If you enjoy playing shooting games then chances are you'll have seen hitscan in action, even if you didn't realize it at the time. So what does hitscan mean exactly? What is hitscan and why does it matter? Let's take a look at how hitscan works in video gaming, what it means for you, and the pros and cons of hitscan vs projectile game-play mechanics.

How Do Hitscan Weapons Work?

Hitscan is a system used in games that decide whether or not your action - a gunshot or fired arrow for example - has hit the target and caused any damage. When you fire a hitscan weapon, the internal game mechanics scan the area that your shot was fired into, and if the target is in that area then boom, it's a hit.

As a player, you don't see any of this happening, you will simply press the fire button and the damage, if there is any, occurs instantly. From a realism point of view, it's not a great experience, but it gets the job done.

What Is the Difference Between Hitscan vs. Projectile?

Imagine you're Robin Hood. You're hiding behind a tree, bow and arrow at the ready, waiting to fire at one of the bad guys. You pull back your string and prepare to take a shot. You let go and watch as the arrow flies through the air, faster at first, then losing velocity and dipping slightly as the speed drops. It's a windy day, but you've accounted for that in your aim.

This is what a projectile weapon system looks like. You physically see your bullet or arrow or whatever it might be leaving your weapon and behave as a realistic projectile might behave.

As you can see, the projectile mechanic is more realistic than the hitscan weapon but, as you'd expect, it's a lot more complicated to program and therefore also a lot more expensive. Game developers are often forced to make a call - do they want a more realistic and engaging experience for players, or do budgets mean they have to settle for hitscan?

There is also a question of accessibility. The simpler hitscan system is easier to use, especially for beginner shooters, as it's much more of a point-and-shoot. Depending on your experience you might prefer not to have to do things like aim ahead of a running target.

Is Apex a Hitscan Game?

No. It used to be that all weapons in Apex Legends were projectile, apart from the Charge Rifle - a long-firing energy laser that had no drop-off and worked as a hitscan weapon. The Charge Rifle had a lot of negative feedback from gamers however, and so in the recent Season 18 update, it has been reworked. As of Season 18 Apex Legends the Charge Rifle is now also a projectile weapon and experiences drop-off just like the rest of the weapon arsenal.