragraph a look. You’re here for the words, after all. The article title doesn’t need to be eye-catching and nobody minds when I run long. (In fact, some people prefer longer articles.) On a gaming site, all of this is inverted. Your readership rises and falls on the strength of your headline, and when I go over 1,000 words I usually notice a blatant increase in the number of people who jump into the comments after reading only the first page of the article. And having an eye-catching headline really works: In the last hour or so this column got as many comments as the previous column got in a week.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. It’s just a different kind of gig. If you’re a stand-up comic, then sometimes you get a half-hour in front of a fun crowd in your home town, and sometimes you get ten minutes in front of stony-faced seniors who are just waiting for the headline act to come out. It’s not like the people at The Escapist are obligated to read my stuff. They can read it or not, and it’s my job to grab those eyeballs.

Whatever. This is mostly a stealth rant about Destiny anyway. Don’t tell Josh.

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  1. shiroax says:

    “It’s not like the people at The Escapist are obligated to read my stuff.”

    As opposed to here, where it’s Shamus’ rules, and if you don’t read he won’t let you leave :)

    I don’t play that many shooters, but from my (Borderlands) experience, I tend to use 3 weapons for sniping, midrange and close combat, and 1 i tend to forget i have equipped. Going over 4 is too much, for me at least.

    • Mechaninja says:

      In Borderlands, I always wish I could have like 10 equipped slots, so I can have a lightning sub gun, a corrosive sub gun, a couple different sniper weapons, a couple different assault rifles, maybe a rocket launcher, etc.

      But I would end up doing the same thing I always do, which is sniping constantly and then switching to whatever my current backup weapon is as they close, and then dying and respawning hopefully far enough away that I can start sniping again.

      So yeah, four is plenty ;)

      • steves says:

        Holy crap, you are me in Borderlands! Always sniping…though I am playing the pre-sequel right now, with the new character Aurelia, and the “then dying” thing doesn’t happen any more, she has so many freezing & sniper-boosting skills it’s crazy.

        4 ‘active’ slots is still rubbish though – you can always pause & switch equipped weapons to effectively have as many as you can carry, so 4 is obviously just a holdover from console d-pads.

        And really, you only have 3 on tougher difficulties – the one time you can’t swap at will is in “fight for your life” mode, and having a crazy powerful rocket launcher available there is a must.

  2. Stephen says:

    I’m not sure if it’s a consideration for shooters, but it definitely is for the MMO I’m working on: two weapons allows you to assign a single key to “swap to alternate weapon” and you only need to remember that key to now use the weapon you aren’t currently using. With 3+ weapons, you instead need a “cycle weapons” button, possibly a “cycle reverse button”* and some set of keys (usually has to be the number keys) to jump directly to a weapon. In a game with an already complex set of inputs (or, presumably, a console game where button inputs are extremely limited), devoting a single button to weapon switching is very attractive.

    * A lot of games seem to use mousewheel for this, which never seems to have the same granularity as my mouse so I always wind up overshooting and just have to rely on the number keys.

    • Adeon says:

      For me this is the best argument in favor of the two-gun limit. It’s particularly useful if you have a two-gun + melee weapon game where one button switches between the two guns and then you have a dedicated melee attack button. Playing games like that is considerably simpler than playing Team Fortress 2 (for example) where the melee weapon is a separate weapon that you need to switch to.

      Overall, I would say a two-gun limit is good if you need to switch guns frequently (and quickly) while a higher limit works better when you don’t need to switch guns as often and can generally use a single gun for most/all of a single fight.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Actually,many old shooters have both the cycle weapons(scroll wheel)and the quick two weapon swap (q).So you can use the two weapons best used in this situation quickly,but if you get surprised by something that requires a different weapon,you can switch to that one.This way you can still quickly shuffle two weapons,but arent forced to use a suboptimal tool when the need arises.

    • Trix2000 says:

      Depends on the mousewheel – mine at least has discrete sections that ‘click’ each time it actually moves, which makes it pretty easy to judge when I’ve moved far enough.

      As I understand it, though, not all mice have this option.

    • Ingvar M says:

      The one console shooter I dearly wish would be ported to a more modern platform is Perfect Dark 64, where the weapon-chooser is “press the Choose Weapon button, use analog stick to pick the weapon”.

      This mechanic is also present in Ratchet & Clank, of sorts (with more complications, but about as easy to use).

      • Ventus says:

        Thats the weapon wheel idea that shamus was lamenting in his article. Tbh it just comes down to platform; PCs do well with a bunch of weapons because they have a bunch of buttons whereas with controllerd tgere is greater limitation so you want a swap weapon button that doesn’t require a bunch of presses to get to what you want… so that tends to be two, maybe three at most. So when controller focused games want a bunch of weapons they do the weapon wheel which is fine… except when it gets ported to PC and then the wheel is unwieldy, slow and is just not elegant for mouse and keyboard.

      • Phantos says:

        Perfect Dark got an HD remake on Xbox Live, so it technically is on a modern platform. There was also a prequel, but we don’t talk about that.

    • Dragomok says:

      I agree – I really like this aspect of the two-weapon limit. (I have to point out that one-button swap actually also enables easy switching to a THIRD weapon, by holding it down. It’s a perfect slot for exotic/situational weapon. Warframe, for example, uses that to switch to full melee mode, and Firefall sort-of uses that for cosmetic unarmed looked.)

      Though that’s maybe a weird bias coming from a mishmash of old habits and learning pains. I didn’t do well in FPS games until I switched to left-handed mouse, which necessitated switch from WSAD to IKJL (because it’s really hard to use your pinky to jump when every joint is at 90 degrees).

      The problem here is that there’s no obvious way how to remap 1-5 to 6-0. And since in Team Fortress 2, the first FPS I really tried to get into, switching weapons is kinda important, the process of figuring out a comfortable mapping lead to a number of frustrating moments.

  3. Coblen says:

    The two weapon system is probably the thing that killed bio shock infinite the most for me. The game has a lot of problems but the two weapon system is what I would point to as taking all the fun out of it. I started putting money into these two weapons, and because of that I would never ever try out new ones as the game progressed. I was too afraid of losing the ones I had spent all my money on. I hated it so much. I loved Bioshock’s wheel selection system so much that I get a certain sense of relief every time I go back and play Bioshock. It just feels right every time I play with it.

    That being said I do think the two weapon system works great for competitive online shooters. In the ones where you choose your loadouts before hand the constraint forces you to make decisions about how you will play, and give each class you make a certain identity. In the ones where you pick up weapons in the map limiting you to two prevents one person from hogging all the amazing guns, and running away with the game. It gives picking up a low ammo but powerful weapon a meaningful drawback, and allows your opponents to try to play around that drawback rather then just having you immediately switch to the second most powerful gun after you finish blowing the ammo on the first.

    I imagine the arguments around strategy tend to come from people who play online. In the space they play in it does cause you to make strategic choices. However in a single player game I agree with all the problems you talk about.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even in multiplayer the strategy thing doesnt work.There is strategy in picking the weapons on the map as well.Its only a different kind of strategy.So ultimately it ends up being which one you like more.

    • AJax says:

      Bioshock Infinite’s handling of the two-weapons system is just awful. I will always defend the way the older Halo games (Halo:CE to Reach) and even other modern shooters like Gears and Uncharted because the weapon placements, level design and encounters were carefully considered in relation to the limitation of the two-weapons limit system and certain attributes of each weapon.

      That’s not the case with Bioshock: Infinite, not only does it limit variety in terms of combat but it places an awkward, expensive upgrade system that actually discourages you from switching to other weapons since they are weaker, less efficient than the ones you already have upgraded. And God help you if you run out of ammo in an area where is no way to replenish ammo for the weapons in your arsenal, then you’d have to rely on the awful RNG that is Elizabeth’s seemingly magical ability to materialize ammo out of thin air. And on top of all that, they add Vox versions of the existing weapons with their own ammo pool later in the game. Wonderful…

      • Zekiel says:

        I would really love to know what the designers were smoking when they decided Vox versions of weapons were a good idea. There are like 14 different weapons in the game, all with different ammo, that you have to upgrade separately; LITERALLY none of them are anything out of the ordinary – and you can only carry two at once. What? How on earth did they think that was sensible?

        In response to Colben’s comment – this is why I love Bioshock 2, not Bioshock. Replaying Bioshock after 2 or Infinite just makes me hugely frustrated about how fiddly it is to switch from weapons to plasmids and back. Bioshock 2 feels like its the sweet spot. This suggests to me that Irrational (who didn’t make Bioshock 2) have some sort of bizarre myopia when it comes to weapon selection.

      • Phantos says:

        Bioshock: Infinite really is an example of: “Other games that made money are doing it, so if we do it we will make money too.”

