Daniel Wales body

Leadhead Splicers, in addition to being the most common enemy in the series, are also technically the most diverse (in BioShock 2 anyway). In the sequel they got a major overhaul, gaining the ability to use shotguns, use smarter tactics and even throw grenades (which likely accounted for the absence of Nitro Splicers). Despite this, they are no different to the generic mooks presented in every other shooter since Wolfenstein. In a universe grounded in biopunk technology, it is odd that the bread-and-butter enemies restrict themselves to a conventional fighting style. Hopefully, what's below will offer something that hasn't been seen multiple times already in another game.

Research Bonuses

Awarded at random:

  • +Damage Against Leadhead Splicers
  • Increased Weapon Firing Rate
  • Increased Reload and Weapon Switch Rate

Changes: Stage One

As with every previous enemy on this list, I elaborated on potential changes to this one in my singleplayer version of the article. In addition to splitting Leadheads into "classes", each with their own weapons, tactics and grenades, they could also potentially mutate and thus become individually tougher:

Pistol Leadhead: The simplest of all Leadheads, wields a revolver and would try to attack you from a distance with great accuracy. Would always try to take you out at range, and would retreat to better ground if overrun. To supplement this, Pistol Leadheads would be the fastest of Leadheads, although they'd also be less resistant to damage.

Weapon: Pistol.
Grenade Type: None.
Strengths: Fast, accurate.
Weaknesses: Frail, low damage per shot.

Machine Gun Leadhead: Pretty much the one in BioShock 2. More of a mid-range attacker, would work in groups to flank you and flush you out of cover. Since this is a co-op article, the Machine Gun Leadhead would also force the pair of you to stick together and cover each other while trying to isolate you from your co-op partner.

Weapon: Machine Gun.
Grenade Type: Frag Grenade. Explodes after a certain amount of time, dealing damage to anything in the surrounding area.
Strengths: Powerful weapon, uses advanced crowd tactics.
Weaknesses: Inaccurate, can be countered through teamwork.

Shotgun Leadhead: More so than their counterparts in the sequel, this enemy would charge the players headlong, sacrificing cover in exchange for brute force and extra health. In addition, Shotgun Leadheads would use Molotov Cocktails to clear the way ahead of them.

Weapon: Shotgun.
Grenade Type: Molotov Cocktail. Ignites everything in its radius upon impact and sets the area on fire for a few seconds.
Strengths: Deadly up close, aggressive, tough.
Weaknesses: Short-ranged, always exposed, uses practically no tactics in a fight.

Tier One Mutations

  • Hypersensitive Nerves: Greatly increases the Elite Leadhead Splicer's firing and reloading rates.
  • Armored Shell: Elite Leadhead Splicer is resistant to physical damage and is resistant to movement- and action-impairing effects.
  • Metabolizes Nitrogen: Elite Leadhead Splicer's attacks (weapon- and melee-based) produce an explosion at the impact point, dealing increased damage. In addition, nearby victims take splash damage.

Evolution: Stage Two

As the players familiarize themselves with the Leadhead's basic mechanics, the latter could evolve new strengths along with new weaknesses, which'd encourage subtler, more complex combat:

Pistol Leadhead evolves into Sniper Leadhead: With the pinpoint accuracy of its predecessor and vastly increased firepower, the Sniper Leadhead could seriously harm you if left undisturbed. Sniper Leadheads would sport a much more defensive playstyle, hiding in perches and faraway cover while laying Proximity Mines to cover their backs.

Weapon: Sniper Rifle.
Grenade Type: Proximity Mine. Can attach itself to any part of the scenery and explodes if an enemy approaches.
Strengths: Fast, accurate, very powerful weapon, hard to reach.
Waknesses: Ineffective at close ranges, lower health than the other two types, cowardly, slow rate of fire.

Machine Gun Leadhead evolves into Gunslinger Leadhead: Armed with two Machine Guns, the Gunslinger Leadhead can deal vast amounts of damage, and is one of the rare enemies capable of attacking both you and your partner at the same time. However, this limits the Splicer's accuracy and forces them to spend a long amount of time reloading. Instead of Frag Grenades they use Sticky Bombs to flush you out of cover and set momentary traps.

Weapon: Dual Machine Guns.
Grenade Type: Sticky Bomb. Sticks to anything (including players and enemies) and explodes after a set amount of time, beeping at an increasing rate when deployed.
Strengths: Extremely dangerous at any range, can target two enemies at once, uses advanced tactics.
Weaknesses: Inaccurate, reloading time leaves them unable to attack for a few seconds, also leaves them vulnerable.

Shotgun Leadhead evolves into Vanguard Leadhead: Whereas the Gunslinger Leadheads would gain added firepower, Vanguard Leadheads would sport superior defenses. The Vanguard would wear body and head armor, drastically reducing damage taken from the front as well as protecting them from headshots and Antipersonnel Rounds. However, they're still vulnerable to the latter two if attacked from behind, and their armor could be telekinetically pulled off to render them vulnerable from all sides. Armor-Piercing Rounds would completely bypass their armor, and Electro Bolt would stun them for longer and deal them more damage. Vanguards use Rolling Mines instead of Molotov Cocktails, and would deploy them on the ground before following them to you.

