Supersonic Gunshots in Battlefield 2

created by SurvivorGrim

I received an e-mail just recently from someone who said they had been inspired by my "Tactical Gaming Done Right" article to try to reproduce the supersonic 'crack!' of a bullet passing nearby in a game. This is something that has not until now ever come close to being replicated in any game that I know of.

He goes by the nick SurvivorGrim, and what he created serves as a superb example of the direction that combat audio in realistic games should be heading. Using Battlefield 2 as a basis, he created a small sound mod that adds the supersonic crack effects into the game.

The result is quite simply amazing.

Spread this link around to any realism game or mod developers that you know. Forums, direct e-mails, whatever. The more awareness there is of this kind of audio phenomenon in reality, the more likely we'll get these sounds replicated in games.

Some people have raised questions as to the flaws of this model. For those of you that have never heard it in reality and can't distinguish where it does things right and where it's wrong, I'll clarify. At close range, the muzzle blast of the weapon should dominate and drown out a lot of the 'snap', whereas at further ranges the muzzle blast will have become muffled and the snap will be crisp and loud. So, the close-quarters sections of this video are not entirely accurate, but the long-range stuff is a good example of how it should sound. Hopefully that answers the questions of those who were wondering.

The Second Video, which you should watch first

I have created a second video that more clearly shows that the sounds are NOT of gunfire, but are instead the sound of the bullet passing by. This was not clear to many people and sparked a lot of "lol it sounds like the guns are popguns" comments. The video will be posted first, as a teaser, and the original video will follow it. This video is 30 seconds long, and was taken in the Project Reality mod for BF2 (which will be incorporating these sounds in a tweaked form with their next release).

You can download the PRMM Supersonic Teaser video here.

You should watch this video first, if possible, before watching the longer vanilla-BF2 supersonic audio mod clip linked below.

The Original Video

The original video can be downloaded here.

This is the original video that showcases more of the supersonic crack effects, with the disclaimer mentioned above about BF2 by default having muzzle blasts that are very quiet, which causes the crack to drown them out in close-quarters and cause the "popgun" effect that others have complained about. The above-listed video shows the desired effect more clearly, at distance, whereas this one just generally gives you the supersonic sound at a variety of ranges and assumes that you can look past the modeling flaws and get the point.

I have included the text and video that inspired this mod below, for the reference of anyone who hasn't already read through my "Tactical Gaming Done Right" article.


Project Reality will be using these sounds, tweaked, in an upcoming version of their BF2 mod. I will try to make a video of it upon release and update this page to reflect that. After having loaded the sound mod into PRMM, I found it to sound significantly better than the above-listed footage. I will either update the footage entirely and replace it with PRMM footage or just wait until the next PRMM comes out and natively supports it, and then create another vid.


Another update: Tamlin made a comment on Digg.com that I thought was worth sharing.

Quoting Tamlin:

Many of the things that your television set has taught you is wrong.

One of the things that it can never get right is the sound of gunfire, for if it ever did your speakers would be damaged and the neighbors would call the police.

Try to record the muzzle blast of a rifle sometime with an ordinary voice microphone, all you get is a short "pop" sound. So in Hollywood they just dub in some slowed down "kapow" sound and hope you don't know any better.

A typical military rifle bullet starts off at between 2 and 3 times the speed of sound. A miniature sonic boom follows it where ever it goes. After maybe 800m or 1000m or so it slows down below sonic speed and loses it's crack.

Now if you join the army you will eventually find yourself on the long rifle range learning how to shoot at several hundred meters. The way it works is half of the men are shooting and the other half are in the target pit working the targets. The targets are several feet wide and mounted on frames that run up and down.

Imagine it is your turn and you are standing in the bottom of a big deep trench with bullets cracking overhead at somewhat over arm's length. The other guys are shooting slowly because they are supposed to be learning something from every shot. You look up at your target and wait. Ignore the cracks belonging to the other targets. You hear one really loud one; that's yours. You look at the target and sure enough there is a new hole. It just appeared in the target paper, like that, no fuss at all. Haul down the target on it's sliding frame and hang a marker disc on the hole, slide it back up so the guy can see how bad he missed, then bring it down again, patch the hole and send it back up. Repeat until it is your turn to shoot.

The whole point of this is get the solders used to having bullets fly over their heads making loud crack sounds; oh and also for the free labor.

There is a technique known as "crack and thump" or "crack-bang" or whatever that enables the soldier to estimate the distance to the enemy just by listening to the sound of his fire. Google it. Estimate the time delay between the crack of the bullet and the distant low boom of the rifle and you can figure it out. One second is around 500m depending. There is a look-up table you can consult after you make cover.

And remember that when you hear the crack the bullet has already passed you by so don't worry too much about it. The old saying is that "You never hear the one that hits you".

If future games have this feature and you don't like it then you just go to the audio menu and uncheck the "bullet crack" box. I am leaving it checked.

Supersonic Bullets & Making Combat Sound Authentic

There has not been a single game, ever, that has come anywhere close to representing the sound that a supersonic bullet makes when flying past. Watch a bit of this video, and you'll notice all kinds of popping and snapping sounds the likes of which you've never experienced in a game before.

The snapping noises are created by supersonic rounds passing within a certain distance of the camera. Each little snap or crack is the sonic shockwave created by the bullets, and the closer ones typically sound like a very large, sharp, and dry "CRACK!" (at least in person - it's a very difficult sound to catch on tape, but this video is the best representation I've seen of it so far).

Imagine the level of immersion that would be acheived by modeling thesee sounds properly. No longer would players have a lame "whoooosh" to signify that a bullet just passed close - instead, they'd likely jump out of their seat upon hearing a CRACK just inches from their character's head as a sniper's bullet barely misses them. Or, even better, they'd have a CRACKCRACKCRACKCRACK each time a burst of machinegun fire passed too close.

If modeled such that supersonic and sub-sonic bullets have proper audio signatures, the difference between sub- and supersonic rounds would be even more pronounced for the purposes of stealth. A suppressed weapon firing a supersonic round will have the muzzle blast muffled, whereas the CRACK of the round passing near anything in the line of fire will still be heard. Subsonic rounds being fired out of a silenced weapon, on the other hand, will "whoosh" at best and will thus make it that much harder for any targets to figure out where the fire is coming from.

To give an example of how loud this supersonic crack can be, during USMC rifle qualifications half of the shooters are sent to the "pits" to pull targets (bring them down, mark where the person hit, send them up). There's a berm protecting you from stray rounds, and at that distance the sound of everyone shooting up above (from 200, 300, and 500 meters) is very muffled - if you've ever heard gunfire from a good distance, that's what it sounded like, except more subdued. Anyhow, the ONLY sound you can hear from the pits that's of any substantial volume is the sound of the supersonic 5.56mm rounds passing overhead. The intensity of the sound is such that it actually hurts your ears if you're not wearing earplugs. They're LOUD, no two ways about it.

This desperately needs to be modeled in future wargames.


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