Realism, where to draw the line?

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We all want realism to be a significant feature in any fitting game, don’t we? Call of Duty 4, Killzone 2, Far Cry 2, and Metal Gear Solid 4; each of these games made extensive efforts in the realism department, each was applauded for those efforts, but how far down this path can we possibly go before crossing into hazardous territory? We all love a great shooter and we love how it more or less feels real, but where do we draw the line? When does a game become exceedingly realistic to the point that it is considered unplayable?

In the real world, war is hell. A single well-placed shot will undoubtedly incapacitate, if not kill, any unfortunate individual who happens to stand in its line of attack. Moreover, you don’t have the perks of a virtual world, such as the lovely red tag above an enemy’s head a la Call of Duty, or the steady hands of any Bioshock dweller using an iron-sight. Stress takes over, your hands shake, and friends get lost in the mix of your foes; friendly-fire happens, it hurts, and it kills. Think for a moment, what if the next shooter you bought sacrificed fun in the name of realism?

Far Cry 2 is quite possibly the best exhibit for video game realism since the peak of the new generation. With each mission, you had to find your own transport, and drive yourself to the target. Not only were the roads fortified, but dealing with your objectives was no easy task either. Affix that with single shot kills and no means of health regeneration, and the result is certain to be chaotic. Even on the grand scale, Far Cry 2’s expediency is quite minimal in regard to “the real world”. Regardless of its unbearable storyline, it still shows extensively what the highest point of realism is like in today’s games.

The stakes of a mere video game vary from a shameful splash screen to a few grueling seconds on respawn timer. I’m sure any war veteran would be appreciative of such seconds or defeat screens. Call of Duty 4 amongst other games has included multiplayer modes which disable the precious respawn ability. If this were to be implemented in all available game modes, I’m rather sure there would be a spike in broken televisions and uncontrollable shouting.

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Regenerating health is nothing new in games nowadays, and while it’s a step up from the classic health bar system, it would need further refining to be real-world standard. It encourages a sit-and-wait style of gaming, which all but shatters the immersion. However, this “real-world standard” may cross the line in terms of difficulty once again; it’s always nice to know that a few seconds behind cover is all it takes for a second chance. While I don’t deny that this particular aspect is arguable, for the time being, I would opt for the regeneration method.

Soldiers on a battlefield clearly have the slightest idea of how many rounds are left in their clip. Now, with games akin to Crysis and Killzone 2, the near absence of HUD is becoming a popular trend. Some games even offer an option to completely disable any heads-up display features. To be left on your own, no crosshair assistance, no ammunition count; for any novice to this concept, it’s difficult to grasp. While the hardest at core will consider this even in live matches, others wouldn’t dare to brave conflict without the maximum HUD assistance. I’ll agree that this is yet another arguable facet, I do consider it a thrill to switch off the display at times, but I doubt it would fare well with other aspects mentioned above dictating the game as well.

Real life can be stressful, and to put such authentic elements in a video game would be absurd considering games are a common means of stress relief. Games today are as entertaining as ever, but with each release we see more enhancements to realism, and I’m a fan of that, don’t get me wrong. We just need to draw the line, the industry isn’t ready should it be crossed.