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Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future

Welcome to the future. It may come used or perhaps come standard with shiny towers and crystals, but when it come to warfare, there's one very good indication that your Space Marines aren't just Super Soldiers with assault rifles. They will instead wield something not unlike a large metallic brick.

Put simply, Our Weapons Will Be Boxy in the Future is the tendency for more "advanced" weapons in near-future and Sci-Fi to be Handwaved as "more advanced" or made of exotic, lightweight materials and yet be large, clumsy, rectangular, boxy things much larger than modern-day arms. This is probably based on the fact that many modern weapons use molded plastics with rounded rectangular shapes and smooth curves. At the most exaggerated extent in fiction, guns resemble rectangular prisms and melee weapons tend towards square profiles and right angles.

The most recognizable of modern compact weapons (Steyr AUG, FN P90, H&K G11) were given final form during The Eighties, when boxy, plasticky shapes and textures were the norm in industrial design, so they may look a bit Zeerusty by the present day.

Often used in videogames, since boxy shapes are particularly easy to render.

On the Sliding Scale of Shiny Versus Gritty, this trope tends towards the latter, but not always. "Enlightened" civilizations may still keep their boxy arms around as a symbol of older times or as a realist answer of how they keep the peace. If the Enlightened civilization has an active military, expect these Space Elves to use vaguely iPod-shaped weapons.

Depending on how effective these weapons are in their respective setting, they may also be Cool Guns.

Production design note: a lot of the futuristic weapon props that are actually fired on-screen are by necessity real world guns put in plastic shells. This might go a long way to explain the origins of the trope.

See also Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better and High-Tech Hexagons. When you apply this trope to spacecraft, the result is the ISO Standard Human Spaceship.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • While most (non-mecha) guns in Macross Frontier look more or less similar to modern weapons, the heavy rifles carried by EX-Gear troops definitely play this trope straight.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 plays with this trope, occasionally playing it straight, with the likes of the Seravee's GN Bazookas, and even the mecha itself (being that mecha are weaponry, and all), but also completely averts this with the likes of the Ahead and Alvaaron, and falls somewhere in-between with the 00 Raiser, which has a mixture of square weaponry (GN Sword III's gun part) and sleek, pointy things.
  • Averted by the Seburo Arms line of fictional guns used in the shared universe (including Ghost in the Shell) made by Shirow Masamune. Most of the guns actually look quite curvy, and some plain looks like a fictional version of FN P90.
    • The Seburo C-25a is rather on the boxy side though.

    Comic Books 
  • Initially averted in Judge Dredd. The original lawgiver looks like a typically Zeerusty 1970s sci-fi pistol. The Mark II variant and the Widowmaker shotgun amongst other weapons play it straight.

