Discusses each weapon in the game, its strengths and weaknesses, its niche, how it contrasts with other weapons, and which traits and mod packs work well with it.
Two-shots most early enemies, up to and including the former guard. Takes three against fiends, which is fine unless there’s more than one, or you blunder into one around a blind corner. Because of this shortcoming, you’ll generally want to take corners wide, and get as good a look as you can into a room before going in, if a pistol is all you’ve got. If you open a door onto a fiend, close it!
Closing a door is also helpful against a single former human, since they can’t open it again any faster than you can close it, so eventually, you’ll win out, and it’ll stay closed for a moment, giving you time to move aside and into cover — marginally better than sitting in the open. Against more than one, though, it’s a bad time: you close the door, one opens it, and the other shoots you! Better off just opening fire and cursing your luck.
Former soldiers are where the pistol really starts to hurt, since they have clear fire superiority over you while you wield this gun, out-ranging and out-damaging you. Try to break line of sight around a corner, if you can, and then hold that corner, waiting for them to come to you. If you give up your ground too easily, however, you will be sad: once they have the corner on you, an engagement that could have ended with two pistol shots will stretch into you taking many, many bullets as you scramble to get an angle on them again.
In a situation like that, remember one of the virtues of the pistol: no minimum effective range! If you’ve had your corner taken from you, get up in their face and open fire: they actually have quite a poor hit chance against you, while the pistol suffers no aim penalties in close quarters.
Early-game, a solid starter that you will nevertheless want to replace quickly. In the presence of a shotgun, it becomes the ranged complement to the close-quarters superiority of the shotty; weapon-switching is encouraged. In particular, a helpful trick for the intelligent enemies (former humans, bots) who will actually chase you is: shoot them with a pistol from around a corner to grab their attention, break line of sight, switch to the shotgun, and then BLAM when they turn the corner. This works on most humans, up to and including former commandos, as long as the initial pistol shot hits. The unintuitive part here is, by breaking line of sight, you give up the corner! But that’s okay, because the shotgun will still hit for 95% damage here, and the enemy will be dead before they can hurt you.
Mid- and late-game, the pistol finds a new niche: ammo conservation. With a 50% swap time, it makes for an excellent secondary. Using a powerful main weapon, say you nearly kill an enemy, and are reluctant to spend another rocket or another five rounds of .762 just to finish them off. Swapping to the pistol takes only 50% of a turn, so there’s about a 50% chance you get to take your next shot before the enemy has a chance to do anything else, depending on where in the enemy turn you are. Killing an enemy with 1 rocket and 1 9mm feels a lot better than killing that enemy with two rockets!
Plus, it feels good to cap a big enemy with a pistol shot. It has a very “execution” feeling about it.
- vs. 9mm calibrated: The calibrated 9mm is pretty much strictly better. Technically it has a smaller clip size, but I never find myself hurt by that. Six bullets is more than enough, and when it’s not, eight rarely is, either.
- vs. .44 revolver: The 9mm pistol’s range is significantly better. Theoretically the difference between a 4/7 weapon and a 3/6 weapon is a tile of range, but it’s a world of difference, and it means the revolver has a very different niche, almost more like a shotgun, for its close-quarters burst damage. Given the choice between the two in isolation (and enough ammo to use them), I’d take the revolver for its raw stopping power, and work around the range limitations, but when paired with a third weapon, the dynamic shifts. With a shotgun or a rifle, I’d take the 9mm: with a shotgun, the revolver would compete for its niche. With a rifle, the revolver would compete for .44 ammo. You want your weapons to complement each other’s roles, not compete!
- vs. 9mm SMG: Despite being a bullet hose that can spray out five 9mm rounds at a time, the SMG fails to consistently one-shot enemies that the pistol two-shots, and performs abysmally at range. Four times out of five, I’m content to stick with the pistol. The .44 version of the SMG has the some problems, except it chews through a rare ammo type while it’s at it. Pass.
- vs. shotgun: The shotgun is a stronger choice in isolation, for its overwhelming firepower in close quarters, and its ability to nullify many threats entirely without leaving an opening for damage. It also complements long-ranged weapons better, since its niche is more distinct.
- vs. 9mm auto rifle: Take the auto rifle every time. Better range, better damage output. Eats the 9mm faster, but again, conserving 9mm is a fool’s errand, most of the time. It’s plentiful until it’s not, and by the time it’s not, you should be shooting something more powerful. There are exceptions to this.
Son of a Gun would seem to be the obvious choice here, except even with SoG L2, a basic 9mm pistol simply doesn’t have the damage output to match late-game weapons. Son of a Gun starts to be worth it if you luck into an ADV 9mm pistol with boosted damage and/or reduced fire time. 50% fire time and 18 damage is about as good as it gets, putting you at 60 DPS once you grab those two ranks of SoG, which matches a chaingun P2’s DPS! And since at that point you’re firing more than three times a second, Son of a ♥♥♥♥♥ starts to be worth it, too!
