Thursday, 5 September 2013

RANT: Old school shooters vs New Age Shooters

With the recent review and recap upon DooM, I’ve decided I’m going to look a little more in-depth at the differences between the new age shooters and the “old school” shooters labelled by supposed ‘hipster wankers’ that like to differentiate themselves from the supposed ‘norm’ of society and then with wonderful comedic tragedy (tragic for them, comic for the rest of the world) become the very thing they’re trying to avoid.

And no, wearing glasses doesn’t make you a hipster if you don’t need them; it just makes you a twat.

HEALTH – Pickups vs. Regeneration

Bit of a mixed bag here. Old school shooters generally have a value for the health of the playable character as a set value of 100 where the player is hurt or wounded; the health drops and STAYS there. The only way to get the health back is to either collect health packs that can be found littered around the levels of the game or in some cases at the end of the level. Health might be gradually regained in smaller units of 1, 5, 15, 25 etc, or could be full re-heals back to 100 or boosted to 200 etc. Having low health that doesn’t regenerate is wonderful for creating unintentionally tense moments where someone has very low health; the next thing could hit the player and kill them. So they have to push on with low health and strive to avoid enemies and death. It can however leave players trapped just to die if they’re faced with a situation where they have to be injured to continue.

Regenerating health has the player usually recover all of their health in a short amount of time of either hiding, standing still or just not being shot up and injured. There’s rarely an indication of the value of the health save for either a bar in the case of Halo, or the screen becoming more and more red and covered in blood/jam opaque annoyances. In some situations it can be preferential and is noted to be prevalent in more modern games where wars are fought rather than taking a bullet, seeing a medic then getting shipped home for months. But we’re not talking realism here. It can be useful if there’s a timed mission and getting shot up too badly causes you to lose pace, but the same can be said for non-regen health.  With regen health there’s no suspense unless you’re fighting something that instantly kills you, but then why not have that instead anyway with non-regen health. If it hits you hard enough anyway... it wouldn’t make a damn difference.  It does have an advantage in online gaming where players can’t camp out the health pickups for easy kills, you just have to hide for moment, get health back and go back in for the other to kill you properly. It also stops players from turning health pickups into a King of the Hill situation and removing the focus of the game.

Weapons: Multiple vs. limited

In what has been a slowly moving trend to forcing people to select only a few guns, shooters tending to be players could pick up and use any number of weapons. Doom2 had 9, Duke Nukem 3D had 9 entirely different ones (and a switch from shrink to microwave and later versions with alt ammos), Blood had 12 before considering alt fires and the lists go on up to even Serious Sam using roughly 11 from a knife up to a depleted uranium cannonball launcher. The old school style of shooter technically has multiple guns with usually different ammo types for each gun, sometimes they’re shared between a few guns. When done badly, only a few guns are used and the weaker guns are fallen back upon when ammo runs out of the bigger and more fun ones. When done well, each weapon has a use and a purpose and the game encourages (but not forces) the player to do use the weapons. In online gaming, unless there is a serious balance between all guns, there will be a key gun that will win virtually all games. In doom it was the rocket launcher and double shotgun, duke3d was the pistol and its perfect accuracy (balanced as everyone started with it), Serious Sam used no auto aiming at all and cannonballs were powerful but could be dodged with sufficient distance.

Modern shooters and in particular games like Halo, the more supposedly realistic shooters and class based shooters tend to go for a setup that is either 1-2 main guns, a pistol and some other ordinance such as grenades or an item that helps out teammates. Either the player will be given the option to switch out guns at specific points such as a sniping section, or they’ll be permitted to select their own weapons (probably after earning them) and being able to use the guns of their choice and upgrading them in various guises if the game permits. It allows everyone to start with the key weapons and nobody to take a huge advantage over anyone else. More often than not, the best gun in a game online will be one almost everyone can access straight away. Limited guns are certainly useful for balance but you’re never going to get something on par with the BFG9000, even the Spartan Laser was just a rail gun and quake 2 onwards was doing them FAR better.

