Fun Gun Awards: Bio Rifle from Unreal Tournament


The Fun Gun Award™ is an award for video game guns that aren’t necessarily effective, don’t necessarily give a player a tactical advantage, but which have creative behavior, unique design, and are fun to use. These guns might suck, but they’re so fun that I WANT to learn to use them effectively.

I never played much of the later Unreal Tournaments, so my fondest memories of the Bio Rifle (honorable mention to the Ripper) are from the original Unreal Tournament, way, way back in the ’90s.

When I first starting playing UT I thought the Bio Rifle was completely useless and couldn’t comprehend how it made it into the game.

Years later, it became my favorite gun.

I mean, first of all, it’s got this goofy arching shot that makes it hard to aim and which makes it a short range weapon. And the bio sludge has a delayed detonation, which makes it even harder to use. If you shoot a rocket and it hits the wall near your enemy, it does damage; but, if your bio sludge hits the wall near your enemy, then nothing. The sludge just sits there and your enemy runs past. And then the sludge explodes for no one.

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All of this made the Bio Rifle seem completely useless to me, at first. Even in the official mutators list, there was a mutator that let you play maps with one weapon type exclusively… except the Bio Rifle. It’s as though even the developers thought the Bio Rifle was so useless that it wasn’t even worth offering the OPTION of playing with it exclusively (or maybe it would have taken too much processing power to render and animate hundreds of little physics objects that jiggled and slid down walls).

Anyway, the point is: I thought the Bio Rifle was stupid. But then, I don’t know. It grew on me.

As I became more used to the default weapon loadout of UT, I started getting bored with it as well. For some reason, the goofy, unique behavior of the Bio Rifle offered me a break from the monotony.

One of the most interesting parts of the Bio Rifle’s attack is that it alters the geography of a map. Because the sludge essentially acts as land mines, you alter paths of movement and accessibility for all the players in the game, including yourself.

Sure, if you lay down a field of bio sludge, another player can sometimes jump over it or sometimes even run around the sludge, but if you do things correctly then you’ve laid a death trap for your opponent. However, it takes prediction and effort to use it correctly.

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To use the Bio Rifle correctly, you are forced to engage with the game on a deeper, more cognitive level. You can’t just be running and gunning and still succeed. The Bio Rifle doesn’t just force you to alter your behavior, it forces you to alter the way you PERCEIVE the game.

You have to alter your timing, so your perception of time and motion in the game also changes. You have to use the geometry, so your perception of the physicality of rooms, corridors, and obstacles also is altered.

And since the other guns don’t require this type of thinking, once you have the Bio Rifle you have to CONSCIOUSLY make a change in your perceptions. The Bio Rifle’s bizarre nature forces you to be become an active, rather than automatic, player.


What's more offensive? That I named my avatar "Booberella", or the phrase, "[Player 1] drank a glass of [Player 2]'s dripping green load". Certainly a different era in gaming culture.

What’s more offensive? That I named my avatar “Booberella”, or the phrase, “[Player 1] drank a glass of [Player 2]’s dripping green load”.

Am I over thinking and over analyzing this? Totally. But I don’t care, I’m having fun.

Look, the Bio Rifle was pretty versatile, even if it was hard to use effectively, and this made it all the more fun for me. I never won, but that wasn’t the point.

You could overcharge it and this would be an insta-gib if it was a direct hit. Even if it wasn’t a direct hit, the overcharge would explode in a spray of sludge that stuck to the level geometry. If you timed this spray correctly, it would create a wall of sludge in front of an opponent that he’d run right into.

And, as I mentioned, you can create zone control with the Bio Rifle. Don’t want an opponent grabbing the flag? Sludge it up. Want to keep an assault squad from coming through a tunnel? Line the walls and floors with sludge. It’ll hold them back for at least a couple seconds.

Then there’s the rare moments when the Bio Rifle feels more powerful than other weapons. Like, when you corner an opponent with sludge, and you can just leave, knowing full well that in a few seconds all that sludge will explode in a chain reaction that your opponent can’t escape. Or, when you’ve laid down a ton of bio sludge in a battle, but inevitably get killed by your opponent, and then while they’re running past, all the sludge explodes, killing him after you’re already dead.

The Bio Rifle was hard to use right, but when you did, it was the most satisfying.


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