Eagle Eye would be the natural next step, you would think, except it’s actually of rather middling utility for the 9mm pistol, since the aim gains are mitigated by aim falloff at the end of your range (it’s not a flat +10% tohit added after everything is calculated: the +10% becomes part of your base aim that is then reduced by range penalties), and enemies at the edge of your vision are where you needed those aim gains the most! Run ’n’ Gun is an interesting perk if you have both ranks of Hellrunner, but with the caveat that you may still be best served by staying in cover, and more importantly that using this perk will actually reduce your fire rate and thus your DPS, since you only fire once per movement — sitting still and firing gets you more bang for your buck, though you lose the awesome dodge bonuses from Hellrunner.
Mods are generally a waste on a mere 9mm pistol — put them on something stronger! If you have an ADV 9mm you’re maining as a Technician, who can mod ADV weapons, then power and bulk take slight precedence over accuracy, for raw DPS, but more accuracy certainly doesn’t hurt a gun that otherwise struggles in the 5-7 tile distance range. Put the accuracy on your armor first, though, so it can help your other guns!
While its damage may seem underwhelming at first (it doesn’t improve on the basic 14 that the original 9mm does), this is deceptive: its improved performance against armor enables it to punch down powerful enemies in no time, taking out even an armored ravager in a single clip. With SoG L2, that means it’s dead in three turns, which a chaingun would struggle to outperform. ADV pistol damage amps are a straight +30% increase in damage, too, making this weapon even more viable moving into the late game.
What this gun lacks in one-shotting capabilities, it makes up for with extreme range — many enemies are wildly inaccurate at the ranges this gun can engage at, and running on the relatively plentiful 9mm means firing into the dark to listen for shrieks of pain is far from out of the question. Having no minimum effective range is the icing on the cake that ensures you’re never caught completely off guard while holding this gun.
Arguably, this gun does it all, with the possible exception of tearing through unarmored targets with the simple efficacy of an automatic shotgun — which simply amounts to a reason to take one along, to complement this pistol’s strengths with more strengths. It truly shines when ruining armor, but generally won’t completely disappoint against other targets, either.
- vs. 9mm pistol and .44 revolver: See the entries for those guns.
- vs. .44 hunter rifle: A hard choice if you’re forced to take only one, since each can do things the other can’t, but the 9mm calibrated has better long-term prospects and growth potential, and improves with pistol perks, while the hunter rifle’s ammo scarcity and lack of perks that really help it shine mean it falls behind from late Europa onwards, generally. An ADV rifle can really make the difference, but even then, its lack of moddability (compared to the 9mm calibrated accepting up to five mods) hurts it in the final comparison. Both are good weapons, though — I’d advise taking both, except for the fact that their niches compete too much.
- vs. SMGs: The antithesis of the SMG in some sense, favoring single-shot power and accuracy over fire rate. At short range, the SMG can accomplish some things that the 9mm calibrated cannot, but the rest of the time the calibrated pistol outperforms. If taking both, sacrificing a weapon slot and keeping the ravenous SMG fed (especially if competing for the same ammo, as in the case of the 9mm SMG) for the small niche where it’s superior is rarely the most compelling option.
- vs. 9mm auto rifle: It’s true that the auto rifle can kill some enemies in one burst that the calibrated would take two on, but how often does the auto rifle actually manage to get the fire fiend in one burst at long range? Once you factor in the enhanced fire time that Son of a Gun can yield, the 9mm calibrated pistol simply brings more reliability to the table, especially against armored or mechanical targets.
- vs. chaingun: Not the fairest comparison, but I’ll bite: No, the 9mm calibrated will never outperform the chaingun in raw DPS. Even in the most favorable matchup, with SoG 2 and against a mechanical enemy, the 9mm calibrated barely manages a 15% DPS advantage, while throwing a couple of ranks of SoB into the mix for a fairer comparison brings it down to 7%. But since these weapons consume different ammo types, dealing different varieties of damage, and belong to wholly different weapon categories, there’s a strong argument to be made that you should simply take them both!
Son of a Gun is important if you plan on maining this gun, for reasons that should be clear. Son of a ♥♥♥♥♥ doesn’t really have a great effect on this weapon, but with the base damage doubled against armor by the piercing damage type, it does more for this gun than for the basic 9mm pistol, for whatever that’s worth. Eagle Eye doesn’t do much for it when the shot is clear, but helps a bit when partial cover is a concern. Still probably not worth the trait expenditure if this is the only gun you plan on using.
Any advanced pistol traits will also work well with this gun — Run ‘n’ Gun, as well as the eventual Dualgunner when it’s added.
Power is really where it’s at, in trying to squeeze more damage out of this gun, though bulk is going to help if you’re a Run ‘n’ Gun Marine, since speed is life, and stopping to reload hurts. If you’re a Hunker Down Technician, bulk is less essential, and accuracy starts to be the more compelling choice, for shooting around cover. If you’ve got a power mod and an acc mod, and both a 9mm calibrated and some armor, put the power on the calibrated pistol, and the acc on the armor; your damage output will benefit from both, and you’ll take less damage because things die quicker, which is what the power-modded armor would have accomplished in the first place. But if you’ve got a chaingun put the power on that — as a rapid-fire weapon, it benefits more from the +2 dam/shot.
