The story is set in some high-tech and/or futuristic society. There are massive computer networks, sentient robots, and ships that can zip across space with the same amount of effort it takes you to go to the store down the street. Despite all this technology, however, combat isn't all that different. Battle armor may have some gizmos on it, the guns may have higher muzzle velocities and an ammo count greater than the population of several rural communities, war vehicles may be able to do some fancy new tricks, but combat is the same at heart, bullets and shells still rule the battlefield.
If there are energy weapons in the universe, they either are experimental and wracked with issues like overheating and unwanted by-products, or they're horribly disadvantaged with few available shots before a recharge or a new power pack is required. They will often also be the first type of weapon to go wrong; the more complex parts a weapon has the more likely it is to break.
The reason for favouring projectiles in fiction is Rule of Cool — while subjecting stuff to melting or explosive evaporation is cool, broken pieces of the same stuff flying away with a boom may be even better than the mediocre zap of a laser. This does of course have its roots in the fact that Reality Is Unrealistic: serious laser weaponry actually uses short duration pulses with incredibly high energies that would simply explode an object into plasma the same as if it were hit by a high-velocity projectile... but audiences still expect to see Laser Cutters, so we're stuck with them.
For a detailed look into why one may or may not use projectiles over energy weapons, visit our Analysis page.
There are also real world scientific reasons for using projectiles instead of energy weapons, especially against shielded ships. In defending against lasers, the in-universe shields may be extremely effective at re-radiating heat back into space. To stop a projectile, the shield has to decelerate it, and any force applied to the projectile is in turn applied to the shield generator. Mike Wong of Stardestroyer.net does a good job explaining how the strength of even the strongest shield can come down to how well it's attached to the superstructure of the ship.
Sometimes kinetic weapons themselves don't appear to have advanced, either. Future weapons won't necessarily ''look'' more "advanced" or really be that different from modern ones: whether rounds are fired from a modern rifle or a space railgun, it still functions the same. Precise guides held by a solid external structure are still required to accelerate the projectile.
Compare Rock Beats Laser, Boring, but Practical, Modern Stasis and Break Out the Museum Piece. Usually goes hand in hand with Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future. Contrast We Will Use Lasers in the Future, where energy weapons are more prevalent than kinetic weapons.
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Kinetic weapons are the big thing in Cannon God Exaxxion. While lasers are common, they cannot penetrate the Deflector Shields used in the series since they are based on Artificial Gravity tech & can thus redirect lasers using the gravitational lensing effect. Notably that's the exact opposite of how things should work: solid projectiles would be much easier to affect with gravity.
The do give a Hand Wave of sorts for this, in that the shields are not really based on gravity so much as inertia. Anything with less inertia than the shield can generate is deflected away, including lasers, since they're effectively massless, while anything with more inertia, like bullets traveling at a significant fraction of c. plows right on through.
Code Geass subverts this. Even though the majority of grunts use bullets for their knightmares the black knights' best mechs instead use some form of laser or energy blast as their method of attack. The Guren even uses it more like how it would work in real life, they explode.
Specifically it has a microwave claw that cooks enemy pilots alive. Wonder what the Geneva Convention would have to say about that?
The Mazinger franchise has a special relationship with this trope:
Mazinger Z: Mazinger-Z was the first Humongous Mecha -how many times have we repeated that sentence?- used Eye Beams. Photon Beam was the weapon Kouji used more times, and many Mechanical Beast were equipped with laser beams. However, Mazinger-Z used also missiles, and so did most of Mechanical Beasts. And Dr. Hell was more than capable of building beam weapons for his troops, but his minions nearly never used them. His Co-Dragons and Mooks prefered guns or machine guns shot bullets.
Great Mazinger: Great Mazinger reinforced this trope. Unlike Mazinger-Z, Great Mazinger had no Eye Beams (although he got Thunder Break in exchange). However it kept the missile launchers into the midsection. Tetsuya was the one introduced the Heroes Prefer Swords trope into Humongous Mecha, and most of Great Mazinger weapons were bladed.
UFO Robo Grendizer: On the other hand, Grendizer averted the trope. It had few kinetic weapons (its Sinister Scythe, its Rocket Punch...), and most of its weaponry were different kinds of laser beams. The Vegan troops also used gun rays more often than not.
New Mazinger: Reinforced. Energy beams could not pierce through the armor plates of enemy combat machines, but Mazinger's metallic blade could slice them easily. Also, many enemy mechas wielded light sabers. Guess who won every Sword Fight.
Mazinger Angels: Mazinger Angels' mechas' main weapons are missiles. And they are equiped with swords.
Heavy Metal L Gaim: Although characters relied on energy-powered weapons most of time, this trope was played straight sometimes. In episode 12, Daba shoots his robot's laser rifle at another heavy metal, but it did nothing (due to the energy shield of the enemy mecha). Then he picked a -normal- bazooka, left his mecha and shot his weapon at point-blank range, effectively cracking the robot's head.
In Lyrical Nanoha, the TSAB places heavy restrictions on the use of mass-based weaponry. It is implied that this is due to the devastation caused by interplanetary warfare with such weapons in the backstory, as well as because while all magical weapons are set to stun by default, the same can't be done with kinetic ones. It is worth noting that the fear is not of small arms, which even a B-ranker has little to fear from, but WMD. However in the Darker and EdgierForce manga, where magic has been proving completely useless againstthe new antagonists, we've had gunblades, rocket lanchers, miniguns, explosives and even giant recoilless rifles introduced.
In Cowboy Bebop combat has switched from aircraft to starships, but most of it is still done with good old-fashioned machine guns and pistols. Energy weapons exist, but are implied to be rare and hard to get. They also seem to be very difficult to control; when the energy weapon on Spikes ship, the Swordfish, fires, it causes the ship to recoil and waggle slightly from the sheer power.
When the Earth-aliens infiltrate the protagonists' ship in Vandread, it turns out that said invaders could deflect energy weapons, but not a few .50 caliber clips. Having museum-piece guns lying about onboard sure was convenient...
Played straight through most of The Big O. The eponymous machine's energy weapons can sometimes get the job done, but usually its most reliable weapons are its huge arm pistons.
In the Gundam franchise beam weaponry is generally much stronger than kinetic (though it's for that exact reason that regular guns are still used; suits often are forced to fight in colonies and a stray beam would destroy the whole thing) but this trope comes into play to a small degree in Gundam 00, with the presence of anti-beam countermeasures that render all beam weapons affected useless. The only way to combat this is old-fashioned solid ordinance.
In the meta-series, it is a very notable example of this trope, especially the transition from the First Gundam which aired in the late 70's having mostly beam weaponry starting in mid-to-late of the series(The First Gundam, RX-78 is one of the first Mecha (together with RX-77, which is an older model but saw combat a little later due to circumstances) equipped with a beam rifle, while only large war ships have cannons before that) The Universal Century series sequels in the 80's followed with beam weaponry motif, in late 80's (0080 and Char's Counter Attack) early 90's (0083) kinetic weapons started to increase in number, mainly bazookas, rockets, gatlings; then starting in mid 90's, this trope became quite dominant, first in 08th MS Team(Romeo and Juliet, or better, Romeo Vs Juliet) having both sides showing off tons of kinetic weaponry like wire guided missiles, large cannons, etc. Beam weaponry still remained as the main stay in TV series, but usually Macross Missile Massacre are also common.
Also, beam weapons are typically used on Gundams and other Mobile Suits; human-to-human combat is still conducted with projectile weapons.
Don't forget the 'shot-lancer' rocket spears in Gundam F91 - specifically designed to provide the one-shot-one-kill power of a beam rifle while limiting collateral damage in a colony attack. They're used to devastating effect throughout the movie.
In Gundam SEED most anti-infantry weapons are of the projectile variety. All of the Gundams are equipped with Vulcan cannons in their heads for beating off infantry attacks, and many other mobile suits have outsized machineguns or automatic rifles that serve a similar purpose, as automatic fire is much more effective in breaking up mass infantry attacks than a single shot beam weapon. They also don't run out of power just because the mecha has. On the other hand Phase Shift tech makes Gundams immune to kinetics as long as they have power, which was an issue with early battery-powered models but became much less problematic when N-Jammer Cancellers re-enabled nuclear powerplants.
Kira's Freedom and Strike Freedom both have a pair of railguns that don't see much use outside of helping shoot down screens of missiles, but he has also used them to counter underwater mobile suits on occasion, since beam weapons don't work very well underwater.
Due to the fact they appear as glowing shafts of light, the ranged weapons used by the robots in Bokurano are often referred to as lasers, but are identified, via All There in the Manual, as being material weapons, specifically nanoparticles of the mechs' own armor material accelerated to near-relativistic speeds.
For a comparison: The VF-27 (which uses a beam gunpod) and the VF-25 (which uses a 57mm kinetic shell gunpod) appear to have identical rates of fire, based on their tracers... until one remembers that the standard mixes of tracer to live ammo are 1:5, 1:7, and 1:10.
Space Battleship Yamato 2199 touches on this. The Yamato's turret guns can fire energy beams or large shells. The shells can do serious damage to lighter enemy craft, but they come into their own later in the series. When traversing a warp gate, normal beam weapons are useless and the Wave Motion Gun is not entirely safe to use. Good old fashioned shells work just fine. Dessler was not pleased.
Dredd's pistol, the Lawgiver, fires a variety of rounds, all which are kinetic based.
Averted by the Stub Gun, introduced during the Apocalypse War. This weapon is a laser capable of cutting through almost anything.
The reason why Tony Stark created the Variable Threat Response Suit (better known as the original War Machine Armor) is that against the Masters of Silence energy weapons are useless, but the slugs of normal firearms work just fine.
Red Fire, Red Planet: The "strike package" that Norigom came up with to attack the shipyard, a ten ton block of uranium-238 with a crude chemical thruster and radar guidance (to make minor course corrections), dropped from the cargo bay of a Bird-of-Prey at 25,000 km/s. It apparently obliterates the shipyard control center and part of it keeps going to hit the planet. Norigom apparently did the same thing to the IKS HoSbegh during the Klingon-Gorn War, and sums it up quite well:
"Basic physics. High mass plus high velocity equals ouch."
