Follow TV Tropes


Muzzle Flashlight

Go To
Might makes light! And I feel mighty!

Sometimes, games feature incredibly dark areas for you to traverse. Sometimes, the developers haven't given you an adequate flashlight, or perhaps you had one, but the batteries died a long time ago. How do you find your way now? Start blindly firing your weapons, of course! Your muzzle flash, glowing magic, or energy weapons are all you need to light the way, and can do so fairly well. Never mind that it could give away your position, since your enemies can probably all see in the dark anyway.

Also shows up, rarely, in a non-video game context, although usually the bit about "giving away your position" isn't as overlooked.

Not to be confused with flashlights mounted to weapons. Likely to involve a Darkened Building Shootout.


    open/close all folders 

    Action Adventure 
  • Older versions of Iji required this in the deep sector. The newest version made it less dark and thus unnecessary and firing the shotgun doesn't do anything to the light level anymore.
  • inFAMOUS pulls this one too: When you first pop into sewers, you generally have to go across a complicated platforming section in extreme low-light conditions... It's a good thing the main character glows in the dark whenever he uses his powers! ...Though it gets significantly harder if you're evil, since the red color just makes things harder to see.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, you can use your Ether medallion to temporarily show you where hidden paths are—you're supposed to light torches, but Ether is sometimes easier or more convenient, since you can use it anywhere.
  • Pistols in Tomb Raider can be fired in rapid succession when few or no flares remain. This is especially useful because most games in the series give pistols infinite ammo.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order: In dark areas, Cal Kestis can hold up his lightsaber to illuminate his path. This leads to an effective shock moment in a Nightmare Sequence where he ignites his saber to reveal a red blade and an Inquisitor uniform...

    Action Games 
  • Part of a level in Alien Soldier. Includes a boss fight and a rapid climbing section. Each gun illuminates the segment differently, which looks pretty neat.
  • Particularly easy to do with Dante, Trish, Nero and Lady in the Devil May Cry series, as the game grants you infinite ammo as a core gameplay mechanic and your starting guns are always a pair of rapid-fire pistols or a revolver.
  • In The Force Unleashed, Force lightning can be used as a light source.
  • Twin Caliber have plenty of shootouts in darkened areas, like basements or mine shafts, where your firearms are your sole source of illumination.

