Realism is awesome. There’s no greater thrill than killing the enemy with only one or two well-placed shots, knowing full well that you could have been gunned down just as easily. Even the most mundane task can be that much more rewarding when the game doesn’t hold your hand (“Report to Caius Cosades in Balmora”). Of course, it has to make sense in the context of the game’s design and be implemented in a way that strikes a balance between true-to-life and fun-to-play. A lot of first-person shooters, role-playing games, and anything that attempts to immerse the player can benefit from being more realistic, especially if they have a non-fantasy setting. It’s not restricted to elements of gameplay, either; graphics and animation technologies are nearing photorealism, sound effects and their delivery are getting better all the time, and artificial intelligence is improving to the point where you have a living, breathing game world that carries on even when the player isn’t around. These advancements enhance the overall experience, but they don’t necessarily result in more realistic gameplay.
I’m not saying every game should be super-realistic, but I wish more developers would be willing to accommodate the players looking for something more unique and/or challenging. Unfortunately, realism is almost always directly at odds with the popular trend of “accessible” design, so it’s become harder to come by these days. At least some games dabble a bit, allowing the community to pick it up and take it further. If you thought hardcore mode in Fallout: New Vegas was tough (it wasn’t), you should check out some of the modifications people have come up with. There are mods that adjust weapon stats and item weights to better reflect reality, rework radiation into a genuine threat rather than an inconvenience, tone down the abundant availability of guns, ammo, food, water, and other supplies, make combat much more deadly, and overall increase the difficulty of surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Since a good mod will also subject the AI to the same conditions, doing these things doesn’t ruin the balance of the game.
Most games these days have been “streamlined” for mass consumption, and I don’t like it. One of the major results of this is the regenerating health epidemic -- yes, it is simpler to not have to worry about healing yourself, but where’s the fun in that? You have to run and hide every 10 seconds anyway, which I think is just as distracting as having to be aware of where the nearest health pickup is. Only difference is that, instead of running to go get it, you have to sit there and wait for your health to recharge. Needing to manually initiate healing is a better solution (as far as being realistic), but having to equip a health kit and then take time to use it is best. I will say that I’m happy to see “hardcore mode” becoming a staple of mainstream shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. Nothing fundamental in the game is changed, but removing the HUD (including minimap and ammo counter), increasing weapon damage, forcing friendly fire, and disabling the killcam goes a long way in promoting realism.
I wonder if we’ll ever get to the point where games are too realistic… Obviously there are people who dislike realism in video games, so they think that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Fallout have taken it too far already. But would you be interested in a game that was so life-like, you actually spoke to NPCs instead of choosing a line of pre-written dialogue? Where you had to actually learn how to hack a computer, pick locks, or repair weapons before you could do that stuff in the game? I think I would. What about virtual reality? Eventually, technology will reach the point where a game will be visually, aurally, and perhaps even tactilely indistinguishable from the real world. Oh, man, if people are addicted to them already, imagine how many would lose themselves in World of Warcraft VII and spend every waking moment living a fantasy. I foresee a scenario like that movie Surrogates, except instead of androids, we’re all avatars in a global computer simulation. Somebody would invent a sophisticated personal habitat that allows you to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom without leaving the game, so everyone would end up all shriveled and frail like Mr. House. Scary shit!
Firing Points is a weekly editorial that explores popular, pressing, or otherwise provocative topics in the world of gaming. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the rest of the FiringSquad team, or anyone else for that matter.
Elemental: Fallen Enchantress Preview Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a standalone expansion pack and follow-up to developer Stardock's previous game in the series, subtitled War of Magic. That 4X strategy game was highly-anticipated and slated to compete with games such as Sid Meier's Civilization V for your turn-based strategy play-time, but was released in an incredibly broken and unfinished state that it never fully recovered from. Lead designer Brad Wardell apologized profusely to fans and set out with his team to go back to the drawing board and try again.
Almost two years later, the result of that proverbial mulligan is currently undergoing closed beta testing. In today's article, Will reports his thoughts on how Fallen Enchantress is shaping up, and will tell you whether or not you should be keeping an eye on it as it nears release later this year.
