The Plasmacaster, also known as the Plasma Cannon, Laser Cannon or Shoulder Cannon, is a Yautja long-range energy projector weapon with automatic targeting capabilities. Capable of firing armor-penetrating plasma bolts at distant targets, it is arguably the most devastating and technologically advanced offensive tool at the Yautja's disposal. The bolts fired by the weapon explode in a burst of plasma "shrapnel" upon striking a target, causing grievous wounds and potentially damaging other enemies near the point of impact.
Young Blood Yautja are denied the use of Plasmacasters and must undergo a Rite of Passage, whereby they must Hunt Xenomorphs using only their close-range weapons, in order to obtain the weapons. Despite the enormous power of the Plasmacaster, or rather because of it, it is considered among the least honorable weaponry the Yautja possess. Often, when faced with particularly worthy prey, a Predator will discard his Plasmacaster and rely instead on its more basic weapons.
The most commonly seen variant of the Plasmacaster is shoulder-mounted via an articulated arm — indeed, this weapon is arguably one of the Yautja's signature pieces of equipment. Capable of firing multiple long-range bolts of charged plasma, the power of each individual burst can be adjusted manually, ranging from a minor setting to kill individual prey to a blast powerful enough to breach the hulls of interstellar craft. These energy bolts are typically pale blue in color, although yellow and gold colored shots have also been observed.
The Plasmacaster is aimed via a targeting system typically built into the Predator's bio-helmet, causing the weapon to track with the user's head movement, although some have been seen with integral targeting systems. Generally, a three-pointed targeting laser sight arranged in a triangular formation is used to increase accuracy. The tracking servos of the weapon are some of the most vulnerable articles carried by a Predator and damage typically renders the weapon unusable, although some models can be modified and used as a hand-held Plasma Pistol in the event of tracking failure. Plasmacasters also appear to have some degree of targeting memory, able to track and fire at a target even if the Predator itself turns in another direction, although it is possible this may only apply to stationary targets.
The exact mechanism by which the shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster is fired remains unclear. While some individuals have been seen to fire the weapon using their wrist gauntlet, others have done so without any apparent input; it has been suggested that Predators may activate the Plasmacaster by manipulating buttons on the inside of their bio-helmet with their mandibles. A Plasmacaster can be charged by the user when fired to generate a more powerful shot that is more damaging to prey. By default, the weapon's attack range is greater than the Predator's visual range, however a Predator's helmet incorporates a zoom function that changes this relationship, enabling a Predator to act as a sniper if required. The basic shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster can be dual wielded (i.e. one on each shoulder) if two are collected, although this does not seem to be common behavior and is reserved for particularly dangerous situations.
The shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster Classic fires explosive Plasma Bolts. It is the most common Plasmacaster variant, having been used by the Jungle Hunter and many others.
Upgraded Plasmacaster outfitted with a bio-scanner and a multi-barreled firing mechanism. These features allows a Yautja to scan a target and attack them with any of three types of plasma munitions which they susceptible most :
- Burst Plasma: Basic bolt which similar to Classic Plasmacaster's.
- Fire Plasma: Fiery plasma with incendiary properties to set target aflame.
- Dark Plasma: Plasma projectile that triggers a controlled energy reaction that correlates its damage to the mass of a target upon hit.
The Plasmacaster Celtic is a relatively large shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster capable of automatic fire. Despite its name, Celtic did not use one during his 2004 hunt in the Pyramid under Bouvet Island and it was Scar who did use one during the hunt.
The Plasmacaster Chopper is a very large shoulder-mounted Plasmacaster. It is capable of instantly vaporizing some targets with its Rail-Gun beam. Like the Plasmacaster Celtic, Chopper did not use the Plasmacaster during the 2004 hunt, despite the weapon's name.
- Main article: Plasma Pistol
The Plasma Pistol is a handheld version of the Plasmacaster. Both purpose-built and custom-assembled versions have been known to exist, the former generally more versatile than the latter.
- Main article: Energy Flechette
The Energy Flechette fires a small plasma bolt from the Predator's left wrist gauntlet. It seems to be only moderately damaging, and is likely a last-resort weapon.