  4. I’m kind of surprised you didn’t bring up Bioshock Infinite where you buy mods/upgrades for guns that, if you throw them away, you have no guarantee you’ll get that modded gun back when you need it later. This especially stinks if a game basically telegraphs that you’ll need X gun to defeat Y boss, but that’s not one of the guns you’ve been upgrading (or putting points into via skills or whatever). Even if at low skill/mod the gun works, you’ve had to throw away something that was much better overall.

  5. Alan says:

    In an truly open world game, does a smaller weapon (and other item) limit potentially make sense? “I’m going to scout out this base, figure out how I want to attack it, pick my weapons, then in I go!” In a sense, this is like Fallout 3/Vegas, especially with the more realistic mods that I seem to recall that Shamus likes. You can’t carry everything, and exactly what loadout you want will depend on your plans.

    In theory this was how Far Cry 3 and Borderlands 2 work but I admit that in practice I carried around the same subset of weapons at all times as I didn’t want to be arsed to head to a locker/vault to swap out.

    As I think about it, a shooter where you plan a lot of details in advance, then try to execute sounds really appealing. The key may be a fast cycle time between “discover plan was wrong” and “try again.” Perhaps this is the core to Counterstrike and Payday?

    • Thomas says:

      Open world games are probably actually more likely to not have a two weapon limit. I guess it’s because the combat is normally a lot less slower, the encounters are less designed and choice and expression are more important.

      For games about adrenaline rushes, weapon cycling is much more annoying and they can create encounters to design around the player having access to a certain weapon and only that weapon. (And as a tool to drive the player towards more risky play to pick up the weapon they need. In an open world game they’ll already have the weapon they need)

    • Zekiel says:

      I felt like Far Cry 3 worked pretty well. You started off being able to carry 2 weapons at once and can gradually upgrade that to 4 – and that feels like its as many as I need. (Admittedly carrying only 2 at the beginning did feel annoyingly restrictive)

  6. Josh says:

    Doesn’t the Borderlands series fulfill the need for cartoony over-the-top multi-gun violence? I’m ok with the rest of them being a little more realistic.

    • Tizzy says:

      The very premise of a shooter is not realistic. You shouldn’t be able to go alone against a bunch of armed enemies and go much further than the first room.

      There is a lot of room to argue about how to do shooters (I don’t think 90’s shooters were that great), but realism is not a fruitful way to frame the debate.

      • Thomas says:

        It’s not about realism as much as it’s about the idea of realism. Modern military shooters (and Halo), aren’t trying to recreate actual modern warfare, but they’re trying to give it the fantasy of being a recreation of modern war.

        In that sense, that’s why being a one man-rambo doesn’t harm the players fantasy, but having 10 guns does. Being a one man rambo is what players want to believe soldiering is like, but the fantasy doesn’t care either way about having lots of guns _at the same time_ (modern military shooters do cater to the fantasy of being a sniper and then a machine gunner and then a…). And having 10 weapons doesn’t feel very soldiery to them

        • Tizzy says:

          Fair enough. Though I’d say that people who want the military experience can find it in some of the big multiplayer games. But then again, that’s part of the issue, isn’t it? There are very few shooters which are primarily focused on the single-player experience, therefore, the design is driven by whatever works best for multiplayer.

          • Thomas says:

            That’s true, and the AAA market is very small so there are relatively few games that don’t chase the military shooter market (the ones that don’t are much more likely to break the two weapon rule too)

        • Joe Informatico says:

          It’s weird the things players will latch on to. I remember an early Dragon Magazine column where Gary Gygax was floored how Dungeons & Dragons players readily accepted a setting full of wizards and dragons, but complained when told 100 gold pieces weighed the same as 100 silver pieces (even though the respective sizes of the coins was never detailed).

          But it might be a case of experiential distance. E.g., I don’t live in a world of wizards and dragons, but I have an idea of how much real world metals and coinage weighs. Or, I’m not a badass special forces operative, but I know how many roughly arms-length items I can comfortably carry and pull out easily.

          It is interesting how FPS players are sensitive to carrying capacities, while computer RPG players don’t think twice about lugging around two dozen looted swords and armour pieces halfway around the world.

        • Patrick the plot device says:

          I kind of disagree with this. “Health packs” that work instantaneously. Guns without recoil, flash or smoke. Knee high walls. Indestructible terrain. And a dozen other narrative shattering inconsistencies that are more unbelievable than carrying more than two weapons. If being able to withstand your own bodyweight in lead before dying doesn’t break the 4th wall, I don’t think you should think to hard about where you just pulled your Kill-o-zap pistol out of, or where you just shoved the shotgun you were wielding.

          I am,in real life,physically capable of carrying 10 weapons. Not effectively, mind you. I couldn’t do it and move much faster than a pack mule, but I could do it. Under no circumstances can I heal multiple gun shot wounds by taking some pills. I find the two-gun rule a very silly place to draw the line.

          • Thomas says:

            You’re missing my point a little bit.

            Its not related to realism at all, it’s about fantasy. How about this as an illustration, a soldier wearing a bright pink top hat is entirely possible. As you said, you can carry 10 weapons at once, and you can wear a bright pink top hat.

            But a soldier wearing a bright pink top-hat disrupts the fantasy of playing a Modern Military shooter in a much more disruptive way than regenerating health. It’s not about realism, it’s about the trappings that make you feel like your dream of what being a soldier is like.

            • Patrick the plot device says:

              Well, maybe this comes down to a matter of perspective then. Personally, the thought of carrying more than 2 weapons doesn’t disrupt my illusion as much as a conveniently placed health pack that instantly cures all things harmful. I’ve seen discussions on this very site in which games were picked apart because the muzzle of the gun was the wrong shade of gun metal and the safety switch was upside down. I found that discussion rather ridiculous, too.

              Personally I find things like un-climbable chain link fences more immersion breaking than the color of the rifle, how many of them I am carrying or the color of everyone’s hat. The idea that I (super-soldier extraordinaire, death incarnate, definition of all things manly) must stomp around in an entrenched enemy position killing everything I see because I am unable to scale a fence that wouldn’t stop your average 8 year-old is, in my opinion, by orders of magnitude more immersion breaking than the number of weapons I have shoved up my ass.

              But to each his own. It appears we all have our own proclivities.

            • Soylent Dave says:

              It’s verisimilitude; creating the appearance of reality, but not reality itself.

              The problem being, of course, that different gamers will draw the line of ‘this doesn’t feel real any more’ in very different places (e.g. Shamus’ not infrequent “how do they feed themselves?” comments during The Last of Us)

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Im with Patrick.Sitting behind a wall while my wounds magically close is way more disruptive than having more than 2 weapons available.Heck,having just 2 weapons available is already pretty disrupting.

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          The root problem here is the “If dragons, then anything else” mentality. It’s jumping wildly off of a slippery slope. Just because there are fantasy/sci-fi elements in a story doesn’t mean that it should be a giant heap of nonsense like World of Warcraft.

          The best fantasy and sci-fi is usually very intent on being realistic in a lot of ways to create enough grounding for the fantastic elements to carry some real weight. Look at Star Wars: The technology is basically magic and the magic is actual magic, but look how far giving Mos Eisley and the Millennium Falcon a really textured, lived-in feeling goes to making the setting believable. Look at how building an actual village and letting it sit for a year to naturally weather gave the shire such a strong atmosphere.

          It’s usually best to figure out what in your story has to be unrealistic, and make everything else realistic enough to give the setting some believability. That’s how you make a D&D player feel like a hero who slew a dragon instead of a murder hobo who won a level-appropriate fight.

      • straymute says:

        I think you could please both sides. An armament of a rifle, breaching shotgun, and sidearm isn’t all that uncommon in real life, and neither would be slinging an extra rifle should the situation require it. Of course you wouldn’t be able to switch between all of them really quickly in real life, but a system like the Last of Us had with readily available and stowed weapons was pretty reasonable.

        Though this is being pretty general, in ArmA or Ghost recon 10 weapons would never be acceptable, but in some arena shooters anything less just feels wrong.

        • Robyrt says:

          Right – a lot of games take this approach, where you can carry a ton of weapons but switching in the heat of combat is difficult. Destiny and Dark Souls both use this system to great effect; you can see high-level players open the menu, swap gear, and close the menu within seconds, while the rest of us will just pause before entering the obvious sniper hallway to equip our sniper rifles.

    • krellen says:

      If shooters were realistic, then everyone would always use assault rifles because there is literally no reason to use any other firearm if an assault rifle is an option. It’s the mainstay of military precisely because it is pretty much always the right tool for the job outside of a few edge cases.

      • I was going to say, “But shotguns have a bit of an AoE effect, which make them more useful when multiple foes are close to you!” But shotguns don’t actually have an AoE effect. In real life a shotgun’s spread is almost negligible, regardless of if it’s sawed-off or not.

        • guy says:

          Sniper rifles, heavy weapons, and submachine guns/carbines have their valid uses quite frequently. However, in most cases armies need many more people with assault rifles than with any of those.

