If you’re as old as me, then you might remember the days of Resident Evil on the original Playstation, in which you were only armed with a combat knife and a handgun after running into the mansion. The description of the combat knife read as follows: “This Isn’t Going To Be Enough For This Mission.”
So then why in the modern era, does it suffice now? I’m not just referring to the combat knife, but to the absence of weapons in general. Although there are games where weapons were not prominent (Clock Tower, for example) there were eventual means of dealing with enemies. In other words, you could actually kill something and it stayed dead. However, with the advent of the adventure/survival horror (which one can say goes back to Alone In The Dark) most notably showcased in Amnesia, the whole idea of using weapons and ammo wisely seemed to be replaced by the more wimpy method of “run and hide from the threat.” I never personally cared for that and being relegated from the brave hero or heroine who stands up against hordes of villains to a puny camper in a Jason flick is not my cup of tea. Yet here we are.
Let’s take Outlast for example. The male character decides that instead of going into an abandoned mental facility with at least some kind of weapon, (which any rational person would do, because a lot of shady people can take up residence in abandoned buildings, which are sometimes utilized as drug dens) he goes in there with nothing more than himself and a video camera. To any rational person, this sounds stupid. To anyone who has been a longtime fan of survival horror such as myself, it’s a real slap in the face. Imagine playing Dino Crisis with no weapons at all. You’d have been eaten by the dinosaurs already.
What’s more, is that you don’t even have an attack button. You can’t even hit them with the camera, which I am telling you – any sane or rational person would do when a crazed mental asylum patient is coming after them. It’s simply not logical. What’s more, is that objects in the game could not be used as weapons. That means any chairs, tables, fixtures on the walls, items on desks, books, bookcases, televisions and just anything else cannot be picked up and hurled at enemies. But they should be – because that’s real survival and if these developers wanted to make a real survival horror game, they would have allowed the player to behave as in a real survival situation. Humans have a survival instinct, a fight or flight response when it comes to danger. Just seeing the flight response does not paint an accurate picture of survival. Sometimes, grotesque things must be done in order to survive and if that means beating one of these asylum patients to death with a television, then so be it.
Now let us look at Call Of Duty or Battlefield. As much as I loathe these kinds of games, they would be awfully difficult without a gun. Could you even imagine trying to get through maps without being able to fire or shot or defend yourself in any way possible? Not only that, but fans would be quite upset with the lack of firearms in a game where they’re necessary, especially in one of the game’s popular zombie missions.
This is like playing Doom, Wolfenstein or Quake without weapons. Sure, they can be done, but that defeats the whole point of the game. While playing this, myself and my co-host were both terribly disappointed with the fact that I just could not defend against enemies in any way possible. Even in Outlast 2, you can’t defend against anyone. Still, there is no option to use anything as a weapon, even if they can attack and beat the living hell out of you, there’s nothing you can do about it. There is no damn attack button. How much sense does that make?
Sure, in games with light adventure elements, using a weapon may not be necessary. I’ve played several point and click adventure games where weapons would not have made as much of an impact as using a found item to defeat a monster. However, in a game where the player is exposed to a real-time active environment, the idea of not being able to attack or fend off any kind of threat seems a bit silly. You have a set time limit, there is nowhere to run once you’re caught and you can’t even fight back. If anything, this could be more traumatic for players than anything else, especially people like myself who do have PTSD from real life trauma. I enjoy fighting off threats in video games, but only when I actually have the chance to at least push them back. No matter how nice the graphics look or how great the flow of the game is, I simply cannot go into a world where I can’t fight back.
Even the hotly contested game Devotion is setup the same way. People who praised the game did so because it was unique, though when I saw the game in action, I have to say that I was not at all very pleased with it. Once again, we have a character wandering around first-person with no chance to defend himself even though there are plenty of items strewn about that would at least allow for some kind of defense, if not a bit of comedy. I saw the kitchen had a large pan in the sink. Now you may not think a large pan would provide worthy defense, but it’s better than nothing at all. You simply go up to the demon and you bash it in the head with a pan. I don’t care what you are or where you’ve come from, that hurts and it will knock you out for a good while, if not permanently.
Now I know that these kinds of elements might lessen the quality of gameplay or cause the game to end much sooner than the developers wanted. However, if you are making a survival horror game, you cannot blame players for wanting to survive, even if that means ending the whole game early. I’m sure that this is not the first time quick action responses resulted in early endings and I think that should be a trend. Players should be rewarded for ending a threat much earlier than usual, or possibly even offered a much more difficult challenge in which to test their survival skills. This means that the developers will have to program a combat system and better AI into the mix, rather than the laziness which results in the lack of one or the other.
In fact, there’s a good chance that much of this could be due to pure laziness on the developer’s part, because they simply felt that designing a combat system and allowing the players to use weapons and objects to defend themselves is “too much work.” Honestly, I would not be surprised if that is the case, yet it would be one more symptom of the modern gaming industry.