One-shots many early enemies, including former grunts, soldiers, and fire fiends. However, it does not one-shot former guards without modding, and leaves former sergeants alive with a sliver of health. This can be frustrating. Versus fiends, the revolver’s two-shot kill doesn’t feel as underwhelming, since there are essentially no early-game weapons other than a shotgun that can one-shot a fiend. You might assume this gun would start to shine again as a pistol capable of two-shotting former commandos, but usually if you’re close enough for a good revolver shot on a commando, they’ll light you up with their next action, inflicting pain that hurts the gun’s already-underwhelming aim.
A 40% swap time puts the revolver as the fastest draw in the game, outperforming even the 9mm pistol, so the revolver does regain some credibility as a finisher, but swapping to a secondary to finish an enemy is usually an ammo conservation move (the other possibility is that you’ve run out of ammo on your primary, which is to be avoided), and .44 is the scarce ammo you generally try to preserve, not the stuff you use to save your other types!
One turn-off for prospective users is the fact that the revolver must be manually reloaded, both from a tactical perspective and a quality-of-life perspective. While I can’t tell you how best to enjoy the game, I can point out that the revolver (as well as the .44 hunter rifle) has a 25% reload time, meaning that if you’re empty and need to reload to squeeze out one last shot in a hurry, there’s only about a 25% chance your enemy will get a chance to take an action before the round is chambered and you’re ready to fire. Fully reloading the revolver from empty, it follows, only takes 1.5 turns in-game.
Early-game, use it as pistol alternative that’s much stronger in cramped quarters (if weapon at range, and completely unsuitable for taking potshots), or a shotgun alternative that’s stronger against mechanical enemies like drones; at four or five tiles, the shotgun will struggle to kill a drone (slashing damage vs. armor) and require reloading, but a revolver will kill if it hits, and on a miss can be fired again, often at a slightly closer target. Later, if you’ve found an ADV revolver with reduced fire time and improved crit chance, for instance, it may prove effective against larger targets, as long as you have the defensive traits to keep you safe while shooting from so close.
Comparisons to the 9mm pistol and the shotgun have already been made in discussion above.
- vs. 9mm calibrated: Both are “strong pistols” in some sense, but the similarities end there. The revolver outperforms in close quarters against unarmored targets still, but the calibrated pistol with its 7/10 range is superior in almost all other settings, and using 9mm instead of the rare .44 makes the calibrated an easy choice over the revolver.
- vs. .44 hunter rifle: The rifle is a stronger choice 90% of the time — it’s more accurate at nearly all ranges, it hits harder, and if you’re letting enemies get close enough for the melee range penalties to matter, you’re doing something wrong. Generally a better use of your .44 ammo, unless you found a cool ADV revolver. One-shots former sergeants, as well (a very useful feature, because those should ideally be killed on sight to prevent their guaranteed shotgun damage).
- vs. 9mm SMG: You might be under the impression that, as weapons that both have small effective ranges, but have the potential to deal massive damage up close, the revolver bears some similarities in role to the SMG. Unfortunately, since the SMG is only viable during the early-game when 9mm ammo is everywhere, you won’t have the traits (Eagle Eye) or mods (accuracy) to give the SMG enough reliability to fulfill that role as well as the revolver does. If a former grunt or soldier is within three tiles of you and is out of cover, the revolver will kill it. The same cannot be said for the SMG, which struggles to kill former soldiers at that range.
- vs. JAC .44 SMG: On paper, this SMG can do 32 damage in a burst, versus the revolver’s 22. In practice, the revolver hits, while the SMG will miss at least twice and deal 16 damage, eating four times as much of your precious .44 ammo in the process. Deeply underwhelming is an understatement.
Son of a Gun is the obvious call here, and will help a lot if you insist on using this to take out medium nasties like security bots and archreavers, or even big nasties like armored ravagers and CRI bots. I cannot, however, wholeheartedly endorse facing down the biggest foes with your revolver, even a particularly strong ADV one — the burst damage just isn’t there, for the most part, to hew them down before they can cause you more of a headache than is preferable. Plus, you’ll burn through your limited ammo too quickly. Eagle Eye only helps so much, and mostly ends up acting as a buffer against pain (someone with 140% base to-hit under the influence of 40% pain will hit just as well as someone with no aim bonuses or penalties), more than an actual boost to the certainty of making your shots.
The Marine has Run ’n’ Gun, for which the revolver isn’t a bad choice, with its strong damage output. If you’re already doing a pistol run, chances are you’ll have both the revolver and the 9mm calibrated (if it dropped for you), meaning you can choose which one to employ based on context (how armored your opponent is), or swap to the other rather than reloading. The only trouble with this trait is that by locking firing to movement, having an ADV revolver with great fire time doesn’t matter one bit, since you’ll always fire at your move rate (80% time if you have both ranks of Hellrunner, which you should if you plan on taking this perk).
The Scout will eventually have Dualgunner, which is a clear pick if maining the revolver, for equally clear reasons.
The revolver is an interesting case for modding, since it doesn’t benefit hugely from any of them. Only two damage per power mod feels a bit underwhelming (less than 10% apiece), accuracy bonuses largely don’t help expand its effective engagement ranges, and its ammo capacity wasn’t really a problem to begin with. If you have nothing left to use them on, power is probably the most compelling choice of the three, since it actually provides an irrefutable boost to your efficacy within the revolver’s niche.
