The following is a study I did into several FPS titles, and how their different mechanics and systems can impact gameplay and reinforce and reward certain ways of playing the games.
Recently, I played through the Halo series with a couple of friends. After this, I decided I wanted to look into some of the systems in the game, and expand that into looking at other games at the same time, to see how they craft certain experiences for the player with the systems and mechanics in the game.
In Halo, the player is limited to walking and crouching. Neither affects the player’s accuracy, but crouching allows the player to fit under obstacles and hide behind cover to avoid enemy fire. In addition to this, the player is able to jump to reach significant heights. In later instalments, the player is given the ability to sprint short distances which shortened the amount of time that a player would be without cover to hide behind.
The player is also able to take control of several vehicles, such as the Warthog or the Banshee, each with a different method of control. The Warthog for instance is a jeep style vehicle that can reach high speeds in order to carry the player across vast distances very quickly. Whereas the Banshee is a flying vehicle and as such is able to assault enemy forces from the air as well as carry the player vertically as well as horizontally.
The player has access to up to two weapons that they are able to swap between at any time. Enemies drop their weapons when they die, and the player is able to swap one of their weapons with these dropped weapons. If the player already has a weapon that is sitting on the ground, they will instead add the ammunition from that weapon to their own, with a few exceptions for alien weaponry. In addition to this, the player is able to pick up different types of grenades, including both frag and plasma grenades, to further boost their combat capabilities.
In Halo, the player is able to pick up and use both human and alien weaponry. Human weapons tend to be hitscan, meaning they hit their target at the time they are fired, and alien weaponry are mostly projectile based, taking time to travel to their targets and giving enemies and players time to move out of the way. Human weapons are also more efficient against targets without shields, and alien weaponry is particularly effective against shields. Certain aspects of each weapon are displayed in a diegetic way to the player on top of being shown on the user interface, for instance the ammo count of the back of the assault rifle, or the charge level of the plasma pistol.
In Halo, the game lends itself to a very interesting balance of calculated risk and reward. The limited movement options force the player to be careful with their movement, as they cannot rapidly move away from any one place. The exception to this is for the player to acquire a vehicle if it is available, but that leaves them a much larger target for enemies. The limit of 2 weapons at a time forces the player to move into the middle of a fight in order to scavenge ammo, new weapons, or grenades. Being able to pick up enemy weapons can also create an interesting choice for the player, for if they see an enemy with a weapon they desire, the player can choose to kill that enemy, run into the middle of the fray, and grab the weapon, but at the same time risking their safety in doing so.
Player movement in DOOM feels fast as there is very little acceleration time and the camera is also quite low to the ground. The player is able to move quickly around the field in order to avoid and flank enemies, and find cover to duck in and out of. The player is also able to jump to cross gaps and reach platforms that help open up the field of play. The player is also given the ability to mantle up edges. During this time, the player is unable to shoot their weapons and is locked in to an animation. This allows for more vertical spaces to be designed for the player to move and fight through.
Throughout the game the player is given access to a variety of weapons. The player is able to use any weapons that they have collected, provided that the weapon has some amount of ammunition. They also have access to a grenade, which recharges once the player has used it. The player is able to see what weapons they currently have and how much ammo through a radial menu, where they are able to select which weapon they want to use. Ammo is found scattered around each level, and can even be produced by enemies if the player uses the Glory Kill system, where they finish off wounded enemies in a gory fashion, after which the enemy throws out small ammo and health pickups.
In DOOM, weapons have no recoil and do not have a clip size, meaning that they can be fired at will until the player runs out of ammo for that weapon. There are a few exceptions, like the Super Shotgun, that plays a small reload animation every time the player fires the weapon. Weapons in DOOM are also very versatile, particularly when weapon upgrades are introduced to the player. For example, the Heavy Assault Rifle can be upgraded to either include a scope or a micro missile attachment, making it more efficient at either longer range combat or dealing with multiple enemies.
The systems in DOOM encourage fast paced, dynamic gameplay. The player is able to move quickly around the combat area to find cover, flank enemies, and find pickups in order to help them overcome the combat encounter. The player also has access to all the weapons they have acquired to deal with any combat obstacle they are faced with, and are further specialised by the upgrades the player has applied to the weapons. The fast paced combat is further encouraged by the lack of recoil and a reload mechanic, enabling the player to fire until they either wish to stop or they run out of ammo. This ties back in with the movement system, as the player is able to continuously fire and pick up ammo at the same time, allowing for a longer stream of continuous fire.
