I’m probably gonna show my age with this one. While I don’t think I’m one of those “30 year old boomer” types that people meme about these days, I certainly have been playing multiplayer games for a long, long time. I’ve been playing them for literally decades at this point. I’ve played most of the notable ones, like Quake, Unreal Tournament, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty 4, you name it, I’ve probably dabbled in it at some point.
But sometimes I wanted more than Just Deathmatch. Stuff like Capture the Flag or Domination helped, but it just wasn’t enough. There was one mode popularized in a game that really caught my interest and was a fun mode that I wished more games did: Unreal Tournament’s Assault mode. Seriously, why isn’t this in every game???
Kidding aside, the other game mode that I’ve learned to love over the years is Gun Game. A simple deathmatch variant, the goal is mainly to kill enemies with a specific weapon, leveling up to the next weapon, and repeating this process until a player got a kill with every weapon. It’s been around for a while, and any game that features it will certainly pique my interest.
My earliest experience with the gun game concept is Soldier of Fortune. While mostly known for its excess gore and goofy Hollywood story, SOF did have its own version of Gun Game. The mode was simply called “Arsenal.” This was before the “gun game” parlance became commonplace.
Despite the different name, it’s similar to the gun game most of us know now: A set of weapons are given to every player, with the goal of getting one kill with each weapon to win. The big differences that there was no fixed pattern of weapons, and when someone got the final kill with their last remaining weapon, instead of ending the game, they got a “big winner bonus” score and the game started anew with new weapons until the score or time limit was reached. Good for those who end up with a bad layout of weapons and can hope to rebound on the next set.
Though while I remember playing Arsenal in the mid-2000s, when the original Soldier of Fortune was mostly a skeleton crew of hardcore players by that point, the one I remembered more fondly was Counter-Strike: Source’s gun game mod.
In the gun game mod for CS:S, the goal is to take out enemies of the opposing team with one of each weapon, with the famous knife often being the final level. Regardless of whatever side you were on – Counter-Terrorists or Terrorists – you needed to get a kill with every weapon. So in addition to the weapons that are available to a specific faction in the regular game, CTs still had to get kills with Terrorist-exclusive weapons like the Galil, MAC-10 and AK-47, and Ts needed to get kills with the CT’s USP, M4A1 and the AUG, just to name a few.
There was also a twist introduced with this game: After one gets a kill with every gun, one then had to then get a kill with a grenade. HE grenades aren’t really deadly in Counter-Strike unless you hit a player that had already taken damage, so you had to hope your grenade would land on someone who was already wounded, otherwise you needed to get a kill with the Glock to get another grenade. Though in most cases it was just faster to die and respawn with a fresh grenade.
The knife in CS:S’s Gun Game serves a dual purpose: It’s the last weapon required to win a gun game match, but it also could be used as a way to steal a level from an enemy player. While it is satisfying to get a knife kill, it was pretty punishing if you’re like me and were struggling to get kills. Lord knows the several times I’d struggle with a specific weapon, successfully get the kill to level up, then get surprise knifed, forcing me back to the weapon I just leveled up from. Though, by the time this happened someone was already at knife level anyway.
What made the gun game mod really fun was silly little things that added to the experience. Leveling up played the Mario mushroom sound. There was a text-to-speech sound that signified when a player was on the grenade or knife levels. Hell, even getting a kill streak gave a brief speed boost while the Starman music from Super Mario Bros. plays in the background. All these on small custom arenas that are completely unlike the standard Counter-Strike maps like Dust II or Office. Hell, on one match I was playing gun game based on The Simpsons‘ house. This, combined with random songs after a match end gives the mode a very unprofessional mod-like feel to it.
Valve must’ve saw how fun and popular this mode was, as they decided to add it into the following and current installment, Global Offensive. Though their version was named “Arms Race.”
Even then, the Arms Race that CS:GO had is different than the mod: When it was first introduced, it was a fixed order of weapons, starting with SMGs, then shotguns, rifles, the AWP, the machine guns, the pistols, then finally a golden knife. A few years after release, Valve simplified it to random weapons in a fixed order, then the knife. This was likely done to speed up the process and actually get weapons released after CS:GO‘s release to appear in Arms Race, like the USP, the R8 revolver and the MP5SD.