          • MrGuy says:

            Sniper rifles and heavy weapons DO have their uses. But in almost every case, they have their uses mainly in the context of a large, mutually-supporting squad, where you can afford to have a few specialists with non-standard weapons that are only useful in certain situations (but VERY useful in those situations).

            Which is really the problem in most videogames. It’s tough to make for a good single player game where the player is a small supporting piece of a larger whole. If anything, it only really works if the player is in control of the squad, which usually obviates being one of the specialists (Spec Ops: The Line did this well – you have your sniper squadmate and your heavy weapons squadmate, and part of the strategy was figuring out how to use them to support you).

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Call of duty 1.You are just a part of the whole,there are a bunch of npc all around you fighting.So it can be done in singleplayer,but people just thik its “too hard” to even try.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Shotguns in real life actually have a punch.They are useful against armor,especially if you use the heavier single pellet instead of small ones.Though you could achieve the same effect with a rifle and ap bullets.

          • Patrick the plot device says:

            A shotgun blast to an individual wearing armor would probably still result in death. Collapsed lung, splattered vital organ…. body armor wouldn’t stop it anymore than it could stop damage from being hit by a car.

            • Peter H. Coffin says:

              Newton’s Third Law still applies. If a guy can fire a weapon and react to the recoil like someone’s punching him in the shoulder, then that’s all the energy there is. It will NOT send the target/victim flying, it will not be like getting hit by a car. The only way to increase the damage over “punch” is to concentrate it into a MUCH smaller area (the size of a bullet, for example, instead of a gun stock), which is exactly what body armors *undo*.

              • Felblood says:

                This is all true, but there is one factor people often neglect when making these calculations: time.

                When you fire a gun, the energy is imparted to the bullet over time as it travels down the barrel, and the reaction energy, likewise, flows into the shooter at a fairly steady rate. When a bullet hits you, the energy is imparted into your tissues very quickly, even compared to the amount of time it takes a bullet to traverse a gun barrel.

                It’s the difference between being sprayed with a 2 inch hose hose for a minute, and having the same volume of water shot out of a water cannon at you. It’s more significant if you have to deal with it all at once.

                That said, a shotgun large enough to knock down a fit, armored man with a single slug (at anything other than ultra close range) would be larger than the Geneva Convention allows in warfare.

                • Patrick the plot device says:

                  In nearly every thread on this site, there is a moment when the pants come off and we all run naked through the streets, our collective nerdism on full display, with zero fucks given.

                  With this post, we are officially pants-less.

                • straymute says:

                  Nah, one thing people always forget is that upon being shot or shot at the victim themselves is often recoiling from harm. It’s kinda like in baseball when someone gets hit by a pitch and goes down. It’s not really the sheer force of the ball, but the combined shock + pain + force as the body tries to get away from whatever is hurting it.

              • djw says:

                Momentum is conserved when the bullet is fired, energy is not. The bullet has far more energy than the shotgun.

                Momentum p=mv (same for both)

                Energy K=(1/2)mv^2 = (p^2)/2m

                The low mass bullet has considerably more energy.

                (to be clear, the net energy of the universe does not change when the bullet is fired, so in that sense energy is conserved, but there is no rule that requires bullet and shotgun to get the same energy and in fact they absolutely do NOT).

      • If they were more realistic, one dude would get mowed down immediately and not be a god of death, rampaging through a red mist that once was the mook army that was standing in their way.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not necessarily.There were a few instances in real life where a single guy took out a small army.And in video games you are playing a hero,not your joe average.

          Also,not all shooters revolve around those.The first call of duty had you supported by a bunch of people.Plus,if you put it on highest difficulty,there were no medpacks.So it was pretty realistic.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        That isn’t really true. From WWI on machine guns were the big players on the battlefield as far as what infantrymen carried go. They also made heavy use of submachine guns and shotguns in trench clearing.

        You have more guys with assault rifles, but they’re mostly there to get the enemy’s heads down. Actual kills are made with heavier weapons, starting with light machine guns and going up from there. WWI-WWII are basically the story of how heavy weapons made offense almost impossible until even heavier weapons made fixed defense almost impossible.

        In a “realistic” shooter, you’d be popping off rounds in coordination with your squadmates to keep enough firepower headed in the enemy’s general direction to keep them from doing too much while someone calls in an artillery strike.

        • Peter H. Coffin says:

          Heavier MOBILE weapons made defense impossible, but yeah.

        • Isaac says:

          “They also made heavy use of submachine guns and shotguns in trench clearing.”

          I don’t know about shotguns (I mean, its not like they were officially issued by armies, if anything they would’ve been civilian firearms that soldiers had brought with them to the battlefield) but submachine guns didn’t become a thing until very late in the war (specifically the Western Front at around 1918) and were in limited capacity.

  7. Canthros says:

    I’ve always understood Halo’s two-weapon limit as a means of accommodating the limits of controller inputs. All the other justifications are reflections of the sort of game that has to be made around that central problem.

    “[M]odifier keys and alternate fire modes” means that just choosing which tool you’re using for the job at hand takes a minimum of two buttons, right?

    How did Wolfenstein manage a large selection of weapons on the consoles? (I haven’t played it on the PC, yet, let alone anywhere else.)

    • The Specktre says:

      Well, I know Half-Life 2 on the Xbox 360 relegated all its weapons on to the four directional buttons on the D-pad. I thought it worked rather well too.

      • Thomas says:

        It makes quick-swapping a pain though, and quick-swapping is one of the big adrenaline moments of modern shooters.

        If you could have 4 weapons on the d-pad, 2 standard and 2 exotic and then have the quick swap button just change between standard weapons, that might work.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Since the invention of the quick swap key,it was used in practically every shooter.Im not sure about 1,but half life 2 had the quick swap key alongside your scroll wheel and your number keys.So you can have your weapon wheel and your quick swap key on a console with no problem.

          • Thomas says:

            Lots of games have tried that and it hasn’t worked in any of them. Any game which is balanced around using lots of weapons, you know, requires you to use lots of weapons. Which means you have to use the weapon wheel. Which completely sucks the tension out of a fight.

            It works on a keyboard because the number keys are _all_ quick swap keys

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              No,you dont have to.Again,half life 2,even on the highest difficulty can be played through with just your mp7 and shotgun.Just 2 weapons that you switch between just with a single button.You wont be as efficient as a guy that snipes with ar2 and magnum,or crowbars slow zombies,but you can finish it.

              Same goes for wolfenstein new order.Or for serious sam.Or for painkiller.Or for saints row.Or for far cry 3/4.

          • Ivan says:

            The most recent season of spoiler warning inspired me to replay HL2 and I essentially play it this way, I go into an area and think about which two weapons would be most useful to use, select one and then the other (so that when i hit quick swap it cycles between them) and go in. The only thing that is really missing is a dedicated button for meele/gravity gun, a separate one for grenade, but other than that I generally just use two weapons in a given encounter.

            Having the rest of the arsenal on my back may be unrealistic, but it is really convenient and I would hate to constantly be having to abandon weapons as I realized that their ammo would be scarce in the next section or they would be nearly useless.

            Though I do admit that if valve had intended to limit you to two weapons then the game would likely be designed very differently.

  8. Jokerman says:

    I get exactly why it is like that on a site like the escapist anyway. I think anyone on a big site with lots of contributors with lots of different content is always going to be filtering the content they consume.

    You are avoiding writers you don’t enjoy, avoiding reviews on games you don’t care about, skipping news stories that don’t interest you, all while you are pretty much just skimming the site for something interesting.

    And now the escapist has expanded to covering TV, Movies, Comics, tabletop, science I would imagine it’s even harder to catch the eye.

  9. The Specktre says:

    As a fan of Halo (and perhaps the world/lore more than anything), if there’s one thing that tarnished the games for me it was the two weapon limit. The decision to ultimately put the emphasis on the multiplayer is a close second, but I think these two aspects go together, and that one of these led to the other. But I look at the weapon limit as potentially the source of the series’ problems.

    With the weapon limit, Bungie took quite strongly to the design philosophy that “no weapon is better than the other.” This of course resulted in an attempt to balance all the weapons, especially for the sake of the multiplayer, and their balancing does not discriminate against either SP or MP. Aside from situational weapons (shotgun, sniper, rockets–all referred to as “power weapons” at one point), you are, in theory, not missing out on the others, which fall into a general pistol/AR category. Every option is suppose to be “valid” (though even at its best, I don’t think it was ever quite “there” in practice). What everyone ended up going for was the mid-longrange, scoped, high-damage weapon (the human pistol in H1) as the “must-have” since you can’t count on having access to whatever weapon you need for any situation. Come Halo 2 and onward, Bungie (and now 343 Industries) ultimately ended up balancing nearly all of their gunplay around the “precision weapon,” with all the rest being either molded to this or nerfed. And it feels like it’s only gotten worse with each iteration of Halo. In console multiplayer, it makes some degree of sense, but for a singleplayer game where balance doesn’t matter so much, it sucks. And in a world as fantastical as Halo is (or pretends to be) with its alien technology and super-advanced, extinct Forerunners, it REALLY sucks because it severely limits a designer’s options for crafting new, interesting, and powerful weapons. Aside from a handful of goodies (Needler, Sword, Hammer), Halo has been stagnant for years in the name of its multiplayer and two-weapon limit.