.44 Hunter Rifle
One-shots most early-game enemies, aside from the former guard, the fiend, and the former commando, but notably including both the fire fiend and the former sergeant. You’re still not immune to the enemies it one-shots, of course, since cover can ruin what would otherwise be a perfect shot, and if something manages to close to melee range before you can turn your gun on it, you’re in a bad spot due to this weapon suffering a large penalty to aim at melee range, like all rifles. Turn corners wide, be wary of doors, slice the pie.
The hunter rifle is interesting because its niche is enforced less by what the weapon is strong against, and more by what you can afford to spend its precious ammunition on. Due to having the best range in the game of any weapon, it’s excellent at picking off turrets from beyond line of sight (comparable to the 9mm calibrated, though much more common a weapon), and really anything else out there in the darkness — but try not to waste ammo on shots beyond line of sight unless you already know something’s out there!
In the late-game, this gun starts to falter a bit (though ADV variants can negate this), since it doesn’t benefit as much as most guns from power mods (<10% increase per mod, as opposed to a chaingun’s +25% per power mod), due to its high single-shot damage, nor from accuracy mods: it’s already accurate! Bulk mods, too, hardly make much difference here, since five shots is more than enough to take down most foes, and if it’s not, the hunter rifle’s reload time is only a quarter-turn, same as the revolver, so you don’t pay harshly for running dry a shot or two early. The only positive to the lackluster modding potential is that an ADV hunter rifle, which can’t be modded outside of special circumstances, shines all the brighter — the ADV bonuses come at essentially no cost.
Compounding this, there are no single-shot rifle traits to pick (much like with power mods, Son of a ♥♥♥♥♥ doesn’t help much), nor amps that are even relevant to the .44 hunter rifle beyond the accuracy amp, which just gives it more of something it already has! This gun starts out great, but simply doesn’t have much room to grow with you.
- vs. shotgun: Both tremendous sources of single-shot burst damage, at opposite ends of the range spectrum. Both run on rare-ish ammunition, but carrying them both will alleviate that a bit. The shotgun is trickier to make effective use of (short effective range, small magazine), and lacks the rifle’s ability to often shut down troublesome enemies on sight, so if choosing between the two of them, the hunter rifle wins out, at least early on. Later, the dual shotgun and auto-shotgun, especially if ADV, carve out a clearer niche for themselves as the decisive answers to close-range problems.
- vs. 9mm auto rifle: The auto rifle is a good “poor man’s” substitute for the hunter rifle, in the sense that it lacks the hunter rifle’s damage and accuracy, but runs on more available ammo, and can improve in both of these categories: a couple of ranks of Eagle Eye make the auto rifle significantly more reliable, and two ranks of Son of a ♥♥♥♥♥ (or a single power mod) actually cause the auto rifle to outpace the hunter rifle in damage, due to SoB applying on a per-shot basis, and thus has triple the effect on the three-shot auto rifle over the one-shot hunter.
- vs. chaingun: I lean towards using the hunter rifle on priority targets near the edge of visual range, where the chaingun starts to suffer from distance penalties, and especially against targets that are dangerous but have relatively little health, like commandoes and heavies. When the target has a lot of health, the raw DPS of the chaingun combined with the law of averages wins out over the accuracy of the hunter rifle — more health means more time for the better averageperformance of the chaingun to yield better results.
If it came down to taking one or the other, I’d go with the chaingun, for the DPS, the growth potential, and the ammo availability: even at 5 rounds per burst, using the chaingun is simply more sustainable in the late game, relative to the amount of its ammo you receive on a consistent basis. The situation is improved a bit with Scavenger, a Technician perk, but that just means you won’t run out partway through your run — the gun may never particularly shine as a game-winner.
Unfortunately, little helps! Scavenger helps with the ammo problem, and Whizkid could help you bump the damage up to 32 with power mods and SoB 2, but for the price of three power mods and the same traits, you can do so much better than 32 DPS: a chaingun gets 80 for the same investment, and can then double that or more in a heated moment with perks like the Marine’s Spray ‘n’ Pray, or the Technician’s Overkill.
As discussed before, spend your mods elsewhere. Other weapons or your armor need it more, guaranteed.
Your best friend in the early game if you’ve got tight, twisting corridors to navigate, and you hear demons not far off. One-shots everything up to former commandos, if fired from close enough — two tiles is sufficient for most purposes. Versus more armored foes, like the archreaver or the security bot (yikes), you may be left with some regrets, letting it get so close, when your first shot fails to kill… as does the second.
The dual shotgun attempts to fix this problem by simply upping the raw damage output further; bots are still to be avoided, but even heavily armored organic enemies will be given food for thought if they turn a corner and receive a face full of twelve-gauge. The auto-shotgun, on the other hand, removes the critical limitation of having to reload after every shot, instead allowing you to follow up if the first shot failed to kill. The dual, then, has better burst damage delivery, while the auto-shotty has better ammo conservation and, in some sense, dependability as its own fallback.
The shotgun will never be good at long range, so don’t try to use it there. Medium range is fine, if you’re just trying to soften an enemy up as they approach, but ideally you want most of your shotgun usage to occur within 1 to 3 tiles of you, maybe four. Use it in close quarters, and only a bot will be able to shrug it off, due to slashing damage’s weakness against pure armor. Armor on an organic foe can be powered through by brute force, and brute force is exactly what the shotgun provides in spades.
