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Avatar ImageHealth Bars are so Last Gen…
By: | December 4th, 2008
Feature

On November 21st 2004, the Nintendo DS was launched to a very welcoming standing ovation, not only did this mark the start of gaming’s seventh generation, but it also set in motion a revolutionary change in games themselves.

Gaming trends don’t often see much change with the transition into newer generations, but with today’s latest consoles, the technological boundaries are loosening, allowing much more flexibility during development. The common goal of creating a realistic title is easier than ever before. Although, these strives towards realism come not only with graphical enhancement, but with gameplay enhancement as well. These changes are most prominently seen in the recent epidemic of first person shooters, which have all made baby steps towards that final equable target.

Now, as you’ve probably already gathered from the title, the denomination of classic health bars dropped significantly this generation, the inauguration of this new trend was by none other than the Halo franchise. The game was the first of its kind to introduce a regenerative health system, and although the method didn’t spread like wildfire then, Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare brought about a gaming craze like no other. Suddenly every major shooter franchise rushed in to bring clones of Call of Duty 4’s innovative designs. Most heads up displays nowadays no longer facet health bars, the work of which is now often carried out by visual effects such as motion blur, color saturation, or the outline of blood along the edge of the screen.

As with the disappearance of health bars, medical kits have also seen an abrupt demise. Shortly after the release of the Playstation 3 and Sony’s hit launch title, Resistance: Fall of Man, Medical kits mysteriously ‘went out of style’. Many shooters afterwards allowed for health to only be regenerated by means of simply waiting, med kits were of no further use. Though several splendid games such as Bioshock retained a classic health system, these were titles released before any major fads were started.

Before these many new “rules” were carved in stone as this generation’s common-ground, many weapon systems in shooters allowed for the player to carry a near limitless number of weapons, regardless of size or weight. Though there are exceptions to this routine such as the old SOCOM games, many of the classic shooters ignored regular Human boundary and let players hold as much as they wanted. Not only was this completely unrealistic, but the task of cycling through the many weapons to find the one that perfectly matched the situation was too time consuming, and quite often, you would even switch past it without knowing. The introduction of weapon wheels (such as those found in the Ratchet & Clank series) did make the switching faster, but it was still regarded as very improbable.

In today’s games though, the amount of gear that is at the player’s disposal has been severely restricted. Most games allow only two weapons to be carried at any time; usually a heavier primary weapon (assault rifles and such), and a lighter secondary weapon (pistols or grenades). This latest system offers both a realistic alternative to the older method and balances the gameplay better. Admittedly, the aged technique of older shooter games did tender a larger variety of gameplay styles due to the number of different weapons available at one time, but this also led to a cluttered experience.

Another common appearance in ripened games is the inclusion of automatic doors, whether or not it makes sense in the setting. Take for instance Goldeneye: Rogue Agent, where a majority of all entrances are controlled by automatic means. While during some of the settings in the game, the high tech doorways are perfectly logical, but others, such as the Japanese mission, the addition of automatic doors was nonsensical, let alone bizarre.

In conclusion, the current generation of games has truly brought innovative ideas to the table, and while previous generations did have an authentic appeal, they pale in comparison to today’s standards. These new advancements could even be signs of what is to come, what could be on the horizon for gaming? Of course at the moment it’s impossible to foresee what will happen, but we can be certain that whatever the future may hold, it will be great!

  1. avatar keith

    Hi guysssssss!!!! I like gummi bears with honey!!…Hi guyssssss!!! Great article, i really like the grammar and im sure the games will be fabuloussssss!!! This is Keith!!

  2. Hey Keith, I’m sure Ian is already taken. :)

  3. avatar asdf

    Food is like totally overrated.

  4. avatar lolwhut

    Regenerating health is unrealistic, and encourages “sit and wait” gameplay that breaks immersion and reduces the level of tactical skill necessary to clear a level. Run and gun and hide if you get hurt will work in any scenario. Not immersive, not realistic, but very friendly to people who aren’t willing to learn how to play the game properly, but want to complete it anyway.

    Weapon limits are weak attempts to reintroduce some of difficulty removed by moving to regenerating health by giving the player additional decisions regarding weapon and ammo management. But given most shooters are not survival horror, ammo is never in scarce enough supply for this to actually matter. The only thing this decision really adds to a game is an element of “haha gotcha”, where in a later gameplay segment the player is punished for an earlier decision. You know, picking up wrong set of guns despite lacking the information necessary for him to be able to make this decision correctly; he has to get lucky, or get it wrong once and know what the correct choice actually was when he replays that segment. Pretty much equivalent to blind leap gameplay in platformers. There’s no skill involved.

  5. avatar Dude

    I think the health regeneration is a stupid and unrealistic move, and luckily a lot of games still has health bars/points, like Battlefield, Resistance 2. Although the weapon restriction is indeed realistic and a cool innovative idea

  6. Avatar Image Ian

    Hopefully they will take into account that the “sit and wait” does break the immersion. Perhaps in the future they will use the same mechanic of representing damage with visual effects, but avoid the automatic regeneration.

  7. avatar manwich

    These ideas are yes indeed innovative and inventive. But what it really comes down to is how those ideas are implemented into the game play.

  8. avatar bob

    rainbow six vegas and gears 1 had no health bars wayyy before call of duty 4

  9. avatar robert

    Call of Duty 2 had a regenerative health bar before Call of Duty 4, I know that because that it came before because the number is lower.

  10. Nice Robert I’m glad you figured it out pal. :)

  11. avatar bob

    ya tru i forgot that cod2 had it as well but in any case hes still wrong because “Suddenly every major shooter franchise rushed in to bring clones of Call of Duty 4’s innovative designs.” its been around before that

  12. avatar hellsing

    i believe halo had the first regenerative health bar well halo 2 did anyway and yes i know it was considered a shield but in that game it was ur health.

  13. avatar Bob

    I don’t know if I can believe Ian anymore!

  14. avatar George

    The way Dead Space put the health bar and weapons ammo on the character was unique but that only works in the third person. I just completed R2 and the screen turning red like in Uncharted and Turok is a little annoying and distracting. I never knew exactly how close to death I was until it was too late. I guess I’m old fashioned, I prefer the Health bars like in RFoM and Bioshock.

  15. avatar Nick

    Great article, I have been wondering where the whole regeneration thing started, now I know. Personally I am a great fan of it, sure it does promote a sit and wait, but hopefully AI will develop that they are able to spot that you are injured, and approach you or flank you while you are taking cover to recover. Should make things interesting…

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