    First-Person Shooter 
  • The lightsaber Dragon Tooth Sword in Deus Ex glows in a small radius. It can be used as a poor man's lantern when your bio-energy is low.
  • In Doom, muzzle flash will (slightly) illuminate the entire visible area for a split second, letting the chaingun act almost like a short-length flare. This is invoked in the Doom Comic when Doomguy encounters a dark room.
  • In Marathon, shooting is the only way to see in dark rooms other than the extremely rare night vision powerups.
  • Last Rites takes place almost entirely in total darkness, with several levels indoors where the lights are out. Your only way to see the incoming zombies is by firing away at shapes in the dark.
  • In Left 4 Dead, most weapons generate more light when fired than your actual flashlight. SMGs and assault rifles in particular are most useful for this, being full-auto.
  • Operation: Matriarchy have plenty of shootouts in dark environments, with your weapon's gunfire being your sole source of illumination.
  • In Quake II, the player starts with the Blaster. This gun is very weak, but it doesn't use ammo and its projectiles are slow-moving and glow brightly. This combination makes it useful for lighting up the occasional dark corridor using the Blaster's shots as flares.
  • Some Star Wars games. Energy weapons AND lightsabers. What darkness?
    • The darkness in Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, is what. Manage those night-vision batteries well, 'cos you're gonna need 'em.
    • Back in the earlier portion of the Dark Forces Saga, darkness was a fairly common obstacle with three solutions: burn your batteries to power the headlight or night vision goggles, bumble around in the dark, or start firing your blaster pistol at random and see who comes by while you navigate the darkness. Thanks to the pistol's Boring, but Practical efficiency and the ubiquity of blaster ammo, this is not as stupid a suggestion as it might sound.
  • In Unreal, just about every projectile weapon has some sort of glow around its shots. The Bio Rifle's sticky projectiles can act as short-term flares, rockets can illuminate a large area for a brief moment, and the Dispersion Pistol can fire flare-like projectiles almost non-stop, as it recharges on its own. The Nali Chronicles fan-made campaign takes it one step further with spell flashlights: spells like lightning and fireball can produce considerable light that doesn't depend on how charged the spell is (so you can use as little charge as necessary to make it count as a spell and not a failed casting), and your Mana Meter recharges on its own given a bit of time.
  • This could be done in the Metroid Prime Trilogy, although it's not awfully necessary, especially after getting certain visors. Charging your weapon also provides light.
  • Bit of a twist on it in Halo with the Plasma Pistol — the flashlight has a habit of running flat even when they supposedly made it an Infinite Flashlight in Halo 2 and Halo 3, so charging up the plasma pistol to get the muzzle glow can solve the problem (except in 3, where this slowly consumes ammo to counter the previous game's "Noob Combo"). This is especially helpful in 2's Arbiter levels, as he lacks a flashlight in place of active camouflage. From Halo: Reach and onward, the Energy Sword emits a blue light that can act as a lantern as long as the sword has power.
  • Only three weapons in Killing Floor have an attached flashlight, and most of the default maps are rather dark, so this trope is common. Taken to the extreme with the Firebug's weapons, all of which can set specimens on fire to both continuously damage them and light them up for other teammates to see them better.
  • In Half-Life: Opposing Force, the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon provides a shitload of illumination, which is especially useful in the Voltigore tunnels.
  • First Encounter Assault Recon's second expansion, Perseus Mandate, houses an interesting variant of the trope in the LP 4 Lightning Arc Weapon. You don't need to fire it to have light (not that you'll be firing it much even for a good reason); its muzzle glows a faint blue light when you have it equipped, and while it doesn't reach very far, it is enough to find your way around, and unlike the Sergeant's headlamp, it'll never go out, even when you're out of ammo for it. The effect is generally not very useful outside of the scary setpieces that temporarily rob you of your light.
  • Blood II: The Chosen is pretty good at this, especially with its Flare Gun; while hitting a wall or floor with one doesn't do much, embedding one in an enemy makes for a good lantern for as long as the flare (and the enemy it's attached to) lasts.

  • The official guide for Diablo II suggests using fire arrows or spells to scout ahead in dark areas.

  • Some of the jump puzzles in Guild Wars 2 contain darkened areas that are only very occasionally lit by brief, random flashes, making progression difficult. However, engineers armed with bombs can spam their attack skill to provide a near-constant light source.
  • Doable if less practical (due to greater cooldowns) in The Secret World presuming you've got a suitable loadout prepared, for the rare missions when you're navigating in darkness and want to conserve things like flares (regular permanent light sources become available once you no longer need them). A shade further away from this trope but still close to it, the projected targeting mechanism for some spells, while technically shedding no light before actually casting said spells, can be used to provide a sort of visual "sonar" suitable for fairly easy blind travel.

    Platform Games 
  • This is utilized in one of Eggman's stages in Sonic Adventure 2.
  • In Banjo-Tooie, you can use Fire Eggs to light up a dark maze over a Bottomless Pit instead of splitting up the characters so one keeps the light on, which you're supposed to do.
  • Mega Man 8: This is a secondary function of Grenade Man's weapon, the Flash Bomb. One of the puzzle areas in Sword Man's stage requires the use of the Flash Bomb to temporarily light the room, revealing colored tiles hidden in the background and the order in which Mega Man must press a row of corresponding switches at the end.
  • Spelunky has annoying dark stages where you have to carry a box of flares to see. Or if you have a shotgun or a pistol you can just keep firing it to light the place up.

