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In the real world, shotguns are a weapon with an effective range anywhere from 20 to 40 meters (133 feet) depending on the choke used and amount of charge in the shell. Which is laughably short compared to the tiniest caliber rifle or carbine, but enough to be lethally dangerous for game or whichever people happen to be in vicinity. But in Video Games, this range is invariably about ten feet: anything farther away will rarely ever receive more than Scratch Damage, but anything inside this range will be quickly reduced to the consistency of chunky salsa.
In many cases, the shotgun has its own niche in a game's Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, outclassing all other weapons at point-blank range but losing everywhere else. Some games have your choice between a weak shotgun blast that has better range, and a more powerful attack that has virtually no range. Others have a choice between a Sawn Off Shotgun with a huge spread and an intact one with longer range.
With "realistic" shooters being something of a current trend, this trope is on the way out, but is still seen often enough to remain relevant. A subtrope of Short-Range Long-Range Weapon. May affect whether Shotguns Are Just Better.
- Doom has some history with this: The original game's shotgun was depicted fairly realistically, with a reasonable range and a fairly tight spread that made it a very versatile gun, and most players stuck to it through the whole game. Doom 2, however, introduced the Super Shotgun, which fires two shells at once with the accuracy of a blind man in a hurricane, being quite possibly the earliest example of this type of shotgun in videogames.
- Doom 3's shotgun has a shot pattern of 10 feet at a distance of about two yards. Needless to say that it's pretty much worthless outside of point-blank range. Fortunately pretty much every encounter for 2/3rds of the game happens within a two yard radius, where it's often an instant kill.
- It's one of the main reasons why mods for Doom 3 are so popular. Interestingly enough, if only the spread angle is reduced and the number of pellets/damage per pellet aren't balanced as well, you get what pretty much amounts to the spread gun from Contra (one blast manages to be stronger than a rocket!).
- The SNES release of the original Doom didn't have individual pellets, so the shotgun was more like a sniper rifle - if were aiming at something it would take the full force of the shot. This lead to situations with enemies so far away you could only see them as a couple of alternating pixels in their idle animation suddenly becoming a non-alternating pixel with one shot.
- The Quake 1 shotguns follow the same pattern, with the normal shotgun having good range but the double barrel being a short-range gun.
- Serious Sam follows the Doom example. The basic shotgun has a tight spread and can one-hit-kill a basic human soldier from several dozen feet away (assuming the headless soldiers are supposed to be equivalent to a human). Unfortunately, the vast majority of the enemies Sam faces are hardly basic or human, which makes the Double Shotgun (essentially the exact same weapon as Doom 2's Super Shotgun) so useful.
- Contra has the Spread Gun, which fires five bullets in a 45 degree arc to either side. It's useful at all ranges, but becomes a Game Breaker if used at point-blank range.
- Halo is a prime offender here, though the first game was an exception - the shotgun was notoriously overpowered in range and reach.
- One of your NPC allies in Halo: Reach, Emile, uses a shotgun as their signature weapon, but seems to believe that it has a much further range than it actually does, shooting at enemies from a range where the shotgun will do absolutely no damage.
- Lampshaded in Red vs. Blue when Sarge tries to play the Firefight game mode in Halo: Reach with his usual shotgun:
Sarge: Uh, someone really needs to improve on the range of this weapon. Take that, take that! Come closer, and take that! Alright, nevermind, just take this (throws grenade).
- Lampshaded earlier when Grif is mocking Sarge (Neither is able to move since they are surrounded by mines) and Sarge is unable to shoot him even though they're just standing one-warthog apart from each other.
Grif: And you favor a weapon that has a much shorter range than most weapons.
- Pretty much all Resident Evil games feature this, but because the vast majority of enemies in those games are close-range attackers (zombies, specifically), the shotgun remains a sound choice for its crowd-controlling capability and incredible stopping power compared to other conventional weapons. Most games also include a shotgun with a tighter choke for more concentrated shots.
- Resident Evil 4, however, includes an exclusive upgrade for the initial shotgun, making its power at *any* range equal its power up-close. Worthwhile for a gun you get for free.
