Why Aren’t More FPS Games Like Die Hard?
Yesterday, a certain Patrick Lindsey broke rank with the rest of video game journalism and proclaimed that there is nothing particularly special about Spec Ops: The Line and its approach to war’s gut-wrenching reality. This did not go over well with some.
But my mildly esteemed colleague does have one point I think we can all agree with – that first person shooters have failed to evolve past their simple beginnings in games like Doom and Quake. Despite heady attempts at recreating the trauma and loss of real world conflict, they still quickly tumble into the standard power fantasies of an invincible dude shotgunning his problems away.
If developers really want to impress upon gamers the pain inherent in putting a gun to another person’s forehead and pulling the trigger, they already have the perfect blueprint in the 1988 action movie Die Hard.
Stop laughing, I’m serious. And not like the terrible NES, arcade, and PS1 games that carry the movie’s name, either.
For those of you that never saw the best action movie starring a human, the concept is simple. A cop named John is trapped by thirteen terrorists between the top five floors of a skyscraper along with thirty hostages. Over the course of the film, John slowly takes out the terrorist group and does his best to keep the hostages alive between the actions of the terrorists, the police on the ground, and his quickly accumulating wounds. Every badguy has a name and personality and every action the cop takes has consequences for himself, the villains, and the people caught between.
Now imagine a game that wasn’t filled with hundreds of nameless bloodbags shuffling around waiting for their organs to paint the walls. Instead, just handful of unique looking people with individual voices, interactions, and stories to tell who can actually hurt you just as badly as you can hurt them. That would certainly make each one have a certain gravitas when they finally hit the grave, especially to the survivors seeking revenge.
But why stop with the enemies? Give the player character some real background or a reason to care about fighting, something like how Die Hard’s vigilante hero has not only the hostages’ safety but also that of his estranged wife to consider.
Oh, but cut out the regenerating health crap. In fact, don’t let wounds heal at all, at least not fully. Make players struggle. You take a shot to the leg and your stamina for sprinting permanently decreases a bit. Likewise, a blow to the arm could make aiming a bit tougher until you get through this nightmare and can get to a doctor. Real adversity can easily breed affection.
With simple changes to the things we consider “fundamental” to the genre, first person shooters could easily transcend the earthly gorefests people seem content to buy year after year. Now if only people would no longer be content to buy games about one dimensional superheroes slaughtering hundreds of nameless “villains” and then pretending to feel bad about it.