Realism is one of the most slippery topics in gaming. The thing is, the more realistic a game is, the more impressive and polished it seems, especially when that realism is carried onto the tiniest little details. At the same time though, realism often takes the fun out of things. What’s more puzzling is the fact that at the end of the day, no one can really agree on how much realism there should be in a game. More than that, the answer varies for each game since every single game decides to handle realism in a different manner.
There are some useful generalizations though. For one, pc games have often been more geared towards realism than console games, especially within the fps genre. This is where the title of my blog is going to make a lot of sense. Think of all the console fps games you guys have played or have read about. How many of those game do you remember featuring bullet physics, where the shot you fire will drop down in long distances, thus making your crosshair unreliable at certain range? Let’s see. CoD4? Nope. Rainbow Six Vegas? Killzone 2? Battlefield Bad Company? None of these games have bullet physics, despite the fact that some are really focused on realism, especially KZ2 where even the controls have been tweaked to feel realistic (hence, a ton of complaints from those people used to unrealistically fast controls featured in games like Call of Duty and Battlefield Bad Company).
This is an interesting fact to think about when you think about how Delta Force, a game released more than 10 years ago had realistic bullet physics and modifiable scope to utilize this feature. Even beyond that, each weapon in this game had different optimal range with SOCOM pistol shots dropping elevation at about 500 meters (400 meters if you place a silencer on the gun) while M82A1 shots being completely accurate for up to 1600 meters. Many other PC fps games like Operation Flashpoint and most recently, Crysis employs an extremely impressive bullet physics. In fact, when Rainbow Six franchise was exclusive to the PC, that game had bullet physics as well. I don’t mean to bash console games by bringing this fact but this just has me intrigued.
What also has me really intrigued is looking at how some game franchises present some things extremely realistically while being ridiculously unrealistic for some other things. The craziest thing though is that balance is not what makes these games suceed but the realism fitting its sense of style. An example many will easily recognize is Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Some of the details to realism in this game at the time was unbelievable. Ice melts when thrown out of the bucket; soldiers aren’t able to use their rifles when shot in the right arm because they’re right-handed; steam comes out of pipe when you shoot it…. The attention to detail is amazing. yet… tactical reload function is still in the game (double-tap r2 to instantly reload your weapon); when enemies see you an exclamation point appears on top of their head; an A6 Harrier craft takes more than 20 stinger missiles to take down! Isn’t it interesting how this game chooses which things to have realistic and which to be totally over-the-top and unreal?
The games that succeed with this mixing of realism and unrealism/surrealism succeed because the developers are able to realize just how much realism is too much realism. They are able to see that in the end, the game’s ultimate objective is to entertain us and that we have fun with it. Realism is used as a tool to immerse us into the game’s universe but realism itself does not become the end goal. Some games require more realism than others but many other games suffer if there is too much realism. Beyond this interesting balance I think is that the game’s unrealistic aspects don’t turn us off.
All too often, the regenerating health aspect can be a bit off-putting even though the gameplay mechanics are most likely enhanced and made fluid with this feature. Resistance franchise overcame this by explaining why the main character Nathan Hale was able to regenerate health and same goes for the Halo series (probably the game most responsible for starting the regenerating-health trend in shooters) and so they succeed but you play games like Killzone 2 or Gears of War and while it doesn’t negatively affect the gameplay, it’s one of those ‘where’s my bullet physics? moments.
I personally am not a big fan of realism but I have to say that even I have times when I’m asking, ”Where’s my bullet physics?” This becomes even bigger of an issue in online matches because I’m left wondering, ”How the hell did he survive my grenade?” I’m playing Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec and I end up laughing because I purposefully hit the sides of the wall in a circuit and that allows me to corner that turn much quicker, rather than turning into a mold of metal and blood. Then I remember those SOCOM 2 missions where I’m about to complete a mission but someone hears my footsteps and snipes me and kills me, requiring me to repeat that mission all the way from the beginning (why are there no mid-level checkpoints in this franchise yet?)… It’s a really interesting topic I think cause all of us are guilty of thinking either the game was too realistic or not realistic enough. I’m sure all of us had those ”where’s my bullet physics?” moments and thinking back, it’s just really interesting how different games utilize realism as a tool, or as a goal.