    Halo 4 suffers from it the worst. The revelation of usable Forerunner weapons should be a big deal for Halo fans–heck, the marketing put a lot of emphasis on it, like a selling point. And yet, what they showed were all weapons that, for all intents and purposes, looked and functioned like the existing human weapons in the game. Because Balance above All! And also Call of Duty.

    I strongly believe that Halo would’ve been a better sci-fi shooter if it never had the two weapon limit or any of the crap “balancing”, and had been allowed to have more varied, creative, and powerful, arcade-y weapons, especially where the Forerunners are concerned. The lack of a multiplayer-centric philosophy probably would’ve landed us stronger narratives too.*

    I don’t think the two-weapon philosophy is inherently bad–it’s great for games like Call of Duty–but the more I think about it, the more I desperately want Halo to be a different game. One that I think would be better for it.

    *To Bungie and 343 Industries’ credit, they really do try to give both an interesting campaign and MP, but I don’t think splitting the difference the way they do has ever given us the best of both worlds. Especially when you can tell they want to put most of their energy into the latter.

    • Tizzy says:

      It’s funny to think how, when firearms are concerned, people who know what they’re talking about all seem to agree that the various (comparable) weapons available are not balanced, that some are much better than others, even though they were produced using essentially the same technology.

      But somehow, in HALO, weapons using vastly different technologies are nicely matched?

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      Forerunner weapons should have never been shown up in a Halo game period.

      These were guys who would consider the Death Star a child’s toy. They were considering tilting the axis of the entire galaxy just for shits and giggles. They had combat suits which could wreck continents.

      Unbalanced weapons, on the other hand, would have killed the game. The game has never been about just using a cool weapon to see something cool happen. It’s always been about, first and foremost, being a game with excellent gunplay.that holds up with the difficulty turned to it’s highest.

      The idea of Master Chief running around with a Forerunner rifle is just stupid.

      • The Specktre says:

        These were guys who would consider the Death Star a child’s toy. They were considering tilting the axis of the entire galaxy just for shits and giggles. They had combat suits which could wreck continents.

        I know right? 343’s “Promethean weapons” were insulting. You just had to look at the light bulbs on a Halo, still working 100,000 years later, and wonder how ammo was an issue.

        Unbalanced weapons, on the other hand, would have killed the game.

        Even with my rants on Halo’s balance, a degree of balance is always required. The way they handled UNSC vs Covenant was for the most part fine, I thought. I don’t think it would’ve been too difficult to implement some weapons for Forerunners. The Sentinel Beam gives the impression of being a basic weapon for them. Heck, I’d be happy if the Light Rifle was just the Sentinel Beam reskinned. That’s a good starting off point. Another possibility, (thinking of MP) would be to have maybe Forerunner weapons be god-variants of existing gun types–that one gun that pops up on the map that everyone fights over. These are just drafts off the top of my head.

        The game has never been about just using a cool weapon to see something cool happen.

        Thinking of the Needler or the Spartan Laser, I’m not sure this 100% true, but I will say this part of what prompted me to say, “I wish Halo was a different game in the first place.”

        Forerunner weapons should have never been shown up in a Halo game period. […] The idea of Master Chief running around with a Forerunner rifle is just stupid.

        As you might have already picked up from my previous paragraph, we’ll have to disagree on this.

    • Hal says:

      Halo 4 is the only game where I’ve actually played the campaign, and not just multiplayer on someone’s couch. Frankly, the entire thing sounds like gibberish to me. “Go here. Fight some dudes. Push a button. Now go fight some more dudes.”

      All of that said, guns are thrown at you in such rapid succession that the two-gun choice is rather meaningless. Combine that with general longevity, i.e. I never survive long enough to run out of ammo, much less care particularly about which weapon(s) I’m using, and it becomes a choice with little consequence.

  10. silver Harloe says:

    “Uh oh. A boss fight is coming up. I’ll switch to my expotic gun”

    is expotic a slang term I need to learn, or simply a typo of exotic?

  11. Tizzy says:

    90’s shooters always had the gimmick guns to round up the collection of lethal devices. There are 10 numeric keys on the keyboard, they’d better all be assigned to weapons dammit!

    Duke Nukem 3D might be the best example: shrink ray, ice gun, … They were seldom that practical, and usually, you wouldn’t find that much ammo for them anyway.

    • Now that I think about it, a lot of shooters I’ve enjoyed had things other than guns (or at least, other than traditional guns) in those weapons slots, and they were often items that made you want to try different strategies to make them more effective.

      For example, the Blood series had voodoo dolls, a blade-covered ball like the one from Phantasm, flare guns, and a spray can & lighter. They weren’t the most deadly in your arsenal, but they were fun to mess about with.

  12. Tizzy says:

    SO, what was the reason behind the gun limit to begin with? Gameplay? Technical? In a way, having a single weapon at a time can save you a lot of effort, but if you have at least two, you need to implement weapon-switching, and starting there, I don’t know what you’re saving. So is it purely about interface then? Console controllers are deemed unsuitable for weapons switching?

    • Thomas says:

      Controllers not having weapon switching buttons was definitely the #1 motivation. There was a lot of experimentation of finding good ways to select weapons and none of them have ever worked except assigning it to one button (which requires a two weapon limit).

      Resistance tried some analogue stick shenanigans, as did Mass Effect. They’ve also tried using the d-pad. I think some games have had the alternate fire mode Shamus suggested (Resistance again?), but then you’re losing your melee button or your grenade button.

      I can’t remember how Ratchett and Clank gets around it. I don’t remember weapon switching being awkward in those games

  13. swenson says:

    You know what I thought was interesting, Mass Effect 3’s system. You could take all of the guns, but each one added weight (and it was different for each gun, two pistols could have totally different weights) and that would increase the cooldown time of your powers. So you could totally run around with five guns, if that’s what you really wanted. But it’d be a dumb idea in most cases because most classes are oriented more around powers than weapons.

    I rather like(d) ME3’s whole customization system… there were some pretty interesting trade-offs. Even better in multiplayer, what with how many classes there ended up being. Even if most classes do have “best” (or at least very common) ways of playing them, there’s still a lot of variety between the classes.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I feel dirty now,but I have to agree with you,having a loadout softly limited by weight like that is a good system.

    • Khizan says:

      Another awesome thing about ME games is that you can always see where you are carrying your weapons. If you’ve got an SMG, pistol, shotgun, assault rifle, and sniper rifle, you can see the weapons mounted on your armor.

      • Jokerman says:

        You also have a magic pistol that only comes out in cutscenes, whether you have one or not.

        • I think you always have a pistol in your arsenal.

          What wasn’t often said in the ME series of Spoiler Warning was how cutscene shenanigans like that are just laziness/labor saving devices. Why go through the hassle of customizing your cutscene when you can just have the player’s avatar switch to “default mode,” holding a weapon they always have. It’d be as if Half-Life had cutscenes where Gordon Freeman always switched to his crowbar.

          Unfortunately for Mass Effect, this also means Shepard never uses biotics in cutscenes, since not all Shepards have biotics. It may not be as big a dissonant break with what the player has made, but it’s pretty glaring.

          • guy says:

            In ME3 you don’t have to have a pistol, though in the earlier games everyone did at least possess one even if they were totally unqualified at using it. Mind, in 2 characters would sometimes have an assault rifle in cutscenes even if they didn’t use one, and there were numerous cases of characters pulling out a different weapon from the one they actually had.

            And at least once in the ME3 spoiler warning season Josh went into a cutscene and came out with a different loadout. But that is Josh we’re talking about.

            The “no powers in cutscenes” thing is pretty annoying in the later BioWare games at times. There’s one cutscene in DA:I where my Tal-Vashoth mage grabbed a sword and shield to fight with.

          • swenson says:

            At least in ME2 and ME3, they mostly fixed the thing where sometimes, in ME1, Cutscene!Shepard would always have an assault rifle, even if you were playing a character that never used an assault rifle (like an Adept).

  14. Dormin111 says:

    “I would think that a situation where you have more options is the one where you have “more strategy”. Strategy is about making decisions. With many options, you’re making constant decisions about what weapon you want to use in this particular venue against these particular foes. In a two-weapon game, the only time you make a decision is when you encounter a new weapon and have the opportunity to replace one of your existing weapons.”

    I disagree. The strategy inherent in the “two weapon limit” is that you have to figure out how to use your limited arsenal in a variety of situations. The player is forced to stretch the ability of each gun, and even change their entire approach to combat situations. Sitting in the back and picking off enemies isn’t feasible with close range weapons. Charging is weak with long range weapons. Assault rifles are versatile, but not specialized, and assault rifles have plenty of variety in terms of power, accuracy, and range. Thus the “two weapon limit” creates more varied game play as a more varied arsenal produces a greater variety of strategic approaches and forms of weapon use.