In one Elite fanfic, an assassin manages to smuggle a disassembled shotgun onto the space station, despite its strict anti-weapon laws, and successfully kills his target. Kinetic weapons became so rare in the galaxy that nobody thought to check for them.
Avatar: The weapons used by the humans in Avatar are just futuristic looking versions of ours, they still sling ammo exactly like present day Earth. However, in some sources it is said that weapons on Earth are far more advanced than weapons used on Pandora, but the latter are far easier and cheaper to produce, especially when you are more than a few lightyears away from Earth. They are still kinetic though, just electromagnetic-based rather than using chemical propulsion (another reason they are limited to Earth's much weaker magnetic field).
In the two Predator films, the protagonist defeated a plasma-toting, power-armored Predator with nothing than guns and bows.
The Matrix: The most advanced weapon in the real world is a handheld lightning gun, but almost all of the other weapons the rebels wield are either firearms or rocket-propelled munitions, much like those used within the titular simulation.
Terminator Salvation, although to be fair, it is set years before the other future scenes seen in the other movies, so perhaps handheld energy weapons haven't been invented yet. The giant robot though seems to have a energy weapon of some sort.
Aliens. The Colonial Marines are armed with caseless assault weapons, which have the distinctly energy-weapon sounding moniker 'pulse rifles', though this refers to the electrical triggering system (as opposed to mechanical pin-and-primer in normal guns) for its caseless ammunition (a technique used by modern experimental weapons such as the H&K G11).
In Star Trek: First Contact, Picard lures a couple of Borg drones into the Holodeck, and shoots them with a tommy gun (though whether or not a Holodeck tommy gun with the safeties off is a real gun or merely a forcefield simulation of one is up for debate because the evidence is inconsistent and points both ways), while Worf managed to slice the arm off of one drone during the space scene. This has led to fan speculation that Borg shields suck against kinetic attacks, which is semi-verified in noncanonical novels. Fan speculation on the other side point out that Picard and Worf did not kill more than a handful of drones, which is the usual amount that it takes before the Borg start adapting. Furthermore, one drone shrugged off being smacked with a phaser rifle butt early on in the movie, while Data's rampage in engineering got him shunted behind a forcefield fairly quickly, suggesting they are not completely clueless when facing kinetic-based weapons.
Helping the pro-projectile camp is the fact that this is hardly the first time Star Trek shields have been shown as near-useless against kinetic weapons (the franchise is in love with Ramming Always Works). There's also the argument that, if they could adapt to it, they should have done so a long time ago: the odds of the Borg never trying to assimilate a race that uses guns are pretty long.
Worf's contingency plan when the Borg disable Defiant's weapons is to ram the ship herself into the Borg Cube. He is only prevented from giving the order to engage by timely arrival of the Enterprise. Incidently, this may be Starfleet's ultimate 'Plan B' with respect to the Defiant-class Starship, as the semi-canon DS9 Technical Manual reveals the forward compartments of said ships contain massive anti-matter warheads.
Also worth noting is the incident in Star Trek: Voyager where a member of Species 8472 kills a Borg drone with its claws.
Minority Report: The weapons used are pretty much just like weapons today. The most advanced weapon is a concussion gun of sorts, that's only used in the car factory sequence. Slightly confusing the issue is that fact that the concussion gun appears to be a non-lethal weapon (designed only to knock the target down); if so, then Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better only provided that you're trying to kill someone - if you want to avoid killing them, the concussion gun is a better bet.
The I, Robot movie includes conventional firearms, albeit more futuristic versions of them.
The Chronicles of Riddick features projectile weapons that, while more beefy looking, still use the good old gunpowder and slug ammo. The Necromongers from the second film, however, have concussion guns as standard infantry armament, although they still prefer to fight up-close-and-personal with blades and axes. It is also not shown how these guns match up against firearms.
The alien invaders in Battle: Los Angeles use seven barreled arm cannons rather than the usual death rays.
Played with in Star Wars. "Slugthrowers" exist and are popular for civilian applications like hunting (for instance, Luke's weapon that he tries and fails to use against a Tusken Raider in A New Hope), but have long been out of favor in military applications because commonplace body armor works beautifully against bullets but not as well against blasters. For example, the plasteel armor worn by the clone army and stormtroopers is basically impervious to kinetic penetrators (though not to blunt force, as the troops stationed on Endor can attest). On the other hand, slugthrowers are cheaper and easier to manufacture than blasters, so insurgent forces have come up with ways to make them useful, such as an explosive-tipped bullet capable of blowing holes through stormtrooper armor.
The bit about kinetic energy is Truth in Television: no matter how advanced your armor is, the premise of it still relies on soaking up the kinetic energy of the weapon. That's why a headshot can be deadly even if the helmet stops the bullet cold, because it's still got the kinetic energy of a baseball going at 100 miles an hour, and can crunch your brain even if it never touches it.
Slugthrowers are also a good choice for bounty hunters and mercenaries facing off against Jedi, to prevent the Jedi tactic of deflecting blasterfire back at their opponent.
Moreso, attempting to block a lead slug with a Laser Blade would only result in you getting a faceful of molten lead, as it is highly unlikely that the blade would instantly vaporize the slug, and even if it did, the ensuing blast of searing vapor wouldn't be significantly more pleasant than the molten lead.
Heinlein's Starship Troopers mostly averts it: kinetic weapons are widely used for training, but rarely for the actual combat. The movie plays it straight, though.
That aversion is certainly justified, however. The Mobile Infantry don't use many energy weapons either. They use small nukes, conventional explosives, and huge flamethrowers just in the first few pages of the book.
In The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (also by Heinlein) the Lunar rebels 'throw rocks' (i.e., 100-tonne boulders, jacketed in steel and fired out of a magnetic catapult) down Earth's gravity well. It proves VERY effective. Cheap too.
Beyond This Horizon: the hero uses an "old fashioned" .45 pistol when every other man in his society uses some form of laser or similar pistol because he likes it and the noise is extremely disorienting to his enemies, who expect a silent gun.
In Tomorrow War shields work only against beam weapons, so while lasers are used to shoot missiles and fighters, main weapons are missiles and high-caliber (e.g. 610 or 800 mm) guns with guided shells. At least as far as wars between human are concerned — others use weirder weapons, up to gravity-based.
In Prince Roger, while plasma weapons are available for use by personnel, more common are pistols and rifles that drive glass beads to hypersonic velocities. For space combat, mass missile salvoes are the norm.
Semi-automatic pistols are traditionally used for duels on Manticore due to the fact that they are less lethal than pulsers. Pulsers themselves are miniature mass accelerators, using gravitic acceleration to fire physical rounds.
Honor herself practices frequently with a (reproduction) Colt M1911A1 .45 automatic, simply because she enjoys the challenge of hitting a target with a weapon that doesn't do half the work with advanced sensors, etc. In one case this "saved the day", when she was able to sneak her .45 into a hostage situation because it had no electronics or energy cell that would trigger inboard sensors keyed to look for weapons that had both- like pulsers.
In the Honorverse, while most ship-to-ship missiles come armed with some kind of warhead or electronic warfare suite - and the author has explicitly shot down the use of kinetic antiship attacks - countermissiles work by simply smashing their wedges into those of the attacking missiles at ludicrously high fractions of c.
The Solarian League's Eridani Edict also expressly forbid kinetic strikes on populated planets, unless you hold the orbitals, because the destruction caused by the sheer velocity of the missile is so much greater than any payload it could carry.
Averted in regards to final point-defense systems for Honorverse warships, where laser point defense clusters are vastly superior to autocannon in engaging any incoming missiles the ECM and countermissiles fail to intercept.
Also from Weber there's the "Rakurai" orbital bombardment platforms from Safehold which was used by Langhorne to wipe out the people who disagreed with his philosophy for running a colony, Dropping large rocks from orbit is pretty effective for wiping out a town. And a good part of an island.
Again from Weber, in In Fury Born soldiers tend to use projectile weapons in infantry battles because laser weapons don't very well in atmosphere (Though some people do use them in outer space boarding actions, where much of the fighting would take place in vacuum). Plasma weapons are used in atmosphere and vacuum, but these are heavy weapons that only one person in a squad would be carrying at most.
H. Beam Piper's assorted science fiction novels, including Little Fuzzy and Uller Uprising, have faster-than-light travel and antigravity, but modern-style guns are still universally used (they also have huge mainframe-style computers programmed by plugboard, but that's Science Marches On). His justification for this was that Earth had fought a nuclear war in the early 21st Century, that had destroyed most of the Northern Hemisphere. While civilization was being rebuilt in the Southern Hemisphere, such technologies as hyper-space drive were developed, but weapons technology didn't change much, because what they had was more than adequate for the job at hand. This is why the Nemesis and the Enterprise (no, not thatEnterprise) in Space Viking shot it out, in low planetary orbit, with autocannon and guided missiles. Interestingly enough, in spite of hyper-space drives and contragravity normal-space propulsion, both "field drive"- type systems, Piper never assumed the existence of defensive "deflector shields" or "force fields"; the space warships in his stories relied on heavy hull armor to keep enemy fire out. In Uller Uprising the weapons used by all concerned were automatic pistols, automatic rifles, machine guns, etc, the main difference with present-day warfighting technology being that self-propelled artillery was on contragravity vehicles, tanks had contragrav in addition to tracks, and contragravity airjeeps, air lorries, lighters, etc., substituted for tactical aircraft like fighter-bombers, helicopter gunships, and so on (the plot of Uller Uprising, by the way, was based on the Sepoy Rebellion in India).
Starworld by Harry Harrison has the rebel admiral explain to the protagonist why energy weapons don't work in the vast distances of space. Although missiles are being used by both sides, the rebels use linear accelerators firing unguided cannon balls to gain the decisive edge, then finish them off with a Flechette Storm of rocket-propelled bullets.
In the Deathstalker series, projectile (kinetic) weapons are actually banned throughout The Empire due to their ease of use and production making revolts easier to arm. They were replaced by swords and blasters - the latter of which are powered by Green Rocks. The blasters take two minutes to recharge, and force shields will stop most projectile weapons... though that drains the fields' power fast. Ultimately, this trope is even lampshaded during a siege.
One character in the Niven-Pournelle alien invasion novel Footfall describes the alien invaders' primary weapons as "crowbars dropped from orbit". For that matter, the personal weapons used by the aliens are just scaled up versions of ordinary machine guns.
