I put down my controller mid-match during Black Ops the other evening, having hit a few roadblocks in my gaming experience. The first was that it was late, and I had a lot to do the next day. The second being that I had just loaded somewhere around twelve to fifteen rounds from my assault rifle (it was the FAL if information like that should truly need to be known) into a cardboard box and failed to kill an enemy player. The enemy was hiding behind it, and I had plenty of time to sit around and try and shoot him through the object, but the fact remains that what was representative in-game of a simple box was somehow stopping my extremely large and impressive bullets from earning me another kill. The frustration at such seemingly lazy development was enough of an excuse for me to officially end my evening of gaming, but this isn't the first time that the modern war scene has let me down. In fact, it's easy to think of quite a few ways that the genre has been hampered by quite a few issues that may have some relatively easy solutions.
How is it that on one hand developers suggest that they've found new ways to end spawn camping through rotational spawn points and more intelligent level design, but then give players control over a helicopter that has the ability to simply sit in a single location and rain hell down upon anyone stupid enough to be playing? Perhaps I've missed something here, but being 'modern' doesn't simply mean providing players the ability to sweep death across a battlefield for any extended period of time. While it's true that Modern Warfare provided us with completely new tools in which to fight players with, a lot of the core features from the title really haven't changed over the past few years since FPS gaming was first redefined. Gamers have been throwing down proximity mines since Goldeneye, laying turrets on walls since Perfect Dark, and if we were able to learn a single thing from TimeSplitters, it's that there can never really be enough weapon variation in a game.
But what has modern gaming taught us? That bullet penetration and destructible environments are the future? If that defiant cardboard box is any example of things so far, I'm not terribly excited over this prospect. Worse is the thought that the in-game experience, or currency, is a substitute for any sort of content, lest our lives become as boring a grind as any monotonous job. The weapons were for the most part fake in those older games, but at least they were fun to use.
Perhaps this is the reason that I prefer the Battlefield series more than Call of Duty, there's more of an excuse to leave out 'future tech' since the series has so much more happening on the average match, but even still there are qualities that the series seems to share with other modern day FPS games. The lack of weaponry available, though perhaps intentionally done for balance purposes, is a little disappointing to start. If WWII games were all about highlighting some of the greatest advancements of the era, shouldn't modern FPS games take a similar stance? Should they offer more variety amongst weaponry, and the various leaps that the world has made in various experimental weaponry? Perhaps I'm just tired of seeing the AK-47 as the staple gun to look forward to at the end of every single modern shooter. I understand its historical significance, the weight of the damage that the worlds most reliable assault rifle has inflicted upon the world, but honestly it gets tiring looking forward to the same prize in every single box.
It feels like for every step forward that modern shooters make, there are quite a few steps backwards taken as well. After all, at the point where a game is going to give players access to some of the worlds deadliest technology, the developers should at least push the envelope a little bit. Heartbeat sensors and manually controlled missiles certainly add new ways of looking at things, but whatever happened to games adding guns that are unique enough to be remembered, but balanced enough to offer a competitive multiplayer scene. Why is it that amid all these modern day shooters we need to wait years before gamers see a game like Bulletstorm, where every single weapon role is still intact but the strangeness of the weapons themselves makes each one a unique experience.
Of course, when a game is shooting to be the most realistic combat simulator to date, it's understandable that they wouldn't want to include any sort of alien weaponry, but I would hardly call an experience like Black Ops by any means realistic. I have a hard time understanding why these developers don't work off of each others ideas enough. Would it be that much effort to add smoke grenades as a launcher attachment in the Call of Duty series, or for Battlefield to consider using small scale EMP weapons to shut down opposing vehicles? If these two series are the clashing titans of the FPS industry then why is it that I feel like I have to look for alternative games to find a gun that's not only fun to use because it racks up kills, but fun to use because of how the kills are earned. Creativity shouldn't be limited to level design, bullet penetration and killstreaks after all.
Perhaps it's because of the lack of technological options, but I feel that older FPS games were simply more fun as a result. I didn't have to worry about unlocking a weapon I wanted or collecting any kind of in-game currency. It was a simpler time to be sure and without any sort of competitive online multiplayer, it's clear that half the fun was blowing my friends away locally. But even still, it's hard not to miss the days when a secondary weapon ability was to stick a gun on a wall and have it auto-track players. Or maybe I just miss having options like the Cerebral Bore. Either way, we should all hope that since the fixation on modern combat has reached a fever pitch, FPS gaming can finally move onward and start getting a little more creative yet again.