    On the other hand, when you are equipped with an assault rifle, sub machine gun, shot gun, rocket launcher, etc, it requires little strategy to figure out what weapon to use in each situation. You pretty much spell that out on the first page.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      So what youre saying is that if a game gave you no guns,but armed you with just your fists,it would be even more strategic,forcing you to stretch the limit of boxing to the max?

      • Thomas says:

        That’s such a slippery-slope fallacy argument :p But yes, a game which forces you to fight gun wielding enemies with your fists almost certainly requires more strategic play than one which gives you a rocket launcher

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Oh absolutely.Get into someones face and punch them is such a different strategy than get into someones face and punch them.And of course,lets not forget all the times youd have to get into someones face and punch them.

          • Dormin111 says:

            I assume any game with such a design would require the player to use quite a bit of strategy to devise how to make your way to the enemies to punch them. The closest I can think of is playing a stealth game like Metal Gear Solid without weapons.

            • Ivan says:

              I would imagine this as well. If designed around the premise that they have guns and you don’t then the decisions are going to be about how you approach your opponents. Good level design and (probably)stealth mechanics would be very important. Though I suppose you could have other abilities like very high mobility.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        Funny you should say that, because ghosting a base using only your knife is a game unto itself in Far Cry 3/4. It’s definitely more strategic than just charging in with a machine gun.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          And ghosting with a machine gun is more strategic than charging in with just your knife.So whats your point?

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            First off, no, in order to “ghost” with a machine gun you’d have to do the same “pop and move” you’d be doing with the sniper rifle. Also fun, but it removes a lot of the problems you have to solve that come from getting to enemies without being spotted since you have no real range.

            Second… what’s your point? Even if it was true, it’d be an example of strategy arising from using limited weapon selection.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              In order to ghost with a machine gun,or a sniper,you have to pick your targets even more carefully then with a knife,because you wont be close enough to carry the bodies away from everyone else to see.Not to mention all the angles you have to use to get to the guards behind or inside a building.

              Second… what’s your point? Even if it was true, it’d be an example of strategy arising from using limited weapon selection.

              Not true.Thats strategy arising from trying to not be seen,which has nothing to do with your weapon selection.Whether you have one silenced weapon or 100,all the strategy comes from trying to remain unseen.

              • Bloodsquirrel says:

                Ghosting doesn’t require you to move bodies. Even if you’re going with the most strict sense, not every body is going to be seen, and having range means that you can much more easily kill someone on the other side of the outpost going somewhere you don’t want him to. Also, you still have to spend the same time out in potentially visible areas moving the body. The difference is that, with the machine gun, you’ve got one less guy who can spot you since you’ve made the kill before approaching the spot.

                “Not true.Thats strategy arising from trying to not be seen,which has nothing to do with your weapon selection.Whether you have one silenced weapon or 100,all the strategy comes from trying to remain unseen.”

                It has everything to do with your weapon selection. You’ve denied yourself range, which leaves you having to get extraordinarily close to do the job. Being unseen with a sniper rifle is a completely different game- if you just keep moving you can pick off dudes while circling the base at long range and they won’t find you. Hell, I’ve successfully ghosted a base by tossing explosives over a wall that the enemies couldn’t find a way around. Your weapon choice vastly changes your options.

                And besides, with the knife, you *have* to remain unseen. It isn’t an ancillary goal, it’s a requirement of using the weapon, since melee is only effective when you can have surprise on your side.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Ghosting doesn’t require you to move bodies.

                  No,but it requires for the bodies to not be seen,or at least not be seen for long enough for all the enemies to not get alerted.You can achieve this either by moving the bodies,or by targeting those that are as far from everyone else as possible.Both of those are different strategies,but strategies nevertheless.With a knife,you have both those options,with a range weapon,you mostly dont have one of those options(which is compensated by the range).

                  It has everything to do with your weapon selection.

                  Again,it doesnt.Your weapon will affect how you ghost,but it wont affect the fact that you have to devise a strategy in order to do that.If you arent ghosting,you can just do whatever,charge in with no plan and kill whatever you see,no strategy involved.But if you ghost,you have to figure out how to not be seen while doing it.Your weapon will decide where you will position yourself,but not the fact that you have to position yourself.Do you see the difference?

                  And besides, with the knife, you *have* to remain unseen.

                  Are we still talking far cry 3/4?Because in those games I have charged at a bunch of enemies with guns and stabbed them all with a knife.True,it would usually cost me all my armor or almost all of my health,but it was easy to do.So you dont have to remain unseen.

    • MrGuy says:

      I get the argument that limiting your loadout requires you to play a variety of different styles.

      However, the problem I have with the argument of “in Halo it’s a strategic choice!” is that the choice is only “strategic” if you know what’s up ahead. Sure, on my second or third playthrough, I know I’m going to be fighting a lot in narrow corridors up in the next section, and so the shotgun and the sword are the best options. But the first time I play, I’m deciding blind – I don’t know what the future will hold, so I can’t choose a loadout to fit a strategy.

      Certainly, forcing me to play with a loadout that is NOT optimized to the situation requires me to change my playstyle. But that’s not the same as me making a stratgic choice – I make a blind choice of a loadout and hope I can find a way to make it work. It might be a (possibly interesting) gameplay wrinkle, but it’s not strategy.

      • Thomas says:

        In games that implement two weapon limits properly (like Halo), the weapons you need to ‘solve’ the level are always drops on that same level.

        So you never choose your weapon selection as much as it’s given to you, but then the encounters are designed as puzzles that you have to solve with that given weapon.

    • Ysen says:

      I also think this is a poor argument. Strategy is about making meaningful decisions between multiple viable options. “More options” doesn’t necessarily mean “more strategy”.

      e.g. The example Shamus gives about two-weapon systems failing is “If there are foes that require shotgun use, other foes that require a grenade launcher, and another that needs a sniper rifle, then they can’t go in the same area.”

      If these foes require (or strongly encourage) use of a specific weapon, and I’m always carrying that weapon, that’s not really a strategic decision. I don’t have to weigh up different benefits or strengths and weaknesses because there’s a clear right answer.

      I also think it’s worth keeping in mind that in a lot of two-weapon games “when you encounter a new weapon” is “every time you kill an enemy” because most enemies drop their weapons on death. e.g. In Halo you typically start the level with human weapons, but can choose to swap them for one of several Covenant weapons at pretty much any time.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Except no one says that you require a specific weapon for every encounter.Its about whats most optimal in a situation,not what is essential.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        “Weapon A is for Enemy X” isn’t a meaningful strategic choice. Dominant strategies are one of the worst sins you can commit in designing a game, and if the player has all weapons at all times and there is a clearly optimal gun for each enemy then the choice is mostly illusory.

        Having to take on a situation that you don’t have the optimal layout for means thinking about how to minimize your disadvantage. In a shooter that doesn’t give you any other options at that point, you’d just be up the creek, but when the game gives you a plethora of other tools to try you’ve got a much more meaningful choice than “Oh look, guys in the distance, I guess it’s time to use the sniper rifle”.

        The two weapon limit solves the problem of letting the player have access to powerful weapons without making him too powerful.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Funny you say that,because Ive played plenty of shooters that have large loudouts where choosing the optimal weapon for the task inst that easy,yet I am still to play a single game with two weapon limit that forces me to drop the single weapon Ive been carrying the whole level because it is somehow insufficient for the job.

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            “Funny you say that,because Ive played plenty of shooters that have large loudouts where choosing the optimal weapon for the task inst that easy,”

            Could you name an example of one?

            “yet I am still to play a single game with two weapon limit that forces me to drop the single weapon Ive been carrying the whole level because it is somehow insufficient for the job.”

            You say this like it’s a bad thing. You should be able to get your way through a shooter without absolutely needing to use a different weapon if you have enough skill (or just turning difficulty down). Forcing the player to switch weapons is taking away choice.

            It’s a statement that would only be falsifiable by naming a game that makes it impossible to kill an enemy with some of your guns, which isn’t what a game should be doing anyway. I can name a lot of games where it’s nowhere near optimal, but it being impossible would simply be counterproductive.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Could you name an example of one?

              Serious sam,painkiller,half life series,woflenstein new order,unreal tournament,…

              You say this like it’s a bad thing.

              Not necessarily bad,but definitely the opposite of your “minimizing the disadvantage” description.Because if it were the case,youd always scramble for the weapons lying around,instead of sticking with any gun you have handy because all the guns are more than optimal for whatever situation you find yourself in.

              • Bloodsquirrel says:

                “Serious sam,painkiller,half life series,woflenstein new order,unreal tournament,”

                -unreal tournament
                Is single player UT actually a thing?

                In my playings of the game I never came across anything more complex than just dudes running at you. I wouldn’t use the word “strategy” to describe it at all”.