However, as you get towards the late game, the shotgun becomes a less compelling choice, due both to ammo scarcity and the large health bars some enemies sport, calling into question whether you can reasonably take them out at close range before they get to melee with you — if you instead try to whittle them down from afar as they approach, you run into the problem of showing your face for too long, relative to other guns. More face time means more damage, even if spending ammunition on shots outside the shotguns effective range weren’t a concern.
As such, using them more as a secondary for taking out melee specialists and delivering a finisher to enemies chasing you around a corner is the niche they’ve found for themselves in my games, from late Europa onwards.
Weapon comparisons soon to come. See other weapons for some of these.
Shottyman is a good call, as the only shotgun-focused trait in the game so far. Since Reloader is required for this trait, you’re already reloading faster than this trait will allow you to, so to get the best use out of it, you’d better find a way to incorporate your maneuvering into your fights in a way that reduces the damage you’re taking. Say you’re holding a doorway, an enemy walks into sight, and you blow them away with your shotty. Sounds great so far. But then, as part of the same turn, another enemy walks up! Shottyman means that when you back around behind the corner, forcing the new enemy to waltz into view, you already have a shell (or two!) ready and waiting for them.
Hellrunner complements the shotgun nicely, since there’s a good deal of maneuvering intrinsic to maining a shotgun — you need to manipulate encounters to your advantage, so if you blunder into an inopportune engagement, you need to be able to scramble back out, and pull the whole fight into territory that works for you. Hunker Down is an acceptable substitute for the Technician, mitigating the unpleasant effects of the increased face time that comes with sitting still on a corner and firing on an oncoming enemy. But that approach raises the question: why a shotgun? At that point, you’re using the gun for something it’s only mediocre at, rather than a task for which it shines.
Power is a waste of time, for the most part, except for the most dedicated shotgunner. These guns simply don’t benefit that much from this mod, with the single and auto shotguns gaining only a paltry +2 damage per mod (relative to initial values, some of the poorest results in the game), while the dual shotty does a bit better at +4 damage for nevertheless underwhelming results. Bulk mods improve reload speed, which varies in usefulness from gun to gun. With the option to take Shottyman on a character, this becomes less useful or important, and with Juggler to swap to a secondary when your shotgun runs dry mid-fight, it’s nearly irrelevant. Accuracy mods, on the other hand, improve fire time, which is huge, especially for auto-shotguns: without any traits improving fire time for shotguns, ADV variants and mods are the only good ways to squeeze better DPS out of this weapon category.
As a result, bulk and power mods are best used on armor or other weapons, while accuracy mods may actually prove a strong choice if you’re maining the shotgun. If it’s more of a secondary, give them to a powerful-but-inaccurate gun like the chaingun or the pierce rifle instead.
The only SMG I can meaningfully endorse is the CRI 7.62 SMG, and apparently that’s due for a nerf in an upcoming release. This version of the weapon has the decency to provide base pistol accuracy (4/7 rather than 2/7), and runs on an ammo type that’s plentiful enough through the mid-game and late-game to actually support a habit of consistently hosing enemies down with the stuff. With sufficient accuracy bonuses from armor and perks, you have a dependable damage source on your hands, capable of dealing up to 160 DPS with three power mods, SoB 2, SoG 2, and a CRI pistol/SMG damage amp. With Point Blank, the Technician’s advanced pistol/SMG trait, that climbs even further to 200 DPS (50% crit chance, +50% damage on crit = +25% avg. damage) versus enemies in melee range. Sadly, the best rapid-fire traits are rifle-only, but let’s not be greedy, now.
All SMGs, however, run into similar issues to the revolver: they’re a gun that works best at close range, yet unlike the shotgun, can’t ignore cover over short distances, obliterating enemies who think they have the corner on you. Thus, to get good usage out of them, you need strong defensive perks to let you hold corners while enemies close to your effective range: either Hellrunner L2, which lets you flit to and fro on a corner, darting in and out of view, maintaining a 70% dodge rating until you stop and strike, or the Technician’s Hunker Down, which gives a consistent 50% hunker bonus in corner cover, even while firing, at the cost of remaining in line of sight while you wait for the enemy to draw near. However, with some demons (who don’t remember you once you break line of sight), you’ll need to stay in view anyway, and the Hellrunner is forced to instead run in and out of cover, while the Hunker Down Technician can stay in cover the whole time. Each trait has its advantages in this scenario, and you’ll want to grab one or the other as soon as possible, if you’re set on using an SMG.
The exact enemies an SMG can and cannot kill in one burst are tricky to nail down, because of the sheer variability involved: the SMG’s high damage output but poor accuracy makes it a much less reliable weapon than most, across all ranges. There is no range where an SMG will give you certainty. Late-game, that doesn’t matter as much, because you have some accuracy bonuses, the enemies have enough health that the law of averages starts to kick in, and the excellent DPS these guns provide really shines, similar to the chaingun (in fact, the CRI 7.62 SMG is much like a chaingun, but with better growth potential).
Poor dependability in a gun is a big strike against its usefulness, since damage mitigation as an art is all about knowing your enemy will be dead within a certain time frame — preferably before they stop moving and start shooting.