In Legends of Dune, both the Thinking Machines and the League of Nobles (and later the Butlerian Jihad) almost exclusively use kinetic weapons, bombs, and missiles for aerial, space, and ground combats. While it is revealed that lasguns were popular during the days of the Old Empire, they didn't have the destructive capability of kinetic weapons. Plasma bombs are mentioned to be used occasionally by the cymeks, but those cases are rare.
Thousands of years later, both types of weapons were phased out due to the invention and widespread use of Holtzman shields, which could stop any physical object moving above a certain speed and created a nuclear explosion when hit with a laser beam. However on Arrakis shields have a tendency to attract worms, so the native Fremen use spring-loaded dart guns in addition to their more famous crysknives.
At one point, the Harkonnens used artillery against survivors of the attack on the Atreides complex who had holed up in caves, without being able to bring the large household shield generators. The attack is noted as extremely demoralizing specifically because in modern combat, the role fulfilled by artillery is obsolete; no artillery does any good against shields.
This is why the Baron has the artillery pieces immediately dismantled after their one use, despite his nephew Rabban begging him to let him keep them.
In Fallen Heroes, the invading Bekkir have body armor that renders them immune to phasers, so O'Brian rigs them into grenades. Dax discovers that their armor isn't Immune to Bullets, so she replicates a machine gun. A Klingon machine gun.
In one novel Worf is with a detachment of Klingons trying to breach a heavily shielded base. They can't get through with their normal weapons, so Worf replicates a catapult and smashes the outer walls to pieces.
Both subverted and played straight in Mikhail Akhmanov's Arrivals from the Dark series. In the first novel, an entire human fleet armed with kinetic, plasma, and missile weapons is annihilated (literally) by an alien starship armed with anti-matter cannons and equipped with Deflector Shields. In the third novel, human mercenaries working for a different alien race are given patrol ships armed with kinetic weapons that are somehow able to ignore shields on enemy ships. These are shown to be extremely effective.
In the stand-alone novel Redliners, the human Strike Force commandos use electromagnetic pellet rifles as their primary personal weapon, while the aliens use laser beams. This is because the pellet guns are massively damaging at the close range Strike Force mission usually take place at.
In his RCN novels, warships use kinetic missiles as their primary weapon, with plasma being a secondary weapon. Plasma disperses far too quickly to be used at normal combat ranges, while the missiles become much more powerful the further away the target is (because they carry no warhead, their damage is based purely on velocity, and further targets give more time for acceleration). Personal weapons in the RCN vary but most of the ones shown are magnetic pellet guns.
Zig-Zagged in Hammers Slammers, some armies use railgun rifles because thy have better armor piercing capabilities than powerguns. However, railguns are no cheaper, since they requirediamond barrels, and don't scale up the way powerguns do. laser guns can't be made in man-portable sizes because they require a 400 pound fusion reactor to reach killing power, and explosive bullets are just as likely to vaporize a leaf than kill an enemy.
In the Night's Dawn trilogy, energy weapons of all kinds are not only available, but widespread. They're even available as nanonic implants under the skin. However, against the Possessed, electronics of all forms are horribly glitched at best, and completely shut down at worst. This means that the most effective weapon against them is a good old-fashioned chemical projectile weapon - a.k.a. a gun.
In the same trilogy, despite the plethora of energy weapons on display, the standard 'kill' weapon is a 'combat wasp'; which is essentially a missile that relies almost strictly on its kinetic force to do damage. Also planet-busting weapons are all old-fashioned bombs, ground strikes from orbit with energy weapons being rarely seen.
In The Commonwealth Saga, a favored weapon in starship combat is the Douvoir missile. Essentially, the idea is that it's possible to control the speed at which the endpoints of a wormhole are moving. It is therefore possible to leave a wormhole at whatever relative speed (compared to whatever else is nearby) you want, without expending time and energy to accelerate to that speed. Douvoir missiles are simple projectiles that are shot out of a wormhole at a significant percentage of light speed, and as such do an enormous amount of damage.
Dick Seaton in the Skylark Series has invented interstellar travel, a repulsor field of sorts and a mechanism for the generation of unlimited energy, but until he meets Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, his Skylark of Space is dependent upon .50 calibre machine guns for its armament (albeit with ludicrously potent ammunition). Played straight in that when the ship is attacked by an alien beast he can't use the super-bullets in his handgun for fear of wrecking it, and the situation is saved by the last remaining crewmember loading and firing solids. Hand-to-hand fights on the ground continue to be sorted out by projectile small arms right to the end of the series; even when Seaton's grasp of beam weapon technology has evolved to almost godlike levels of capability (and at the same time as the author was writing stun guns and hand blasters into the Family d'Alembert universe).
The Lensmen universe is acrawl with energy weapons, but minimally or non-portable heavy machine guns ("high calibre machine rifles") are still useful weapons against soldiers in personal armour. Kim Kinnison has an unfortunate encounter with one of these and barely gets away with his life. The next time he goes where angels fear to tread he wears a suit of armour so heavy it has to be power-driven, and he first takes pains to demonstrate its immunity to ammo 20% over what he encountered previously. Later in the canon, he actually uses the kinetic energy of a bullet stream to tilt his opponent's armor off balance and expose him, which he couldn't have done with an energy weapon.
Conway Costigan uses a combination energy rifle (implied to be more powerful than the standard-issue blaster) and grenade launcher against the unnamed saboteur in Triplanetary. When even the energy rifle takes too long against the saboteur's personal shield, Costigan loses his patience, fires the grenade and blows his opponent into a fine mist. At this stage, the Triplanetary Patrol is still using a mixture of shell-firing guns and energy beams on some of its ships (specifically the armed liner Hyperion).
The reason kinetic weapons maintain prominence is that the energy shields of the Lensman universe only work against things approaching at or near the speed of light (eg. energy beams). Thus, kinetic weapons and especially the trusty space ax (that's right, a melee weapon) actually subvert energy shields because they're too slow. Then the whole business gets tossed aside as combat goes increasingly beyond standard physics (ship combat begins using anti-matter bombs while personal combat goes increasingly psionic).
This even applies in ship-to-ship and larger scale combat. Energy beams are all well and good, and constantly improving in the trope-naming Lensman Arms Race, but if you really need to squash a heavily-defended target, you hit it with a high-speed planet or two.
In Earthlight, the lunar observatory's secret weapon fires a bolt of white-hot molten iron at its attackers. Damage is done not from heat, but simply from the force of the impact.
It's implied in The Songs of Distant Earth, another of his novels, that firearms remained in use even up to the planet's destruction thousands of years in the future.
In Tanya Huff's Valor's Choice, the main protagonist is asked by a pacifist member of the Confederation (humans and two other species were recruited to do the fighting) why they use stretchers that need to be carried, rather than the local equivalent of anti-gravity. She responds that both they and "The Others" routinely attempt to disable all electronic devices used by their opponents, and they use hand-carried stretchers for the wounded for the same reason they use "primitive projectile weapons" that have to "be physically smashed to stop working".
The plot of the Tom Clancy novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin centers around the US and USSR developing strategic laser weapons and trying to steal the plans of their counterpart's systems from each other, but after that book, laser weapons are forgotten about. Eventually in The Bear and the Dragon, the lead researcher of the US team reappears and mentions that they never succeeded in making a laser large enough to be useful. All militaries in the series use conventional weaponry when fighting each other.
The Killing Star shows how destructive the liberal application of kinetic energy can be when a barrage of solid matter accelerated to near light speed is used to destroy all advanced life on Earth. They are appropriately called relativistic bombs.
In Animorphs guns aren't necessarily "better," but when Visser Three mocks humans for their "primative projectile weapons" Visser One points out that a single bullet can still kill a Hork-Bajir quite effectively.
In The Course of Empire, the Jao and the Ekhat are used to laser and plasma weapons, and their armor and force fields are geared for reflecting laser or deflecting plasma. They are thus vulnerable to raw kinetic force, making "primitive" human artillery very effective.
The Star Carrier series uses kinetic weapons heavily, though in conjunction with nuclear warheads and Frickin' Laser Beams. In particular two capital ships in the America battle group are described as using railguns for their primary weapons, and in addition to their other armaments SG-92 Starhawks are armed with Gatling railguns that fire steel-jacketednote so the magnetic fields have something to launch it with depleted uranium slugs. America herself sometimes uses her fighter launch catapults to accelerate slugs instead. And of course there's the non-standard tricks Lt. Trevor Gray has used with AMSO canisters, fighter-scale anti-missile countermeasures filled with "sand" (actually nodules of degenerate matter).
Discworld has this effect as well. A Wizard might be able to lob a fireball with the power level of a small nuclear device, but would probably fall over unconscious from the effort. Meanwhile, Sergeant Detritus of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch would be loading up for his fourth shot with the Piece Maker: A converted siege ballista he handles as easily as a human handles a regular crosssbow. Piece Maker, however, fires a huge bundle of arrows...which usually break apart and catch fire when fired. It is very effective at removing the front door of a house. And the back door. At the same time. And both door frames. And a large portion of the surrounding walls.
Doctor Who dances around this trope in episodes set in the future. One future setting will have weapons identical to modern day ones, yet another future episode, sometimes even set before a "kinetic" episode will have highly advanced energy weapons. Could be justified with the Human Empire rising and falling repeatedly, which could result in a loss of technology with every fall.
When it comes to effectiveness though, energy weapons are shown to be only slightly more effective against certain foes like the Cybermen and the Daleks. When it comes to defeating them, the only kinetic weapon shown to outright destroy them are rocket launchers.
The new Battlestar Galactica series: The show uses real-life guns in the show, or at least slightly dressed up ones. Even the starships slug it out like WWII battleships with heavy cannons and walls of small-caliber AA fire, along with nuclear warheads.
Commander Adama even tells his XO to "find me some bullets" after all the ammunitions had been removed while prepping the Galactica to become a museum ship.
During the briefing prior to the Battle of the Colony, Adama orders the gun crews to keep firing until they run out of ammo, and then to start throwing rocks.
Space Rangers: Takes place in 2104, however rifles and other projectile weapons are used in combat.