                -half life series
                Half Life has such basic shooting that I’ve never seen the need to use anything other than the assault rifle if you have it.

                -woflenstein new order
                The only real weapon selection strategy that I recall the game requiring was to use the most powerful weapons on the hardest to kill guys and the most plentiful ammo on everyone else. It actually got much more interesting when you were low an ammo and had to take out the big machine guys with weaker guns.

                “Because if it were the case,youd always scramble for the weapons lying around,instead of sticking with any gun you have handy because all the guns are more than optimal for whatever situation you find yourself in.”

                That is what I do. I can’t provably say that it isn’t what *you* do because you can always go and refuse to do it, but it’s not the optimal strategy except maybe in CoD.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  And halo 1.And spec ops:the line.And far cry 3/4.

                  And mind you when I talk about those three,and all the ones mentioned above,are on the hardest difficulty,without save scumming.I mean sure,with save scumming,you can get through all of those with just a pistol,but thats just brute forcing.So your talk about no strategy in those games work only when you lower the difficulty.

  15. Chris says:

    Hard Reset did exactly what you propose – it had two weapons, one hitscan and the other projectile-launching with a bunch of unlockable alt-fire modes for each.

    • ET says:

      Too bad the interface in the game wasn’t tuned up to be easier to switch weapons. IIRC, it had the same too-far-to-comfortably-reach 1-0 keys, plus the button to switch from your red to your blue weapons. I think it would have been better with say, half the number of guns on each colour. First, because it would only require you to reach half as far on the keyboard, and secondly, because a lot of the weapon unlocks were basically carbon copies form the red to the blue gun. e.g. Red grenade launcher vs blue grenade launcher. :C

  16. Chris says:

    *pushes nerd glasses up, stuffily inhales*


    Destiny has three weapons.

    You’re just almost always out of ammo for the third.

  17. Zukhramm says:

    I’m not sure I’m willing to accept more guns = more fun. It’s been quite a long time since i played Halo but I remember it has having more guns be quite general purpose,, and I also remember running to pick up specific guns during a fight, this sort of improvisation as the fight goes on is probably a good reason for such a system.

  18. Decius says:

    Wasn’t it MDK that decided that you only ever really needed a sniper rifle?

  19. Felblood says:

    I think a lot of people have grown accustomed to the two weapon limit, and forgotten how onerous it felt at first.

    That said, I think there’s a perverse irony in the fact that the two weapon limit was a major contributor to the cultural ubiquity of Halo.

    See, even if you’ve never played a console shooter before you can be useful as a co-op partner, because everyone wants a shotgun mule, in case of a sudden Flood attack. Come on over to Jimmy’s house and play halo after school; he needs somebody to carry his situational weapons.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You’re here for the words, after all.

    Im not.Im hear for the videos,music and podcasts.If you ever write something that has more than one paragraph,I dont bother to read it.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    We don’t get many of these and they don’t sell particularly well compared to their modern counterparts.

    Wolfenstein new order actually shows that they do.If we had more games like that,they would restart the genre.But we dont.They arent financially viable because most of them are bad,not because he genre itself is bad.

    1. It doesn’t make sense for you to carry around 10 guns!

    Mythbusters have proven this wrong.If you are beefy you can carry a bunch of weapons with you and not be hindered.This goes doubly so if you have some sort of power armor that boosts your abilities(which you often do).Besides,if you can regenerate a bullet wound,you can carry an arsenal with you.

    • Disc says:

      I’d love to see them take it further and try to actually design and make a full combat gear set for the sole purpose of carrying 10 (or whatever amount makes sense in context) weapons and all the necessary ammunition and equipment. If you check the video, carrying all the stuff still isn’t exactly handy. Adam has some trouble fitting through doors and the athlete keeps accidently dropping stuff.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        True,but they were going for speed there,not actual practicality.Heck,the big guy they had running the course didnt even use the backpack for anything he had.

        • Disc says:

          Yeah well, I just think it’d be fun to see what they come up with. It’s a preposterous concept when you look solely at what your average G.I wears and wields to combat IRL, yet interesting enough and something they could feasibly make with the materials they have access to.

  22. MrGuy says:

    So, my problem with the two weapon limit isn’t the notion that limiting the player’s options is bad. It’s that it’s a hacky artificial solution to a real problem.

    The 90’s shooter problem was the equivalent of “Joel’s Sporting Goods” – the unreality of carrying around 10 different huge weapons. You can’t try to play gritty, raw realism when the protagonist is carrying around a minigun, rocket launcher, SMG and an AK on their back with no issue. Some way to scale back to a realistic loadout is nice.

    But the “two and ONLY two!” rule generally makes no sense. What, I can carry a rocket launcher AND a mini-gun, but if I have the revolver and the silenced pistol I clearly can’t carry any more? Slotting systems are slightly better – you can have one sidearm, a rifle, and a special weapon. But even this gets dumb – I recall in metro 2033 there’s a “pistol” you can get that has a stock and extended barrel that’s BIGGER than some of the machine guns, but somehow is easier to carry. If you’re trying to make the game “more realistic,” this is a weird way to build realism.

    On the other hand, making a really “realistic” system would be hard too. Should you be limited on large weapons by the number of shoulder straps you have? Does your ability to carry pistols depend on whether you have a holster? Shouldn’t your ability to maneuver depend on how encumbered you are by all those guns? And how do you make that feel “realistic” without forcing the player to focus on “not fun” inventory management over, y’know, playing the darn game?

    While it’s still a bit of a hack, my favorite system here was probably RE4’s (and maybe others – I never played RE5) system – you had a “suitcase” of fixed size. You could carry as many guns as you wanted, but they took up space, so you could carry fewer healing items, less ammo, etc. If you wanted the single-use rocket launcher that could one-shot a boss, well, you had to figure out what you’d do without. Smaller guns took less space. So you could choose “lots of guns,” “a few powerful guns and more healing/ammo,” or anywhere in between.

  23. guy says:

    Space Marine had a rotating four ranged weapons (one pistol, one bolter variant, two special weapons) and one rotating melee weapon (combat knife, chainsword, power sword, thunder hammer) setup, with the thunder hammer keeping you from carrying heavy weapons. It was pretty nice.

    • Primogenitor says:

      Saints Row 3 & 4 also does this – 8 categories, with a few different selections in each. Some of the subtypes are more different than others. No interaction between the different categories though.

  24. Mythbusters covered the many guns (youtube clip) game trope very well, the conclusion is very surprising.

    PS! They even had a guy from iD Software come by check if the mockup doom level matched what it would be in the game (by making a custom level in the game engine), this is not shown in the clip, the clip only shows the testing edited down.

  25. Adalore says:

    So the weapon limit is more genre related in my mind.

    The more gritty and vaguely realistic a game is trying to be the more reasonable a limited pool of weapons on hand makes sense, but that’s only if the games narrative and world supports this mechanic.

    Otherwise give me more guns.

    And ABSOLUTELY don’t allow me to carry the ammunition for the other guns but not the guns themselves, this annoyed me to no ends in Bioshock infinite. 200 pistol rounds and I can’t carry more than two guns…amazing. Halo had it right with that and had the collected mags WITH the guns instead of tracking sometimes immense pools of weapon ammo for guns you never use. (and bullets are freaken HEAVY. try and casually handle a box of 50 decent caliber pistol rounds and you’ll notice right away)

    (and at the freaken least, 2 big guns and a pistol. Pistol does not equal a long gun.)

    • Patrick the plot device says:

      I would buy into this I suppose. In Borderlands any limit is kinda dumb, but it makes total sense in Last of Us/Silent Hill style game. Most of those aren’t first-person though. I’m hard pressed right now to think of a true FPS in which a gun limit makes any sense. Fallout I suppose. But that’s also a game with plasma rifles, super mutants and robo-brain dogs, so…..

      • In Fallout’s case, it’s not so much that you’re limited in the guns you can carry, you’re limited in the total amount of stuff you can carry.

        After the first few hours of gameplay, it’s a choice between bringing all of your weapons or having the ability to haul back loot.

  26. Rack says:

    I think Halo’s two gun system worked really well… in Halo. There were weapon drop pods whenever he scenery changed significantly so you never had to carry around a sniper rifle or rocket launcher “just in case”. Ammo was scarce enough that you couldn’t just use the assault rifle all the time. Enemies were balanced in such a way that various combinations of weapons were tactically interesting and weapons were designed to be used in combination with each other. You’d also always have grenades and melee to shore up weaknesses.

    Other games have copied it without copying any of the accompanying decisions that makes it work. I imagine a lot of this is down to the fact it works really well in multiplayer with very few considerations needed. Even in Quake you didn’t often end up with more than a couple of useful weapons before you died. But it’s been used really poorly in a lot of single player shooters.

  27. AJax says:

    “Enemies that played peek-a-boo from behind cover instead of rushing the player. The focus on rhythm and timing more than aim.”

