1) The Silent Protagonist
Video games have improved leaps and bounds in such a short amount of time that it’s inexplicable why so many shooting games, first-person or third, still utilize the same tropes and gimmicks that seriously should have died out in 2001. Topping the list is having a completely mute protagonist. Developers design this blank slate figure so the gamer can project him or herself onto the hero, but it’s really an excuse to avoid actually creating a charismatic character worthy enough to save the day. Not to mention the shortcomings of a blank slate; how awkward is it for a female gamer, playing as Gordon Freeman, to be flirted with by Alyx Vance? Let the protagonist speak for him or herself and present opinions on the world around him or her – it’s flat out stupid that the characters around you are screaming obscenities, yet you adhere to a vow of silence.
2) Melee Attacks Being Stronger than Shooting
The attempt to give close-quarter combat an edge or an advantage has led to the proliferation of some baffling results – namely, that a punch, a kick, or a knife stab has equal or superior power as a shotgun blast. Never mind the fact that any gun fired at close range has more stopping power than from a distance, this anachronistic concept defies all logic in an imaginary world gone mad with technological weapons that can shoot through walls and armor that can soak up damage like a sponge. Melee attacks should stun, disarm, or weaken a baddie, but unless that weapon is a Halo Energy Sword or something like that, close-quarter fighting should really consist of “retreating” and trying again.
3) Poor Jumping/Leaping Mechanics.
Metroid Prime redefined what it meant to jump in a first-person shooter. So why haven’t games copied this? They steal everything else for the most part (I’m looking at you, Resistance 3), so why is jumping still a shitty thing to do? Third-person shooters aren’t much better, although at least you can physically see the character as he leaps, but nine times out of ten, it’s directly to the hero’s death, with mechanics that alter with every single leap. (Nathan Drake’s jumping is particularly egregious. Sometimes he leaps like an overweight child, other times he’s gliding through the air, Mario-style.) The dying 3D platformer may have taken the art of quality-jump mechanics with it, which makes the potential new Mirror’s Edge sequel a hellish endeavor. Not to say the first one worked out all that well (despite loving the game).
4) Limiting Weapon Capacity to Two
There’s nothing wrong with limiting the number of weapons you can carry; after all, being a character that can lug every weapon ever is indeed a fairly unrealistic (if convenient) option. However, why in the world is the limit, always, always, at two? Maybe for the heavy weapons, sure, but there’s no logical reason your character couldn’t carry around four to six regular pistols-sized weapons. Some games play around with an inventory system – Deus Ex: Human Revolution comes to mind – but Halo’s limitations kinda makes me wonder why Master Chief is considered a hero in the first place, and Nathan Drake may want to invest in a second holster.
5) Terrible Non-Playable Friendlies
Large-scaled, intense gun fights are always exciting, but you can’t blame being shot in the head when you’re too busy wondering what your computer-controlled teammate is firing at. Why waste graphical power on gun-toting NPCs that are as useless as the civilians you’re trying to save? Bad AI is always a problem, but it’s worse when the badguys are semi-clever while your team is less effective then a box of rocks. What’s worse, as you delve deeper into a game, said teammates, more often than not, disappear. The need for the player to be hero may trump everything else, but at least spend the time to make your squadmates competent to a fault. And try to think of practical ways to remove them from the equation when approaching the endgame. Kill them off, send them on another mission – something that takes the taste out of watching a soldier waste good ammo blasting at a bush.
6) Bullet Sponges
Stupid badguys are one thing; stupid badguys that are essentially robots-built-of-diamonds are another. I’m not sure why, or how, enemies manage to take in so many bullets with minimal-to-no reaction, handling a barrage of attacks with nary a scratch, yet a few bullets at you kill you practically instantly (this goes doubly so on hard/insane levels of difficulty, which suggests we really need to change how we think of challenge levels). Bullet sponges are pretty terrible all around. I understand the need to maintain a certain level of consistent conflict, but opening up the type of reactions to being shot would be a step in the right direction, instead of watching someone soak up bullets like the blob.