Firefly is set some 500 years into the future. Projectile weapons are mainly used, since they are cheaper and more reliable than energy weapons. Hand-held energy weapons do show up at a few points:
The target of the heist in "Trash" is a valuable antique prototype laser. When the time comes, though, Inara tries to shoot her, fails, instead pulling out her own piece. Though logically, a display piece wouldn't be kept loaded in the first place.
In "Heart of Gold", a rich cowboy got himself an illegally-modified laser pistol, which caused some severe harm, but becomes useless once the battery runs out. The cowboy throws it away as he flees rather than attempt Pistol-Whipping (though Mal's larger military pistol has it outclassed for that purpose).
In "Ariel," as Jayne and the Tams flee the Hands of Blue, Jayne fails to blast open a locked door by shooting it with a high-tech sonic stun rifle. A moment later, Mal and Zoe shoot out the lock from the other side with good old kinetic slugthrowers. That said, the sonic weapons seemed to be designed for non-lethal takedowns, so you can't really fault a weapon specifically designed not to cause property damage for failing to cause property damage.
The sound effects used for the gunshots have caused some to believe that the guns are energy weapons, despite the cartridges being shown in multiple scenes.
Stargate SG-1: Even though the humans of Earth have access to tons of alien technology, modern-day weapons are still used for ground combat. Justified since it has been shown that firearms were often more effective than their energy counterparts, particularly when used against the Replicators.
O'Neil: [Hefts a staff weapon] This is a weapon of terror. It's made to intimidate the enemy. [Returns staff to owner and hefts a P90] This is a weapon of war. It's made to kill your enemy.
So much so that, in later seasons, even Teal'c largely abandons his own Staff weapon in favor of dual-wielding the standard-issue P90.
In one episode, Thor specifically uses bullets as an example of the human race's outside-the-box thinking. Asgard are so intelligent, their first instinct when faced with an unforeseen problem is to build a hyper-complex gadget - this means they can be caught flat-footed when the best solution is simply to get a hammer and swing it.
Thor: The Asgard would never invent a weapon that propels small weights of iron and carbon alloys, by igniting a powder of potassium nitrate, charcoal and sulphur.
Averted in ship to ship combat, rail guns were, at best, useful as point-defense and anti-fighter weapons, and Tau'ri ships were seriously outgunned until they got the extremely powerful Asgard plasma beam cannons. The nukes are kept, too, because there's always something that needs to be nuked.
Played straight by the Ancients, though. After going through energy weapons in all sizes, powered by all kinds of things (another dimension, for example...) they still arrived at remotely-controlled drones that simply fly very fast and punch holes in their targets (albeit with the help of their weaponized force fields). The reason railguns seemed weak in Stargate Atlantis was probably that the targets they were used against WERE FREAKING HUMONGOUS. Those hives did pack some bulk, after all.
Not to mention that they had a great deal of experience fighting the Ancients and their vastly superior kinetic kill weapons.
Partially averted in later seasons once the SGC has presumably gathered a significant stockpile of Zat'nik'tel. Though they don't appear to ever become the official SGC sidearm, SG-1 seems to carry Zats in hip holsters frequently rather than waiting to salvage them off Jaffa mooks. They're just that useful. Likewise, Wraith stunner pistols filled the same niche. Also averted by Ronon's Traveler gun. An energy pistol in the shape of a hand cannon, it was easily superior to Tau'ri firearms and several characters expressed appreciation for just how effective it was.
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Starfleet developed a projectile weapon known as the TR-116 rifle, in the event that personnel were in environments where phasers would be undesirable; EMP-like areas, or simply atmospheres that might be ignited by phasers. The rifle had some interesting uses; Chu'lak modified it with a mini-transporter, allowing it to beam its bullet to other rooms only a few centimeters from its target, and a high precision visual sensor, allowing for lethal targeting up to the maximum range of the micro-transporter (plus the effective range of the rifle). The rifle never entered service due to the invention of newer technologies. In some of the Deep Space novels, however, the rifle is said to be quite useful, especially against the Borg. It is also implied that another reason Starfleet doesn't use the weapon is because it is too good, since one can modify it to transport bullets, allowing potential assassins to do their work with little effort. Whether or not it has a semi or full auto function isn't mentioned... but all things considered, it can be assumed.
Between the aforementioned newer technologies and the fact that the weapon lacks a non-lethal option, Starfleet would have happily discontinued the TR-116 as soon as possible. Less a case of "too good" and more a case of "This is only good for assassination now, so the United Federation of Planets does not need it." Of course, the plans aren't classified enough, and in the only episode featuring the TR-116, this fact plus crazy person plus replicator equals murder.
It also leads to an embarrassing incident of Dax accusing an innocent man of the murders because he'd accessed the plans and replicated one. He collected exotic weapons as a hobby.
You just know if some old eccentric kook can access the plans, Section 31 has probably mass produced them and uses them quite liberally
Played straight in an unusual way: Everyone on the station uses energy weapons because they're less destructive than kinetic weapons— the energy weapons will fry a living person but won't put a hole in the bulkhead and depressurize the station or otherwise affect atmospheric integrity. They can, however, bounce back and forth and do massive amounts to machinery, not to mention people besides the target.
While most weapons in Babylon 5 are energy weapons, in early seasons the planet Narn is devastated by use of simple "mass drivers" — another word for asteroids dropped onto the surface. However, they are banned precisely for that reason.
Garibaldi has inherited his Grandmother's Smith & Wesson .38 Special, and states that kinetic hand weapons are still used, but only in planet bound places, because a shot from a slug could rupture the hull.
In Andromeda, most large ships only use energy weapons for point defense; most combat uses relativistic missiles or, at extreme close range, anti-proton cannons. As for hand-held weapons, people typically carry gauss pistols with smart bullets or force lances that can fire mini drones or plasma bursts depending on the situation.
Andromeda tries to stretch known physics only as far as necessary. The main sci-fi element in space flight and combat in this series is mass manipulation. Spaceships can fly fast because they can adjust their mass to a tiny fraction of reality, whereas kinetic missile warheads pack a punch by reducing their mass in-flight (to get to 90% speed of light) and then re-amplifying their mass just before impact so they tear through enemy ships (which are thus designed with small parts with lots of open space between so that any kinetic impacts pass clean through and have less chance of impacting a vital area).
Crow: If they were going 90 miles an hour, they could hurt you!
Largely averted in Cleopatra 2525 but played straight in one episode. One of the characters turns out to be a Thaw - someone frozen back in the 20-21st centuries and recently found and revived. The guy still has his 9mm, which he cleans and maintains every day. Nobody else uses ballistic weapons in the 26th century. So, when the episode's bad guy turns on an impenetrable shield, Sarge pulls out the gun and shoots him, the shield not being calibrated to stop projectiles.
The Getaway: High Speed II has the Supercharger, which magnetically accelerates pinballs around an elevated loop before throwing them back onto the playfield.
Stern Pinball's NASCAR features an oval raceway around the playfield that magnetically accelerates pinballs into the game.
Traveller: Energy weapons do more damage than kinetic weapons and have a far greater ammo capacity, but while a laser pistol does as much damage as a slug thrower rifle it also weighs the same and costs as much as a rocket launcher (2,000 cr., for comparison a revolver costs 150 cr. and most rifles cost 1,000 cr. or less).
Played with in Warhammer 40,000, where due to the Schizo Tech setting, Frickin' Laser Beams coexist with more conventional firearms. Lasguns are easier to mass-produce and more reliable, while Autoguns are easier to fire on full-auto and don't draw a line to your hidden position, but in game terms the two are interchangeable and among the weakest weapons available.
...but when you start to scale them up, Linear Kinetic, Quadratic Energy comes into play. Kinetic guns such as Bolt weapons, which fire armor-piercing mass-reactive explosive gyrojet rounds, are much better at shredding infantry than a Multilaser, which while packing slightly more punch is unable to penetrate even a basic flak jacket. But when it comes to annihilating a hard target, laser, plasma, or melta weapons are preferred, while most big kinetic weapons are still being focused on cutting down hordes of light infantry. That said, a Leman Russ battle tank's main cannon is capable of blowing a hole in a squad of Space Marines, while a Basilisk artillery piece has two advantages over a Lascannon: it can fire indirectly over intervening terrain, at a much greater distance.
In space things are a bit more muddled. On the one hand, a laser "Lance" weapon is more reliable at dealing damage than a broadside of more conventional guns. But a Nova Cannon fires a shell capable of destroying entire squadrons of kilometre-long spacecraft, thousands of kilometres apart, in a spectacular explosion.
Spinoff gameNecromunda, by virtue of its slum-style setting, makes armour and energy weapons hard-to-get elite gear. Ordinary slug-throwers and shotguns are the predominant weapons in the game.
The Eldar follow the Imperial model for the most part, and their Shuriken-based weapons fire hails of molecularly-thin crystalline projectiles comparable to Bolt weapons in effectiveness, making up in rate of fire what they may lack in range. Their most potent weapons remain lasers such as the Bright Lance, or the more esoteric Distort Cannon.
The Tau however play the trope straight. Their Pulse Rifles fire bursts of magnetically-accelerated plasma, making them among the deadlist weapons fielded by any army's basic infantry. But their most dangerous weapons are Railguns capable of punching two neat holes on opposite sides of a battle tank (while leaving a twenty-metre red stain on the ground extending from the exit hole).
In Battletech chemically propelled cannons and lasers coexist. Energy weapons generally have the advantage in firepower-per-weight, and don't run out of ammunition as long as the mech's reactor is still working. However, energy weapons generate large amounts of heat, and an energy-heavy mech needs a lot of gear to deal with that, reducing the overall amount of weapons and armour. There are still discussions which is better in-game. It's also worth noting that even in the far future, there is no better weapon for anti-infantry duty than the lowly but battle-tested heavy machine gun and even the lightest mech can carry a large amount of ammo for one.
Gauss weapons also exist in the setting, and are some of the deadliest pieces of equipment around. At the high end there's starship-mounted mass drivers, which can lob 90-ton projectiles around in combat. On the downside, while the rounds themselves are made of inert metal, the huge electrical capacitors that power the launchers can do some serious damage to their own users if they get hit and explode.
The Federated Suns love using Autocannons, many of their mechs such as the Jagermech and Hammerhands have autocannons as their primary weapons.