    Film 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Several of the phaser designs that The Federation uses on Star Trek (especially from TNG onward) fit this mold, most noticeably the phaser rifle.
  • A modern-day example in Special Unit 2. The weapons used by the titular agency's operatives are big blocky pistols with interchangeable ammunition (from regular bullets to shots capable of blowing up a building). In the pilot, Kate tries to arrest Nick and takes his weapon. Nick warns her of the weapon's "infrared hairline trigger" and, predictably, it goes off a split-second later, blowing up a car.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Even the lasgun used by the standard human soldiers of the Imperial Guard ranges, depending on depiction, from fairly bulky to hugely cumbersome. Notables include:
    • The Imperium's Bolters, boxy, huge weapons firing rocket-assisted armor-piercing explosive rounds. The shotgun is even more rectangular. Ogryn Ripper Guns need to be big and metallic, as they are designed to withstand their users wielding them as clubs.
    • Extends to Imperial tanks too. Just look at the Rhino APC, which fans of the franchise have dubbed "Metal Bawkeses" in honor of Chaos Lord Carron.
    • The Tau's Pulse Weaponry. About as boxy as it gets. Definitely overlaps with Cool Guns, though. Tau weaponry is awesome.
    • Averted with the Eldar. Most, if not all of their weapons have sleek, organic appearances in comparison to the other races.
    • Ork weapons and vehicles tend to be boxy, since most of them are scavenged from Imperial weapons, and are ramshackled to what ever they can find and piece together.
    • Gets averted in the tabletop RPGs, however. As Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader were designed around semi-civilian characters first, the "mass produced by the billions daily" Imperial Guard and Astartes weapons were higher-tier equipment while starting guns were somewhat more familiar looking and using simple ammunition, most of which existed in lore but was rarely if ever depicted in artwork or miniatures previously.
  • Several weapons in Rifts, where the boxy barrel coverings are stated to contain heavy-duty cooling systems for laser and plasma weapons. Rifts tends to cover the whole spectrum; some examples, like most Wilks guns, look more like Nintendo Zappers and are quite sleek. Coalition weaponry, for the most part, also tends to resemble modern firearms.
  • Some of the advanced weapons in Shadowrun, especially the various Ares laser weapons. This can also depend on the artist, since the drawings of the guns are inconsistent from edition to edition and even different sourcebooks in the same edition.
  • Traveller features a blend of modern and futuristic-looking (the latter occasionally boxy) slug-throwers. And many laser weapons are even bulkier than 40K weapons, of course, weight is one of the balance factors for energy weapons in the game (laser rifles weigh twice as much as modern assault rifles).
  • In BattleTech, a fair number of weapons a 'Mech uses are boxy, and many 'Mechs themselves are also box shaped. Probably taken to its extreme in the Yeoman, a 'Mech resembling three boxes on legs. There are some aversions, such as the pleasantly human-shaped Firestarter and the vaguely velociraptor-like Black Python.
  • Boxy and square is the design motif of small arms in the oppressive totalitarian future that is Feng Shui's 2056 A.D.. They're also more concealable than modern weapons. Go figure.
  • Mobile Frame Zero: A lot of the human guns in the corebook are chunky pieces of kit...as are a lot of the human mechs, especially the Solar Union's workhorse Chub. Of course, those devices are usually either directly Built With LEGO, or are artist's impressions of what the LEGO represents, but either way, they're very rectangular devices. Averted with the Ijad, however, whose Spider Tanks use a lot of curved components.