- Resident Evil 5 pretty much falls squarely into this trope, HOWEVER, one of the pellets will always go exactly where the players aims it, so accurate players can effectively use a shotgun to pick off ranged-attack enemies in spite of it.
- A game-breaker in Soldier of Fortune 2. A close-range shotgun blast was instant death, but all other firearms were pea shooters by comparison. Thus, the best multiplayer strategy was to run straight into a hail of gunfire and get shot repeatedly in the chest, so long as you got to squeeze off your one lethal shotshell.
- Golden Eye 1997 has two shotguns, but the only real difference between them is cosmetic (one is supposed to be a pump-action, but Bond's left hand isn't rendered so there's no reload animation). Both are extremely powerful at close range and have a wide spread, firing five pellets per shot.
- Devil May Cry. Dante's shotgun fires shot, and packs far more punch (damage-wise and sheer knockback force) within ten feet. Given that it's explicitly a hunting shotgun, and still does okay damage for a DMC gun at range (the demons Dante fights being fairly bullet-resistant to begin with), the range limit makes some sense.
- Killzone — which is remarkable, since weapons are already inaccurate as it is.
- The shotgun in Killzone 2 actually has an okay range, but you can't go into aiming mode with it... so it's still most effective at extremely close ranges.
- Played straight in Half-Life, but Valve seems to be shifting away from this, as the shotguns become more capable long-range weapons in Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead (though they're still outclassed at long range by other weapons).
- The chrome shotgun in L4D2 in particular has a tight enough spread that it can quite easily kill at long ranges.
- Half-Life and Half-Life 2 allows you to fire two shells at once, for more firepower at the cost of less range, fitting this trope a bit better.
- As for the Team Fortress 2 versions, most classes have much more effective weapon choices at longer ranges (except for the Pyro, whose main weapon has an even shorter effective range) and the class updates so far have shifted several classes away from shotguns by making the alternate weapon something completely different such as the Flaregun and the Sandvich. The Scout remains loyal to his shotgun-ish Scattergun, though.
- Red Faction has a shotgun that can fire one single shell in automatic mode with a lot of spread, or two shells in a more concentrated shot. The 'aiming' mode available to all weapons basically works by reducing the weapon's spread to 0, meaning all shots land exactly where the reticle is pointed. This also applies to the pellet spread of the shotgun, making an aimed double-barrelled blast the single most devastating attack in the game, at any range.
- Played straight in Tabula Rasa where shotguns didn't follow the normal weapon rules; instead of locking onto a target and hitting that target directly, they fired out a cone-shaped which hit every target in front of you. Unlike pistols, rifles and machine guns which slowly lost accuracy when you used them at targets beyond their optimal range, the shotgun's blast vanished exactly 20m from the end of the barrel.
- Metal Slug's Shotgun barely fires four feet in front of your character, but can often kill a tank in one shot. It's really a shotgun only in name, as it shoots directed explosions instead of pellets.
- The Fallout series has an assortment of automatic Shotguns, which are devastating at point-blank range but much less effective at longer ranges, making them ideal for close-quarters combat.
- There is also a Sawn-off shotgun with an even shorter range, making it a half-step above a melee weapon.
- The Double-barreled Shotgun in Fallout Tactics is incredibly devastating at point-blank range early on. With a little luck, giving someone both barrels can result in an instant kill.
- The Point Lookout DLC Double Barrel Shotgun is also obscenely powerful and a VATS attack with it in at full repair is very likely to kill most enemies, except those added by Broken Steel and a couple of others.
- In Fallout: New Vegas, they fit both categories; the low-tier Caravan Shotgun, Single Shotgun, and Sawed-Off Shotguns have a range barely shorter than arm's reach, but the high-tier Lever-Action Shotgun, Hunting Shotgun, and Riot Shotgun have tight spreads and are even more effective than the exaggeratedly inaccurate submachine guns at range (if you loaded them with slugs, that is).