    Role-Playing Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion you could turn practically any weapon into this; magical weapons glowed, plus any spell or enchanted armour could include the "light" effect which made the target give off light.
  • Dark Messiah has a "see in the dark" spell, but for those who don't like seeing in blue all the time, most spells and a few magical swords can be used as lights too. Lightning bolt is especially good at this.
  • Mass Effect 3 had some dark places where muzzle flashes could provide illumination (though Shepard and company would activate flashlights built into their guns if things got really dark). However, you wouldn't encounter any enemies until you got into areas with better illumination.
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, the now out-of-control Anchor could be used as a light source in some really dark areas in the Trespasser DLC. You had to keep discharging it anyway, since otherwise the energy buildup would start damaging you.

    Shoot 'Em Ups 
  • In Jungle Strike's night level, pretty much the only lighting comes from weapon fire.
  • Star Fox 64 has an underwater level that has little light, and your bombs are replaced by an unlimited supply of glowing torpedoes.
  • In Nuclear Throne, projectiles from bullet and shell weapons (assault rifles, shotguns, etc.) as well as explosions and fire-based projectiles can help to light up the Sewer and Crystal Cave areas, both of which restrict visibility with a Fog of War,note  Ironically, energy projectiles and explosions don't cause this effect at all.

    Stealth Based Games 

    Survival Horror 
  • The Toy Sword in Dead Rising emits a red-pink glow at night, which is supposedly extremely useful for SDTV players because the game was designed to play on an HDTV and it becomes very difficult to see anything at night on an SDTV.
  • Seeing all four endings in Afraid of Monsters: Director's Cut unlocks an assault rifle with infinite ammo. Consider how dark the game normally is, and one can imagine its primary use. Its Spiritual Successor Cry of Fear features a similar unlockable for beating Nightmare mode, with a similar ability to light things up.
  • In Alien: Isolation, the burning rag of a Molotov cocktail or the pilot light of the flamethrower can substitute reasonably well for the flashlight, being shorter-ranged but less conspicuous and needing no resources to work like the flashlight needs batteries.

    Turn-Based Tactics 
  • X-COM: UFO Defense has incendiary grenades and rounds for some weapons, that spray fire over a wide radius and provide much better illumination than the hand-thrown "electro-flares" intended for the job. Thanks to the hitscan mechanics, this ended up being their primary use.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Guns in Terraria provide small amounts of light when shot, as do the bullets. Granted, there are melee weapons which do the same thing better for no ammo. Using the early-game 'Meteor' armor set and the 'Space Gun' weapon results in a Slow Laser pistol with Bottomless Magazines, just the thing to light up dark underground corridors and perhaps get a few early shots on enemies.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, the first time Yugi sees Panik's monsters is when his dragon fireballs them.
  • Macross: Do You Remember Love?: The climax of the duel between Max Jenius and Miriya Fallyna has them fly into a ship's corridor, and all of the lights get shot out by stray bullets. The rest of the battle is in complete darkness save for muzzle flashes briefly illuminating the two mechs, in one of the most visually striking sequences in the film.

  • The Dead Alewives comedy group has a famous sketch featuring Dungeons & Dragons players. One of them casts Magic Missile at the darkness ahead of him, which reveals an elf.

