There is no better bliss in an FPS than the perfect hipfire kill. Sometimes, we hipfire because it’s faster or because it’s accurate, and sometimes we just want to best our foes with a bit of style. There’s an implied flex to the hipfire that I absolutely love – as if you’re such a good shot that you don’t need to plant your feet on waist-high cover and look down a scope to pop headshots. What a power move!
The FPS was founded on hipfire. Some of the best shooters ever made are fun, in part, because of the hipfire. And yet, the last 20 years of videogames has seen this empowering ability nerfed into the ground. Most modern games favour the ADS (aim-down-sights) mechanic as a requirement to be accurate. There’s lots of fun to be had with that kind of game as well, but the ‘right mouse aim/left mouse shoot’ standard slowed shooters down and relegated hipfire to an inaccurate secondary fire. Thankfully, the hipfire is back on the rise in recent years with excellent FPS throwbacks and modern takes that marry the two aiming styles together.
Hipfire has been on my mind a lot lately as I play through Back 4 Blood, Turtle Rock Studios’ spiritual successor to Left 4 Dead. Now nine years removed from Left 4 Dead 2, I still consider it some of the purest FPS fun you can have with friends due in no small part to its hipfireheavy gunplay.
I was afraid Back 4 Blood would lose some of this magic when I learned it’d feature modern FPS mechanics like sprinting and ADS. Now 15 hours into the game, I think my prediction was true, but hipfire is far from dead in Back 4 Blood.
On the contrary, hipfire is a reliable strategy at mid-to-close range that becomes even more powerful if you spec into that direction using the game’s card-based upgrade system. One of the playable characters, for example, gains an accuracy buff every time he scores a headshot, and there are several cards that disable ADS in favour of increased hipfire accuracy. I’ve grown to love the system for encouraging a wide variety of playstyles in a way Left 4 Dead’s simplicity can’t support.
No game better embodies the throwback, hipfire-heavy FPS than id’s modern Doom series. Both Doom 2016 and Doom Eternal are the anti-Call of Duty, demanding that players stay on the move constantly to stay alive.
There is zero friction between Doomguy and his ability to shoot – that means no ADS option on most guns and no reloading. By default, Doomguy is perfectly accurate while moving at full speed and it’s sensational to play. The game’s combat would simply fall apart if it were any slower, so it’s no wonder that recent shooters like Necromunda: Hired Gun have tried to capture the same hipfire-heavy action.
As good as it is, Doom is still somewhat of an anomaly. The majority of shooters out there that have a hipfire worth a damn also let you ADS in one way or another. An interesting newer example is Halo Infinite. Infinite’s guns are 100% accurate from the hip, but similar to Halo 5, every gun also has an ADS option that’s deactivated if you’re shot while using it. After playing both multiplayer betas held so far, I’m liking the compromise.
Then there’s Valorant, a competitive FPS that feels like golf with guns – stop, plant your feet, aim, and then shoot. Hipfire kills in Valorant can feel divine when you’ve perfectly accounted for your gun’s recoil pattern or nailed a life-affirming headshot. Hipfire is the default shooting mode for most firefights, but most guns also have an ADS option that alters how it shoots.
Sometimes, games opt for hipfire for the sake of simplicity. I love Overwatch for its deep roster of playstyles that mostly reserve right-click for cool abilities instead of ADS. Or Deathloop, a stealthy first-person shooter that not only encourages hipfiring its guns, but lets you dual wield one-handed weapons at the cost of ADS.
After years of studios chasing a single Call of Duty-shaped trend, it feels like there is no single blueprint for shooters anymore. Games can favour the hip or the scope and still find an audience for both. It’s just more evidence that we’re living in a golden age of shooters.