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4 Awful Game Features (Done In The Name Of Realism)
One of the beautiful things about gaming is experiencing things you never could in real life. While I love shooting lasers and squashing alien eggs as much as the next guy, sometimes, a gritty, realistic experience is just what the doctor ordered. I have serious questions about how qualified my doctor actually is, but that’s a conversation for another day.
However, there are times when keeping it real can go wrong, as Dave Chappelle would gladly point out if he wasn’t doing crack somewhere. This list features some great games, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect. Here are four examples of realism in games going too far.
Adam Wake: Tired, Buddy?
The protagonist of a video game is usually, by nature, a fairly capable person. The space marine sector may as well double as the New York Yankees for all PEDs they use, health regeneration is a skill that I’m pretty sure characters are born with nowadays and even a busty survivor who has never killed anybody can swiftly and accurately murder a mercenary army with minimal gun practice. Generally, we don’t tolerate weaknesses in our heroes, unless theyv are touchingly used to teach them a lesson about humility, or empathy, or some other “feelings” that real heroes don’t need anyway.
That’s not to say there isn’t room for a plucky, lovable everyman, but even these guys tend to out-badass your typical real life war hero. Isaac Clarke, Lara Croft, whatever schlub you played as in Homefront; these are all people who had no firearms experience before their respective games, yet were immediately capable of pulling off headshots whilst running and jumping off a cliff while aliens are attacking and they really have to pee.
Alan Wake looked to provide a different sort of experience, with its brooding narrative, deliberately paced gameplay and flashlight that has infinite batteries, at least until you flick the switch to “red dwarf” mode. Remedy Studios understands that Wake isn’t some super-fighter, he is just a regular guy. And even though God apparently granted him the divine gift of auto-aim, she neglected to give him a set of properly working lungs. Whenever you try to run with Alan (something you need to do approximately every -6 seconds) he makes it about seven steps before beginning to wheeze like Darth Vader on Rib Day at the Death Star. That’s why the exhaust port was there, by the way.
It’s ridiculous. And he doesn’t just get his breath back by stopping, no sir. You have to actually wait for him to bend down, put his hands on his thighs and work it out himself. I understand that Wake is not a marathon runner, but at what point did he contract emphysema? If Alan Wake gets an Xbox One version someday, rumor is you will actually have to talk him through his post-light jog, “Deep breaths, Alan. that’s right. Put your hands on top of your head, I hear that works. Holy crap, a monster! Alan, walk briskly out of the way!”
Call of Duty: Friendly Fire Will Not Be Tolerated
The Call of Duty series has never worried overmuch about realism. I mean, do they really expect us to believe Soap could hold his own in a firefight and have a mohawk? Come on, we know its one or the other. When the game, by design, has you take out the approximate population of Montana throughout its five or six hour campaign, its kind of hard to take the moral lesson about the atrocities of war they slap down at the end seriously. (I think it was somewhere after you hang the bad guy from a glass roof but before you skydive out of a plane singing La Cucaracha.)
However, one facet they have always taken seriously is friendly fire. Your allies can block your path for days, draw their name in random walls with bullets and order you to “follow them”, but God forbid one of your stray bullets find its way into their foot, because you’ll be loading a previous checkpoint if that happens.
It doesn’t matter if one of your teammates casually walks into the middle of a firefight trying to find his contact lens, if one of your bullets hits him, that’s game over. One time I was laying prone, just about to give some dirty terrorist an extra nasal cavity, when one of my guys decided that would be a good time to walk into my line of sight and just stand there. Sure he could have done that at any time, but he decided to wait for full comedic value to accumulate and stuck his foot in front of my barrel right as I shot. Game over.
So, in summation, here are the things that are okay: war crimes, terrible puns, property destruction, ammo wasting (what, those chickens are just supposed to kill themselves?) and dog-stabbing. Not okay: clipping the shoelace off a guy with the calltag Seuss. Glad we cleared that up.
Metro 2033: Changin’ A Filter
Few games have featured environmental storytelling as well as Metro 2033. The whole atmosphere of the game draws an incredible picture, and it isn’t a pretty one. The world is in shambles. A global war has caused a nuclear winter, forcing most people to seek alternate means of living. In Russia, this takes the form of hiding in the sewers, complete with rats, mutants and, most likely, the Olsen twins and their perpetual hunger. From the outset, it is clear we are looking at something that is dying, despite efforts to repair the massive damage that has been done.
As part of that vision, Metro took a lot of video game elements and concessions we take for granted, looked nice and hard at them, then threw them out the window with a resounding “Meh.” The minimalist HUD gives few concessions, and goes from “reasonably sparse” to “figure it the hell out yourself” as you bump up the difficulty. For example, on regular difficulty, you at least get a readout of the ammo left in your gun. Bump it up to hard, though, and you’re left counting shots and trying to squint at the magazine under your gun. Features like this aren’t for everybody, but it seperates Metro from the myriad other shooters out there, and is one of the reasons it has such a cult following.
However, there is one detail that, although unashamedly realistic, pushes the game further up the “this game has got to go like now” scale than it would normally be. Filters. Freaking gas filters. Since the air is saturated with Lindsay Lohan flatulence (I think, the story details are a little fuzzy), your protagonist Artyom must have his gas mask equipped at all times. Since this isn’t every other movie and game ever made, you must periodically change the filter on you mask. Wait too long to do so, and you die. Simple.
And how does the game help you keep track of your filters? A numerical timer? A visual gauge? Some guy yelling “Toasty!” whenever you are about to run out? Nope. An in-game watch. That’s it. The game gives you something that most of us already have access to “help” keep you alive and breathing. I would almost rather have Navi yelling at me about air filters than have to stop and check my freaking watch every few minutes. It wasn’t fun in Deadrising, and it isn’t fun in Metro. Unsprisingly, that particular feature was removed for the sequel.
Assassin’s Creed: Desynchronizing
For those of you unfamiliar with the story of Assassin’s Creed, and let’s be honest does anyone really know what’s going on there anymore, it works off of one simple concept. Or it did until the writers went all Game of Thrones and killed everybody you ever loved, but I digress. The series started off with a man named Desmond reliving the memories of his significantly more awesome assassin ancestor, Altair. He does this via a machine called the Animus, a device that reads ones DNA and reconstructs memories from the data.
Nothing even remotely ridiculous there, and Ubisoft wanted Assassin’s Creed to retain that “this totally could have happened” feel. So Ubisoft, in their tireless quest for authenticity, devised a system that didn’t break the fiction, yet still resulted in a game over for not following the rules. Instead of letting you, you know, assassinate people or whatever, the Animus would “desync”and you would start at the last checkpoint. Even minor infractions like veering off course and violently murdering innocent civilians will cause you to desync, because that’s not what the assassins did in real life.
The reasons are understandable, but of all the ludicrous things going on in the AC universe, this is the thing that gets them upset. But God forbid any of them somehow miss any historical event of any significance. If Connor missed one of George Washington’s bowel movements, well, you could imagine the chaos our country would have been plunged into.
For more irreverence, check out the Top 10 Introductory Sequences in gaming, or Five Awesome Metroidvania Games (That Prove The Genre Isn’t Dead)