I’ve already covered some of the issues the SMG faces in finding a clear niche for itself, but I remain optimistic that it possesses one going into the late game, when you have the traits and mods necessary to really take advantage of the SMG’s massive growth potential and pack a serious wallop. Theoretically unparalleled damage ceiling, even by the piercing weapons vs. armor — I’ve never personally been able to make it live up to that promise, but I’ll admit I haven’t tried too hard, either!
- vs. 9mm auto rifle: In the early game, it simply doesn’t matter that the 9mm SMG does 6×5 damage and the auto rifle only 7×3. The auto rifle wins out for sheer reliability. The one place the SMG outperforms the auto rifle is at melee range, so you might consider swapping to it as you’re negotiating tight corners and cramped rooms, in case something rushes you, but the rest of the time, the auto rifle will kill fire fiends and former soldiers in one burst, former sergeants, former guards, and fiends in two. I’d take the auto rifle every time.
- vs. shotgun: the key differences were mentioned above. Beyond that, it’s the obvious: slashing vs. impact damage, guaranteed hits and damage mitigated by cover vs. random hits and damage unaffected by cover, etc.
We’ve been over this.
Power helps a lot — we’re talking better than chaingun-tier, and the chaingun loves power mods. If you’re determined to use this gun, feed it your power mods. After that, it needs all the help it can get on accuracy, because gaining some semblance of consistency with this gun is a struggle. Bulk is a luxury you generally can’t afford unless you simply don’t have access to the other mod types, and better spent on your armor, or perhaps a nice assault rifle.
However, they respond similarly to traits and mods, and qualify for the same set of amps, so here they are. Lumped.
It’s not unfair to think of the assault rifle as a straight upgrade over the auto rifle. Slightly reduced magazine size, sure, but better damage and accuracy, and it runs on mid- and late-game ammo, rather than on the 9mm that all but dries up by the end of Europa on most difficulties. If you can get your hands on an ADV assault rifle with good damage output, that will usually be a sounder choice than the chaingun for Io onwards, if only because it won’t starve you for 7.62 in the way that the chaingun’s five-round bursts will.
The pierce rifle, on the other hand, is a whole different animal, with its own drawbacks. Its armor-destroying capabilities are breathtaking, and improves its damage output by +20% per power mod, falling only a little behind the chaingun’s +25%. Its accuracy isn’t great outside a narrow optimal operating range, relatively speaking, with poor results up close and from afar. Only a middling engagement range allows this gun to shine — though it is responsive to aim bonuses, and will feel much better to use with a couple of ranks of Eagle Eye. The fact that it plays nice with rifle perks like Overkill means that even the late-game CRI bots (ordinarily tough customers) melt under this weapon’s withering fire. Keep it fed, don’t try to use it as a breaching gun or a sniper, and it’ll treat you well.
Niche commentary and weapon comparisons coming soon. Those take me a lot of time, and I’m trying to get this guide out quickly!
All the weapons in this family respond relatively well to Son of a ♥♥♥♥♥, and unlike SMGs, hit consistently enough for you to really feel the difference when they do. Since they lack burst damage in favor of sustained output, the Technician’s Hunker Down synergizes better with these guns than Hellrunner, which favors more skirmishing gunplay. Reloader and Reload Dance are pretty irrelevant, since large magazines make these guns good for many bursts before needing reloads, and if your enemy isn’t dead by that point, a faster reload isn’t your problem — if you’re switching targets several times before running out, you’re probably exposing yourself to too many enemies at once, and should manage your sightlines more aggressively.
The rifle-specific advanced traits (which notably also apply to the chaingun, if you were wondering) are all worth taking if you plan on maining one of these guns, for increasing your damage output even further at key moments. They run on short cooldowns, so they’re much more like “once per fight” than “once per level.” This makes their use part of a sustainable usage loop, rather than an emergency button to hit when things are getting scary. Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive: when “scary” meets Overkill, for instance, Overkill usually wins, or at least takes a large chunk off its health bar!
Like all rapid-fire weapons, these rifles respond well to power mods; since they lack the intrinsic stunning accuracy of the hunter rifle, accuracy does them some good, too, though better accuracy is usually better sought through traits (Eagle Eye) and armor mods, unless you’re only ever really using your rapid-fire rifle. Bulk mods are a little unimpressive on a gun that has a fair number of bursts in it already, compared to their effect on armor — if you’ve got a B and an A and are trying to decide where to put each, put the B on your armor and the A on your gun.
Handle any former human target with a single burst, as long as you have the accuracy to hit at the desired range. Take down greater demons in two to three bursts. Dismantle robots much the same way — as an impact weapon, the chaingun is largely agnostic to the kind of health bar the enemy has, even if it doesn’t specialize in making sure armor has a bad day, in the way that the pierce rifle does.
The chaingun’s range limitations are in some ways a less extreme version of the pierce rifle’s — like all rifle-type weapons, it suffers penalties in melee, and lackluster range means sniping with it is out of the question. You can take down turrets from just beyond visual range with it, but it will often require multiple bursts to do so, and is hardly the most ammunition-efficient thing to do with this gun.
A strong choice as a main weapon, you’ll want to have the chaingun equipped most of the time, assuming you’re not using the rocket launcher instead, since swapping to it hurts mid-fight, while swapping away is almost universally easier. In the absence of a gun providing piercing damage, your best friend against armor (unless you’ve managed to get your hands on a CRI 7.62 SMG); a souped-up chaingun is nigh-impossible to beat in terms of raw impact DPS.