    Video Games 
  • As seen above, StarCraft. The Gauss Rifle used by the marines is somewhat of a BFG, but especially in its updated incarnation, is almost a perfect rectangle. It makes sense since Terran Power Armor is equally huge and isn't good at delicate hand movements. Oddly, however, the gauss rifle can be effectively wielded without wearing Powered Armor. Somewhat averted, however, with Ghost gauss rifles, which are much smaller and resemble much more large-bore modern assault rifles.
    • The Thor is a walking cluster of boxes (that folds up into a box when airlifted). The Siege Tank and the Battlecruiser are also boxier in the second installment, which is a bit baffling as the faction can produce streamlined designs like the Hellion, the Banshee, and the Diamondback.
  • Saints Row 2 has the AR-50 assault rifle, and while technically the game isn't set in the future, the weapon itself is a prototype developed by the Ultor Corporation.
  • Battlefield 2142: Despite being made of "advanced polymers", some of the weapons are outrageously boxy and larger than their modern-day counterparts. Examples: [1] [2] [3] [4]. Interestingly, the unlocked weapons which are often more popular tend to more closely resemble real guns.
  • Doom's BFG9000 is bulky, boxy, and very BIG with many smaller boxy parts on it. There's also the Plasma Rifle, basically a boxy assault rifle-like weapon with an accordion barrel.
  • Perfect Dark. Some of the game's "modern" weapons fall under this trope. Extra credit to the Laptop Gun, which looks exactly like you'd expect it to.
  • Dystopia Inverts this by making the least advanced weapon, the Assault Rifle, look like a long box with a handle. However, it's played straight with the Bolt Gun.
  • Red Faction: Guerrilla does a good boxy gun. It does several good boxy guns. Boxiest would be the assault rifle, which looks like it hasn't been unpacked from the box it came in. [5]
  • Most of the weapons in Mass Effect 2 follow this trope, particularly the krogan Claymore shotgun, the design of which resembles a cinder block with a trigger.
  • Iji: your held weapon and the weapons held by the enemies are all some form of black box. The ten different weapons you can pick up on the ground (which get "downloaded" into your black boxy gun) zig-zag and downplay the trope, especially the slender and filigree Cyclic Fusion Ignition System.
  • Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas. The laser pistol and rifles in both games are basically rectangular boxes with a handle and trigger attached to the bottom. They don't even come with sights, by default. Compare a conventional minigun to the futuristic "Gatling Laser," and judge for yourself which is the boxiest.
    • Fallout 3 had a very clear aesthetic dichotomy between laser and plasma weapons, laser weapons were wholly this trope while plasma weapons were just the opposite, being cylindrical "needles" with wires and glowing diodes jutting out everywhere. New Vegas broke this pattern by reintroducing more conservative plasma weapons from older games, and also adding the strange-looking "recharger" laser weapons.
  • Baroque has very boxy weapons, including a gun where the only round part would be the space between the shaft and the rest.
  • Due to an error in the update for Tower Madness (version 1.4), the graphic rendering for level 2 flamethrower turned into a giant box of doom.
  • Averted with Half-Life 2's Combine Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rife, aka the AR2. It looks high tech and futuristic, but isn't boxy. Despite its shiny appearance, it's used by the Bad Guys.
  • SiN Episodes: Emergence gives us the Magnum, Blade's default weapon. The front is so heavy and square that Blade even uses it as a melee weapon.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution feature the boxy Sanction Flechette assault rifle, Widowmaker combat shotgun and Eraser sniper rifle. While the only boxy part of the standard Diamondback revolver is its cylinder, the Laser Sight and explosive round upgrades make the top and bottom of the barrel somewhat more boxy.
    • Human Revolution's Widowmaker, Eraser, and Diamondback revolver make a cameo in Team Fortress 2 (the sniper rifle renamed the "Machina"). Since Team Fortress 2 (late 60s-70s) takes place 60 years before Human Revolution (2027), these weapons are easily the most futuristic in the former game, and are also unquestionably the most boxy when compared to the starting weapons.
    • The pistol from the original Deus Ex falls under this. The rest of the weapons avert this.
  • Speaking of which, the most chronologically modern weapon available to the Soldier in Team Fortress 2 is actually the Black Box which, true to its name, is a huge black cuboid with grips; it's based on the M202 FLASH napalm rocket launcher, which was produced in 1978. His 'futuristic' Cow Mangler energy cannon is pleasantly curved and not the least bit gritty.
  • Played straight and inverted and double subverted in Halo games. Human weapons and ships, which are primarily kinetic, are boxy and practical. Covenant plasma weapons are curved, colorful, ornate, and some what inefficient. Forerunner laser weapons are once again boxy, though also ornate.
  • Borderlands 2 has Tediore weapons, which look like square, grey lumps of plastic (unless you go higher up the rarity scale, when they become blue and later a stunning black). Justified, since they are designed to be extremely cheap, disposable guns, making embellishments counterproductive. Bandit guns are also very boxy; they are literally jury-rigged guns held together by duct tape and wire, so the lack of complex construction would also make sense. Certain Dahl guns can be boxy (mostly the SMGs). Hyperion weapons are more trapezoidal than boxy, but they have notably flat surfaces for most of the bodies and scopes of their guns.
    • This is also subverted. Guns are made up of sets of parts, and while each individual part follows the aesthetics of its manufacturer, guns can have many different combinations of brands (affecting the weapon's stats in the process). Maliwan parts are very round, but there's nothing stopping a Maliwan gun from having a Tediore barrel or vice-versa.
  • The New Conglomerate in both PlanetSide games do not believe in curves. The only curve found on any of their equipment are on their helmets, and on the banana magazines on some of their weapons. Their Vanguard tank, in particular, looks like it was designed using only a straight edge. The Terran Republic on the other hand uses a large amount of swooping lines on all their equipment (despite using less advanced weaponry than the NC's gauss technology), and the Vanu Sovereignty aesthetic is best described as insect-like, with complicated overlapping armor segments.
  • It's probably no surprise that Titanfall has its share of boxy weapons in a futuristic setting. Anti-personnel guns-in game are only slightly boxier than real life, though the Hemlok BF-R rifle seems to be a deliberate homage to '80s sci-fi such as Aliens, Titans themselves are fairly boxy, and many of the Anti-Titan type weapons (especially the Charge Rifle) are extremely polygonal.
  • Command & Conquer: Renegade has several boxy weapons, and not just because of its somewhat primitive 3D modeling system. The visual lines of most of its weapons are extremely linear and squared-off. Basic guns such as the silenced pistol and the assault rifle are fairly square, but even the C4 is a big brick of explosives. The winner for sheer size and boxiness, however, is probably the infantry-portable ion cannon, which is comprised of half a dozen chunky boxes, a muzzle bore the size of commercial plumbing, and little else.
  • Justified in the XCOM: Enemy Unknown remake with the weapons reverse-engineered by the titular organization, since there's a war on, and aesthetic considerations are second to functionality. The plasma weapons carried by the aliens are a little more aesthetic, but they usually wouldn't be able to be carried by human soldiers without some major re-engineering (which is why weapons dropped by stunned aliens can't be used in the same battle; only after the XCOM engineers get their hands on them and adapt the design). Strangely averted in the Enemy Within DLC by EXALT laser weapons. Unlike XCOM designs, the EXALT versions look more like modern-day weapons but have the exact same stats as the XCOM versions. However, it's specifically mentioned when storming the EXALT HQ that the organization prefers form over function.

