Is there a reason given why you can't just take weapons from enemies that you've killed? For example, in the Metal Gear Solid series they (sometimes) state that enemy weapons are locked, through DNA or nanomachines or some such. Obviously, this is so the player can't just take an assault rifle from the first mook he sees and start blasting, but they've used the lore of the series to try and justify it. Is there a Codex entry that states something similar happens in the Mass Effect universe? I can't find anything on the Wiki that states why you'd have to wait until you find a weapon just laying around to be able to use it.

For instance, in ME2 you get the Vindicator from a couch in Archangel's base. At this point in the game you might have killed dozens of Blue Suns mercenaries who have been equipped with Vindicators. What's so special about the one on the couch?

Note that this may not be the case for the first game. It's been so long I can't remember if bodies were lootable or if it was just crates etc.

  • Personally, if I had to bs a reason it would be something about the weapon being synced to a user's omni-tool prior to combat or some such.
    – Judy
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 0:48
  • Oh, absolutely I can understand why Bioware would do it, but why wouldn't Shepard? In Mass Effect 3 Shepard fights against Cerberus on Mars right near the start of the game, yet can't get the Hornet SMG - used by every Cerberus grunt in the game - until Cerberus attacks the Citadel, where it's found just randomly lying on the floor. Why couldn't Shepard have just taken one from the first dude killed? Why did Shepard not take a Mattock from a Centurion on Mars instead of deciding that the one on Grissom Academy is worth taking?
    – Judy
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 1:19
  • In many versions of Dungeons and Dragons, the DM was specifically advised that most weapons carried by monsters were poorly-maintained and not worth any significant amount of money. So you could, if you wished, pick up a dropped enemy sword and start slashing with it, town merchants would balk at giving you any gold for such a worthless piece of rust. Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 14:25

2 Answers 2


To the best of my knowledge, there is no definitive answer to this. In the absence of canon, I turn to speculation.

For starters, Shepard did pick up every weapon they found in Mass Effect (the game, not the trilogy). This tended to rapidly fill the inventory with useless junk, but that's gameplay, and OP is asking about the story. In the other two games, weapons can only be picked up at specific points (far more often in the third game than in the second).

So what changed between the first game and the other two? Simple. Weapons were totally revamped between ME1 and ME2. The primary effect of this was to switch from a cooldown system to a clips-and-ammo system (for most weapons; some ME3 DLC contains weapons that cool down). This was justified by claiming the new system allowed guns to fire with more power, and that it was based on geth designs revealed during the events of ME1.

We may suppose that, as part of the changeover, weapons manufacturers pushed some new security features, such as the omni-tool lockout OP suggested in the question's comments. This sort of behavior is not unheard of in the real world. With the United States' imminent switch to chip-and-pin (and/or chip-and-signature), it is widely anticipated that NFC payments (tap-and-pay, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc.) will gain widespread support as well, purely as a side effect of vendors upgrading their POS terminals. It is plausible that weapons in the Mass Effect universe could benefit from a similar effect.

  • 1
    This is pretty much exactly what I was thinking. The thermal clip redesign seems to be the perfect time to implement additional security features if the loot system in the first game was different. There's a mention of... is it rocket launchers?... in ME2 using something to prevent illegal copies being built called "FRM" (an obvious allusion to software DRM), but that in and of itself wouldn't necessarily prevent use - the 'F' explicitly stands for "fabrication." I'll leave this for a day or two to see if anyone else wants to weigh in, but as it stands you'll get the cookie.
    – Judy
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 2:49
  • @Judy: In ME2 onwards, weapons are fabricated aboard the Normandy. When you find a new weapon, you've really just learned how to manufacture enough of them to satisfy your whole team. This is why you can't (for instance) give both Grunt and vanguard!Shepard a Claymore without independently unlocking it twice.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 4:47
  • I had a vague memory of that, but wasn't sure where it was supported. I guess if the weapon has any FRM-esque thing you've just learnt enough to hack it or something. I'm sure that the word "minifacturing" is chucked in somewhere, and when I think of all this I think of the panel in Mordin's lab for some reason, but as it didn't seem relevant to enemy weapons being unusable I didn't include any of this in the question. I assume that the weapons that you do find are unlocked for whatever reason - maybe someone forgot to lock it, or a "specialist" hacked it's security before you found it.
    – Judy
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 5:19
  • Or, I guess, 'cos they were just lying on a sofa in a room and the guy who owned it had bigger things on his mind than locking it, like fighting off three mercenary groups at the same time.
    – Judy
    Commented Jan 22, 2015 at 5:27

There isn't any mention in the games about any kind of lockout. The reason why it isn't in the games is primarily just for game play reasons, not lore.

Some of the games offered mid-mission weapon terminals that allowed you to switch guns you may have picked up from crates. So technically they could enable it; the game play designers probably didn't want to 'force' you to play on the higher difficulty levels so that more enemies would spawn so you would have a better chance of picking up the gun you wanted. Instead they chose to make that a non-issue by putting the weapons in static pickups instead.

However, back to the lore part of your question:

There are several instances in the Mass Effect books where the protagonist will pick up enemy weapons and use them. Though sometimes they don't. Usually it is based on what situation they are going into. If trying to stay stealthy, they'll keep their pistol. But if the protagonist has followed someone with only there pistols, but ends up in a situation when they're entering a warehouse full of Blue Suns and don't need to keep a low profile anymore, the protagonist will pick up the enemy assault rifle for himself or someone who is with him.

(This example is a half contrived, half plot example from the first book in the series, Revelation. I paraphrased instead of quoted so there wouldn't be any spoilers.)

  • hits head I'd completely forgotten about all the books and comics and the film. I've read the first book waaay back when but that's it. Are there any other examples in works set later in the timeline (ie after the heat sink redesign) where folks just grab any old gun from baddies? With gameplay it would be rather pointless to have it in ME2 anyway, seeing as there's only 2 or 3 of each weapon type (excluding DLC). "Oh, I've just killed that guy, I can pick up his... Oh. It's an Avenger. Hey, what abou- it's a Locust. This guy? Another Avenger." With ME3 they just improved on the system.
    – Judy
    Commented Jan 23, 2015 at 4:07
  • @Judy: At one point during Mass Effect: Redemption, Feron tosses Liara a pistol without fiddling with his omni-tool.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 1:41

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