It’s easy to opine weapon reloading animations as simple pragmatism. Their transience – yanking out an empty magazine, sliding in its replacement – occupies mere seconds of playtime. Yet, in this briefest of moments is some of the most artful animation in video games. You see, the way in which a gun reloads must communicate an awful lot to the player – is the weapon powerful yet unwieldy? Is it lightweight and precise? Do its bullets slot into cylinders with precision, or can a magazine be carelessly palm-slapped in?
And another thing – visually portraying a weapon’s character is only half the story. Animators must stimulate that most nebulous of concepts too: game feel. How does the player feel holding the weapon? Of course, there’re additional aspects at play: the weapon’s appearance, its fire rate and sound design, for instance. These aspects exist in harmony with weapon reload animations creating a tactile sensation for the player. If a firearm’s reload animation doesn’t match the rest of its design elements, then game feel is lost, and player satisfaction gone.
So, without further ado, here are fifteen totally awesome reload animations, ranging from rapid in-and-outs for breakneck gunplay, to stately, tactical, detailed reloads, with unnecessarily inefficient but visually epic flamboyance stuffed in-between.
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
Wearing its retro-future 80s action clichés firmly on its sleeve is Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Playing as Cyber Commando Sergeant Rex Colt, himself a tongue-in-cheek homage to Terminator-esque half-man half-machines, gave animators plenty of wiggle room for flashiness. There’re excessive exaggerations in Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon’s reload animation; movements are wide and freewheeling, shotguns unnecessarily spin mid-air before cartridges are coin flipped down the barrel in carefree volition, providing both visual ostentation and information for players of Sergeant Colt’s robotic strength and precision. In short, they’re totally unrealistic, eye-popping attention-grabbers.