Super Predator Plasmacaster
The Berserker and the Tracker on the Game Preserve Planet used a slightly modified Plasmacaster design that employs a revolving action to fire multiple plasma bolts at any time, similar to a Gatling gun. Berserker and Tracker both used this weapon while hunting captured humans on the planet.
- Main article: Wrist Cannon
The Upgrade Predator utilizes wrist gauntlet, which similar to that of Energy Flechette but with firepower equal to that of standard Plasmacasters and thus has greater range.
Behind the Scenes
Alien vs. Predator
For Alien vs. Predator, director Paul W. S. Anderson wanted Predators bigger than the ones seen in Predator and Predator 2. As a result, the Plasmacasters used by the Predators in Alien vs. Predator (with the exception of one version) were also enlarged. As with most of the creature props, Amalgamated Dynamics, Inc. created the Plasmacasters used in the film.
When concept artist Joseph C. Pepe designed a multitude of different-sized Predator Plasmacasters as called for in the script, he paid close attention to the previously established design aesthetic of the Plasmacaster used in Predator and deviated from it only with strategic care. In a piece of concept art by Pepe, it is specified that there are three differently-sized variations of Plasmacasters in the film — large "Caliber", medium "Caliber" and the original Plasmacaster seen in Predator (the smallest of the three). Concept artist Farzad Varahramyan also created a piece of concept art showing an early variation on the Plasmacaster.
Model maker Nick Seldon worked on prototypes for the large Plasmacaster. To endure the rigors of shooting an action film, it was necessary to produce multiple copies of all the weapons and armor, including the Plasmacasters. "Great care" was taken to match the level of aging and detail on the duplicates of each prop.
Using the (at the time) few available reference photos and dark, blurry screen captures from Predator, the original Plasmacaster from the film was "painstakingly" recreated to be "as authentic as possible." The prop of the weapon made for the shot where the humans find three of the weapons in the sarcophagus was cast from a dense rubber, finished with a metallic crackle finish and measures 28 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. Traces of black tack were left on the underside when it was used in filming. The rubber prop was sold by the Prop Store via their website and apparently later sold on Amazon.com.
The animatronic large "Caliber" Plasmacaster used by Scar was mechanized by mechanical designer Lon Muckey, who was assisted by mechanical designer Samara Hagopian. As the medium and "original" Plasmacasters are only ever seen displayed inside the case and stored in backpacks, they were likely represented entirely by static props, with the larger weapon being the only one of the three to be represented by a prop with animatronics.
- Wolf is the only Yautja to wield two Plasmacasters simultaneously on film. He is also the only one to use a Plasma Pistol on screen.
- While almost all Plasmacasters have their targeting hardware built into the Predator's bio-helmet, Greyback in Predator 2 had a Plasmacaster with its own integrated laser sight, implying it can be used without a helmet.
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- Alien vs Predator: The Last of His Clan
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- Aliens vs. Predator (2010), Rebellion, SEGA [Microsoft Windows].
- Jim Thomas, John Thomas (writers), Stephen Hopkins (director). Predator 2 (1990), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- Shane Salerno (writer), The Brothers Strause (directors). Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (2007), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- Aliens versus Predator: Extinction (2003), EA Games, Fox Interactive.
- AVP: Evolution (2013), Angry Mob Games, Fox Mobile Entertainment [Mobile].
- Aliens versus Predator: Extinction Bestiary
- Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr.. AVP: Alien vs. Predator: The Creature Effects of ADI, p. 33 (2004), Design Studio Press.
- Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr.. AVP: Alien vs. Predator: The Creature Effects of ADI, p. 34 (2004), Design Studio Press.
- Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr.. AVP: Alien vs. Predator: The Creature Effects of ADI, p. 48 (2004), Design Studio Press.
- Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr.. AVP: Alien vs. Predator: The Creature Effects of ADI, p. 103 (2004), Design Studio Press.
- Alec Gillis, Tom Woodruff, Jr.. AVP: Alien vs. Predator: The Creature Effects of ADI, p. 56 (2004), Design Studio Press.