    Webcomics 

    Real Life 
  • The AA-12, more specifically the 2005 version.
  • The Kriss .45 is an experimental submachine gun that uses an innovative recoil system and unusual stock to make it a wonderful accurate and controllable weapon that is mostly square.
  • And its pistol brother the Kard which looks like it was pulled from the pages of Judge Dredd.
  • The MAC-10 machine pistol.
  • The HK G11. It also uses caseless ammunition, making it rather futuristic. It didn't catch on (too damn pricey) and is no longer in production.
    • The G11 PDW takes this and puts in pistol format.
  • The P90 is basically a rectangle with holes and curves in the bottom to form the grip.
  • And, of course, the PHASR. It's a less-lethal laser weapon.
  • Then there's the Ares FMG, a boxy submachinegun that folds into an innocent looking metal box, and it's Russian counterpart the PP-90.
  • Cascade gun prototype developed by Metal Storm Limited is actually a box on a tripod.
  • The UTS-15 tactical shotgun
  • The Tiger I tank is pretty much a box with treads and a turret.
    • It goes further. Many early and pre-World War II tanks were steel boxes. Germany simply retained the "steel box" design longer than everyone else, giving them the occasional joking name of "Fascist Boxes".
  • Steyr AUG averts this with a sleek, rounded shape. It is especially worth mentioning that contrary to this trope, it is often used on film when going for a futuristic-looking weapon.
  • The new SABRE 5.56mm upper for the MAC-10 (already literally a box with a smaller box on the bottom) makes it legitimately look like a gritty sci-fi box rifle.
  • Defense Distributed's 3-d printed handgun the "Liberator" is a plastic box on a pistol grip.
  • The U.S. Army's shelved Objective Individual Combat Weapon (OICW) project produced a gun that looks bulky and boxy enough for any future Space Marine.
  • Several pistols, such as the Glock or the H&K USP are boxy, if compact.
  • Infantry weapons in the United States seems to be beginning down this trend, with the XM25 grenade launcher and FN SCAR battle rifle.


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