- Command and Conquer Renegade also has a shotgun, but it's notably absent from the singleplayer, only available to one of the most basic characters and the trope is in full effect, making it pretty much worthless. It's a decent base weapon against vehicles but considering most vehicles will just run you over when you try to get close enough, you'd be better off just trying to drop your charge of Timed C4 on it.
- Even then it falls short to the GDI Grenadier (another basic character) in almost every way except for being less likely to hurt the shooter due to splash damage.
- In Gears of War, shotguns are useless at more than 5-10 meters but completely destroy when closer. If you are caught in close range combat with your machine gun, the only reliable way to kill them is to get a chainsaw kill. Since the cover and movement system makes closing in very easy, so doesn't need to more effective from a farther distance.
- Gears of War 2 reformed the Gnasher shotgun to being a semi-decent mid-range weapon, the low rate of fire won't inflict as much damage as a regular assault rifle but you can physically see the enemy flinching from your hits. As a result they also toned down the Ludicrous Gibs range so that you have to be much closer to make the One-Hit Kill.
- Gears of War 3 decided to play both sides of the coin, introducing the Sawed-Off Shotgun next to the series staple Gnasher Shotgun. The Gnasher is just as balanced as the previous game, but the sawed off is absolutely ridiculous in close range. If you aren't within 6 feet it won't do much damage, but there have been reports of double or triple kills from one shot if you get lucky (and due to a glitch, one individual got five kills when everyone respawned in an extremely tight space). It is balanced out by having only one shot to use before a long reload time.
- Strange example: the Stasis Weapon in Star Trek Elite Force has a shotgun-style fire mode that sprays energy beams in a horizontal arc-at close range, an enemy will be hit by every beam before they diverge, but in a pinch, the gun can be used at extremely long range, as every individual beam is pinpoint accurate, and one of the beams always goes straight forward from the gun, in addition to the others firing at increasingly wide angles.
- Played horribly straight in Call of Duty. All shotguns in the franchise share an effective range of about seven paces. Regular walking paces, not the big leaping ones. Inside this range, almost guaranteed one-hit kill. Outside, the pellets disappear, causing not even slight damage. In Modern Warfare shotguns are almost useless for this reason, most firefights happening inside a range where a real-life shotgun would be frighteningly lethal but the in-game versions are literally harmless. There is something indescribably appalling about being shot from the other side of a small room with the game's weakest pistol, when all you can do is fire off shell after shell in a futile gesture of defiance, willing your pellets to stop invisibly dissipating for no reason.
- It Gets Worse in World At War, as most maps are much larger with farther ranges then that of Modern Warfare. Both games allow you to carry two primary weapons (non-pistol guns) with the Overkill perk, meaning you could use a assault or sniper rifle with that shotgun - however, both games require you take time to receive that by the RPG Elements (even more so in World At War), and even with it, it doesn't become any less hindering to run around holding a shotgun out at all time as opposed to another gun. Unless you like camping, which will frequently make you very hindering to your team in many objective-based game modes.
- In Modern Warfare 2, the Shotgun's usefulness is improved by making it a secondary weapon - almost giving you the overkill perk for free. In addition, with the Model 1887 shotgun, this trope was averted to great effect; though they had their range severely cut down. The infuriating thing was while the 1887 had realistic range, every other shotgun played this trope straight, even the modern M1014 (which also had a drastically reduced magazine for game balance purposes).
- Modern Warfare 2 also brings us the AA-12 fully-automatic shotgun, which should be the most incredibly awesome weapon in the game but is instead literally useless outside knife range–indeed, you may fire off an entire magazine at an enemy, only for him to Commando-lunge at you from outside your shotgun's maximum range and knife you. Firing it essentially creates a cone of instant death 3 feet wide at its widest and 7 feet long spread out in front of you until your ammo runs out, which can be very useful for room-clearing and snap-firing but is completely pointless if employed any other way. It also has 8-shell box magazines, which are far too small for effective sustained fire (the only tactic that's even remotely useful with a range that poor) instead of the 20- or 32-round drum mags it could have. To add insult to injury, the pellets are somehow tracers, so you can literally see the buckshot erupting viciously from your gun's muzzle only to inexplicably disappear into thin air 6 to 10 feet away.
