Lax Gun Rules

Introduction

I believe I may have been all of five when my parents discovered that what they had chalked up to sheer clumsiness of a child was actually the result of a blind right eye.

We were visiting family in Dallas for Christmas and when we got out of the car, I ran outside to play with my cousins’ new dog, a Labrador Retriever named “Buck”. I was running from him, paying no attention to what was to my right (it’s not like I could see it) and the dog knocked me down a five-foot retaining wall into a creekbed.

As I lay there, wondering how the hell I ended up in that predicament (the dog staring curiously down at me from the top of the retaining wall… “Seriously, kid… how’d you wind up face down in a fork of the Trinity River?” ) my parents considered the wisdom of getting my eyes checked. And at five years old, my hopes of being an armor officer were dashed when they discovered that the optic nerve between my occipital lobe and my right eye never formed.

The military owes that Navy eye doctor a note of thanks, because if I’d been allowed to join the military, I probably would have gotten myself shot within minutes, especially if my performance in some of the more hard-core mil-sim “games” is any indication. There’s a reason I bird hunt. They don’t fire back.

“You are dead. Now quit playing this game and return it
to the store because you obviously suck at it.”

If the original Operation: Flashpoint had simply given me this warning, I probably would have heeded it. But, no. Out of some warped sense of accomplishment, I still tried to play… and beat… this “game”.

What ensued was a epic level of frustration and anger that to this day, it remains the only game that ever caused me to snap a keyboard in half like a pretzel stick. If there was ever a game that screamed ‘you will not enjoy this’ to me, it’s this one. However, it was one of the most attractive games of its day, so I bought a copy. From AI that was a mile away and could see you through thirty yards of dense trees and promptly nail you with one rifle shot, to sneaking up on an unaware enemy two hundred yards away only to have them, in one second, pivot, raise their guns and fire 1,268 rounds, each one a direct hit. Yeah, there was a game that just screamed “fun”.

To be fair, they made it plain that this was supposed to be a mil-sim of bleeding-edge realism, bringing you the visceral immediacy sudden death in a large, armed conflict with modern weapons of destruction. They, being Bohemia Interactive, told users up front that this was no Quake game where one could “run-n-gun” their way through it. One had to be careful, avoid contact, sneak up on the enemy and so forth. Problem was, a lot of us tried that and rather rapidly got filled with lead by a Russian Annie Oakley firing though 700 yards of trees.

So, I stuck with the more “arcade” shooters for the longest time, being content with titles from Novalogic and the Call of Duty parade, until I wasn’t. After a while, you get bored with the recharging health and unlimited ammo laying around and you yearn for something just a little more realistic, but not something so daunting, you throw up your hands after ten minutes of dissatisfaction. People like me prefer their realism to come with training wheels.

So today, I’m focusing on a few games for the PC (consoles really don’t count yet) and I have specific criteria. These are games that allow the players to issue contextual commands to friendly AI to help them accomplish mission objectives, those you-against-the-world, playable Michael Bay productions don’t count. Also, any regenerative health constructs in which after you take cover for a while your health magically returns and you’re able to press on is an automatic, summary, DQ. The more difficult it is to heal, the better. I wanted games that up to this point had vigorously tried to knock the living crap out of me… so I could lobotomize them.

With those two things in mind, I’m going to set out to find how friendly these games are to the casual tactical gamer. In other words, can I take a game with nth-degree realism and dumb it down for my particular skill level (which ranks only slightly above my own squad killing me out of a screaming need for self-preservation)? I will also only be addressing single-player simply because there’s a reason they put a warning on the screen when you fire up the multiplayer that reads: “Gameplay experience may change.” My “experience” up to this point has been about as enjoyable as getting an adult case of chicken pox. There’s only one reason I don’t participate in SimHQ’s ArmA 2Military Monday events. I suck.

A lot of you might be asking, why don’t you practice with the harder difficulty constraints and improve your skill level? I don’t for a lot of the reasons that compel professional fighter pilots to prefer Ace Combat to Lock-On. I have precious little time for gaming as it is, with a full-time job, two small children to care for, and a wife that desires human contact.

You see my dilemma.

So here are my pick-six land combat games to cuss and discuss. Each link below will take you to a new page so you can read about walking in my shoes:

ArmA and ArmA 2

SWAT 4 Gold Edition

Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising

Rainbow Six 3: Gold Edition

Hidden & Dangerous 2

Close Combat: First to Fight

Most of these have been previewed and reviewed here on the pages of SimHQ, but I wanted to provide the point-of-view the casual gamer. You know, those of us who are constantly frustrated by a lack of time and energy.

System Specs

The gameplay, audio, and graphics performance of the titles profiled in this article were based on the following system:

Gateway DX4710-05

  • Intel Q6600 Kentsfield quad-core processor
  • 6GB DDR2 PC6400 RAM
  • 640GB SATAII HDD
  • NVIDIA 1GB GeForce GTS 250
  • Onboard Realtek sound
  • Microsoft Windows Vista 64-bit
  • Samsung 22″ widescreen monitor

Controllers

  • Microsoft Xbox 360 controller
  • Ideazon FANG keypad/stock USB optical mouse

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