Right Stick Reticle, Right Shoulder 1, Repeat

A serious epidemic has befallen the land of gaming and it has to stop.  Almost every computer/video game that isn’t based on sports (unless it is the Winter Olympics, damn you biathlon), strictly puzzle solving (think Tetris), or old school RPG (although it is slowly being overrun) has some element of picking up a gun and shooting it at your enemies.  Whether it is the latest “Call of Duty”, anything since Assassin’s Creed II (yes guns play a small part, but there is in fact a very rudimentary pistol in the game), or even an action RPG like Mass Effect, firearms come into play.  And it needs to stop.

Forget what so many games that revolve around shooting and killing people tells us (apparently the fantasy of killing people with a gun is HUGE).  It is the fact that almost every game nowadays relies so heavily on this gameplay mechanic that it has become tiresome and boring.  I understand the first person shooter genre is just that, a genre revolving around shooting, and frankly those games receive a much lesser offense (although the sheer amount of releases within the genre is staggering each year).  It is more the action-adventure style games that I’m aimed at here.

After scaling a crumbling wall, squeezing through a couple tight passages in a cave, and landing on a platform that immediately collapsed and sent me tumbling my forward momentum was completely halted.  Why?  Because once I traversed all of those previous perils I ended up becoming pinned down behind a random stone (that had no reason for being in the middle of an otherwise fairly open area in a town) due to being shot at from all angles.  Was it not enough to shimmy and jump from ledge to ledge on the wall about two minutes earlier that I must need to be thrown into even more dire peril?  Not only that but why is there just a random, loaded gun sitting on top of the stone that I am now shielding myself behind?  Where did its owner go, and why didn’t I even have to steal his gun off of him?  These are the questions I was recently faced while playing the latest release in the “Uncharted” video game series.

The “Uncharted” series is unique, the series offers a third-person perspective within a story that is basically a modern day Indiana Jones (time is certainly a cruel mistress).  The main character, Nathan Drake, is an adventurer that is always searching for some sort of hidden treasure or lost city mainly because he is obsessed with the adventure (as opposed to being in it just for the money).  The games are incredible (go ahead, take a look at the reviews for any of them) from the graphics down to the story telling and sound design the “Uncharted” series is virtually unrivaled.  Unfortunately, Uncharted also uses gunplay as a gameplay crutch.

When you, as Nathan Drake, are not jumping or climbing (or both) from a different ledge or wrung to another you are far too often pinned down behind a rock, a wall, a well, et al. while trying to not be hit by a onslaught of never ending enemy weaponry.  In fact the coolest parts about the game, the climbing and platforming, usually end up taking a back seat to the shooting.  The game may be equal parts of both shooting and platforming, but the platforming is a cakewalk compared to the shooting (I can count the times I died while jumping from a dilapidated building side on one hand while I lost count of how many deaths came at the hands of being shot), which actually ruins the game.  If the player is not in peril a, nearly, equal amount from all non-storytelling elements, then whatever is of less peril basically becomes window-dressing.

Another question that arises is why an adventurer that is going out to solve a couple puzzles and find a lost city need to rack up a body count that would make him the most wanted man in the world?  I understand that some situations can definitely get hairy and that some gunplay needs to be involved, but it is absolutely ludicrous to have to kill henchman after henchman with various guns on his way to said lost city, is the search for a lost city not enough?  Not to mention that, aside from grenades (yes for some reason he needs to have grenades), there is always a near endless amount of weaponry and ammunition laying around the killzone so that if your weapon does happen to run out you can go use some dead stiff’s that he clearly no longer needs (or there might even be unused weapons that were laying around specifically to make sure that you had enough firepower to get through “bridge with old debris for hiding”-X or “somewhat open but stilled not truly open field with a building and pillars”-Y).

Now I’m not trying to call out Uncharted 3 and say that it is bad.  In fact it is an amazing game, it’s the closest thing I’ve come to playing a movie – the graphics are great, the writing is very cinematic (complete with tongue-in-cheek dialogue and well rounded main characters.  It is one of the best games I’ve ever played (and I will play almost anything except for the tetris like puzzle games).  But it is a shame that a game like Uncharted, that should not have nearly as much shooting and killing as it does, relies so heavily on that particular gameplay mechanic.

Whatever happened to finite amount of ammunition (and the inability to use most enemy weapons), or games like the original Rainbow Six that, while involving neutralizing enemies with guns, put much higher emphasis on planning out an attack plan and making sure that every shot mattered?  Even action games like the “God of War” series, while offering up the very similar “obliterate all the random enemies that get in your way” approach, end up being much more fun an entertaining simply because it is something different than shooting a gun (although those are not the only reasons).  While Assassin’s Creed II did have a pistol-type weapon, it was used properly within the context of the game.  There was so little ammunition that you didn’t want to ever use it unless absolutely necessary, not to mention the fact that it was the easiest way to kill a foe, by far (as it should have been).

I realize, especially in today’s warring world, that military style action is sometimes sought after and plays a rather large part in society.  I also realize that guns are in fact one, of several, weapons that can be used to dispense a bad guy.  However, it seems to me that games that require (or at least utilize) the use of firearms have almost regressed in the 2000s.  And in order to keep shooting games fun (and at least somewhat realistic) video games that don’t necessarily need that type of gameplay should use it sparingly, if at all.  Games like Uncharted 3 are great for what they offer other than emptying clip after clip at random thugs and the video game developers should challenge themselves in making games that are fun but don’t require every other area within a level to be filled with enemies firing round after round at me.  Because, after a while, moving the right stick until the reticle is on your target and pressing the fire button is more daunting than entertaining.

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