    Comic Books 
  • A scene in the infamous Doom comic has Doomguy using the muzzle flare of his shotgun to illuminate the Chemical Plant area. When he finds the light switch, it turns out he accidentally shot all the Pinkies guarding the area.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Brief strobelight-esque illumination occurs when Clarice kills Buffalo Bill at the end of The Silence of the Lambs.
  • One scene in Equilibrium is lit entirely by muzzle flashes. Although the characters don't really need to see in order to fight.
  • A variant in Saw. In a flashback, Adam has to use his camera flash to try and see if there's an intruder in his apartment when the power gets cut. Said intruder captures him.
  • Used in Alone in the Dark (2005) for a scene where they're fighting shadow monsters in a darkened sewer/abandoned gold mine.
  • The initial shootout of The Raid starts when a SWAT officer fires a shotgun into an opening while the group was stacked up, revealing their position to a patrol of heavily-armed gangsters on the opposite hallway, who proceed to riddle them with bullets while they're out in the open.
  • The Fritz Lang movie Ministry of Fear (1944) has a climactic shootout with Nazi spies on a stairwell lit only by their muzzle flashes. The scene where Carla shoots Willi is another example — Willi slams a door shut, followed by Carla pulling the trigger inside a darkened room, with light shining through the sudden hole in the door. Willi is dead on the other side.
  • Apollo 18: One of the astronauts ventures into a pitch-black crater to search for a Russian cosmonaut who he believes to be in danger. He doesn't have a torch and has to make do with a camera flash, which adds extra drama to the moment when he stumbles upon the cosmonaut's dead body.

  • The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden resorts to this in Blood Rites after Lord Raith turns off the lights. It works better than Harry expected — he manages to shoot Raith through the gut, stopping the vampire king for a full minute and depleting the last of his non-renewable energy reserves and leaving him helpless before his long-abused daughter Lara.
  • A Mortal Kombat novel had Liu Kang using his fireballs as a means of lighting the area in the dark.
  • Jedi in the Star Wars Expanded Universe and Legends occasionally use their lightsabers for this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "Flesh and Stone", a squad of soldiers use this against attacking Weeping Angels when the lights of the corridor they're in must be turned off for several seconds in order for the Doctor and River to get a door open, and the group had earlier lost their flashlights, leaving no other way to observe the enemy.

    Tabletop Games 
  • A few flaming weapons in GURPS: Dungeon Fantasy have the effect of a torch when active.
    • And in Tactical Shooting firing guns in the dark can cause temporary blindness.
  • Quite a few magic weapons in Dungeons & Dragons have a visible glow equal to or greater than that of a torch or lantern, like Flameblades, the Mace of Disruption, and the Sun Blade.

  • In Goblins, Dellyn Goblinslayer uses the Magic Fang spell in this way - he's trapped in a lightless sewer, and the spell makes the sword glow.
  • Referenced and taken to extremes in Schlock Mercenary: the crew are exploring a planet-sized space station where even the docking bay is so huge that the ship's exterior lights provide no illumination of consequence. The ship's AI notes that only their high-yield missiles would be of any help for looking around, a theory which the crew are... all too enthusiastic to try out.

    Web Original 
  • In Freeman's Mind Gordon at one point muses on how lucky he is that he doesn't have a Ten-Second Flashlight, as otherwise he'd have to navigate via this trope which has its own problems.
  • This trope as used by Alone in the Dark (2005) has been parodied by both The Nostalgia Critic and Atop the Fourth Wall. Nostalgia Critic parodied it when reviewing the movie with Linkara and Spoony, and Linkara parodies it when review Doom. Both parodies have themselves and other Channel Awesome contributors firing randomly in a dark space, often killing random characters and contributors in the process, such as Todd in the Shadows, Mati, and Chester A. Bum, perfectly lampshading how the very concept is inherently stupid and impractical.
  • Astartes: Used to great effect during the Astartes' boarding due to the omnipresent dim lighting. One notable instance has a Space Marine stopping just before the target zone of an anti-tank gun and shows up next to the gunner, Double Tapping him.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television: The muzzle flash of a good number of weapons is just plain ludicrous. A Mosin-Nagant's flash can leave burn marks, if you are stupid close. The Mini-14 sans flash suppressor can produce a flash as long as the rifle itself.
  • This trope can be a disadvantage in combat, particularly at night, since large muzzle flashes can potentially blind the shooter and/or give away their position. Some ammunition makers try to avert this by offering rounds with powder that is specifically designed to minimize flash.
  • It is said famous brazilian cangaço outlaw Lampião got his nom-de-guerre (which means "Oil Lamp") from his fame as a rapid-fire shooter, who always lit up the night with his shots.