Anyone who listens to Giant Bomb's weekly podcast would have likely heard on the two most recent podcasts Jeff Gerstmann giving a brief mention of a though he's had for a while; headshots are ruining games. The case in point for Gerstmann was that he completed Splinter Cell: Conviction using only the starting silenced pistol and his ability to shoot dudes what in their noggin'.
It's an interesting claim he's making. My initial response was nothing shy of crude - I second guessed what he said without a doubt, thinking old man Gerstmann had lost his nut. But the more I think about it... well. I still think his statement isn't correct. But I do think it holds some amount of water.
If someone were to ask me, "Hey, Kritz, what is your favourite video game that has released in the past five years?", I would likely respond in a humorous tautology of redundant words and mentioning of the word 'internets' over and over. And over. Kinda in the style of this train wreck of a paragraph. But it's very likely at some point I would mention Team Fortress 2. Because I really like Team Fortress 2.
If you don't already know, there are no headshots in Team Fortress 2. Or, more accurately, all but three weapons in the game reward you shooting someone in the head. The sniper's two primary weapons and one of the spy's primary weapons. But for most players of Team Fortress 2, headshots are not a primary goal. But it isn't for the sake of not having headshots, really. It lies more in the fact that none of the weapons, sans the three mentioned, are designed for shooting people in the head.
Team Fortress 2's arsenal consists of Rocket launchers, grenade launchers, miniguns, flamethrowers and shotguns to name a few. A lot of them are area of effect, or spraying weapons. You're focusing less on your ability to hit the other players, and more on positioning, team mates and strategy. Speaking as someone who usually rolls a Heavy, I am more focused on covering fire and making sure a medic isn't far away. The Heavy's minigun doesn't do a heap of damage per hit. And it's barely able to hit people over a distance. So I'd be crazy to try and aim for a head even if the game rewarded me for doing so. The same goes for the Soldier, with his rocket Launcher. The Solider isn't ever going to be aiming for a head, and in a lot of cases, you won't see them aiming directly for any part of their target; the area around them is a far more static target.
But I shouldn't be ignoring the Sniper. This class has been designed knowing that no other class can get headshots. It's the sniper's ability rather than the sniper's proficiency. Because different classes move at different speeds, they have different levels of health and they have different methods of countering him, it enhances the tactical elements of that class. Most targets will die with a full powered headshot, but if his target is being nursed by a Medic, there's a chance they will live long enough after being tagged to get out of the Sniper's line of fire.
Returning to Jeff Gerstmann's statement, headshots do not ruin Team Fortress 2. Headshots actually add to the game, but only because they are restricted. But this doesn't completely validate Gerstmann, nor does it invalidate. Perhaps it's the happy middle? Like it or not, the chances of more games using this style of gameplay is very slim. At that, it only holds ground within the class based nature of Team Fortress 2, and only in the context of multiplayer.
Some games, such as Killzone, Halo and Borderlands, have headshot hitboxes, but you will not instantly kill an enemy from the hit. In Killzone, the enemies have helmets, and it takes two hits for them to die. In Halo, the Spartans, Brutes and Elites all have protective shields and only once those shields are down will a headshot be a one-hit kill. Borderlands treats headshots as critical hits, so the amount of shots it will take to kill an enemy with headshots is proportional to the amount of damage your weapon does compared to the amount of health the enemy you're shooting already has. In all of these cases, headshots are not one hit kills. They certainly reward you for being accurate, which is a very important thing for a game revolving around aiming to do. But even when you get the drop on an enemy, it does not guarantee success.
I want to emphasise what I said in that last paragraph. In a game, specifically a multiplayer game, where the core mechanic of the game is to aim at someone and shoot, rewarding the player for aiming better than the other person is extremely important. Unless the game is asking you apply different skills to it other than shooting, such as Team Fortress 2, being able to do the thing what you need to do to win BETTER than the other person should almost always result in that better person winning. If there is no way to take advantage of the skill gap between players, the result is a game where the first person to start shooting wins. Also known as "Hide and Seek Shooters", with the leader in this sub-genre being Modern Warfare.
The thing is, though. I don't think I disagree with Jeff Gerstmann. I don't agree with him, to be sure. But I don't think he's wrong. Because I am a multiplayer focused person, and I play on the PC. Headshots are easier to achieve on a mouse than on a controller, there is no debating that. I think that Jeff is referring strictly to a single player context, one that I don't really care much for. I'll just say that if you have designed your single player campaign in such a way that the purpose of playing it is defeated by the player's own skill, you have designed a bad game.
PS. Splinter Cell: Conviction is a bad game.
5/5 STARS - KRITZ.NET
2010-05-14 -- KRITZ.NET