There is a debate within the first person and third person gaming communities. A debate that specifically targets the way the player’s health should be handled, how it immerses the player into the game and the sense of realism it creates. In the past, with most games there wasn’t anything to debate. If you were running low on health, you would find a health pack or potion and refill it. This current generation, though, changed things with the introduction of the regenerative health schematic.
Regenerative health in its most basic form is simply the process of your health automatically regenerating after your character has been injured. Escaping the line of fire and waiting for a specific amount of time will result in the character’s health being replenished and ready to continue the fight. It’s a very rinse and repeat process that has become the standard for pretty much all of today’s modern shooters. At first, this regenerative cycle was widely accepted and deemed one of the more revolutionary changes made to games for this generation. Now, however, gamers seem to be more frustrated with it and believe that it’s actually taking away from the overall gameplay experience.
At the same time, though, no one wants to be searching and scrounging for health packs across a game’s levels when they could be continuing forward in the game itself. That, too, subtracts from the experience that the player wants and deserves. So what’s the solution? What’s the divide between the two that would serve as the essential fulfillment to those who want neither one nor the other? Rare, I believe, has had the solution the entire time and it was implemented in both Goldeneye 007 and Perfect Dark.
I think in terms of immersion and realism, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark handled the health issues perfectly. Not only was regenerating health absent, but healing Bond and Joanna was also void in the games. Any time the player was injured, the health remained the same, regardless of what happens in the mission. Now what could be found on the lower difficulties was the occasional body armor and shield. These did not, however, refill any health whatsoever. They simply provided an extra layer of protection. Once that protection was depleted, the player would be right back in the same dire predicament as before with the exact same amount of health prior to obtaining the armor/shield.
Of course, one of the key things that allowed the aforementioned system to work was the size of the levels themselves. Typically, they weren’t grandeur in size, but rather relatively small. This means that there was rarely any actual pressure to ever acquire health and certainly no need for the loss of health to be regenerated. Sure, both would have helped, but they weren’t necessary.
So the solution here for developers to deliver to gamers who prefer the shooter genre is simple: develop smaller levels that doesn’t require the need for a health generation system or the searching for health-healing items. It worked extremely well for both Goldeneye and Perfect Dark and if properly developed, it could work for other games within the genre as well.
Now for you who has read this article… Do you believe that Rare’s implementation of the health system in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark is the right one? Do you enjoy games with regenerative health? Do prefer having to search for health and replenish it yourself? Share your opinions in the comments below on what your own personal preferences are in how health in shooters should be handled!