- Modern Warfare 3 fixes this somewhat with its new Weapon Proficiencies - the "Range" proficiency, for shotguns and submachine guns, increases the range you can still deal maximum damage with a weapon, and in the case of shotguns increases the maximum range their pellets actually go as well. Unfortunately, like the above Overkill perk, you can't use it until you level up the shotgun you want to use it with to level 23.
- The Grand Theft Auto series zig-zags this trope, having shotguns that may or may not have a wide spread, though there is a particularly odd case in III. In that game, shotguns are loaded with buckshot and do the whole short-range-low-damage-when-far-away thing... on human targets. Against cars, they hit like explosive slugs no matter how far away they're shot from, and can wreck a vehicle in a handful of shots, especially in the hands of the enemy. Hope you found all of the packages in Portland before pissing off the Mafia.
- The crappy budget game Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green strictly enforced the "close range only" rule by having shotgun pellets disappear once they've cleared about ten feet from the muzzle; anything outside that range won't be hit at all.
- Played straight in Psi Ops the Mindgate Conspiracy, the shotgun is extremely powerful at close range, but practically worthless beyond that. It is crippled by it's inaccuracy and low ammo capacity.
- Unreal's shotgun equivalent, the Flak Cannon, fires a spray of glowing shrapnel that spreads pretty fast. Taking the whole shell at close range is usually a one shot kill, but it's not much use at longer range. Thank goodness for the grenade launcher Secondary Fire.
- In Metal Gear Solid 4 Guns of the Patriots and its multiplayer component Metal Gear Online, both the standard pump-shotgun and semi-automatic Saiga 12 play this trope straight, doing very little damage beyond close range. Bizarrely, despite this, you can stick a red-dot or a 4X ACOG on the pump-shotgun, but the buckshot's effective range makes them completely unnecessary. You can load slugs, though, so one of these sights could conceivably turn the shotgun into a poor man's sniper rifle, but the way weapons are handled in-game (switch between them on the fly in single-player, buy a different one next round in multiplayer) makes this pointless, since it's easier to just take a real sniper rifle.
- Hilariously, the Masterkey shotgun attachment for assault rifles has an instant death 15-20m range while the other shotguns only have 10-15m.
- Army Men: Sarge's Heroes has this bad, but in an unusual way. The shot pattern doesn't spread at all on its own - you can literally see all the pellets the shotgun fires stay in perfect formation upon leaving the gun. The problem is weapon sway, which makes every gun except the sniper rifle inaccurate past about 50 meters. The shotgun has horrible sway in comparison to every other gun.
- Invoked in the So Bad It's Good movie Hard Target, when Fouchon warns that Chance can't shoot at him without hitting his hostage, thanks to his choosing a shotgun ("You picked the wrong tool for the job!"). Since Chance was only fifteen or so feet away, in reality he could have easily blown Fouchon's head apart right there without hurting the hostage at all, but this movie wasn't exactly on speaking terms with reality to start with.
- Borderlands also features an utterly ridiculous example in the form of Sledge's Shotgun. It's an over-under that fires two rounds sequentially, has a range of literally four or five feet and has a spread only about twenty degrees shy of being able to shoot sideways. Anything in the shot cone vanishes. Not to mention that it's one of the only three guns in the game that can (and will always) have 0.00 accuracy. The other two are The Chopper and The Boomstick, which are both shotguns of a sort-except the chopper shoots 18 machinegun rounds per second, and the Boomstick imitates a shotgun effect with rockets.
- In the Warhammer 40000 roleplaying games (Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch and Black Crusade), shotguns tend to have maximum ranges of around 100 m. They also only get their signature 'scatter' attack bonus (which grants extra auto-hit attacks on your target when you roll a good attack roll) when fired point-blank range (3m or less).
- To say nothing of the tabletop wargame itself, where shotguns have the same range as most pistols (half the range of a lasgun or bolter).
