Throw a rock at a ‘00s FPS game and you’ll hit a Deagle (not a beagle called Dean – I wouldn't throw a rock at Dean). Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Far Cry, Stalker, Half-Life, Serious Sam, Rainbow Six, Black – you name it, they have a Deagle. Some use different names like the Black Kite – to be fair, that’s far cooler – but the Deagle was the ‘00s answer to the Super Shotgun, the weapon that would make an appearance in nearly every FPS title of the era. Only the Deagle was less ordinary, being the equivalent of a hand cannon built entirely to rival the magnum, but that didn’t stop games like Far Cry and Half-Life: Opposing Force from slipping one into your hands from the get-go.
As soon as you walk out onto the mysteriously unnamed South Pacific island in Far Cry, you have to sneak around. You’re given a pair of binoculars to survey the area, marking enemies. There are clearly too many to run at with a pistol, no matter how much it thunders when you pull the trigger. In fact, it thundering when you pull the trigger is the exact problem—you’re trying to be stealthy. So you must take them out one by one, waiting for them to leave the group, then getting up behind them and bashing them with the butt of the gun instead. The Deagle is more of a fallback option should you end up having a couple left who spot you. Yet, ignoring all of that, I tend to rush right down to that first camp and blow them all back with bullets that swing like sledgehammers. I usually die, but it’s fun.
The Deagle is just too beefy, and handing me it at the start of any game will inevitably make me take it for a test drive. A good chunk of FPS games from that era felt the same, given that it kept cropping up and always had that signature horse kick when it came to firing, with a hard jolt for recoil and a blast that made the room vibrate. That was perfect for the ‘00s, since every FPS game was now playing around with physics, and getting hit with a shot from the Deagle was like being pounded by an AWP sniper (another hallmark ‘00s gun). Enemies ragdoll, flip, and contort, spinning around before rattling back into the wall—every time without fail.
The Deagle made its mark in Counter-Strike, becoming the go-to secondary due to its powerful range and instant headshot kill capabilities. It’s still popular in Global Offensive to this day. But Modern Warfare really cemented the Deagle as an iconic FPS weapon. You’re knocked out, dragged to a pillar, and then shot in the head with a golden Deagle. The image is striking, made even more powerful by how overkill it all is. Any gun could do the job, but a garish version of one of the strongest handguns is what’s used to finish you off. That sums up exactly why the Deagle was an FPS signature. It’s stupidly over the top and often impractical, given its clumsy size and ricocheting noise, but sending your enemies flying makes you feel like a one-man army.
With how much the FPS genre pulls from action movies, it’s no surprise that it liberally borrowed from its own signatures. The Deagle appeared in They Live, Austin Powers (another golden variant), The Boondock Saints, RoboCop, and Snatch. The movies loved using this cumbersome handheld status symbol despite its limited practicality, so games naturally followed suit. It’s painted in much the same way, serving as a pocket rifle that can be fired off rapidly so long as you have a good enough trigger finger, when in reality, the recoil and size would make its use in combat far less effective. But FPS games aren’t one for realism, and the Deagle is the antithesis of realism—it’s big, loud, and feels good to use, so who cares that no soldier worth their salt would ever take one into active duty?
Eventually, it began to phase out. You’ll still see it in Call of Duty and Counter-Strike, but they’re carrying the torch of the past, rather than keeping the trend alive. That’s because the FPS genre has moved toward sci-fi and futurism. Titanfall, Apex Legends, Doom, later Call of Dutys, Overwatch, Valorant—they’re all creeping further into sci-fi, and the Deagle doesn’t have a place in the future unless you can figure out how to make it shoot lasers or mini rockets.
Or, as with Battlefield (and even Call of Duty again), they’re going back in time to World War 1 and 2, before the Deagle’s invention. The middle ground, that ‘80s and ‘90s sweet spot where it became one of the most iconic sidearms, is now an awkward halfway point between the two time periods we’re obsessed with in shooters, and so the Deagle has retired. I’m not too sure what the 2020s version of it will be, but there will always be one constant in the FPS genre; there will always be a gun that everyone will try their hand at, Deagle or otherwise.
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