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ANNO 2070 Review
The year is 2070. The majority of life on Earth was devastated when global sea levels surged after the melting of the polar ice caps. Swaths of previously habitable land are now deep underwater, and sovereign nations are a relic of the past. But there is still hope...
This city-building RTS/simulation game from Ubisoft tasks you with re-colonizing what little land areas are left on the planet following a global warming apocalypse. Does it have what it takes to be worthy of your time and money, or should it be cast out to sea with the rest of civilization? Find out in today's review!
Mass Effect 3 PC Review
This latest release from EA/BioWare is the final entry in their trilogy of sci-fi action RPGs, putting you in a dire situation: rally the troops to save Earth at all costs. There was a lot of hype surrounding the final act of what has been a vast and highly-customizable story-telling experience, and the reception among many hardcore fans has been less than stellar. Even people that haven't played the game have probably heard about all the nerd rage going on over Mass Effect 3's ending...
If you want to cut through all the crap and find out whether or not the rest of ME3 is worth playing, come check out Will's spoiler-free take on the first blockbuster game release of 2012.
Batman: Arkham City PC Review Batman: Arkham City is the sequel to 2009’s smash-hit action game Batman: Arkham Asylum. As the name suggests, you will be reprising your role as the Caped Crusader and going against an even larger 'prison' filled with Gotham's criminals and villains. A textbook example on how to do a proper sequel, Arkham City takes what worked in the original, excised or improved upon what didn’t, and elevated everything to an even greater scope. The PC version suffered from a few months of delay, but in that time, Rocksteady worked closely to NVIDIA to implement some familiar technologies from the last game, such as PhysX and 3D Vision, along with new DirectX 11 optimizations. But how well was the whole package executed? Read on to find out!
Saints Row: The Third PC Review Saints Row is one of most unique series of games to build upon the open-world action template forged by Grand Theft Auto, and has met with plenty of critical and commercial success since it began on consoles back in 2006. This latest iteration, titled Saints Row: The Third promises the most outlandish fun and freedom of customization of them all, and in a much more PC-friendly package than its predecessor. Does it live up to those expectations and, more importantly, is it worth the price of admission? Find out in Will's latest review!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim PC Review The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is Bethesda Softworks’ latest offering in their series of epic fantasy RPGs, as well as one of the most highly-anticipated PC titles of 2011. As the Dovahkiin, or Dragonborn, prepare to take the fight to the mythical beasts that have returned to the realm after centuries of slumber, all the while exploring a huge and highly-detailed open world.
The PC version of the game promises enhanced graphical fidelity, standard RPG trimmings such as hotkeys and quick-save, as well as unbridled mod support, something we’ll all be thankful for once they release that SDK. Skyrim has already sold millions of copies and set records for play-time on Steam... Find out why in today's review, which happens to be one of the biggest and most in-depth articles on the subject out there!
L.A. Noire Complete Edition PC Review L.A. Noire, as the name clearly states, is a video game built on the tropes of one of the greatest periods of American cinema: film noir. Developed by the now defunct Australian developer Team Bondi and published by Rockstar Games, this title has been out on consoles for a full six months before finally making its way to the PC. This “Complete Edition” of the game features improved graphics, keyboard/mouse controls, and every bit of previously-released DLC for free. But was it truly worth the wait? Read on and find out!
Mass Effect 3 PC Demo Impressions Mass Effect 3, EA/BioWare's third iteration in their series of sci-fi action RPGs and one of the most anticipated titles of the year, is fast approaching its March 6th release. This week, though, they released a playable demo on PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3 that offers a glimpse into both the single-player and multi-player portions of the full game.
Whether you're waiting impatiently for your download to finish or don't have the time to check it out yourself, go ahead and read some impressions of the demo from resident FSers Synch and Vandy in today's article!
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Xbox 360 Review
The self-appointed "most anticipated game in history" launched worldwide this past Tuesday. Why, it's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, of course (of course), what else? Unsurprisingly, the military FPS debate between this and Battlefield 3 rages on, but now that both have been released, surely we can take a look and objectively evaluate them both? Luke's taken the Xbox version of MW3 for a spin this week, so to find out what he thinks of it in today's review!