    I take issue with this statement since the AI in Halo is a lot more dynamic than this, also they retreat to safer locations or try to flank the player instead of sitting behind cover. Enemies in COD and cover based shooters do the whole sit behind cover/stop n’ pop thing.

  28. Darren says:

    The problem I have is ammo availability. I played Resistance: Fall of Man a few years back after hearing positive things, including good word of mouth regarding its weapons, all of which you could carry at once. I didn’t care for it, in large part because the game was downright miserly with ammo for anything other than the basic weapons. The fun stuff might as well have been limited to isolated sequences like you typically get in COD-style games.

    Meanwhile, Bulletstorm limited the player to two weapons, but the point system meant that I could always get more ammo at the frequent checkpoints. I was limited in my gun carrying options, but not limited in actually being able to use the guns I had.

    I’ll take the second option any day of the week.

  29. Bloodsquirrel says:

    “These limits also trap the game designer. If there are foes that require shotgun use, other foes that require a grenade launcher, and another that needs a sniper rifle, then they can’t go in the same area because it’s impossible for you to have more than two tools for those three jobs.”

    This here is my problem with this article.

    Having a foe that requires the shotgun is bad design. Why give the player 10 guns when you’re just going to take away that choice by making an enemy require a specific gun?

    Halo would never be in this situation, because they don’t deal with enemies that can only be taken out one way. Rocket launchers are the easiest way to kill a Hunter, but you can beat one to death in melee if you get their movement patterns down well enough. Sniper rifles are fun, but the enemy never outranges your other options so badly that they’re necessary.

    There’s which tool you use and there’s how you use it. There’s a lot of strategy to be found in the latter, and having more options only leads to more strategy when those options are carefully balanced.

    I also find the opining for the days of weapon bars to be a bit finny considering how much games like HL2 would make you run around with only one or two weapons anyway, or how you’d get games with clear weapon progressions where once you had the minigun there was no reason to use any other weapon except that you ran out of ammo for it.

    • Shamus says:

      “Require” was a bad word choice. I’ve never seen a game “require” a particular weapon. But look:

      Fighting headcrabs is VERY DIFFERENT from fighting an antlion queen. On the headcrab I can use a pistol, crowbar, or either machine gun. All of those weapons would be really terrible for an antlion queen, which works best with rockets and the gravity gun. Anything works on zombies, but due to their slow-moving nature the shotgun is probably best, followed by the machine gun, unless there’s a lot of nice meaty physics objects around.

      Soldiers play peek-a-boo, so they’re best with machine guns unless you’re in a space that allows you to land a grenade near them. The grav gun works pretty good too, but only if you’ve got enough room to move. If there’s mines around then you probably want to keep the grav gun out.

      So it depends on foes, and terrain. A fight with soldiers and mines on a slope is drastically different from a fight with soldiers and turrets in a room full of cover, which is different from soldiers at a distance with some headcrabs mixed in.

      See the strategy? There’s not one obvious answer here. You have to look at the battlefield and the enemy composition and pick which weapon seems most optimal at the moment, which might change if new foes arrive or their behavior changes.

      None of this would work if Gordon could only carry two weapons. How can the designer put an antlion queen in the game? What if the player is running around with just the crossbow and shotgun? They’re screwed!

      You’re acting like choosing the correct weapon is just a matter of countering each foe with one and only one weapon, and it’s not remotely that simple.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        And,to further strengthen your point,slow zombies are best dealt with crowbar,so you can preserve your ammo,unless they are mixed with other enemies or are in big groups,in which case you should use the mp7,because you will have the most ammo for that.Unless theres bunch of stuff lying around,in which case you should use the gravity gun.

        And the antlion guardian(or queen,if you prefer)is best dealt with shotgun,because of its good punch and relatively fast rof,and you can use the times when you are dodging the ramming attacks to reload a shell or two.

        For headcrabs,you should use the crowbar or gravity gun,if you are skillful enough at dodging their pounces,or the mp7 or the pistol if you are not.

        So in conclusion,different players will use different strategies against the same enemies in the same situations.Which is definitely not the “you will always use this vun und precisely vun”.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        “Fighting headcrabs is VERY DIFFERENT from fighting an antlion queen. On the headcrab I can use a pistol, crowbar, or either machine gun. All of those weapons would be really terrible for an antlion queen, which works best with rockets and the gravity gun. Anything works on zombies, but due to their slow-moving nature the shotgun is probably best, followed by the machine gun, unless there’s a lot of nice meaty physics objects around.”

        That seems less a matter of there not being a clear-cut “right” weapon and more a matter of conserving rockets for the biggest enemy.

        Both from my experience with the game and from watching the LP, it seems that a machine gun is a pretty good one-size-fit-all solution to most of the game. Columbine soldiers don’t take a lot of firepower to take down, so it’s not like you need higher burst damage from a shotgun or anything on them. Headcrabs are slow, so you don’t need anything special for them and shoot. Antlions are just kind of bullet sponge-y, you just need to keep away from them. Is there ever a reason to use it other than that an enemy needs to be hit with rockets to die or to conserve ammo?

        “None of this would work if Gordon could only carry two weapons. How can the designer put an antlion queen in the game? What if the player is running around with just the crossbow and shotgun? They’re screwed!”

        That’s why you design the game so that they’re not screwed (Or, since you know there’s going to be an antlion queen there, put a rocket launcher nearby). This is generally what limited-weapon shooters do for special fights- when a Beserker shows up in GeoW, there’s always a hammer of dawn lying around. But that’s just getting back to the starting point of “this weapon is for this enemy”.

        • guy says:

          While you can put down the small antlions and fast zombies with the assault rifle, the shotgun is highly recommended. There are many circumstances in which it is advisable to use the magnum or the crossbow against Combine. If you have physics objects around, the gravity gun is almost always a viable tactic.

  30. Psy says:

    The two weapon limits mostly came from turn based squad games as an extension of carrying limit along making clean interface, if you recall the original X-Com had a two weapon limit, true you could carry more (if it didn’t exceed you volume based carry limit) but you could only have two equipped.

    It appeared in realistic FPS like Rainbow 6 where you could choose how to load out your squad and in Operation Flashpoint where you can use vehicles as portable weapon lockers.

  31. Patrick the plot device says:

    Two-weapon limit has more to do with controlling the narrative than any attempt at realism. It’s the same as a knee-high wall or inexplicably being unable to climb a chain link fence. You have two weapons for the same reason that you cannot use your shotgun to blast open a door, and instead have to navigate through a maze of buildings rather than take the most direct route. It’s the illusion of depth.

    And FFS, Swat and special ops carry more than two weapons in real life. They don’t walk around with an armory in their pocket, but they don’t charge a beach with a pistol and pocketknife, either. Truth be told, arbitrarily limiting your character to two weapons makes any game more unbelievable.

    • Thomas says:

      Looking it up, SWAT teams tend to carry three weapons. The SAS seem to use 2-3 as far as I can figure out too.

      I mean sure it’s not 2, but it’s a lot closer to 2 than 10. As evidenced by Shamus complaining about Destiny’s three weapon limit

  32. Daniel says:

    I have to take issue with point #2. Limiting the player’s options can (I won’t say “does” because that implies “always”) enhance strategy. Restrictions breed creativity. If you have access to every option at all times, you quickly find your comfort zone: “The shotgun is the best short-range weapon, so I will always switch to the shotgun in tight corridors.” It’s a known quantity; a solved game comparable to Tic-Tac-Toe. There is actually no choice, because unless you’re attempting some sort of challenge where you intentionally handicap yourself, you already know what the #1 best choice is and will always pick that. If the tight-corridor game takes away the shotgun, suddenly you have to strategize from a new perspective.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      There are better ways to achieve that,however.Limiting ammo for your huge arsenal is much better than limiting your arsenal.Having to decide how to spend your 1 rocket,2 shotgun shells and 5 smg rounds is harder than to decide how to spend just your 20 smg rounds.

    • Patrick the plot device says:

      Restrictions breed rails more than creativity. Restricting weapon options restricts options, which yes, would lead to playing the game differently. But that different way would be the way the designer wants the user to play it. What’s the problem with allowing the user to play the game he/she wants to play? If he/she wants to steamroll a level/section using the path of least resistance, so what? Who cares? Its incredibly arrogant for a designer to believe that they know the most enjoyable way for everyone play their game. This isn’t tic-tac-toe, it also isn’t Tetris.

      If they want to get creative then allow them to do that, too. If they want to challenge themselves and solve an entire section/level using only the pocketknife, go ahead. Give them a cookie for doing so. Console games give out those (meaningless) trophies for completing tasks like this without resorting to some ham-fisted limit that frustrates users more than anything. The idea of “forcing creativity” makes as much sense in video games as it does anywhere else.