Weapon: Shotgun.
Grenade Type: Rolling Mine. Rolls towards the nearest enemy before jumping at them and detonating.
Strengths: Deadly at close ranges, incredibly tough, aggressive.
Weaknesses: Short-ranged, defenses can be bypassed, vulnerable to electricity.

Tier Two Mutations

  • Plasmid Sponge: Upon suffering from the effects of a Plasmid, the Elite Leadhead Splicer becomes immune to that Plasmid (including all of its iterations) and gains the ability to cast that Plasmid once. If hit with another Plasmid, their previous immunities are lost when they become immune to the new one.
  • Kinetic Cells: Elite Leadhead Splicer's shots and melee attack deal knockback. The closer the victim is to the Splicer, the stronger the knockback.
  • Crack Shot: Splicer can shoot down projectiles, whether weapon- or Plasmid-based, and never miss.

Evolution: Final Stage

By this point, the players would have become vastly more powerful and tactically savvy. In consequence, Leadhead Splicers would have to evolve a whole new set of abilities, to the point where each individual Splicer would pose a challenge to the players and force them to completely change their approach. Again, these new mechanics would give the Leadheads new strengths and weaknesses, except that the latter would require a great deal more skill to exploit.

Sniper Leadhead evolves into Assassin Leadhead: Blending the deadliness of the Sniper with the constant mobility of the Pistol variety, the Assassin Leadhead would try to attack you from mid to long ranges, shooting from within crowds and from perches. If approached, however, it'd have a new trick up its sleeve: a grappling hook, which it'd use to swing to more advantageous ground near-instantly before resuming shooting you. The cord, however, could be cut, causing them to take damage upon falling and denying them the use of their hook. In addition, Assassins would throw down Uranium Canisters, which they'd shoot to cause massive damage over a large area.

Weapon: Sniper Rifle.
Grenade Type: Uranium Canister. Sticks to the scenery and people, and when shot explodes in a large radius, dealing a large amount of damage upon detonation and irradiating the area, dealing continuous damage to anyone inside it for some time.
Strengths: Extremely mobile, accurate, very powerful weapon, very hard to reach, able to render large areas momentarily inaccessible.
Weaknesses: Lower health than the other two types, mobility is reduced if their grappling hook is destroyed.

Gunslinger Leadhead evolves into Tracer Leadhead: Tracer Leadheads present two advantages over Gunslingers: first of all, they'd sport an ammunition feed on their back linked to their guns, allowing them to shoot continuously without ever having to reload. Secondly, they'd be able to move in a style akin to parkour, vaulting over cover and even momentarily wall-running to avoid your line of fire, shooting you all the while much more accurately than before. To bolster their hit-and-run style they'd also wield Smoke Pellets, which they'd throw mid-run to hide their movement. Shoot the ammo reserve on their back, though, and it'd explode, tearing a huge chunk out of their health and causing them to stumble while bullets shoot all around, harming other nearby enemies as well as themselves. After that, they'd move and attack in the same way as Gunslingers.

Weapon: Dual Machine Guns.
Grenade Type: Smoke Pellet. Explodes upon impact, dealing no damage but releasing a cloud of opaque smoke which'd last for a few seconds. If thrown back by one of the players, the latter will be able to see through it while enemies won't.
Strengths: Constantly on the move, hard to hit, extremely dangerous at any range, can target two enemies at once, uses advanced tactics.
Weaknesses: Shooting the ammo pack on their back cripples them, also deals them massive damage while hurting their nearby allies.

Vanguard Leadhead evolves into Juggernaut Leadhead: Retaining the armor of its predecessor, the Juggernaut would also sport a power generator on its back. This'd prevent their armor from being removed, render them immune to electrical effects and cause all shots and projectiles to reflect off of them (though still dealing them damage). Moreover, their attacks would shock the victims, stopping them in their tracks and dealing added electrical damage. They'd also throw Shock Bombs. which'd rebound multiple times and shock nearby targets with every bounce. This reliance on electrical power would also be their weakness: if they so much as touch water their generator would short-circuit, dealing them massive damage, shocking anyone in their vicinity and negating their new powers (which is why they'd also try to avoid bodies of water at all costs). This could also be achieved by shooting the generator.

Weapon: Shotgun.
Grenade Type: Shock Bomb. Bounces upon contact with any surface, shocking everyone nearby every time it does so. After its final bounce it explodes, dealing a fair amount of damage in its radius.
Strengths: Deadly at close ranges, incredibly tough, aggressive, can shock the player, can damage the players with their own attacks.
Weaknesses: Short-ranged, source of power can be destroyed.

Tier Three Mutations

  • Supermassive Bullets: Shots and grenades from this Splicer attract all nearby enemies and physics objects towards them. Upon impact, they violently pull anything nearby towards them.
  • Warp Ammunition: Shots and grenades fired by this Splicer warp everything around them in time, slowing them down (see here to know what I'm talking about). Upon impact, warp everything in their radius in time for a few moments.
  • Conjurer: Elite Leadhead Splicer is able to temporarily deploy protective walls on the scenery, akin to Presto.

And there! Next up, Nitro Splicers! Whaddya think?

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