When we were kids we would spend endless, miserable hours running around in the garden making pew-pew noises and using our stupid, useless imaginations to pretend we were army commandos, packing improbably massive weapons and issuing witty one-liners as we dispatched our fictional foes.
Happily, today's children needn't suffer as we did, as Nerf supplies an arsenal of real-life plastic pwnery with which to splatter your foes. But which ludicrously overengineered weapon should you be unwrapping this Christmas? Well, the good folk at Firebox.com sent us a few to try out -- read on to discover which of our three Nerf guns deserves your cash, and click through the photos above to check out sexy snaps of all three guns.
Nerf N-Strike Havok-Fire EBF-25
This rapid-fire automatic weapon will rock your socks off, then make you paint its house while it sips a lemonade cooler. It'll make a man out of you, and then just as quickly revert you back into a primitive, childish state. If Sigmund Freud had had a Havok-Fire EBF-25, he could have proved some of his crazy theories. Maybe.
This weapon uses an ammo belt that slots into the side of the gun. When you pull the trigger, the belt is fed through automatically, with each casing discharging its foamy payload in your enemy's ugly face. There's a great big handle on top for holding the Havok-Fire minigun-style, and it also comes with a tripod so you can mount it, gun-emplacement style.
While excessively noisy and extremely heavy (both plus points in our book) this particular Nerf is rather inaccurate. That's perfect if you prefer to spray bullets rather than pick out targets with pinpoint precision, but you'll soon exhaust your clip, leaving you vulnerable.
Cost: A rather hefty £50.
Nerf N-Strike Stampede ECS
The Stampede is definitely the all-rounder of our three test weapons -- offering both power and portability, it puts us in mind of the default assault rifle you normally get in those newfangled first-person-shooter game things. It's a reassuringly weighty but well balanced weapon, and it's reasonably accurate.
As a bonus, it comes with two massive ammo clips (and a smaller ammo clip too for some reason) and enough Nerf darts to fill a paddling pool (hang on -- that's a really good idea). The shadowy cabal that is the Toy Retailers Association reckon the Stampede is going to be popular this Christmas -- it's made the Dream Toys 2010 list, which charts the most desirable gifts come Christmas morn.
The Stampede also comes with a pop-out bipod that mounts on the front of the gun so you can secure it in a hurry, and an optional blast-shield to protect your face. Our review sample came with neither of these (too much fun 'testing' them at Firebox HQ we'd wager), so we can't comment on how well they work. Shields are for wusses anyway.
Cost: All that hardware will set you back -- the Stampede costs £50.
Nerf N-Strike Raider CS-35
Yeah, that's its official name, but ours is called Chantelle. That's how attached we are to this incredible weapon. It doesn't offer automatic rapid-fire thrills like the other machines -- instead firing is handled by pumping the front-handle shotgun style, then letting fly by pulling the trigger. There's an optional shoulder support, which should help you lean into the devastating recoil when this she-devil goes off.
We really like the Tommy-gun drum method of holding ammo -- it certainly looks cool, and lets you hold a vast quantity of Nerf darts. We wish it were possible to open up the drum and load the darts in that way though. As it stands, you'll have to poke each dart into the bottom of the drum, which is a pretty slow process. Chantelle -- sorry -- The Raider is the most accurate of our three Nerf guns, and it's the quietest too. Perfect for those who prefer a sneaky, sniper approach to Nerfing.
Cost: A not-unreasonable £30.
We love each and every one of these weapons, so choosing a winner is really tough. We love the accuracy and precision of the Raider, so if you're looking to not spend over £30 on plastic guns, that's definitely what we'd recommend. If you're feeling more flush however, it's all about the Stampede, which, when you hold it, makes you feel like a boss. And really, that's priceless.