In Shadowrun, laser weapons exist, and can penetrate armor better than their kinetic brethren, but several factors keep them from being used that much. They're expensive as hell, their ammo is expensive as hell, they're very hard to find, let alone get your hands on, and they can be quite unreliable in a pitched firefight. For those reasons, most runners tend to stick with cheaper, more reliable weapons.
In GURPS kinetic weapons generally do far more raw damage than energy weapons. Early lasers are also very dangerous to use as the chemical fumes slowly kill the wielder.
In fact this trope is enshrined within the GURPS rules. The developers calculate weapon damage based on the square root of energy for kinetic weapons and the cube root of energy for beam weapons.
The Transhuman Space setting exemplifies the trope even more than the main generic rules. It's a near-ish future setting with fairly realistically plausible power supply/battery technologies. That means that lasers make poor personal weapons (though there are a very few); firearms still work just fine. Less-than-lethal "electrolasers" exist as a useful option, though.
In the discontinued Babylon 5 Wars tabletop game, kinetic weapons ignored armor and did standard damage, which means that you could deal the attack's full damage to the component you hit. It's main downside was that if you hit a less-than-vital component (like one forward gun out of thirty), then the damage would not transfer to the hull like the other weapon types.
The classic Car Wars did have lasers, but as a rather expensive weapon. Most combat was with bullets, shells, and rockets. One Splat Book calls out lasers as being not used in the military except for things like range finding and detecting.
In Eclipse Phase most energy weapons are designed to be "less-than-lethal", so with the exception of the plasma rifle they tend to do less damage and are less effective at penetrating armor than kinetics (especially railguns).
Considering that killing people isn't actually that useful since everyone just wakes up in a new body, debilitating and capturing them is often much much more useful in preventing them doing something. Robots and the like are pretty good at dealing with energy weapons while physically breaking them up works better to hurt them.
Despite the futuristic setting of Titanfall, there are only three energy weapons present, two of which are so massive that they have to be used by Titans. Old-fashioned machine guns and (futuristic) rocket launchers are still used by pilots and Titans alike. Hell, with the exception of the revolver, the sidearms barely look different from what you might find today.
EVE Online. Depending on the current patches and balance changes, kinetic weapons may or may not be better than lasers.
Caldari favor kinetic missiles, which have very low overall damage and suffer against fast-moving targets but never miss if they're in range, and kinetic railguns, which have a very long optimal range but very low damage.
Gallente favor kinetic blasters that are essentially particle shotguns. They have extremely high damage but require you to be practically sitting on your target to damage them.
Minmatar have artillery, which has a long range and high damage but a massive reload time, and autocannons, with a short range and fairly high damage. These are the typical gun-type kinetic weapons, and as such have accuracy problems (represented by their short optimal but high falloff) but are capable of dealing varied types of damage and have a lot of versatility.
Amarr use beam and pulse lasers, which are general-purpose weapons with no particular advantage or disadvantage in combat statistics, having solid damage and medium range. Their main upside is their lack of ammunition use and their ability to quick-change ammunition, but the downside is their high capacitor usage.
Borderlands is one of the best examples. Sooner or later, you will find an Eridian weapon, which shoots energy. But it soon becomes obvious the Eridian weapons are Awesome, but Impractical - and even the "awesome" part is arguable at best. While they do shoot highly damaging bursts of energy, said bursts are slow, often blind the player, and are taxing on the gun's very slow-recharging ammo pool. On top of that, the only thing they work somewhat well against is the Guardians – and that's when we're talking about the Thunder Storm, the only reasonably useful gun of the pack. Last but not least, by the time you get these alien weapons, you'll have a fair amount of levels in the proficiency of the basic weapons, an advantage you won't get with the Eridian ones unless you're willing to go Level Grinding.
Inverted with E-tech guns in Borderlands 2. E-tech weapons use Eridium and Eridian technology to convert regular bullets into "stuff that ain't bullets" like laser beams, exploding balls of energy, plasma, or massive globs of elemental fluid. And E-tech weaponry is with very few exceptions much more awesome and damaging than regular kinetic weaponry, with the caveat that they are extremely rare.
Halo is set around 500 years in the future, with all the AI, Faster-than-light spaceships, Spartan Lasers, artificial gravity systems and powered armor suits, that come with The Future; however, the human UNSC military is still fighting with weapons and vehicles not that much dissimilar to those of today: bigass tanks, buggies, warplanes, missiles, etc. Most Covenant weapons like the Plasma Pistol/Rifle are energy-based, but the Brute weapons in Halo 3 tend to be projectile based, mainly because the Brutes enjoy being... brutish. It is also mentioned, at least on this page that Brutes like human shotguns, for similar reasons. This stands in contrast to the attitude of the Elites, who hold human projectile weapons in contempt. Also, UNSC weapons deal out more damage to unshielded opponents, although Covenant weapons bring down shields faster. A player who takes advantage of this fact with UNSC/Covenant combos can bring down enemies with ease.
As shown in Halo 3 and Halo Wars, the UNSC has laser weaponry in the form of the Spartan Laser; it is a lot more powerful than normal weaponry but it takes a long time to charge, uses up its battery quickly, and is tremendously expensive (costing as much as six Warthogs), making it more of an Anti-tank weapon than anything else.
There's some aversion, though not entirely. Besides the Forerunner Halos, the Super MAC, which is an entire satellite that's just one massive coilgun, is one of the most destructive weapon in the entire known galaxy. Upon impact with a fully shielded Covenant ship the Covenant ship promptly either explodes (it's speculated in-universe that a ship beneath a certain tonnage threshold would be outright vaporized) or - more likely - has a humongous hole punched through it, as the hyperspeed shell maintains enough forward momentum to punch through a second ship, and possibly even keep going after that. That's what happens when you shoot a 3000-ton slug of ferric tungsten and depleted uranium at 150,000 kilometers per second (.5c). Some quick-and-dirty math means it's about 7,300 gigatons, and if fired directly at a planet's surface, would cause cataclysmic damage, as the vibration alone would kill pretty much every living thing on said planet. Eesh.
Although there may be an aversion to this trope, in that Covenant ship-to-ship weapons prove painfully effective in utterly annihilating human vessels, boiling away their reinforced titanium hulls in seconds. The Fall of Reach describes a gigantic laser-plasma beam thingamajigger that is proven capable of slicing through human ships in one stroke. In all likelihood, this is probably a Covenant Energy Projector, which is a powerful particle accelerator weapon. While only Covenant capital ships equip these weapons for ship-to-ship combat, ships as small as the Covenant Destroyer mount ventral energy projectors capable of glassing planets.
Halo both averts the trope and follows it faithfully, depending on the type of conflict being discussed. Kinetic weapons are superior at infantry scales, with the "best" gun in every Halo game being a human kinetic design (M6 Pistol, Battle Rifle, DMR, etc.). Then we get parity in power at vehicle scales. Finally, at humongous mecha scales or larger, energy weapons completely predominate. This is why over the course of the human-covenant war, the kinetic weapon humans won the ground wars, and the energy weapon using Covenant won the space wars. Unfortunately for the humans, the Covenant recognized their inferior ground army power and just took to glassing worlds from orbit.
Civilization: You can go into the far future in the base game yearwise, but weapons technology (and technology in general, save for the space-related tech and the ambiguous "Future Tech") will never go past modern era.
Similarly, the Beyond the Sword expansion featured a near-future scenario, with the option of adding some of this technology into the later end of a normal game.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, the "sequel" to Civilization 2, quickly does away with this trope, as Conventional weapons are too mundane.
Descent arguably falls into this; the vast majority of primary weapons ARE energy-based, but most secondary weapons are rockets, and Descent II's Gauss Cannon is regarded as a Game Breaker for good reason, mostly damage and firerate-partially because the kinetic primary weapons here are Hit Scan and the "lasers" are not. (Except the Omega Cannon, but its range is very short.) Same goes for Descent 3's Mass Driver, which functions much like a Quake railgun in Hit Scan, damage, and fire rate, with that last point balancing it out compared to the Gauss Cannon, now Nerfed into the weaker Vauss Cannon.
To top it all off, the most feared Demonic Spiders in the series are Class 1 Drillers, which are equipped with Vulcan Cannons just like yours. That means they're the only enemy with Hit Scan weapons.Oh Crap.
Also, Descent 3 has breakable glass. Only kinetic weapons can break glass. This is required to progress in certain levels. See where we're going with this?
Phantasy Star Online features the Yasminkov series of weapons, the only non-Photon weapons in the game. The Yasminkov 9000k is one of the most popular weapons for the ranged class, due to being a Mechgun (which usually barely have ranger greater than melee weapons) with the range of a Rifle (the longest range of any weapon in the game). In addition, all of these hit instantly, while the Photon weapons have a slight delay.
Quake especially 'Enemy Territory Quake Wars'', seeing that the Armadillo resembles a Humvee, and Titan resembles a real life M1 Abrams Battle tank, aside from the fact that it has a chain gun on top. The helicopters are little more futuristic though, along with the computer displays inside the Armadillo, the Trojan, and the MCP.
Battlefield 2142 aside from the floating Titans, the other air vehicles, hover tanks, speeders (for the PAC at least) the Goliath, the anti-ground vehicle and anti-aircraft emplacements, and gadgets you could unlock, the guns still slung lead. Hell, the side arm for the EU was a revolver which had a speedloader cylinder. The developers stated in interviews that a gun firing bullets "felt more real to them" than just "pew pew you're dead."
Sins of a Solar Empire features the TEC faction, the games obligatory "normals". The Advent (Psionic Humans) and the Vasari (Evil Aliens) use a variety of plasma, phase, and laser weaponry, but the main gun of many TEC ships is the autocannon. More Dakka ensues.
In Deus Ex the only energy weapons in the game are the Awesome, but Impractical Plasma Rifle (all the fire rate of a cannon, poor accuracy unless you are a master in heavy weapons, slows you down and most of the time, it's power is off set by the fact that only a handful of enemies have the health to survive most attacks) and the PS20 (like a plasma rifle with instant fire, perfect accuracy... but you can only use it once and in the unmoded game, hold only one at a time). A quick Sniper Rifle/pistol shot to the head disposes of most enemies quickly and silently plus their ammo is nowhere near as rare.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Energy weapons exist, but they are obtained too late in the game to be commonly used, and their ammo is so limited, it is advisable to only use them for certain situations. For one thing, the Laser Rifle can be used to finish the last boss fight in seconds. Despite their power, they take up a lot of inventory space, compared to kinetics.
