It’s been said that humanity has put more effort into warfare than anything else, and that does make some sense. We’ve created a wide array of tools for turning others into chunky salsa, and that creative destruction has filtered through into video games. The world of gaming has been host to some of the most creative items in any fiction. While a lot of these are purely fantasy with no chance of actually existing – most of the later weapons in Saints Row IV come to mind – a few of the most insane weapons are ones with at least some resemblance to real life. Let’s look at five of the craziest weapons that actual people have used, in particular order.
The Cow Launcher
South Park has had a slew of games, but only recently has it gotten games that truly seem like the series. The original game, simply called South Park, was a FPS on PS1, PC and N64, which is how I played it. The game isn’t very good, nor does it perfectly nail the show but a lot of the trademark humor shines through. The weapons are a standout as they are truly South Park, including an alien weapon that makes enemies dance like the pilot episode. The one I’m looking at, however, is the almighty Cow Launcher.
The Cow Launcher does exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bazooka that’s ammunition are bovine in origin, and is devastating. It features a lock on capability and when locked onto an enemy you launch said cow at them. The cow homes in on them, and lands butthole first. Your enemy is not only hurt by a giant animal falling on them but they can’t see because they’re face to face with the cow’s intestinal tract. It’s one of the most powerful weapons in the game, and is so satisfying to use.
But what about real life? While there isn’t a bazooka that launches a cow asshole-first at one – yet – history is rife with animals as ammunition. One of the first ship to ship weapons in classical warfare was simply baskets full of venomous snakes that were chunked onto enemy ships, which then meant sailors had a bunch of very unhappy danger noodles coming after them. However, the ammo that I’m looking at is a tactic favored by the Mongols which was launching dead animals out of catapults.
While the idea sounds like “Crazy Awesome” incarnate, it actually represents a milestone in biological warfare. Not only was it economical as they Mongols just found dead animals and flung them from whatever siege weapons they had available at high speeds, but it could easily introduce epidemics into besieged cities. By using a rotting animal carcass you get the damage of a heavy object crashing into buildings, but the rotted flesh could easily contimate the city which would make the siege that much quicker. They very rarely used live animals, as a live animal was a large amount of food for your troops that wasn’t going to go bad till after you killed it, so they saved that for later.
Beyond that, there’s the psychological aspect. Imagine you’re a village in a town under siege. You’ve been battling starvation, death and the ominous threat outside your city walls when you decide to look up at a sound you just heard. You then see the corpse of a beast of burden heading directly at your face, just in time to get splatted by what is almost literally a donkey punch. Not only did you bite it in a way all too reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote, but your fellow townspeople have their water supply poisoned by donkey gunk.
And if you were wondering, yes they did use human bodies as well, but not always dead ones. A common tactic was to take captured enemy civilians, crowd them into a catapult and fling them back into town. Not only was this devastating both physically and morally, but it was a great way to respond when your enemy demanded their people back.
Oh, yes. Whether called railguns, coil guns, Gauss cannons or similar they are a staple of science fiction. A railgun works by using a series of magnets to accelerate a projectile to very high speeds, and does so without a muzzle flash. Even better, a large railgun can be used to accelerate a projectile to relativistic speeds – i.e. close to the speed of light – which makes them even more devastating as the mass of an object increases as it approaches light speed.
One of gaming’s most popular memes is the classic quote from Mass Effect 2. A sergeant berates two privates for not paying attention while firing a capital ship’s large rail gun as the 10kg slug is accelerated so close to lightspeed that each impact is approximately the same amount of force as the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima. However, with no friction or air drag any shot that doesn’t hit the target keeps going until it hits something, and who knows what that might be, good or bad. As the sergeant himself famously says “Sir Issac Newton is still the deadliest son of a bitch in space!”
Interestingly, railguns are the most common weapon in Mass Effect. Every weapon uses small bits of metal sheared from a large block and propelled by magnetic fields but this is made easier by the use of mass effect fields to lower the mass of the projectile. The computer inside the weapon actually calculates how big of a piece is needed to make an impact that the class of weapon – shotgun, rifle, pistol – would make and shears the appropriate size sliver. It’s used to explain the unlimited ammo of the first game in one of the most brilliant science based trope justifications in gaming.
Of course, Mass Effect is far from the only gaming franchise to use railguns. The Metal Gear Solid series lets Metal Gear Rex sport one that launches nukes as a way around treaties, and later games let you have access to man-portable railguns. For some reason only a certain type of ammunition works, instead of any small magnetic metal piece, but at least Kojima used something with real science instead of
A Wizard Nanomachines did it.
What about real life? Awesomely, the US Navy has began full scale tests of a railgun system designed to destroy enemy missiles that has a side effect of looking completely badass. See for yourself: