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Are Shooters Too Dumbed Down? |

  • Upgrade Trees and Character Development
  • Health Management
  • Ammo + Weapon Management
  • Inventories

All of the above have been removed from most big shooters. The only recent games I can think of that haven’t done this are Dead Space and Bioshock and a few smaller titles like Far Cry 2.

Typically, a game genre starts out simple and over time, players want increased immersion and deeper strategy and new games add features to accommodate that. The flip side is that these added features, increase complexity which can hurt newcomer accessibility.

Shooters have become very big budget productions, so there is a strong incentive to play it safe and keep the games really simple and mass market friendly. But on the flip side, the maturation process of the single player modes of shooters has stalled. The games have been dumbed down to the point of: push forward, follow flashing on-screen prompts, watch scripting, and repeat.

There is a market for that: many people really want a simple, heavily guided and scripted game, and lack the patience or interest for anything more involved. But a lot of the game-buying public does want something a little more involved.

So what do you think? Are you happy with big, simplified blockbuster shooters that are heavily guided & scripted? Or are you eager to see some more depth and immersion?

  • teflon6678

    its arguable that ammo and weapon management is still there even when playing with the 2 gun system. Not every gun is always appropriate to every situation, and a good shooter will have a decent variety which allows you to play how you want with the gun you want to.

    Health is completely dumbed down though, yes, but on consoles, Halo’s recharging health has actually helped to make the FPS more manageable. Inventories and upgrades are kind of a subset of this, really. If you dont have health management, then you dont need med kits, and you dont need antidotes, and you dont need to level up to get better health etc. etc.

    of course, it really depends on what type of shooter youre trying to make. Gritty pseudo-realism and you either have two guns, a recharging health system or a weight and space limit and med kits as seen in STALKER. Sci-fi or fantasy and you can happily mess about with gun upgrades, levelling up, carrying 20 guns and shooting bees out of your hands…

  • I dunno… the games you mentioned (Bioshock etc.) have different roots than simple shooters, like Doom… Ever since, they haven’t evolved in my eyes… they gave you more to play with (interesting weapons and vehicles and such), but it wasn’t evolution, or even revolution.

    The complex games (System Shock, Deus Ex et al) aren’t shooters… or I wouldn’t classify them as shooters. Most of those, except some, sold not that well, compared to real shooters. Thus, they were dumbed down for the casuals, so they sell better. In my eyes, this is a simple equation.

    I loved those games, the more complex ones… yet they aren’t produced with big budgets anymore, which makes me sad… It’s like with cinema… most big, expensive productions are dumbed down so much so, that everyone understands them. Also very sad… but there are gems, even nowadays.

    Fallout 3 was a pleasent surprise, although not quite as big on the customisation side (there were just too few weapons imho), but it was quite a complex shooter for such a big budget. But the cookie cutter games are still there too, Resistance 2 for example. I dunno. I liked the game, but when I was done, I was done… I played several hours of coop, but it didn’t captivate me at all.

    I guess, I am a dying breed of gamer. But I do not digress… There still are games coming like NWN or Deus Ex (hopefully, the third won’t suck ass like the second one did, but I have little hope… but if Bioshock taught them anything, they might even get a good game out).

    The same goes for story too… Were are the REAL complex storyline games… I mean, we got Metal Gear, which is arguable the game with the most interesting storyline, shortly followed by (imho) Resident Evil. Yet, there aren’t that many others. I’d love to play Mass Effect, but I have no 360 and I won’t EVER buy a game that uses the newer Securom on PC.

    I guess the industry needs to mature still, so that the indie games will rise above simple flash games and make really good, fun and sophisticated games. We might reach the movie and music industries revenues, but we are still in our child’s boots! And “we” are of course gamers and the developers of the games. This IS mutual!

    Problem is also, that gaming itself is regarded as dumb entertainement… some might even say worse than TV (I’d love to see those people, who ACTUALLY think TV is sophisticated), which is what’s stopping us now from gaining REAL mainstream authority.

  • Darrin

    teflon, you make some good points. Reducing ammo/health management does reduce some of the drudgery, but I feel like games lose some of the strategy along with that, and it’s not being replaced by more interesting mechanics. Instead games are adding more scripting and elaborate scenery and set pieces.

    To be clear, upgrade trees and ammo/health systems are just examples. Currently, the big budget developers are mostly competing for the biggest shallow mass market game. I want to see a bigger focus on making more involved gaming experiences.

    Segitz, many points worth responding to…

    You are not a dying breed of gamer. The age range of gamers is growing: people usually form such leisure habits at a young age and keep them through their lives. The audience of gamers who know games, and are serious about good games is growing, and so are developers who cater to that.

    There will always be big dumb blockbusters and smaller thoughtful works just like movies, but I think the gaming industry is going through a fad similar to the movie industry was in the 1980’s: where there’s an excessive focus on big mindless flashy action titles. I think this fad has already peaked and begun its decline.

    I think complex storylines are generally better served by TV/movies. I’d like to see more full-budget interactive fiction (not the amateur text only stuff), but outside that, games are better at providing a different type of psychological entertainment that storytelling.

    Also, I absolutely think TV has some very sophisticated content. You can get some amazing documentaries, there is some really witty fiction, great dramas, hilarious comedy… People generally look down on TV as a waste of time (it’s a very passive leisure activity), but in small doses it’s great.

  • James

    I agree with how they’re being dumbed down, but I think it’s mostly because of the pick-up-and-play characteristics the general lazy ‘casual’ gamer expects from video games, and, unfortunately, everyone seems to want to attract said casual gamer.

