A real archer on the accuracy of in-game bow-shooting

A real archer on the accuracy of in-game bow-shooting

Archery is the new black for shooters, but how does it stack up compared to the real thing? Thankfully, we have a tame archer on staff...

A couple of years ago, everybody in the office went kind of mad and we made a live-action, swords and sorcery choose your own adventure video series for Dragon Age 2. This was, without a doubt, one of the strangest things I’ve ever done in my professional writing career. Imagine, a bunch of journos, some of our dev and accounts teams, and advertising types all dressed in mail and leather and dirt, running around on a summer’s day in the bush, being filmed casting magic missiles at the darkness and generally endangering life and limb.

Yeah, it was fun.

One thing that stands out, though, is when the props for the film started coming in. I was able to supply most of it – swords, armour, clothing of various periods – thanks to a wide-ranging mix of roleplaying and re-enacting interests. The bow, for a our elf, though, had to be ordered on spec. No hassle, really – there are tonnes of good online sources these days, and within days a nice light bow for our faux elf turned up. Of course, it wasn’t strung, and everyone was all like “Man, how do you even string that thing?”

Well, it’s easy, says I, and stepped into the belly of the bow, wedged one end on my right foot, bent the bow round my left leg, and hooked the string.

“You know,” one of my colleagues said, “we really thought you were lying when you said you knew how to use that thing.”

It’s been a few years, of course, but I used to be quite a competent archer, and it’s something I’ve been starting to get back into recently. I used to shoot off a compound bow, both target and hunting, and recently I've been shooting recurves at Olympic Park. All things being equal, I’m hoping to pick up a nice longbow, preferably bare, later in the year.

So, all this considered, it’s been really interesting watching archery become the new black in terms of video gaming. I’m sure everyone behind Crysis 3, Tomb Raider, and Far Cry 3 really wanted it to be what made their games stand out – instead, archery’s now almost a staple of recent games releases. And that’s not even counting the countless iterations of bow combat seen in fantasy titles like Skyrim.

What’s interesting, though, is seeing who’s been getting it right, who’s done their homework, and who’s never picked up a bow in their lives. Let’s take a game-by-game look at the latest archery releases from a shooter’s eye view, and see who hits the bull’s eye.

Crysis 3
Let’s just get this out of the way now – the bow used by Prophet in Crysis 3 is utter archery porn. Being a fan of barebow shooting, I should hate the Predator bow, but it’s just so over the top. It’s got some weird auto draw system, what looks like a massive laser sight or imager, and way over the top stiffened limbs. It’s also meant to fold up for storage, snapping automagically into place when used, much like Hawkeye’s bow in The Avengers.


This is an odd mix of cool and crazy. A lot of target archers use sighting systems, from simple pin-sights to more complex scopes and mechanisms. However, all this methods have something in common – they need to calibrated to the user, and to set ranges. They’re a handy reference in the field, but when you just don’t know what range you’ll be shooting at – as in Prophet’s case – they’re not that great. Of course, adding range finder changes things; linking that range finder into some high-tech internal systems, like in Prophet’s nanosuit?

That’s a game changer.

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