The Main Problem with Weapons in First Person Shooters
Ever join a game of Battlefield, fight tooth and nail to take a point, take it, and then get picked apart by a Medic?
First-person shooters are all about action and excitement. It’s why they’re designed the way they are; to be visceral. They aim to make you feel like you’re actually on the war-torn battlefield with a gun in your own two hands. They aim to make you feel like a badass killing machine.
But as FPS titles have become more diverse and complicated over the years, the way they’re handled hasn’t evolved nearly as much.
We Think That's Kind of a Problem
Every class, regardless of overall function and purpose, is a cold-hearted killing machine.
Let’s pick on Battlefield 1 a little more as it’s one of the newest and best examples available. In the game, you have four classes to pick from: the general bad-ass killer Assault, the long-range sniper Scout, the gadget wielding Support, and the get-you-back-on-your-feet Medic.
All of them have guns, which makes sense considering they’re in the middle of a world war. No one in their right mind would set foot on a battlefield without something with which to protect themselves. It’s just common sense.
Where it gets weird, is that every class has a rifle.
The default Support weapon is an enormous light machine gun that can absolutely shred the enemy. It’s bigger than the Assault’s shotguns and submachine guns -- and it has way more bullets, meaning more potential kills.
Even the Medics who carry healing bandages and revival syringes use marksman rifles designed to pick off enemies at medium to long range with only a few shots.
And even more unusual is the fact that both classes have various other ways in which to eviscerate those who would oppose them. Mortars, explosives, grenades, pistols, and a wide variety of melee weapons ranging from knives to shovels are in their kits.
That’s a lot of ways for classes meant for support to kill people.
It's also in a more family friendly T-rated game like Overwatch, where every single support has at least two ways in which to kill someone. For example, Mercy, the healer with the least combat options (who also has dialogue expressing her hate of violence) carries a laser pistol and will not hesitate to bash someone’s head in with her healing staff.
The others are even worse.
Lucio has a sound gun that can blast people off of cliffs. Zenyatta blasts folks with metal orbs at high speeds. And Symmetra has a laser gun that locks onto enemies, blasts charged up balls of energy, and has a slew of laser turrets, while Ana has a friggin sniper rifle that heals allies and kills foes.
Yes, players need ways to defend themselves. But do those methods have to be with weapons?
What We Think the Solution Could Be:
Expand class kits.
Battlefield 1 Medics can heal and revive their teammates, while Supports can drop ammo and repair vehicles. These abilities are great and critical to a good team as they increase staying power. But why stop there?
Why not give Medics the ability to give allies temporary damage reduction? Morphine, alcohol, and various forms of now-illegal drugs were once administered to soldiers to keep them on their feet. It’s dark and unsavory history, but so is the wanton killing.
How about a shot that calms their nerves and reduces aim sway for a short while?
Why not give Supports the ability to repair cover? They can fix vehicles by smacking them with a hammer but can’t they repair that wooden barricade you were just hiding behind? Simple fix.
Or, supports can drop different kinds of ammo that are good for different target types...
Overwatch, for all the killing prowess their support class has, is balanced very well overall due to the consistent patching. Unlike Battlefield 1, the supports (excluding Symmetra who cannot heal) can kill, but their damage-per-second is lower than that of their healing.
Lucio’s sound gun is inaccurate while his healing and speed boosts are an aura that automatically affects teammates around him. Mercy’s pistol is pitiful in damage and fire rate, while her staff is the most consistent healing ability in the game. Even Ana’s sniper rifle heals better than it kills as the ally hitbox for healing is larger than that of the enemy hitbox for inflicting damage.
Overwatch's assault characters, while meant for violence, have greater ambitions as well. Soldier 76 can heal teammates with a biotic grenade, Reaper can teleport to get to the point in an unusual manner, Genji can deflect projectiles to protect both himself and teammates, and Sombra can hack enemies' shields and abilities. All great abilities on offensive characters that aren't strictly meant for killing.
Battlefield 1 however, only gives you a variety of explosives in which you can kill soldiers and destroy vehicles. That's it. And yes, having a set time in reality is more constricting than a fictional sci-fi game, but in a world where a shot can resurrect the dead, it's not too outlandish to imagine an assault character carrying deployable vests or some sort of makeshift shield.
And while Overwatch's snipers do show up Battlefield 1's scouts, Dice actually did a pretty good job making this class.
In Overwatch, Widowmaker's ultimate enables her entire team to see enemies through walls and she can grappling hook to stealthily get to the point. Ana can heal, stop enemies from healing, and put them to sleep for a few seconds with a well-placed dart. Hanzo has a special arrow that can tag enemies through walls and climb walls to reach the payload without being spotted.
In Battlefield 1, Scouts are actually somewhat similar with their flare gun's ability to mark enemies for the entire team and a periscope allowing them to tag foes safely. They also have an extra ammo-type for big targets, and a small shield; two abilities we would love to see other classes get a variation of. Of all the Battlefield 1 classes, the Scout is by far the most interesting in terms of his kit, and I highly recommend you try it out.
Classes are great as they give players a more diverse set of abilities and greater ease in balancing for team composition. But as video games evolve, so too must the way we play them. With titles like Overwatch borrowing heavily from MOBAs to complement their competitive natures, classic annual titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield just might take a page from their book and evolve again.