- In the Rainbow Six games, shotguns are quite deadly. But so is every other weapon, and if it is a pump action shotgun, the first shot must kill, because you WILL be dead before you can fire again if your target survives. In the Vegas-games, this made the weapon bad to have, since it doesn't always kill your target in one shot, but dangerous for the computer to have, since it can kill YOU in one shot even on low difficulty.
- And worse, some enemies have rapid-fire shotguns that they can snipe you with.
- In Duke Nukem 3D, the shotgun, while having a fast reload, is kind of shitty at close range, due to most enemies(especially the Protector Drones), being Made of Iron, making long range combat highly desirable.
- Played straight in the remake of Bionic Commando. If you're too far away you won't hit anything at all. An upgrade increases the distance slightly.
- In Jagged Alliance 2, all shotguns have an effective range of about as much as a pistol, meaning they are quite inaccurate in anything except very short range encounters. Couple this with the facts that they have bad penetration (and enemies start wearing armor relatively early), and that the original developers decided that shotguns are categorically half as accurate at any range as any other weapon. "Duckbill" attachments were given to increase usefulness, as they send the pellets in a horizontal line rather than a circle, somewhat increasing usefulness, but not by much.
- The 1.13 patch changed shotguns a little: The spread-patterns project removed the inherent inaccuracy, and added all sorts of useful patterns for the pellets (through use of chokes). The HAM suppression feature further increased the usefulness of shotguns, as they can now scare the crap out of an enemy combatant if the pellets fly close enough to the target. Effective range, however, is still quite low, and it is unlikely to kill anyone unless all pellets hit an unarmored target.
- 1.13 also offers lockbuster ammo for shotguns, making them useful for breaching doors.
- And even in the base game, if you do hit with a shotgun, its fairly likely that the target will either be out of breath or close enough to it so that they can't move their next turn.
- In 1943: the Battle of Midway, the Shotgun barely goes half the screen, but has a wide spread and eats enemy shots. Of course, that's less of a break from reality than the fact that said shotgun is mounted on a P-38 Lightning.
- In the first Project: IGI, the Spas-12 turns the player into a 10 meter circle zone of instant death. The firing and reloading times are also fast enough to make it feel semi-automatic. Then theres the Jackhammer which makes it a 30 meter zone of full-auto pellet death. These weapons do have some effect outside their ranges, but a particularly nasty cough is worse than the shotgun damage. Considering that the game levels are usually huge open world bases its usefulness is only for the indoor gunfights, the overpowered instant-kill-to-the-toe sniper rifle takes care of everything else.
- Doom the Roguelike has 3 different kinds of shotguns. The standard shotgun is mediocre but usable at the edges of your vision, the combat shotgun is actually pretty decent at long distance and because it always hits you can even use it to kill people just outside your visual range, and the double shotgun has ridiculously wide spread and can't even hit everything you can see.
- The Shotgun and Vindicator in Alien Swarm use this trope. At close range, they do insane damage. Anything farther than mid range and the shots will either do minimal damage or just not hit the target at all.
- Cosmic Break oddly enough averts this even with the ridiculous spread, with the effective range of shotguns and blasters (energy shotguns) being substantially farther than machine guns yet somewhat below accelguns and rifles.
- The shotguns in Star Wars Battlefront are much shorter-ranged than most weapons, but not cripplingly so; on enclosed maps (Tantive IV, Death Star, Coruscant, the like) they are at least as good as the assault rifle.
- Played terrifyingly straight in Custom Robo, where the Shotgun Gun Part deals fantastic damage, is near impossible to dodge, and near-guarantees the Overload of your target, but the shot instantly dissipates at a range of about two times the width of your Robo. Generally only useful for those models that can get in and out of range quickly.
- In Haloid, the shotgun is a melee weapon; Most of the victims were practically touching it before getting Blown Across the Room by the blast.
- In Ratchet and Clank: Deadlocked, the basic shotgun sprays hundreds of tiny, white-hot rounds, but they disappear after a certain distance. Indeed, one viable multiplayer strategy is to use the Charge Boots to swiftly close the distance between you and an enemy, and then nail them point blank, usually for a KO. When the shotgun upgrades to v10 it transforms into the Vulcan Fury that has quite an impressive range AND homing capabilities.