Call of Duty
In the Call of Duty franchise, the basic movement has stayed fairly similar across titles since Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. The player is able to stand, walk around, sprint, crouch, and even prone on the ground, given that they have the space to do so. Each of these affects the player’s ability to aim in different ways. While sprinting, the player is unable to fire their weapon. Walking allows the player to fire their weapon, but with a small penalty to accuracy and recoil. Standing is similar to walking, but without the penalties to accuracy and recoil. Crouching is slower than walking, but gives the player a small bonus to accuracy and recoil. While prone, the player has a significant bonus to accuracy and recoil, but they must be stationary to fire their weapon.
In Call of Duty, players have access to up to two weapons at a time. The player is able to swap weapons with any that they find, including those of enemies. If the player walks over a weapon that they are already holding in one of their two weapon slots, the ammo from that weapon will be added to their own. In addition to the two weapons that they can hold, the player also has access to utility items such as frag grenades and flashbangs that they are able to use to disrupt or damage their enemies.
In Call of Duty, weapons all had different values for damage per bullet, rate of fire, accuracy, and recoil value that made each one feel different from the others. Weapon archetypes such as pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, SMGs, and sniper rifles have been mainstays in the Call of Duty franchise. Weapons can be interchanged during gameplay, and the player can choose which weapon they would prefer to use for the different variety of situations presented to them. Weapons are also customizable in the multiplayer game modes, giving the player the opportunity to alter how their weapons perform. The player can attach a different variety of scopes, muzzle attachments, and under barrel attachments to give their weapon alternate utility and uses.
Call of Duty is a fast paced, arcade-like shooter, often rewarding fast and aggressive play, but also enabling slower and more methodical playstyles through player customisation. Players are able to swiftly move in and out of the action with the wide variety of movement options available. The player’s choice of weapons is made before a fight, and the player is able to quickly recover ammo or a new weapon by being able to quickly move around. The weapons that the player begins with are also customised by the player, making for a more personalized experience and enabling them to play how they want to play.
In Valorant, player movement is a very important aspect of the game that impacts both the player’s accuracy and the amount of sound that they make as they move around. The player is able to run, walk, stand, or crouch. Running causes the player to make a significant amount of footstep noise, alerting the enemy team to their position. On top of this, it also comes with a large penalty to accuracy while the player is moving. Walking significantly reduces the footstep noise the player makes, while also adding a small penalty to accuracy. Standing still produces no footstep noise and has no impact upon the player’s accuracy. While crouching, the player moves slower and produces little to no footstep noise, and they also gain a small accuracy bonus.
The player has access to 3 categories of weapons. A primary weapon, such as a rifle or shotgun, a sidearm, primarily a pistol type weapon, and a melee weapon. The player is supplied with a knife and a basic pistol, the Classic, at the start of the game. Each round, the player is awarded currency based upon their team’s performance. If the player lives during a round, the weapons they currently have are carried across to the next round. Upon dying, a player will drop their primary weapon and their sidearm on the ground where they died, and any other player can pick these dropped weapons up and use them. Ammunition is attached to each specific weapon, starting at a certain value upon purchasing the weapon or at the start of each round.
In addition to weapons players have access to agent abilities, which often fulfil a utility role, such as obscuring enemy vision or slowing enemy movement. Each ability besides the agent’s ultimate has a number of charges that the player can purchase, and they are able to use these abilities as long as they have a charge. Ultimate abilities gain charges between each round or whenever the player gets a kill.
Weapons in Valorant are acquired via the in-game shop before each round starts. The weapons in the game all have different spray patterns, based on how fast the weapon fires and the recoil attached to that weapon. The player is able to alter the accuracy of their weapon by shooting in small bursts, or just shooting until the weapon’s ammo clip is empty, both of which produce different results. Each weapon also has different damage and penetration values. Weapons in Valorant are able to pierce certain walls and objects, hitting any enemies on the other side. Piercing a wall will reduce the damage done to the enemy however. Certain weapons also have damage drop-off over distance, meaning that at different distance ranges, they will do different amounts of damage to the enemy.
Valorant has achieved a slow, more tactical approach to the FPS genre. Emphasis is put on information, and even the movement system reinforces this with different movement options outputting different levels of sound. Each round is often planned out in advance, with players making the choice of weapons and skills available before each round starts. During the rounds, players are able to pick up a weapon from any player that has been killed, be it friend or foe, to suit the situation that has unfolded better. The game also rewards careful, slow play, and this is reinforced by penalizing accuracy and recoil while the player is moving. The more information a player has, the more they can try and control the position they are in to stop the enemy team from gaining an advantage and winning the round.