Similar to the hunter rifle, the question is less “when is this gun strong?” (it’s always strong) and more “when is this gun weak enough to justify using a different gun, to save 7.62 ammo for when ♥♥♥♥ goes sideways and I need my chaingun?” The most likely candidate for helping you stretch your 7.62 reserves a bit further in the mid- and late game is the shotgun (preferably auto-shotgun), since this can handle melee specialists (fiends, reavers) as well as close-quarters encounters with former humans and demons. Why? The shotgun has some of the best burst damage against unarmored targets among the early-game weapons, and while it can’t hope to match the chaingun’s sustained DPS, the idea is to use it in situations where it doesn’t have to. Plus, it suffers no melee range penalties, so if enemies actually manage to close with you, all they’ve earned is an extra-forceful face full of buckshot.
Comparisons coming soon.
See also the Traits part of the Rapid-Fire Rifles section. All the same traits do all the same things here, with the exception that SoB has a slightly better effect on the chaingun, since it fires even more shots.
The chaingun is one of the guns that benefits the most from a power mod — for some of the same reasons that it benefits quite a bit from Son of a ♥♥♥♥♥. Individual shot damage is fairly low, while power mod always improves damage per shot by at least 2, which gives the chaingun a whopping +25% DPS per mod, as contrasted with the rocket launcher’s +10% or the hunter rifle’s +8%.
Accuracy mods are also helpful, and if this is your main damage-dealer, you’ll want to expand its viable operational range as much as possible — having surplus accuracy within your usual range just means that your rapid-fire traits that fire more shots at reduced to-hit will still hit, and that you have a buffer against pain, since any pain that doesn’t bring your to-hit below 100% isn’t ruining your day, which is a win in my book.
Bulk mods are probably the least helpful choice, since the chaingun starts out with a large enough magazine to fire off six bursts before reloading, and any fight that hasn’t ended by six bursts of the chaingun has gone wrong in ways that a bulk mod probably won’t fix. Having an auto-shotgun ready to switch to in case your chaingun runs dry (since whatever isn’t dead by this point has probably nearly closed with you) is a much better insurance policy. Put them on your armor instead. If you have nowhere more compellng to put it, and you aren’t worried it’ll croud out a more important/relevant mod, feel free to add it, but it’s just nice at best, and a waste at worst. You want your mods to do more for you than this, if you can help it.
Some enemies that it fails to one-shot, like the arch-reaver, will be left with a mere sliver of health, and can be finished off with another weapon, if you’re trying to conserve rockets. Swapping to a pistol to finish them off is twice as safe as your other options, as long as they’re low enough to be one-shot, since pistol swap time is only 50%. Purely tactically, it’s also faster than simply reloading the rocket, even without the Juggler perk, since launcher reload takes 120% time without bulk mods.
When I say “meat,” though, I’m referring to unarmored enemies. The launcher struggles sometimes against mechanical enemies (though it one-shots security and combat drones, it will falter against military drones) due to dealing slashing damage, which is weak against armor. Don’t worry about using it on armored biological enemies, though — rockets have enough raw damage to punch through that armor, either simply one-shotting the enemy (former guards, commandoes, etc), or rendering it more or less irrelevant by the third or fourth rocket if the target is a real slab (armored/siege ravagers, or even the Summoner).
With high accuracy, the launcher doesn’t struggle at range, either, and can be aimed at the environment for splash damage on your target, which is even less likely to fail, even at extreme ranges. At close range, one might worry that the launcher’s splash would catch you — and it does. But even when an enemy closes to melee, one can often find a way to send a rocket into a nearby wall in a way that catches only your new friend in the blast. If the enemy has too much health to one-shot with a rocket’s 2-tile splash damage and has closed with you, however, you’re better off switching to a shotgun (preferably automatic) and opening fire until it dies, unless you’ve got escape options: if you have a smoke, you should’ve used it a little sooner, really, whereas if you have a phase kit, that’s fine.
Still, while you’ve got the launcher out (and you will want it out, if you hear something nearby that will warrant a rocket; a 200% swap time hurts too much to justify swapping to a launcher mid-fight, but swapping away is fine), you’re best off circling wide on corners, and trying to keep a little distance between you and the tiles you’re revealing, so you don’t end up face to face with something ready to ruin your day.
Mid- to late-game problem-solver. Point it at something you really want dead in a hurry, or simply something that would prove annoying if left alive. As noted, performs poorly versus armor, so you’ll want something else for dealing with bots. Complements a chaingun (or an ADV 7.62 assault rifle, potentially) well in the late game, since both 7.62 rounds and rockets are relatively plentiful from late Europa onwards, and the impact damage of the chaingun handles what the slashing might struggle with.
The rocket launcher isn’t comparable to much, aside from shotguns and grenades.
Shotguns have a tighter niche, since their utility falls off sharply with range in a way that rockets simply don’t, but they have the advantages that a) some shotguns are multi-shot, and thus you can fire again without reloading if the first shot fails to kill, and b) shotguns never inflict damage to the user, whether because the enemy got up in your face too quickly, or because a rocket got caught up on some low cover between you and the enemy — and thus can be used continuously, up to and after the point where the enemy closes with you.