Cut scene control

Old school shooters tended to have very little in the way of cut scenes, if anything at all. Wolfenstein had your main char running to escape for a few seconds after the first boss was killed. There were none what so ever in doom or doom 2, all you had were splash screens of text telling you things. Blood had FMVs after boss fights and Duke Nukem 3D had the same. Everything in game had to be done by the player or triggered by the player to instigate something they player had to control. Quake might have had the occasional boss monster blowing up for you to see and Quake 2 had animations you could miss by turning around at the wrong time. Serious Sam had scenes where key items were picked up and the only real interruption was the arrival of the final boss. If you weren’t looking in the right direction when the other bosses arrived, or indeed, when something scripted happened, tough shit. You missed out and you’re a prick. Not watching when the Cyber demon walked around the corner and slammed a rocket into your unobservant ass? Too bad!

Modern shooters seem to rely more upon cut scenes to tell stories than for the setting to be purely action. Sometimes it’s done well and adds to the game if the scene is at the start/end of levels or you’re given an audio feed/sample to tell you of on-goings around the place and it adds to the atmosphere without breaking from the game play. But a game that has you forced into a foxhole, demands you go to specific places and stops your control while something happens JUST so you can see it, is not a game, it’s an interactive animation and is utter bollocks. I don’t care if the missile outside hit a building and blew up the most amazing physics based demolition I’ve ever seen, I want to stare at the fucking wall and that’s MY CHOICE TO. Alternatively it’s when the game shifts play method into something you’ve never seen before, never will again and you end up playing as someone you’ve not played as before or will again and the entire emersion of the game is killed there and then (Modern Warfare 3....I’m watching you and I’m not happy...).

A.I. Involvement:

Old School shooters rarely ever had AI involved within a game, the general consensus of the games was to have the player character as often the SOLE protagonist in the game or if there were other characters, they took a sideline to the fighting. In rare cases where there were AI involved such as Marathon with the Bobs and depending upon which timeline of an exploding universe, aliens and monsters on your side but they never beat the level for you. Often they’re cannon fodder or just pointless distractions, even while games like Strife had a whole army help you teleport in and attack a base, only you had the gun that could kill the boss and that was hidden away from the army so the fight was just one on one. Marathon had a small army of virtually invincible teammates towards the end of the game but even then, the plot leading up to explained everything and hitting those enemies meant a thick fast plasma death, they only lasted a level or two anyway. Even games like Quake, Half Life etc, didn’t have heavy involvements of AI as allies and in cases where you needed them, it was brief, it was quick and it didn’t involve them doing much fighting, if any.

Modern shooters seem, though not all and I will happily accept that, to have this ethos of putting the player as part of something bigger and not really letting them have the fun of doing the real stuff. This is particularly true of war based games where you’ll spend the level running through and gunning down an forever spawning army of pratts before someone else turns up to win the day at the last second. It becomes heavily anti-climatic, though I can appreciate that “in a real army, everyone does things and everyone wins the day” but this isn’t a real army. It’s a game. There’s a limit to the realism and beyond that it becomes dull and pointless to watch all your hard work supposedly paid off like a weak orgasm, by someone else who was scripted to always have their fun at the end at the cost of all your build up. That’s right, you’ve become a fluffer for a computer game character because they get to star in the porn and you just sit at the side with a dribbly mouth going “I want that... I worked for it”


I’m not solely against the new wave of shooters, I find the multiplayer modes and team modes are usually good fun for those with fast stable internet connections, which I don’t have, so fuck them too. No. Seriously, they can be very enjoyable but a lot of them have become rather generic, in particular I acquired a demo of a game based on being a sniper in the jungle, much like that one level in Modern Warfare 3 for one part of that level, but this is a whole game based on that.


Now can I have a whole game based on just punching a block for a mushroom to fall out? Forget the platforms and levels, I want 25 hours of HD graphics, bloom lighting effects and bonus stipple alpha (get THAT reference and I’ll be impressed) and just focus on a 12 hour story of how blocks need to be punched, 2 hours for flashbacks, the first boss is brick and moving up to the final showdown, my fist vs. a 17story block of solid steel with over the top orchestral accompaniment while crying about how I lost the love of my life to a Lego brick.

Doesn’t sound too bad now.