- A Crack in Time lets you go from this trope (double barrel) to rather realistic spread (choke barrel) with the Constucto Shotgun.
- The Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors version is played straight in Civil War Generals 2. Cavalry units can be equipped with shotguns, and while they can hit targets at 100 meters (normal attacks), they're the weakest shoulder arms in the game at that range. They are the most lethal weapons for charges (5 meters or so).
- Played straight in Far Cry: Instincts. Only worth mentioning because it doesn't show up until you gain your upgraded melee attack, a One-Hit Kill with decent range and speed, rendering the shotgun totally useless.
- The shotgun in Oregon Trail II has such short range that it's practically useless even for small-game hunting.
- The Wide Cannon in Bionic Commando. "You can shoot at wide range but reach is shoot".
- In Alan Wake, this is actually a good thing, as you can take out multiple enemies with one blast if you're far enough away.
- Played with in Alpha Protocol. With a low-grade shotgun and no skill in shotguns, they're next to useless except at short range. However, amp up your shotgun skills, buy a high-grade shotgun, and equip it with mods to reduce scatter, and the shotgun becomes a medium-range murder machine that can easily blow enemies off their feet and blast through their armor. Even enemies all the way across the room will get knocked off their feet from a well-placed shotgun blast.
- Microvolts shotguns are most effective when you're so close up that you could just as easily use your melee weapon. "Most effective" meaning "instant kill" — as long as you're accurate, at least, because all available shotguns have a pretty nasty spread.
- Most of Mass Effect 2's shotguns had painfully short damage/range attenuation, and very wide shot cones; the absolute worst being the Claymore, which was almost completely useless outside melee range (which is invaluable for a Vanguard, but problematic for everyone else). The only ones with any real range were the DLC-only Eviscerator and Geth Plasma Shotgun.
- This was thankfully fixed in Mass Effect 3, where shotguns are actually viable beyond sneeze range. To even further enhance their range power, a "Smart Choke" mod can be installed to further tighten the shot spread. There's even a couple of shotguns that fire slug rounds.
- There is, however, one multiplayer only shotgun that plays this trope completely straight: the Reegar Carbine. It shoots a spray of electricity, rather than normal projectiles and has less range than the flamethrowers used by some enemies.
- This was thankfully fixed in Mass Effect 3, where shotguns are actually viable beyond sneeze range. To even further enhance their range power, a "Smart Choke" mod can be installed to further tighten the shot spread. There's even a couple of shotguns that fire slug rounds.
- Averted in Blood: the sawed-off, despite its nature, has a surprisingly tight spread when firing single shots. The sequel plays it more straight, but the shotgun's still a bit more accurate than average.
- In Starsiege: Tribes series, shotguns are very ineffective when the range of the target is anything more distant than point-black.
- The first version of the shotgun from Ace of Spades suffered from this quite badly, but the player base took issue with this and lobbied for a patch... at which point the developer overcompensated to the point where the thing became a total Game Breaker that could One-Hit Kill at ranges comparable to the semi-automatic rifle.
- Played straight in League of Legends. Graves, the Outlaw, uses a double-barrel shotgun that has four modes of shooting - normal auto-attacks are single-barrel shots that hit one person, and the range is a bit lower than other ranged characters (except maybe Vayne and Twitch, who both use crossbows). His Q ability fires in a cone 3 bullets (remind you - it only has 2 barrels), the more bullets hit, the more damage it deals - at release you could one-hit people the second you hit level 2, if they came into melee with little to no armor (it was later reduced from 50% bonus damage per bullet to 30%, which makes point-blank not-so-overpowered). The farther the target is, the lesser the chance of hitting with more than one bullet. The range is, however, shorter than his normal auto-attack by few units and anything immediatelly outside of the cone takes no damage.
- The game-centric webcomic Nerf Now discusses the trope in one of its comics.