In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. Today, why stake guns are the best guns.
I tried Fear to be wowed by its advanced AI and slow motion face-kicking, but stayed to pin grey guards to grey walls. Some might see a game of bland, endless corridors, but to me every empty wall in Fear is an opportunity. They're blank canvases to which guards must be stapled one by one until the game runs out of guards, or stakes, and I have to find another game with more walls and stakes and men to feed my need to pin wobbly rag dolls to flat surfaces.
Stakes are better than bullets, because in games a bullet tends to be a purely theoretical entity when it's in transit. Your gun spits out some muzzle flash and the thing you're pointing it at might bleed or explode a little. Between those points there's rarely a sense that there's a slug ripping through the air.
Not so with the weighty stake. It discharges with a menacing 'ker-thwunk' rather than a blasé gunpowder 'pop'. It sticks into things and lets you methodically pincushion enemies. Best of all, stakes can interact with enemy ragdolls in amusing ways. In Fear you can pin a guard to a tiny railing by his shin and then watch the physics system try to resolve the situation. Will he crumple into a distorted heap on the floor or vault bodily over the railing and get stuck in vibrating stasis halfway? What happens if I go into slow motion and kick the vibrating man? These are questions enabled by the mighty stake gun.
Fear's stake gun is called the "HV Penetrator", and it's a semi-automatic stake gun that fires metal stakes very fast. Bioshock 2's exemplary spear gun fires them one at a time, but with tremendous purpose. Bolts are powerful, as they should be, but hard to scavenge from Bioshock 2's bins. The genius of the Bioshock 2 stake gun is that you can pull the stakes back out of enemies and plop them straight back in your gun for re-use. I went for hours with only one stake. I would impale splicers at point-blank range, rip the spear from their chest and then move onto the next one. Ker-thwunk, splat, reload.
The act of reloading and firing a stake gun is always satisfying. Their mechanisms are often exposed, and they have the same chunky mechanical operations as their medieval ancestor, the crossbow. They're also silly enough to still seem novel in an FPS arena packed full of boring variations on the modern assault rifle.
I even love the rhythm of a good stake gun. I've always preferred the confident decision-making that you get with high-impact weapons that have relatively low rates of fire. When you're sure, you shoot, and the result is a decisive and spectacular death. The stake gun delivers that brilliantly, especially in Painkiller. That particular stake gun can gib weaker opponents (as well as pin them to walls). The secondary fire throws out grenades, but why use bombs when a well-placed bolt is twice as satisfying?
You'll find more of our favourite shooter weapons in our roundup of the best guns in PC gaming. What are your favourites?