Red Faction is set in 2158 and on Mars, but weapons are pretty much the same, not including the fusion launcher.
In Lost Planet, energy weapons draw energy from the same reserves your environmental suit uses to keep you from burning to a cinder or freezing solid. In the sequel, you can use abilities that reduces costs from the energy weapons.
Kill Zone: The weapons used are very little different from modern day weapons. Concept art detailing the history of the Killzone world has a present-day looking Humvee and a soldier is holding a M16 rifle. The former photo is set in the 22nd century, and the latter the 23rd.
Mass Effect is basically This Trope: The Game. The weapons are highly advanced, but are said to function using a mass driver as opposed to firing energy. They are not Magnetic Weapons, however - instead, the titular mass effect creates artificial gravity, speeding up small pieces of metal, about the size of sand, up to speeds that make it as lethal as a bullet. This for magazines to hold thousands of rounds, thus negating the need to reload over the course of a single mission. The weapons have virtually unlimited power sources as well. Unfortunately, they overheat rapidly unless special weapon modifications are used. And in Mass Effect 2 they don't even cool down on their own - you have to reload heat sinks, which end up being completely analogous to ammo. The starships are explicitly stated to be built around railguns, as large as their frames can support.
The Phasic and Proton Rounds ammunition mods can convert whatever weapon you slot them in into a partially energy-based weapon which combines mass and charged particles, according to the fluff. Even then, though, the trope is upheld; neither of these mods are all that useful, dealing out LESS overall damage in return for some of that damage being dealt to the target's health through their shields. Specialist solid rounds often do better just through sheer damage output.
Many non-standard weapons superficially resembling Beam Spam are still considered mass accelerators:
The Collector Assault Rifle uses "metallic enamel" as a physical projectile, and the geth weaponry is exactly the same as other guns, except with a phasic envelope.
Mass Effect 2 explains that the weapons Sovereign uses that look like energy weapons actually aren't either — they instead operate somewhat like coilguns, only firing an elongated projectile of superheated metal at the target instead of a solid slug so that not only does the target suffer the impact of the jet, but the jet itself burns through the target like a torch. It took less than a year after the end of Mass Effect 1 for the normal races to build a prototype of the same type of weapon, and you can upgrade the Normandy with one (two cannons, actually, which fire together to look like one big weapon). And boy, oh boy is it effective! The one time they're actually used, the Normandy SR2 proceeds to utterly vaporize a much heavier and (ostensibly) more advanced warship with a mere two shots. Suddenly, your Frigate hits like a Dreadnought!
However, it is mentioned that if a practical and compact infantry-scale energy weapon that is unaffected by atmospheric beam dissipation was ever developed, combat will go through a huge paradigm shift because all current shielding technology is designed to repel kinetic weaponry, hence the term "kinetic barrier".
The Collectors apparently have done exactly that with their Collector Particle Beam heavy weapon. This is ignored in game for balance purposes - the Collector Particle Beam still has to eat through shields before hitting any ceramic armor or fleshy stuff. Partially justified in that it's shooting particles as opposed to electromagnetic energy, and your kinetic barriers can still protect you from any high energy particles that have mass, such as plasma and even deadly radiation from a dying sun.
Shipboard laser weapons do exist, and are no less powerful than kinetic weapons (plus they ignore kinetic barriers): their main disadvantage is their range. Light refraction causes lasers to attenuate rapidly, while (as explained above) kinetic weapons can keep going for damn near forever. This means that GARDIAN lasers are very effective against fighters, and in short range "knife fights" between larger ships, but have effective ranges tens of thousands of kilometers shorter than larger kinetic weapons.
It runs out that the Derelict Reaper, the only known Reaper to have been killed in combat by a civilisation before Sovereign, was gunned down in a single shot by an ''enormous'' Mass Accelerator. The round proceeded to cut through the target and sliced a ten-thousand-kilometre long gash in the side of a planet.
In the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3, you can get your hands on an assault rifle from Mass Effect 1 that uses the first game's cooldown mechanic (i.e. no heat sinks) yet has been modified to pack a punch of modern (i.e. ME3 standards) weapons. Thus, you have a weapon with virtually unlimited ammo but can't fire it in long bursts.
The Fallout series gives the player access to energy weapons, but kinetics are the weapon of choice. And there's a wide choice, from hand-thrown spears to the electromagnetic minigun (Fallout Tactics).
In the second game the Salvatore gang in New Reno is widely known and feared for its exclusivity of use of the energy weaponry supplied by the Enclave. People in the game even said that a one thug with a simple laser pistol wiped out an entire squad armed with regular weapons. But it's quite an opposite in the game — early energy weapons do barely any damage, and they do almost nothing to metal armor-wearing opponents. This is evident, for example, if you start a gunfight in the Salvatores' bar — The supposedly strong thugs with laser pistols do no damage to you, while a bartender with ye olde double-barreled shotgun does 20 times more damage than them.
Fallout 3 (without expansion packs at least) plays this trope much more straight than the previous games. Small arms are better than laser weapons, and even the late-game plasma weapons aren't a big improvement, have much more common ammo, and have a huge selection of weapons from short ranged devastators like combat shotguns to long ranged sniper rifles. The unique alien raygun is good, but so are many unique small arms like the Lincoln's repeater.
However, as the game progresses this trope is averted. Plasma weapons become more available as does their ammunition. If the PC acquires A3-21's Plasma Rifle this weapon is easily a match for the damage and effectiveness of any conventional firearm. Also if expansion packs come into play the Metal Blaster Laser Rifle is a match for the most powerful shotguns while the Gauss Rifle is a devastatingly potent energy weapon that can challenge the best sniper rifles for damage potential. The alien Destabilizer, MPLX Novasurge Plasma Pistol, Microwave Emitter, and Tri-Beam Laser Rifle are also very powerful energy weapons.
The Alien Blaster is available in Fallout 1 and 2 as well. Its ammunition is reasonably common in Fallout 2, and it is one of the better weapons in the game, being as fast as the Gauss pistol, with a much larger clip and a higher maximum damage (but a larger damage variance). It does adhere to the trope in that it is fairly inaccurate.
Fallout: New Vegas works more to put energy weapons and regular guns are equal footing, as it has perks and several high-tier energy weapons that are among the best guns in the game. Even default energy weapons will often have a Damage Threshold reduction effect, which means that they do more of their full damage to heavily armoured targets such as robots or deathclaws. The only serious problem you may encounter when using energy weapons is that both guns and ammunition are uncommon and expensive.
In Ufo Afterlight, Earth technology based projectile weapons have better stats than laser-based weapons and electricity-based weapons. And all other ranged weapon types become unwieldy heavy weapons in human hands. Your main opponents also use primarily projectile weapons, but tend towards Abnormal Ammo.
Although, like every other game in the afterblank series, the best weapon depends on the enemy. Projectile weapons are either decent or great against most enemies, which is why they are universally favored, but lasers are exceptional against robots and enemies susceptible to fire, and plasma weapons are devastating to most enemies with shields (which are not designed to defend against plasma). More specialized weapons have more specific applications. In all three games, for example, warp weapons are murderous against armored foes and almost completely useless against unarmored foes (since there's not enough mass to warp).
In the first game, while energy-based weapons don't have particular weaknesses, in their tech class, particle/ammo-based weapons halve the effectiveness of shields. A side effect of this is that projectile weapons take longer to become ineffective due to the onward march of technology.
In Master of Orion II both types have their advantages: artillery have fixed damage and always can get Auto Fire and Armor Piercing (also gives early Critical Hits) modifications while beam weapons have damage decreasing with range, but also special properties like extra destructive effects or Shield Piercing.
In Front Mission the only instance of energy weapons are from orbital lasers and in 4 where laser weapons were developed at last. Most of the time however, Wanzers relied on smoothbore guns, grenade launchers, antitank rifles and autocannons. The Siege Rifle is essentially a giant railgun for Wanzer use.
There was also the secret experimental beam weapons in Front Mission 3. One of which was on an enemy mech, the other could be gotten through a secret code used on the in-game internet. It did tremendous damage, but the fact is you wouldn't be very skilled with it due to how late in the game you got it and it was difficult to fire due to it's high AP cost. Pretty though.
It's more accurate to say that energy weapons are useless against small ships. Those ion beams and plasma launchers of bombers, are very effective against frigates and capital ships.
However, in Cataclysm, Somtaaw engineers manage to develop an energy weapon system that specializes in destroying fighters and other small craft. Unfortunately, Somtaaw either doesn't share this technology or the Hiigarans promptly forget it since it isn't present in Homeworld 2.
Darkest of Days future weapons are just BFGs. Interestingly, the sniper rifles from historical wars are more accurate than the future gun, which is affected by wind and gravity, but historical rifles aren't.
In End War the JSF (America)'s WMD is a Kinetic Strike from the Freedom Star space station. Basically a large metal rod fired from space. The trailer shows 3 rods being fired at Paris to defeat the Russian forces overwhelming an American battle group.
The Half-Life series simultaneously plays this trope straight and averts it while providing justifications for both. Energy weapons are repeatedly shown to be horrifically powerful (the Tau Cannon and Gluon Gun in Half-Life, the former capable of destroying tanks and helicopters, and Combine Dark Energy weaponry in Half-Life 2 and its Episodes) and also the epitome of Awesome, but Impractical, requiring enormous amounts of radioactive fuel to function. As a result, while every faction (the player included) uses kinetic weapons almost exclusively, energy weapons are still used in situations that require a Bigger Stick and/or when the requisite fuel is readily available.
The Gravity Gun manages to count as both — on one hand, it's plainly an energy weapon (a zero point energy-powered weapon in fact); on the other hand, its "ammo" is decidedly material. It also averts the drawback energy weapons had in the first game by requiring no external power whatsoever, due to an extradimensional crystal.
Kinetic weapons makes up a substantial minority of the weapon options found in Sword of the Stars, where they are favored by the Hivers, Zuul and Tarka. Kinetic weapons deal more damage and generally have longer ranges than energy weapons (though less so than missiles and torpedoes) and cause their targets to veer of course from the force of the impact. The game's premier anti-planet weapon, Siege Drivers, are also kinetic. Kinetic weapons are, however, wildly inaccurate without targeting tech and deflectable by armor technology, fire more slowly than energy weapons, and up until Argos Naval Yard lacked the late-level exotic weapon variants that you could get up the energy weapons tree.
