Call Of Duty Is Nothing Like The Real Thing

Illustration for article titled Call Of Duty Is Nothing Like The Real Thing

I've been a long-time advocate of somebody making a war game that plays like an actual war: one where you fight in real battles, not battles from a video game based on an action movie. This is what I mean.

This clip, posted on military site TheBrigade.com, depicts a US infantry squad in combat in Afghanistan. Thanks to the camera's vantage point instant parallels can be drawn with first-person shooter games.

Had this firefight taken place in a game, it would have been a tutorial level. Or a brief stopover between objectives. A few bad guys, a few shots fired, then you move on to the next triggered sequence. In comparison to the bombastic set pieces of modern war games, it's pedestrian.

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Here, though, it's tense. Gripping. Partly because we know these are real people, sure, but also because of the (albeit unintentional) cinematic effects. The shaky-cam, the nervous chatter, the immediacy of the whole thing brought to you by loud sound effects and copious amounts of dust.

It's surely time we got to play a game like this. Where even the smallest skirmish is as exciting as it is dangerous. Where tension is built via the panicked calls of comrades, not a rousing soundtrack. Not for some sick thrill of living the life of a soldier, but as a means of education as entertainment. Put someone in the shoes of a real soldier facing real battles, where even minor firefights are important, health packs can't save you and allies don't respawn just in time to save the day.

Note: there's some NSFW language in this.

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

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DISCUSSION

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michael nightingale

As a former Army Airborne infantryman, I'll throw in two cents:

Most video games about war will be exaggeration and very kind to the player in terms of lethality. There's honestly nothing wrong with this, just as movies are exaggerations. You can try to simulate or infer the dangers of being in combat, but the best you can do is jump-scare viewers. Ultimately, it's a game, and you'll respawn just like any other game if you screw up.

On the other hand, I would very much like to see a studio take a stab at doing all it can to immerse a player.

I guess this is a short list of what I'd consider acceptable "Hardcore Infantry Simulation Features" for a commercial video game:

1) Actions take longer:

Reloading, getting a grenade, hopping over a wall, standing up, things of that nature. Yes, we're trained to know what to do quickly and effortlessly, but we are human, and the middle of a firefight is a prime location for frantic fumbling of clips and unfastening velcro straps. Because these things take longer, the actions have more weight to survivability. I don't know if it'd be quick-time events or something like active reloading, but it should be a "screw-up and do it again", perhaps more like "screw-up and it takes longer". Far Cry 2 was on the right track with this.

2) No active munitions monitoring:

Complex way of saying "remove the ammo counter", but with some concessions. All soldiers are trained to do an "ACE" report; Ammo-Casualties-Equipment. We sure as hell don't exactly know how many rounds we have in a mag after firing in a fight, but taking about 5-10 seconds of patting ourselves gives us a rough estimate. So after your own personal ACE, a translucent number of something like "2 Mags and some change" would be better than "18/60".

3) Casualties screw up the plan:

For a player to enjoy the experience, he has to play the whole experience, which means there has to be a kinda healing cheat going on. However, getting shot/injured should make you feel like you aren't going to forget it anytime soon. The SWAT series were pretty good with this, and I'd steal some status effects from the Fallout series. Yes, a medic can "heal" you, but the best an actual medic can do is make sure you don't get any worse during a mission. If you treat every bullet as a potential game-ender, you'll more than likely play as smart as you can.

4) NPCs/Fellow soldiers are mission critical:

Yeah, yeah, we want to be the hero, and the NPCs games today provide only slow us down. However, part of the infantry experience is working with others as a team, and not being in control of what they exactly do. Either AI has to be brought up to as-of-now unreached levels, or you need some major context-scripting done. Every soldier wounded means 2 soldiers are out of the fight ( the hurt one and the one carrying his ass ). You sure as hell can't rightly clear an apartment complex just by yourself. Also, make the fellow soldiers simple but likable; they're battle buddies, not action hero tropes.

5) Aiming aims less:

Aside from the obvious "no targeting sights", take it a step further. Unless you are sniping, your standard issue rifle weapons are probably going to be effective up until 150-200 yards, where shooting is a waste of ammo used only for covering fire. That said, if you take the time to aim right, you'll hit your target, but moving and looking around mess with your aim far more than most video games allow, and it'll take awhile to reset your sights. I think the Killzone style has it pretty close.