Though, CS:GO has a mostly forgotten server browser, so if Valve’s official version wasn’t your cup of tea, there were servers running an equivalent of the “old” gun game, so you can play on small arenas while hearing Mario sounds as you level just like in CS:S. Best of both worlds, really.
There’s probably some of you that are reading this right now and scratching your head, as it’s entirely possible your first gun game experience was not with Counter-Strike or even Soldier of Fortune: It was probably Call of Duty. Likely any of the Black Ops games. Maybe one of the other titles like Modern Warfare 3, or Ghosts, or even Advanced Warfare.
It’s basically the same as the other games I mentioned, often with a fixed order of weapons which differed depending on which COD you were playing. Most of them start with the weaker weapons such as the pistols, increasing in power until the last few weapons are devastating rocket and grenade launchers before ending with a melee weapon just like standard gun game.
Since melee is a quick-use button in most Call of Duty titles, quickly knifing an opponent to steal a level is a bit easier, though it still requires stealth and cunning to pull off successfully. The knife level in Black Ops was just the ballistics knife, which can be easier to win with since it’s a bit more of a ranged weapon.
I certainly played a fair share of Call of Duty’s gun game as well. It was one of the many “Wager matches” that Black Ops introduced that I kept coming back to besides One in the Chamber. Much like in other games, sometimes I’d get into a groove and nail a kill streak that got me ahead, only to be stopped by a specific weapon making it impossible to progress. It was still fun, though.
Hell, even COD rival Battlefield 4 has gun game. Though DICE decided to be cute and call their mode “Gun Master” instead. Gun Master had a fixed arrangement of weapons like standard gun game, but it also had special loadouts such as pistols only, weapons that were later introduced as DLC, even a “Troll” loadout that had gimmick weapons like the ballistic shield and the crossbow.
As a bonus, since Battlefield is one of those games where using the weapon gives you unlocks like scopes and such, you can level up those weapons even if you don’t use them in regular play, which is pretty nice. For a while, Gun Master was all I played since I didn’t like being constantly killed by someone I couldn’t see in Rush or Conquest.
So why the hell am I gushing about a multiplayer game mode? Well, there’s a few reasons. It’s different than standard deathmatch/team deathmatch, where all one needs is a good loadout and they can steamroll the competition with ease.
Gun Game has a bit more thought to it, where knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your arsenal is more crucial. You all start on a level playing field, and there’s no “kicking ass at the start with a 5 kill streak on some cheap overpowered rifle” garbage. All it takes is skill and knowledge, and victory can be yours.
In addition, there’s a benefit where the skills learned in gun game can be transferred back into regular play, knowing how to tackle certain areas with certain weapons. In most cases, the weapons given are usually ones that are commonly used, so playing gun game and learning how the weapons work can be key to kicking ass elsewhere.
Gun Game is a smart game mode, yet also a dumb game mode at the same time. It requires light strategy, but it’s just mindless killing much like traditional deathmatch. I know it sounds contradictory to say it’s complex yet simple, but this isn’t a mode that requires strategic planning to play. It’s fun, and that’s really all that matters.
All I’m saying is more multiplayer shooters need Gun Game modes. Call of Duty and Battlefield have it, what’s stopping other games from doing it? I’d play Quake Champions more if there was one, despite the game’s low amount of weaponry. Gun Game should be bog standard in any multiplayer shooter these days. Well, that and the Assault mode from Unreal Tournament I mentioned earlier, but I digress.
You damn kids being fascinated by your battle royales can keep it, give me that Gun Game, damn it. Give me that opportunity to have a sense of progression in my deathmatch beyond getting 75 kills or something. That’s really all I want, and I’m glad there’s games with this fun mode in it.
(Some screenshots taken from YouTube captures, as I have no way to capture screenshots from some games.)
Update 12/17/2019: When I wrote this post back in April, I made a brief joke about “put gun game in everything,” including Quake Champions, which was a game I’ve been playing regularly throughout the year.
Well, in a recent December update, the mad lads actually did it. Granted, they used CS:GO‘s term for it (Arms Race) and it requires getting a specific number of kills with each weapon before finishing with the gauntlet, but it’s pretty much Gun Game in everything but name.
Thought I’d add this in before someone sends me a message making me aware of it. Hats off to id Software for adding a game mode I still enjoy, even in a game that’s not that popular these days.