The latest expansion, however, did introduce the Rail Cannons, two or three of which are mounted on Impactor cruisers and six (or seven... or ten for Liir) on Impactor dreadnoughts. Their decent enough reload rate makes them deadly against most ships. The only way to avoid being destroyed by these is to use deflectors (type of shield that blocks all kinetic weapons) or shield projectors.
Even with the shields, the target ship still gets pushed by the impact. This can either cause the ship to collide with another object (such as a planet) or be pushed in such a way that the shield no longer protects it (deflectors only protect from frontal assaults).
The sequel adds another nuance to shipbuilding and gameplay that further murks up the waters - power requirements. Ship's systems and weapons must now share a power source, which means Beam Spam may no longer be an option for some designs as exceeding power availability causes reduction in rate of fire. This means that kinetic weapons, which require significantly less power, are once again an attractive option, although the new damage spread system shows that lasers offer better penetration than mass drivers. Also, kinetics have their own rate limiting factor, Supply. In the end the best way is still to make a balance of both.
In City of Heroes, you have access to a ridiculous number of ranged damage sets. Most of these are elemental or energy based, but three (Archery, Assault Rifle, and Dual Pistols) rely solely on kinetic weaponry. While firing a bow and Arrow isn't as cool as Playing with Fire, the Weapon Sets certainly aren't starving for damage. They also have a unique advantage in the fact that their "Nuke" powers don't leave their users exhausted.
In Galactic Civilizations, mass drivers are one of three choices you have for weapon tech paths, along with missiles and energy weapons. Which one was better depends on what form of defenses your enemies are using - shields defend against energy weapons, point defence protects ships from missiles, and plain old armour plating stops mass drivers. Mass drivers' advantage is being the cheapest option, if the second bulkiest after missiles.
In the X-Universe series, the Mass Driver allows you to destroy hulls of enemy ships, bypassing shields (and non-capital ships usually have weak hull, relying almost completely on shields). They use almost no energy, and their projectiles travel at very decent speed. To finish it off, let's remember that any hull damage inflicted on a ship may result in loss of equipment (including weapons and cargo) and can inflict penalties on their speed. Its main downsides are that you need to buy ammo for it (whereas energy weapons are powered by your ship's reactor), and that it is strictly a fighter-size weapon: you can kill a capital ship with it through the shields, but it takesFOREVER.
On the other end of the weapon spectrum is the Gauss Cannon, an anticapital weapon that is described in fluff as a coilgun. It does more hull damage than any other weapon in the game. It's also popular among players for the fact that it can be mounted on the flank turrets of the Shrike frigate, which lets it take on full size capital ships.
In general, ammo-using weapons are liked by some players because they allow ships to maintain a high rate of fire for longer since they don't draw on the ship's energy reserves (when they run out, ROF for energy weapons drops to about half, depending on the ship and weapon). On the flip side, other players prefer energy weapons because you don't have to stock ammunition, which in fleet-scale applications involves constructing an entire supply chain including factories. And when a a kinetic weapon runs out of ammo, it stops firing entirely, whereas an energy weapon-armed ship with depleted energy reserves will keep firing at a reduced rate.
Standard Weapons in System Shock 2 are superior in most respects to weapons falling under other categories such as Energy, Heavy, or Exotic. Whichever character class you start off with, you will almost certainly be using a Wrench, which counts as a Standard Weapon in terms of damage but does not have any skill requirements. Unlike other weapon categories, every single Standard Weapon is highly useful: the Pistol, Shotgun, and Assault Rifle are all powerful and versatile weapons that are capable of handling a wide variety of opponents, especially with specialized anti-armour or anti-personnel bullets. All of them use ammunition that is widely available and, with the exception of the Assault Rifle, have comparatively low requirements for their use. Two of the three classes start off with level 1 Standard Weapons by default (which they can then raise to level 3 with one of the prologue assignments). Unless following a specific play style by choice, it's pretty hard to justify not choosing one of the Standard Weapons as your primary weapon
Actually player can find ammunition quite scarce and without restrictions character development system the energy weapons using energy restored by power stations could be really life-saving. In the first game the energy weapons were very important alternative to bashing enemies with lead pipe in the first half of the game... Nevertheless the "boring" Scorpion submachine gun was arguably the most effective weapon.
In Vega StrikeMagnetic Weapons are the most power-efficient weapons, have decent rate of fire and do some shield-bypassing damage, so they are good choice, though mostly in close combat. Same for rockets, and they don't even use ship's energy. Lasers usually pierce shields better, don't need ammo, and hit at a greater range, but eat lots of power and can be installed only on heavy fighters and larger combat vessels. Their shield-bypassing properties also make them very annoying when going up against Luddites: their low-caliber mass drivers aren't very deadly, but almost guaranteed to make the player pay for armor repair.
Contra for the NES invokes this on accident. The Laser Gun powerup is almost useless because firing a second shot will instantly erase the first shot from the screen. Thus, firing rapidly will reduce your gun to little more than a laseriffic chainsaw.
Starcraft contains a general balance between energy weapons and kinetics (although energy weapons make up a disproportionately larger portion of the very high end attacks). The Protoss rely pretty much entirely on energy weapons (including energy melee weapons), but they are pretty balanced against the bullet and missile wielding Terrans and the claw and acid-spit-or-something wielding Zerg.
In Star Trek Online, this is a major component of early space combat. Use your energy weapons to knock down shields then use kinetic weapons (photon torpedoes) to deliver the deathblows. Phasers will do around 100 damage to the hull of an enemy ship, a torpedo can easily go over 2000 damage.
In OGame, a browser game where you basically control a space empire, there is a Gauss Cannon. It apparently fires high-density metal bullets that weigh several tons in a railgun fashion, creating so much concussion that the ground nearby shakes and a huge sonic boom is created. And it is stronger than any other planet-mounted cannon sans the Plasma Turret, beating lasers.
In addition, the only ships that are described as having kinetic weapons are Bombers (plasma bombs) and Destroyers (has gauss cannons and plasma turrets). Death Stars however just use a graviton beam.
In Infinite Space, missiles, quantum torpedoes and the rail cannon, linear cannon and mass drivers of Escondido all bypass the deflector module, which blocks lasers and plasma.
Spectre, though set in an explicitly virtual environment, uses projectile weapons on all characters (including the player) that shoot.
Nitemare 3D. The pistol is the only weapon in the game that can hit a target instantaneously instead of waiting for a slow projectile to cross the room. In fact, what exactly is the advantage of the first two weapons, again?
It's intended to be ammo efficiency - your wand should drop magic-based enemies or your blaster tech-based ones using fewer shots than the equivalent in silver bullets. There are just enough bullets around that it doesn't matter much.
In The Conduit, although the Drudge and Trust weapons are extremely powerful, they tend to suffer from Crippling Overspecialization, as well as limited ammo supplies or other features often rendering them Awesome, but Impractical. Very often, you'll find yourself using plain old normal-tech human weapons, simply because they're much more versatile and more practical in most situations.
The sequel has some upgrade blurbs which make reference to this trope. However, it's obvious that they're told from a completely biased perspective and Played for Laughs.
Subverted in Star Ruler. At the start you only have kinetics, and early game energy weapons are power hogs that don't do much damage in return. As you research further, however, energy weapons become steadily more efficient, travelling at lightspeed means that they're near impossible to dodge, and you have Bottomless Magazines with them but not with kinetics, so a parity is eventually achieved.
Once matter generators are discovered, kinetic weapons become infinite ammo as well. Ultimately, it is left up to the player as to whether or not kinetic weapons are just better. Likely, at this point it will be a tie between the Muon Cannon, which ignores armor, and due to the high level of particle sciences required for a matter generator, very high damage, or the Plasma Cannon, which is higher damage due to the similar level of energy dynamics research required, but shorter range, and NOT armor piercing.
FTL: Faster Than Light is an interesting case. Missiles are able to pass through shields and attack the innards of ships. However, you only have a very limited supply of missiles, so most of the time missiles will be used to take out shields so your Beam Spam can carve apart the enemies ship.
Space Empires, having both types, has this in a way. Most energy weapons have the advantage of not requiring ordnance to be built into the ship, only supply (which is essential for any ship). However, the damage potential for energy weapons falls away as the target is more distant. Projectiles and missiles, however, do not, always dealing the same range of damage when they hit, no matter how far away the target is (provided they're not beyond the weapon's Arbitrary Maximum Range.)
Red Alert 3 plays this straight on an infantry level. For infantry, kinetic weapons are better because they're available! The only man-portable energy weapons are the electricity weapons on the Tesla Troopers (slow rate of fire and rather short-ranged, but devastating against vehicles and infantry) and the Tank-Busters who can easily carve up tanks with their plasma-cutters but do pretty poor damage against infantry. It also plays this straight for ant-air weapons, as missiles and auto-cannons are the best for shooting down aircraft. The Archer Maiden's arrows look like energy bolts but they're really ordinary arrows with a explosive shell for a tip and the Cryo Legionaire only get their anti-aircraft freeze ray if they are garrisoned in a Multi-gun Turret or IFV. For vehicles, this is trope is largely averted, all 3 factions use energy weapons for high-end units because in a world where mad science reigns supreme, energy weapons hit a lot harder. Nothing can match the firepower of the Giga-Fortress, Harbinger Gunship and the Shogun Battleship. And unlike other games, most artillery is energy-based (the Pacifier is kind of a hybrid, it fires bomblets that deliver protonic energy blasts) for reasons of heavier firepower or in the case of the Athen Cannon, better accuracy. Even for the tier 3 tanks, the Apocalypse Tanks dominates because of its "magnetic harpoon" tractor beam, in a pure gun to gun battle it'll barely survive against King Oni and only because it has a lot more health and regeneration. The Apocalypse Tank's twin 125mm cannons can't match the King Oni's particle beam for damage.
Zig-zagged in Sunrider, as the kenetic weapons are stronger than the lasers, but the lasers are much more accurate and have better range.
