“Realistic” Game Weapons May Have More Game and Less Realism

First-person shooters are murder simulators… The military trains recruits to kill using first-person shooters…

While we’ve all heard such rhetoric from critics of the FPS genre, a Popular Mechanics article suggests that even the most reality-based titles are enhanced by developers to play more smoothly or deliver a more exciting experience than that found in your every day, run of the mill gun battle. From Erik Sofge’s PM piece:

Unlike sci-fi FPS games such as Halo or Doom, military shooters have a tradition of so-called realism. Most of the in-game weapons are available now… Firefights look and sound like something out of Blackhawk Down… Will increasingly powerful PCs and game consoles allow military shooters to become more realistic than ever?

If Rainbow Six Vegas 2 is any indication, the answer is a big, fat “sort of.” …when it comes to the guns, the developers seem to have pushed the Tom Clancy series closer to the battlefield..

Except, of course, when the developers feel the need to cheat. All of the guns in RSV2 start out extremely accurate, based on factory stats and more, before game balance and player expectations come into play.

Ubisoft RSV2 designer Philippe Thieren told PM: 

I take these weapons, and look at what defines them, or what people think defines them. For an Uzi, people think it fires lots of bullets, and it’s really inaccurate. So I make it fire faster than it should. It’s about taking the personality of a weapon, and making it shine in the game.

These consoles are so powerful, when you fire a bullet we could factor all of it in: windfall, range, everything about the history of that specific weapon, friction values for the barrel, how many times it’s been fired since it was last cleaned. We could make it as anally realistic as possible. But we’re not trying to make a live simulator.

What about America’s Army, the Defense Department’s powerful recruiting tool? 

Adhering to realism is something of a sticking point for AA, since the last thing the Army wants to do is to present modern warfare as a series of high-octane action-movie scenes.

With consistent access to actual weapon systems and insight from current and former soldiers, you would think that AA’s guns would come out 100 percent accurate. [But] in America’s Army, the limitation is [the user’s PC] hardware…

When you’re hit in nearly any war-themed FPS… surviving means finding cover, then jumping back into the fight. This regenerative health system has no bearing on the story line or on reality.

Mega-hit Call of Duty 4 has garnered accolades for its realism, but, as PM reports:

The dev team for Call of Duty 4 also starts out with hyper-realistic weapons, then tweaks them for balance and personality… Realism, in other words, is almost always about the flavor of the game, and it’s as subjective as any element of genre.

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