Re­live the hor­ror of World War II, boasted one game ad in du­bi­ous taste”

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Gamingreviews -

Games are not like re­al­ity. More than any other art form, their prin­ci­ple pur­pose is es­capism. But, per­haps in the quest to be taken more se­ri­ously, some videogames pride them­selves on their au­then­tic­ity.

The Fifa games, for ex­am­ple, recre­ate the sights and sounds of all the ma­jor in­ter­na­tional foot­ball sides, the com­men­ta­tors, even the sounds of the crowds. War games are es­pe­cially con­cerned with au­then­tic­ity: “Re­live the hor­ror of World War II,” boasted one game ad in du­bi­ous taste.

But where does this urge to re­al­ism leave the powerup and health bar? You know: those lit­tle hid­den bonuses that pro­long your life, with the lit­tle in­di­ca­tor rep­re­sent­ing health? They’re far from au­then­tic, but in the mid­dle of game­play, they’re very con­ve­nient in the heel of the hunt.

In search for the holy grail of au­then­tic­ity, de­vel­op­ers have had to be in­ven­tive. The pro­tag­o­nists in the Grand Theft Auto games gain bul­let­proof vests, and when they can’t stand any more pu­n­ish­ment, are sent to the hospi­tal. How­ever, in a notably in­ac­cu­rate por­trait of the US health­care sys­tem, that char­ac­ter is back rob­bing cars again in no time.

Mil­i­tary games have ban­dages and band-aids, and fre­quently you can heal your­self sim­ply by avoid­ing gun­fire for a spell. That gives strength to the adage that time heals all wounds.

Also mo­ti­vated by re­al­ism, the tra­di­tional “health bar” in­di­ca­tor is (per­haps iron­i­cally) dy­ing out. Now, pi­o­neered by the likes or Res­i­dent Evil, di­min­ish­ing health is man­i­fested in a no­tice­able de­cline in char­ac­ters’ fac­ul­ties.

In­stead of a sim­ple in­di­ca­tor, they hold their wounds, some­times lean against walls and their in­juries are clearly vis­i­ble.

But Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has surely the most elab­o­rate, au­then­tic and in­con­ve­nient rep­re­sen­ta­tives of health. Like other games, in­juries sus­tained by your avatar be­gin to man­i­fest in game­play, but this time you de­velop limps; you walk slower un­til you heal your­self.

You can even use med­i­cal packs, stitch up your own wounds and ap­ply splints. Your char­ac­ter is also af­fected by the weight of the equip­ment he car­ries.

In other games, sus­tained in­juries are also shown in your eye­sight. In the Call of Duty se­ries, for ex­am­ple, your screen flashes red when you’re badly in­jured, and your sight is im­paired. I dare say it’s slightly churl­ish for the game de­sign­ers to im­pede an avatar’s sight at this cru­cial stage.

Th­ese nods to verisimil­i­tude are all very clever un­til you dis­cover the fa­tal flaw in this plan – they make the gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence less fun. Time spent work­ing a thread metic­u­lously through a wound (no kid­ding) is time that could be spent stalk­ing, hunt­ing and (if you in­sist) evad­ing en­e­mies.

Videogame se­quels rou­tinely outdo their pre­de­ces­sors, but pre­vi­ous Metal Gear Solid games made do with a sim­ple “life bar”, which worked just fine from a gam­ing point of view.

If gamers want to learn about the frail­ties of the hu­man body, how to su­ture a wound and treat dam­aged limbs with splints, they can buy a Trauma Cen­tre, or maybe SimHealth or (if you’re feel­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous) Rex Reed: Ex­per­i­men­tal Sur­geon. Whether the Grey’s Anatomy videogame deals with coro­nary by­passes or less lit­eral mat­ters of the heart, I can’t be sure.

If any de­vel­op­ers of action-based games are read­ing this: leave the am­a­teur surgery to med­i­cal games. For shoot-’em-ups, I imag­ine most play­ers would rather be in­fantry than medic.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.