Remains true, somewhat humorously, for the various attachments for your Swiss-Army Weapon in Star Wars: Republic Commando. Of the three common attachments available, the only explicitly energy based one, the SMG equivalent, is the weakest. The sniper attachment fires metal bolts via an electromagnetic/plasma sheath system (similar to how Wookiee bowcasters work), and the anti-armor attachment simply spits a big armor-piercing grenade at a target. While they have less ammo overall, these attachments, along with a variety of specialty grenades, are substantially more useful than the SMG, which will often take an entire magazine just to put a dent in a SuperBattle Droid. The other energy weapon that you will usually have is your blaster pistol, but that's hardly worth the effort.
This strip has an explanation for why, in addition to energy weapons like Schlock's plasma cannons, ammo based pistols are so common.
A few days later, it also addresses the damage potential of "cee-sabot" weapons, large kinetic weapons traveling at relativistic speeds. RKVs (Relativistic Kill Vehicles) also turn up later in the story.
By Word of God (in the comments section of one page) the main weapons used in Terra are chemical-propellant firearms, despite the boxy, futuristic look and the fact that some of them produce unusual colors when fired.
The five star nations in The Pentagon War, particularly Sol, rely heavily on kinetic weapons, primarily electromagnetically-launched slugs and high-speed ramming missiles.
Behind the scenes, movies and TV shows will sometimes use actual weapons that have a design that looks "futuristic" enough, even though they are real life weapons and not dressed up props. Such examples include the P90, the FN F2000, and Vektor CP 1.
Memorably mentioned in Larry Elmore's Snarf Quest comic that used to run in DRAGON Magazine back in the 80's, when a group of space-travellers from a medieval fantasy world, posing as a rock band (it makes sense in context, trust me) angered a group of space miners, resulting in a high-speed chase with both parties exchanging gunfire; while the miners weren't too worried about the heroes' lasers, when Snarf pulled out his .357 Magnum (that he once killed a dragon with), they started to panic because "lasers'll burn ya, but them slug-throwers will rip yer head off!" The matter became moot, anyway, after the team wizard hit the miners with a Lightning Bolt spell, but still...
In both Star Wars and the Star Wars Expanded Universe blasters rule the day, but some groups use firearms, which are called slugthrowers, since they can be silenced, their rounds cannot be seen like blaster bolts (the former traveling significantly faster), can be made to be explosive/incendiary etc, can not be deflected with a lightsaber, and are cheaper.
I present you the ProtectorRevolver. Yes, Revolvers Are Just Better in the Star Wars verse, as it is very easy for this revolver in particular to pierce modern armor. Why would it be able to pierce armor? Well, it's often been said of the blaster that it increased the use of the slugthrower by making heavy body armor useless, thus dissuading people from making themselves bulletproof. Slugthrowers in general are also apparently more rugged and reliable, cause according to the wiki's page quote for slugthrowers:
Phloremirlla Tenk: Slugthrowers. I hate 'em. But they're easy to maintain. Day or two in the jungle and your blaster'll never fire again. A good slug rifle, keep 'em wiped and oiled, they last forever. The guerrillas have pretty good luck with them, even though they take a lot of practice—slugs are ballistic, y'know? You have to plot the trajectory in your head. Shee, gimme a blaster anytime."
In the dwelling of crossover fanfiction writers, a common argument is found raging endlessly. Star Wars vs. Halo. The main conflict comes from the argument that even though Star Wars tech is centuries ahead of UNSC and Covenant tech, a MAC round might completely ignore any and all Star Wars shielding. While Star Wars has ray shields to deal with physical projectiles, it's arguable that they were not designed with 3,000 ton slugs moving at 120,000 kilometers a second in mind (four tenths the speed of light).
Speculatively, small-arms laser weapons like those found in science fiction media are likely to remain quite inefficient compared to conventional (or unconventional) projectile weapons for some time. The power requirements are high, the ranges are short, the risks of blinding bystanders is high, the hardware is more vulnerable than a firearm's action, the list goes on. Kinetic weapons are also likely to remain useful into the future due to one very simple rule of the universe: anything will break if you hit it hard enough.
The most basic, ubiquitous kinetic weapon currently in use? Plain old firearms. A bullet fired from a handgun or rifle does damage to its target not by exploding, but simply by going really really fast. Every army on the planet uses them; arguably, there are more small arms and small-arms-ammunition deployed by the world's militaries than all other types of weapons combined.
The most popular rifle in the world? The Kalashnikov model 47, designed during the early days of the cold war. Additionally, the Colt 1911 is one of the world's most popular handguns, and was designed in the 1910s for use during WW1 and WW2. We haven't even developed firearms that are better than these and still worth the price, despite the advent of a lot of new military tech. It is probable that firearms will never truly disappear from the battlefield; they do their job far too well to ever be replaced. The aesthetics may change, and the size and power of the bullet may evolve, but the basic principle of propelling a solid projectile down a metal tube towards a target will remain the same.
The Armor-Piercing Fin-Stabilizing Discarding-Sabot (APFSDS) round, the standard anti-armor ammunition of the M1 Abrams tank and most other modern main battle tanks, is referred to by The Other Wiki as a Kinetic Energy Penetrator. It uses no explosives, and is merely a long arrow-shaped super-dense dart made of a tungsten or depleted uranium alloy which travels between 1,400 and 1,900 m/s (around Mach 4 to 5). It is specifically designed to penetrate the armor of the target vehicle: the resulting heat, spalling (breaking off of bits that make up the vehicle) and pressure wave generated by the projectile after it punches through vehicle armour is strong enough to kill or incapacitate crew members, or set off explosions in the tank's ammunition and fuel stores. It therefore requires a very high degree of accuracy, more so than other tank shells, and is considered a highly specialized round, moreso than older armour-piercing ammunition (which usually had an explosive component). HEAT rounds are still the preferred round of choice for killing anything lighter than a tank, though
APFSDS rounds will go all the way through a lightly armored vehicle, sometimes without doing any structural damage. On the other hand, the people inside the vehicle won't tend to take well to a supersonic dart blowing by them — assuming it doesn't hit onestraight on.
Although HEAT rounds are generally preferred for use against lighter vehicles, canister shot is just as effective against unarmoured vehicles or low-flying aircraft as it is against infantry. It's also particularly useful for knocking open holes in buildings, clearing barbed wire, or shredding vegetation.
There's some interest in creating Rods From God telephone pole-sized flechettes composed of ultradense material (probably tungsten) dropped from orbit. There is the issue with numerous treaties are in place to prevent the weaponization of space, including orbital weapon platforms. However the treaties only ban weapons of mass destruction and the rods from god are not defined as such under the treaty or international law. However if the system were ever to become a reality there is a chance an update to the treaties would ban its deployment.
The picture above is a round from the US Navy's prototype railgun, a weapon that uses electromagnetic fields instead of exploding gases, to propel projectiles to incredible speeds. It fired a shell at 10.64 MJ with a muzzle velocity of 2,520 m/s (over Mach 7), a good bit faster than even the above-mentioned state-of-the-art APFSDS tank rounds. The flare behind the projectile is not propellant — it is air that has been turned to plasma by the sheer amount of friction heat the slug creates. The expected performance for future railguns entering military service is a muzzle velocity over 5,800 m/s (Mach 17), accuracy enough to hit a 5 meter target over 200 nautical miles (370.4 km) away, and a fire rate of 10 shots per minute. Its damage per shot is expected to be roughly equivalent to a Tomahawk Cruise Missile, but each shot would be cheaper, not needing an engine, warhead or guidance system, and be much harder to intercept. The primary problem the Navy is facing is that the amount of energy rapidly wears out the "barrel" of the gun, with immense electromagnetic forces - the 'recoil' of the railgun - trying to push the rails apart, and friction and resistance generating a huge amount of heat. Also, while nuclear-powered warships shouldn't have much trouble generating the energy for the railgun, smaller vehicles like tanks would need to spend a lot of effort charging them up. So, for the immediate term railguns are Awesome, but Impractical.
Navy fired BAE systems prototype railgun in late Febuary 2012. Unlike previous models, this railgun is the first model that looks like something that might get mounted on a ship. 
The only weapons deployed on spacecraft to date were 23mm rapid-fire cannons mounted on the Soviet Almaz space stations (the military versions of their Salyuts).
Laser-guided concrete bombs are an example of purely kinetic weapons being just better than kinetic weapons that go BOOM. Need a target in an urban area destroyed while minimizing the collateral damage using shrapnel-and-blast-force-inducing high explosives? Just drop a slab of good old-fashioned concrete right on top of your pesky target. Who needs fancy high-explosive mixtures when you have the simple blunt force of a solid chunk of concrete dropped from the sky?
On top of the advantages for avoiding collateral damage, concrete is both cheaper and far safer to handle than high explosives are, making this a wonderful alliance of Rock and Laser.
These actually started out in the mid-20th century as cheap unguided training bombs until someone had the inspired idea of weaponizing them with the addition of a guidance system.
Modern missile interceptors like the Kinetic Energy Interceptor and THAAD rely on physically striking their targets to destroy them, rather than exploding. The reasoning is that proximity fuse detonations can't reliably knock out a missile, and the explosion risks scattering debris (like the warhead payload) over a wider area, and that's something you REALLY want to avoid when dealing with nuclear weapons.
This is how dual-stage anti-tank weapons such as the NATO Javelin work. Although they appear to destroy their targets through high-explosives this is not actually the case. They are composed of two warheads. The first warhead defeats the target's explosive reactive armour. The second warhead is a shaped charge that propels a kinetic energy penetrator through the hull and out the other side. Aside from the catastrophic impact damage, the pressure wave created effectively turns the crew to pulp.
Speaking of anti-tank weapons, the military has an on-again/off-again interest in developing a tube launched version of the APFSDS. One of the more reset versions is the LOSAT, simply a dense steel rod that gets accelerated up to Mach 6+, and then slammed into a tank.
Another advantage of kinetic weapons is the ballistic trajectory, which allows you to arc projectiles over obstacles (which is how mortars and artillery are used). Beam weapons fire straight, meaning you can't target things behind obstructions or at extreme long distances due to the curvature of the Earth itself. This has also been used to great effect by snipers who have, using bullet drop and the environment's wind speed, actually curved bullets into targets behind obstacles.
Long before that, slings, arrows, and early siege weaponry used the same arc to function as an early indirect weapon. They would also force warriors to consider the threat of death raining down on them, which can be devastating for maneuver.