Auto Health Recovery: A Blight on the Shooter Genre?

Does magically regenerating health take away from the shooter genre?

I had another enlightening conversation the other day. Someone tried to point out how the shooter genre had become broken, and implemented features that weakened the value of the game.

Interestingly enough, they settled on the common trend of regenerating health, or better known as a screen that throbs with blood as you take damage, and fades as you take cover. They told me not only is this feature unrealistic, it lowers the difficulty and skill it takes to win.

He suggested that games go back to the old, health pack to recover method. I think he's approaching the solution with nostalgia tinted glasses that are clouding his judgement.

I remember in a lot of older shooter games that had health packs, and the most frustrating thing was when it would save you in a spot where you have no hope of surviving if you did not have full health. You were doomed to repeat an eternal dance of 2 seconds of fighting, restarting the game, then rinse and repeat.

Today, games that use that have found a way around this by filling the player's health bar every time a checkpoint is restarted. But this brings us to the major issue with games that use health packs.

For the most part, this system is used in slower paced, more deliberate games like Dead Space 3 or Ghost Recon. Games where you have to think ahead and plan for enemy attacks while juggling health makes it more strategic type game.That makes sense for over the shoulder games, but in games where you are constantly running and moving like Call of Duty or Halo, not so much.

Even if we return to Half Life, we see how the intensity and pace have dropped considerably. Sure there are times when everything is exploding around you, but for the most part you are walking down a lot of abandoned places scrounging for items. Fun it is own right, but not what people play shooters to see.

To some extent, Bioshock has managed to appeal even with its health packs, but I believe it has to do with the set amount of enemies and the ridiculous amount of health packs sitting around the game. In a game such as Call of Duty's single player, it would take you out of the moment to have to scrounge around for some health after every firefight. Bioshock WANTS you to explore the beautiful maps so they give you a system that encourages that. Games like Call of Duty want you to get from point A to B by blowing up as many people as you can.

I tried to think of a system that would appeal to the person that brought up this topic and I came to Brothers in Arm's Hells Highway. Instead of taking damage from bullet fire, a meter builds up indicating how likely you are to get shot. You can duck back into cover to replenish the meter, but once it runs out you are shot and instantly killed.

In my opinion, it makes the game more accessible to all kinds of gamers when the health regenerates. Managing your health is a task, especially in harder difficulties, and does not have the same appeal that "running and gunning" does.

It also increases the flow of the game. If you have to be deliberate with your health you can't really go running around trying to be Super Man. Although, isnt that why many people buy games in the first place? To put themselves in the shoes of an invincible hero?

Whatever the case may be, the shooter genre is far from stale, and is diverse enough to incorporate many different techniques used to make their games unique. I will continue to enjoy them, however I manage to recover my health.


If you are reading this, I have been kidnapped. They are forcing me to play video games against my will. Send help

Published Aug. 27th 2013
  • S2riker
    "Resistance 3" is a pretty recent fast-paced shooter that uses the health-pack method successfully, you should try it out!

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