    I like my fair share of pick-up-and-play as well, but there seems to be too many anymore. On the other hand, a lot of games are starting to have branching storylines and more complex gameplay. Mass Effect, despite it’s numerous rendering issues, had a pretty complex branching storyline with lots of gameplay elements more suitable for more advanced gamers. I thought the game was pretty fun, but needed more substance IMO (that, and a lot of work on the rendering).

    One thing, though, I do kind of miss the games that had the bottomless weapon packs. The classic Tomb Raider games, Duke Nukem Time to Kill (I loved that game when I was a kid), etc.

    IDK what I’m talking about lol.

  • James

    oh yeah, Heavy Rain is a game to look forward to if you’re into branching storylines. Not sure if you read any interviews/previews, but they’re trying to make like a crazy ammount of branching outcomes

  • I agree with Segitz that you’re not really talking about straight shooters when you mention all that complicated crap. I’m not a complicated guy, and I don’t play games like Bioshock or Dead Space.

    I pick up run and gun games, and in that space, I think that games have actually progressed. Look at old games like Castle Wolfenstein, DOOM, Quake, or UT. Now look at new games like CoD4 and KZ2. The latter games have upgrades, leveling up, a bunch of different weapons, different game types, etc. Personally I think that shooters have progressed, not the inverse. And I like the progression.

  • Darrin

    The multiplayer modes are actually the opposite. They’ve gotten more complex, more involved, etc. It’s just the single-player side that’s gotten dumbed down.

    Yes, I’m definitely looking forward to Heavy Rain (although I didn’t like Indigo Prophecy, I’m still hopeful about this one). Fallout did have some cool branching story lines as well.

  • Smegmazor

    I agree that shooters have been dumbed down, at least since the days of PS2. Gone are the classic games that implemented squad control and way points. These days, everything is mostly about the lone Rambo’esque character who either goes it alone or is accompanied by a squad of AI’s that either you follow or lead into battle. There’s no more strategizing as far as ordering your team into flanking positions or having them cover your six. It’s just an onslaught of kill as many enemies as you can without dying.

  • @ Smegmazor

    You’re forgetting about games such as Rainbow Six Vegas, GRAW, Brothers in Arms, etc.

    Personally, I think it’s good that some games offer the lone “Rambo-esque” characters that allow you to jump in the game and start going to town, while some, such as the ones mentioned above require a slower, more calculating approach. There’s a place for “dumb” games such as Gears of War, and there is a place for your Ghost Recon style of games…. it all depends on personal taste, or, what you’re in the mood for at a particular time.

    I think though, that it’s safe to say, that “dumbed down” shooters are more popular at the moment, though this doesn’t mean the trend will continue forever, nor does it mean that there aren’t other options available for those who would rather play a “thinking man’s shooter.”

    There is a new Ghost Recon in the works, and a new Rainbow Six coming as well, so you should check those out. 🙂

  • Darrin

    Rainbow Six is notorious for being dumbed down. The early versions were more complex, and the recent “Vegas” titles have been majorly simplified.

    The developers said they had to simplify the game due to market pressures. I can’t blame them for that, but it’s not what I want to play any more.

  • Smegmazor


    Yes, the GRAW series and R6V1 & 2 had squad control features, but compared to the original Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six games, these don’t compare.

    I remember the original GR where you could switch between and individually control your squad mates. You could send them anywhere on the map for the best tactical approach.

    The Conflict games-all versions save for the next-gen release- truly defined squad mechanics. It was very similar to GR1, except for the fact that there were only four characters to control. You could command them to guard a position, separately from one another mind you, and setup ambushes, destroy tanks, airships, etc.. all while you’re laying down suppressive fire or taking a smoke break. (kidding)

    Another series of single players that I loved is the Socom franchise. Very similar to Conflict where as you could control Bravo team along with your Able teammate. Beautiful, huge maps that you could get lost in, all while trying to maintain stealth throughout the whole game.

    Right now, most of these popular shooters are nothing but run n’ gun. I’ve labeled them ‘Pop Shooters’ because of the similarities that coincide with mainstream music and underground, unpopular bands. Everyone loves the basic hook with the simple accompanying music, but then there are those musical groups that go deep into songwriting, or create music too complicated for simple ears. Games like COD, Halo, Unreal Tournament, Killzone, Black, etc… I hold in the ‘Pop Shooter’ category. They can be fun, but they don’t make the player believe that he/she is truly in control.

  • mcloki

    They are getting “dumbed down” because of the age of the players. This factor is making developers create games without the micro management of older games. Older gamers, a big majority want games they can pick up and play. “Pop Shooter” is a great description. The market is big enough for both types of games. But when developers see a market opportunity they flood the market with product trying to make money in that category.

  • mikael

    “They are getting “dumbed down” because of the age of the players.”

    I agree. 10-15 years ago I had the time to play learn complex games no matter how long it took. Nowadays, if I haven’t got a good grip of it after a few hours I find my self something better to do.

  • mikael

    Feel free to add an “and” anywhere you like in the first sentence.

  • Michael

    I think it’s a definate good thing; if you want immersion just play WOW or AOE. Shooters are all about the action, the highs and lows, and the imersion is brought in using music and plotlines overtop of the action rather then making the player pause the game and build up stats.

    Forcing the player to make decisions that may come back to haunt them can be stressful and dull compared to ripping into their enemies with a chainsaw. Just let them have their fun and leave character development to genres that focus on it, like RPGs.