      I want to play the way that maximizes my enjoyment, not the way the designer thinks is the most fun. And like Daemian said, if you want to increase playing style and creativity there are far better ways than making arbitrary rules that don’t even make that much sense. These are GAMES, not tests.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        “If they want to challenge themselves and solve an entire section/level using only the pocketknife, go ahead. ”

        This requires the game actually be designed to be solvable using only a pocketknife, which is not something that happens when you design a game around having 10 weapons available.

        The kind of balance and strategy that arises from a two-weapon system doesn’t just happen by accident by taking a completely different game and deciding that you’re only going to use two weapons at once. It needs to be designed for. “Raw power fantasy” and “challenging combat” are two very different design goals that require very different approaches from the start.

        • Patrick the plot device says:

          That’s the point. I’m not even sure you’re disagreeing with me or not, actually.

          Making a two-weapon system:
          1) The designer assumes he knows the perfect balance between Challenging and Frustrating. Another term (coined by myself and ruthlessly hijacked by another) for this style of play could also be called DIAS. Each gamer has his own skill level, the designer is basically limiting the enjoyment and fun to the people that meet his pre-determined design style. Why?
          2) Is almost NEVER used as a way of making challenging combat, but a plot device to fit a narrative. At worst it is used to add hours of gameplay at the expense of enjoyment. Would you rather have a 100 hour game that is a mix of fun, annoying and tedious, or a 40 hour game that is fun from start to finish? I’ll give you one guess which choice marketing and project managers prefer.
          3) Assumes that the user is incapable of making the decision to make combat more challenging on their own. People will naturally play the game in the manner that gives them the most enjoyment, whether that be a pocketknife or rocket launcher. Why design a game that makes that decision for them?

          Point is, why would you want to design a two-weapon game? It serves no purpose other than to give the designer control over MY game. Give the user 10 weapons. Let water find its own level. If you want to have players try the game in a more challenging way, encourage them to do so with trophies/cookies/outfits/bigger rewards whatever. Give them more options, not less. Let them carry around the Paper, Scissors AND the Rock. I don’t understand what the problem is with that.

          NO CLUB! Only cheeseburger!

        • The Specktre says:

          This requires the game actually be designed to be solvable using only a pocketknife, which is not something that happens when you design a game around having 10 weapons available.
          [Emphasis mine]

          And yet, Half-Life 2 players found ways of approaching problems restricting themselves to only one of the tools in their arsenal. Created their own fun from it too.

      • Daniel says:

        I agree that games should be customizable, allowing the player to create the game they like to play. That is a completely different goal that should not be used to undermine the core concept of a game.

        The obligatory Terrible Car Analogy is that the goal of a designer, creating the internal interface of a car, is to make the car as easy to use as possible: Everything should be within reach, labelled, do what you expect, and require as few button presses/dial turns as possible. Power steering was invented so that use of the steering wheel would require less effort.

        Game design turns this concept on its head: The goal of a game designer is to create obstacles, then give the player tools to overcome those obstacles, without making the solution too easy or obvious.

        To take power fantasy to its reductio ad absurdum, a programmer could create a system in which you have access to ten different buttons at the start, each of which lets you watch a different chain of mayhem that plays out on its own. That’s all well and good but it isn’t a game. Feel free to enjoy your non-game, but some of us want a game.

    • Felblood says:

      I would argue that good encounter design fosters creativity.

      Both of these inventory systems are tools for encounter design, and they both have their own strengths and weaknesses, but without good encounter design, neither of them will take you anywhere.

      Designing good encounters for a two weapon limit requires more thoughtfulness and yet further constrains the possible encounter designs, which makes it an inferior, but not worthless tool. I personally, would only ever use it in a game with a co-op focus, and even they, I would be strongly inclined to steal the Pistol+longarm+melee system from warframe, which seems to provide the best mix of personal expression an creativity in loadouts, without allowing players to feel like a complete squad that doesn’t need teammates. (barring excesisve amounts of cheese, which you can never truly eliminate OFC)

  33. WILL says:

    Halo’s 2 weapon limit was perfect because the game was designed around it. You’re supposed to vary your arsenal by picking up dropped weapons and figure out how to make each weapon work either alone or with your secondary. Also grenades are always present and you always have a melee attack. I’ll argue most games copied it but did not learn how to properly use it.

    It wouldn’t work in Half-life because you have a dedicated melee weapon and grenade weapon and that would be a shitty loadout.

    Call of Duty just has it for realism’s sake but every single gun is essentially the same.

  34. Otters34 says:

    I don’t get why people making sci-fi shooters don’t just handwave in some kind of gun materializer/dematerializer. Then you don’t need to carry all your guns around at once, just one at a time, making the rest on the fly.

    Republic Commando had an interesting variant of that, where the various “other” guns were mostly just attachments to your basic rifle that specialized it in some way.

    • MikhailBorg says:

      Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force did exactly that. You had some experimental transporter buffer doohickey on your suit that let you store and retrieve weapons. There was even animation showing NPCs reaching to their transporter buffer and the suit helmet beaming into their hands.

      Elite Force remains an underrated game.

      • Felblood says:

        Stealing this gimmick was one of the best decisions Star Trek Online made, though it does lead to a lot of Fridge logic that every character is walking around with a portable transporter buffer, which is only ever used to carry weapons, and not prisoners, quest items or heavy objects.

        • The show had massive fridge logic regarding the fact that when the Enterprise’s (or whatever ship’s) power and systems went out, there were shuttles and runabouts on board with their own independent systems including weapons, transporters, computers, etc.

          Overpowered and completely forgotten black box tech is a Star Trek staple.

    • The Specktre says:

      I don’t get why people making sci-fi shooters don’t just handwave in some kind of gun materializer/dematerializer. Then you don’t need to carry all your guns around at once, just one at a time, making the rest on the fly.

      Funnily enough, Destiny did exactly this. I dug it.

    • WILL says:

      Republic Commando’s basic melee attack did more damage than sniper fire, though, that game is criminally unbalanced.

  35. tmtvl says:

    “This can be done through modifier keys […]” Agreed, every video game needs to be Emacs.

  36. Nyctef says:

    The thing about the two-weapon limit is, for better or worse, that it gives the developers much greater control over the game experience. When Halo is feeling generous, it’ll give you a sniper rifle and rocket launcher and let you explode some crap for a while. When it wants you to work a bit harder, it’ll give you plasma rifles or ODST’s silenced SMG, which dramatically changes the feel of the game, even when replaying though the same levels in Halo:CE.

    Personally, I think Bungie is really good at controlling the gameplay and handing out weapons in sensible situations (of course, other people get annoyed by two-weapon limits, so it’s pretty subjective). The real problem happens when you have a game that just hands out weapons on a whim, especially when the guns aren’t quite as useful as you might want. Trying desperately to find a useful weapon for hours in Borderlands 2 was one of the worst parts of that game (until you manage to stumble upon a corrosive plasma caster, which will kill pretty much anything painted yellow)

    There’s a similar situation with regenerating health. Managing health in a game like Half-Life can be interesting, but it means that all engagements have to be at least *possible* with only 1HP, which can neuter the game design at times. Similarly, most encounters have to consider the possibility that the player might have saved that rocket launcher from three levels ago, or just dump all the player’s weapons at regular intervals

  37. Zeddy says:

    While they’re handled badly often, I think two-weapon limits really can sometimes make a game more strategic.

    One of my favourite videogames, Earth Defence Force 2017, restricts you to only carrying two weapons. The game’s structure lends itself to it, because you get to and are encouraged to choose weapons between missions, and the mission will usually explain most of what you can expect to fight in it.

    It’s possible to do most missions with the standard assault rifle/rocket launcher loadout (you start the game with a rocket launcher that has infinite ammo), but very often you can do things even better/more fun if you try out the other wacky weapons.

    The game feels like it would be really trivial if you could just bring every weapon and switch at your leisure. Instead, me and my coop partner will spend a large part of our playing time discussing loadout and strategy precisely because we can’t both equip ourselves to fight every enemy. It’s a magic that would be lost if the weapon limit was increased at all, I think.

    It might not lend itself well to long stretches of single player campaign, but I think a small weapon limit can force you into specialising in a playstyle, making you reliant on your partner to cover your deficiencies.

  38. Vorpal Smilodon says:

    You must be happy Shamus, I heard STRAFE hit it’s kickstarter goal.

  39. John the Savage says:

    Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a two-weapon system where the developers properly implement it, gingerly dropping weapons that are appropriate to upcoming encounters, which, despite Shamus’ statements, Halo does. Shamus gripes about not having the weapons he needs in Halo, but I’m noticing that he never says anything about the pistol, which suggests to me that he never learned it was the most useful and overpowered weapon in the game.

    That said, I think the best weapon system that I’ve seen is in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Your inventory has room for (I think) eight weapons. You can hold R2 to cycle through your inventory, or you can tap R2, which you set up in the “Controls” menu to either arm/disarm one weapon, switch between two, or cycle between three. The three-cycle option involves some mastery, keeping track of everything in your head, but it’s just so useful hot-swapping between three weapons instantaneously with just a quick two taps of R2.

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