Updated: Sep 11
How many times have you played an immersive FPS only to have your immersion wrecked by the game doing something stupid? If you are anything like me, the answer would be “Far, far too many!”
Many games prevent you from doing things that are trivial in real life. This is infuriating, especially when you know of games that have implemented these gameplay mechanics years ago. I often find myself thinking;
"If *insert franchise* figured this out back in *inset decade*, why don’t all franchises do this now?”
To get this off my chest - and due to a desire to see video games improve in the future - I have listed the mechanics which I feel would behoove immersive FPS games to include.
Before I start, I will concede that not all FPS games would benefit from these. Fast-paced arena shooters such as Unreal Tournament, Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) etc. probably wouldn’t, but I posit that any FPS that is aiming for immersion should contain these by default.
Hands up if you have ever pulled yourself on top of a wall, ledge, shipping container etc. Those of you with your hands up, congratulations - you have performed a feat that most FPS genetically engineered cybernetically enhanced super-soldiers are incapable of. Master Chief can flip a tank but apparently cannot perform a simple pull up. This is stupid, annoying and immersion-breaking.
The solution is simple - mantling. If you are unfamiliar with the term, it simply means pulling yourself up onto things. If you have played Mirror's Edge you will have done this thousands of times. Same goes for Crysis 2. System Shock 2 featured this as well - back in 1999! So, why did it take about a decade for this to become anywhere near common practice, and why is it still not a universal feature in all modern FPS?
Mirror's Edge PC
You can see a textbook example of mantling at the 0:25 mark
2) Lean n’ Shoot
In a fire-fight, you want to keep as much of your body behind cover as possible. So, when fighting from behind cover, such as the corner of a building, you do not want to expose your whole body to shoot around it. The Solution - lean n’ shoot. Some FPS games feature this as well. The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise has it, System Shocks 1 and 2 has it, F.E.A.R. had it - only to remove it for its inferior sequels.
To my mind, any FPS that is aiming for immersivity should include this as standard. If the ODST and other regular human troops in Halo did this - instead of attempting to ‘tank’ damage like Spartan 117 - they might actually survive for a few minutes. If you feel lean n’ shoot is an unnecessary luxury in an FPS, I invite you to play any realism mod for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Such as MISERY - and see how long you live without using it. Don’t worry, it will be a very short test.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Shadow of Chernobyl
"Peekaboo, I shoot you!"
3) Going Prone and crawling
If caught out in the open, the best way for an exposed trooper to survive incoming gunfire - not to mention artillery and airstrikes - is to get as low to the ground as possible. Ever heard a drill sergeant shouting “I want to see your face in the dirt, maggot!” during training? They are not doing it just to be an A-hole - they are doing it to save the recruit’s life when training becomes reality. Therefore, any immersive FPS should feature this by default.
Shooting from the prone position can also increase your accuracy in real life, especially if you are using a bipod. What’s more, getting that low and doing your best lizard impression is a good way to see under things - such as vehicles - and to squeeze into tight spaces.
Crawling like this is also a good way to get around without being spotted, and to hide behind low cover. Soldier of Fortune 2 had this, some mods for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. have this - Anomaly and MISERY spring to mind - but for a masterclass in prone movement and shooting, look no further than the ARMA series.
ARMA 3 Stances
Remember all that?
Hands up if you have ever sprinted as a child? Congratulations, you achieved as a kid what the Master Chief couldn’t do until Halo 4! In the earlier games, 'The Chief' moved at a relative snail’s pace, which was patently stupid, considering the novels suggest Spartans can run at 30 MPH.
Gordon Freeman in the original Half-Life - and Barney Calhoun and Adrian Shepard in Blue Shift and Opposing Force respectively - could not sprint as such either. Instead, they permanently jogged around at a near sprint pace - often causing the player to overshoot doorways. This was far from perfect too.
At least Valve had figured out how to handle sprinting by Half-Life 2. In this, walk and crouch walk was slow but stealthy, standard movement was at a jogging pace that could be maintained indefinitely, whilst sprinting was fast but could not be sustained for long - just like real life. I argue that any modern-day or future immersive FPS that does not include a similar movement scheme and a sprinting mechanic is frankly doing FPS’ wrong.