Grenades are even harder to make consistent effective use of, because of their scarcity. “Use them while you’ve got them” is one mentality that can make your life easier in this regard, wherein grenades are thrown at any “problem” scenario (much as a rocket might be), but krak grenades, especially, are best saved for something truly scary that needs its armor shredded in a hurry, like multiple CRI bots bearing down on you, or the Summoner (on difficulties where it has armor). To balance for their scarcity, grenades have the benefit of never needing reloading, and not needing to be swapped to in order to be utilized; this contrasts with the launcher’s unwieldy 200% swap time (though this can be reduced to 50% with Juggler).
Eagle Eye is the way to go on this one — go from having to cross your fingers on taking out that reaver or turret, to the certainty that the rocket will strike home. This also has a secondary benefit: when shooting around obstructions, or over low cover, there’s a chance the rocket may get stuck on these and blow up in your face, literally. But with Eagle Eye (or other accuracy bonuses), as long as your to-hit is at least 100%, the rocket will never get “snagged” on cover; you have the guarantee that it will detonate on the enemy, and nowhere else.
As a Marine, Reloader and Reload Dance can be quite nice, to help bring down the 120% reload time (or circumvent it completely), while the Technician gets a lot of mileage out of Juggler, to swap quickly to another weapon to finish off an enemy that the launcher put a large dent in, rather than trying to reload the launcher in the middle of a fight. Denying the enemy the opportunity to take actions is the ultimate in damage mitigation.
If you find a power mod, and you don’t have a chaingun (if you do, the fact that a chaingun can fire several times without reloading, and gets +10 damage per mod rather than +6, makes it a slightly more compelling choice for power-modding — especially with a perk like Overkill or Spray ‘n’ Pray), stick it on this. Getting more mileage out of your rockets (one-shotting archreavers, killing turrets with splash damage, potentially even killing Ravagers in one hit) is a great step towards transforming this fight-opener into a fight-finisher. Bulk mods are underwhelming, since you should avoid reloading a launcher mid-fight when possible anyway. Accuracy doesn’t hurt one bit, but there are usually other weapons that need it more — consider sticking it on your armor instead.
Tactically, their usage is not unlike shotguns, in that it ideally involves the same degree of sight-breaking once enemies are pulled, but the difference between attacking at two tiles’ range versus one is enormous in terms of the impact on the utility of a chainsaw. There’s no easy way to “sneak up” on a sergeant to chainsaw them without giving them a chance to get a close-range blast off on you, for instance.
The traits that most clearly help with chainsaw are the defensive ones, interestingly enough, for allowing you to survive as you close the distance. As a Marine, Hellrunner L2 lets you be proactive in closing with projectile-users, while as a Technician, Hunker Down allows you to force the enemy to come to you. When I get more experience with Scout, I’ll update this guide to reflect that.
Please don’t spend good mods on a chainsaw. If you must, use an accuracy mod for improved use speed — this has a better effect on DPS than power modding, and if you’re in a combat situation where a mod is going to make a difference, it’s probably one where getting two attacks as opposed to one is going to help you avoid damage — not one where an extra 10% damage on an attack makes the difference between a living enemy and a kill.
Appendix A: Evaluating Weapons Yourself
Instead, consider computing TTD (Time to Damage) against multiple types of damage targets, with different health and armor compositions. For a simplified glimpse at weapon efficacy, though, TTD 80 HP and TTD 80 Armor are two acceptable benchmarks for midgame enemies, organic and robotic.
What does computing this look like? Well, starting from a full magazine (since you can assume you start a fight with a fully loaded weapon), count the shots and reloads it takes to arrive at that damage threshold with your weapon of choice. You can also assume a sidearm to swap to if your weapon runs out of ammo just short of a kill — if you’re evaluating a rocket launcher that deals 72 damage at 100% fire time, then its TTD 80 HP might be 100% fire time + 50% swap time (pistol) = 150%. We don’t count the time spent on firing the pistol, since the result of firing the pistol (the death of the enemy) actually occurs before the time expenditure, and we only care about time the enemy is alive and thus able to potentially hurt us.
If the same weapon has been Bulk-modded once to bring its reload time down from 120% to 84%, then its TTD 80 Armor might be 100% fire time + 84% reload time + 100% fire time + 50% swap time (pistol) = 334%, or about twice as long, due to the poor performance of the launcher’s slashing damage against armor.
A standard shotgun’s TTD 80 Armor would be 5 x (100% fire time + 100% reload time) = 1000% (since it would take six shots, even at point blank, to reach that damage threshold), while a chaingun’s would be 100% fire time = 100%, since the second burst finishes off the target, assuming all shots connect. Thus, effectively, the shotgun is ten times worse against such a target!
These are just example calculations, and you may find your own numbers give more meaningful comparisons.
As a final consideration, remember that ADV weapons are sigificantly less moddable (or not moddable at all, if not playing as the Technician), so it may make more sense in certain instances to compare an ADV weapon not to a standard weapon in its current form, but to the final modded state of that standard weapon that you expect it to reach in your current game. Even if the ADV gun is better than what you have right now, there’s something to be said for growth potential.