Crysis 3 - Nanosuit Sprinting
Run Cyber-Forest Run!
5) Inventory System
FPS games have implemented many ways to manage what your avatar is carrying. Half-Life and most FPS games of its era and earlier allowed you to carry all in-game weapons at once - often despite not possessing a backpack or other means of storing them #videogamelogic
‘Halo-era’ games allowed you to carry only two to three weapons at a time - and only the ammo for these weapons, which I found overly restrictive.
The S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise used an inventory system more reminiscent of an RPG and was much the richer for it. In S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Lost Alpha Developer's Cut you had three weapon slots, two for ‘long’ (two-handed) weapons, and the third slot for pistols. Ammo for these weapons could be attached to your belt for easy access and fast reloading. So far so ordinary.
But you also had a backpack inventory, into which you could pack as much stuff as the weight limit allowed you to carry before you could no longer move. If you wanted to fill it with ammo for a weapon you were not yet carrying, but expected to acquire soon, you were free to do so. If you wanted to arm yourself exclusively with shotguns because you (or your avatar) had terrible aim and thus couldn’t snipe? You could do that as well. You wanted to swap a general-purpose weapon in your equippable slots for a specialist one in your backpack - say, for example, an RPG to take out a vehicle - you could do that too. This allowed for far greater freedom and customizability, and ultimately greater immersion and a superior experience.
TL;DR - all immersive FPS games should include an RPG style inventory!
6) Setting Traps
Facing off against an enemy in a stand-up fight is one thing, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as setting a trap for them, then sitting back and watching them blunder into it. Or is this just me? 😉
Setting up traps can be a great way of evening the odds when outnumbered, and as a method of taking out difficult to kill enemies. Half-Life had this with its laser mines and satchel charges - only to remove them in Half-Life 2. Far Cry Instincts allowed you to set up vicious spike traps, Rambo: First Blood style. MISERY based mods for S.T.A.L.K.E.R. introduced butterfly mines and I.E.D.s, whilst Far Cry 2 allowed you to ambush whole convoys of enemy vehicles with them.
Not being able to set up even the simplest of traps is both frustrating and stupid. If you were one person going up against many, setting up traps to whittle down their numbers whilst avoiding direct combat should be your tactic of choice.
Far Cry 2 IED vs Convoy
Big Boom a 01:40
7: Controllable NPCs
Let’s face it, most ‘companion’ or squadmate NPCs are more of an annoying hindrance than a help. If they are not getting stuck in doorways, they are kamikazeing into a horde of enemies they can’t possibly defeat - such as the marines charging the Covenant in the Truth and Reconciliation mission in Halo: Combat Evolved.
Since NPC A.I. does not appear to have improved much in the last 20 years, the best workaround is being able to give them instructions and issuing standing orders. I have covered this issue in greater detail when discussing ‘How to Make a Good Escort Quest (And How Not To)’.
8: Destructible Environments
When Red Faction hit the scene in 2001, I was amazed by its destructible environments - even if its use of them in-game was actually quite limited. I remember thinking “This is a game-changer. Pretty soon all games will include this.”
Alas, no. Games that included destructible environments remained a rarity. Red Faction’s sequels had it, the Frostbite engine games had it, Crysis 1 and Far Cry 2 had it to an extent, but these were the exceptions, not the rule. For most games, the environment remained frustratingly indestructible.
Perhaps now that Unreal Engine 4, with its built-in destructible environment features, is freely available, we will finally see this awesome mechanic become the norm.
Unreal Engine 4 Physics and Destruction System
I hope they have insurance for all that...
So that’s my top eight FPS gameplay mechanics that I wish would be used more often than they are. What are yours? Tell us in the comments section below.
There are probably more than a few games and franchises that already use these mechanics that I haven’t mentioned, simply because I am not aware of them at the time of writing. If you know of any others, feel free to let us and gamers everywhere know about them.
EDIT: The results are in and are summarized in the next article.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to on-line multi-player. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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