Posts tagged ‘Goldeneye’

October 29, 2011

5 Things My 7th Grade Self Would Notice About Today’s FPSs


Back in the day I played a little Doom here and there, but my first real experience with first person shooters came in the form of Goldeneye 64.  I remember running around the Temple level with my trusty KF7 Soviet and being blown away at this new type of video game experience; one far more real and intense than the Marios and SimCitys of my past.  So while engaged in some serious fighting last night in Battlefield 3, I wondered what that 7th grade self of mine would think if he was to play some of today’s FPSs.  What would he notice as the big differences?  Graphics are an obvious improvement, but there are some other changes that have occurred in the genre as a whole that I think would stand out to that kid from that era they call the 90s.

Split-screen multiplayer is dead

I used to be pretty damn good at Goldeneye, and Jimmy Paperboy and I constantly vied for the title of best Goldeneye/Perfect Dark player around.  One of the biggest assets in my arsenal wasn’t a weapon, but my ability to watch other player’s screens and anticipate their movements.  Sure, everyone did it to varying extents, but I worked hard to make it an art form.  But like a kid going from T-ball to kid pitch, with the advent of online FPS, I was intimidated and lost.  Without the ability to see where other people were and what weapons they had, I could no longer plan accordingly and play against other people’s weaknesses.  Screen watching was so huge to me back then that it seemed an integral part of the shooter experience.  I hopelessly clung to it as technology deemed it no longer relevant, and found myself using outdated techniques in this new era.  Where I once found comfort in being one of best, I was now in a world where I constantly died and lost.  Today some games may still offer some semblance of split-screen multiplayer, but anyone finding themselves playing a one-on-one match in Call of Duty either still uses AOL dial-up or may be a closeted Amish.  7th grade me would be shocked to see the local competition dead, succumbing to a far larger online world where you’re match sizes are no longer restrained by how many friends you can get to spend then night.

Grenades are no longer stand-alone weapons

This one is simple.  A lot of games way back when had weapons slots, and a weapon would have to occupy one of those slots.  So to throw a grenade, you would have to equip it as your main weapon, throw it, and then switch back to whatever gun you were using.  Basically, if you were to use grenades, then that would be the weapon you were using.  In other words, they hadn’t yet become the secondary thing that they are today.

In almost all games these days, there is an entirely separate button for grenades, and you toss them while your main weapon remains whatever gun you are using.  But 7th grade me would have to choose whether to use grenades, or mines, or guns.  It was an either-or option, not an addition to whatever your main weapon is, like it is today.  This came with the advent of loadouts, which leads us to:

Weapon spawning is dead

Maybe a few games still use weapon spawning today, maybe either out of nostalgia or to recreate a retro feel.  But back in the day, it was common practice for a level to have designated areas where better weapons would spawn.  You started with something terrible, and had to make a mad dash to the spot where you could upgrade.  This led to widespread camping, to protect the best weapon on the map from those with lesser guns.  7th grade me would be shocked to see that today we choose our weapons before the game starts, and typically hang on to those weapons until we die.  Weapons now are no longer simply a consideration of which one is better than the others, but instead which one is better for specific scenarios or play styles.  To revisit Goldeneye for this example, the RCP90 was typically the best gun in the map, and it was an achievement to obtain it.  Now days you can start out with that type of gun from the get go, and have to balance its weaknesses with its strengths against other considerations like the map and how you plan on playing.  Loadouts changed FPS gaming in a subtle yet substantial way.

Why go to war prepared when you can just pick up all your equipment right off the ground

The maps have changed

Well no shit the maps have changed you say to yourself.  But what I’m talking about is something more fundamental.  The maps in old FPS games were almost always indoors, in big rooms designed for optimal multiplayer goodness.  Sometimes they were based in reality, a big industrial facility or an office or something.  Sometimes they were just big complicated rooms, not really anything you would see in real life, just a room designed for people to run around and shoot at each other in.  But today we see a paradigm shift towards the outdoors.  Sure, maps today still contain indoor areas and buildings.  But the difference here is that we’ve shifted from levels to maps.  A level evokes a sense that the area was designed in a bubble, cordoned off from anything outside of it.  A map, on the other hand, is a spot in the real world.  The maps today are real areas, or at least made to look like one, where you can traverse the outside of the buildings as well as inside of them.  Sure, some FPS games of old made use of this.  Think back to the sniper level on Conker’s Bad Fur Day.  But see, that was revolutionary.  Ditches, trenches, bridges, hills and bunkers added to the variety and complexity of that map.  But levels like Stacks or Complex in Goldeneye, or the G5 Building in Perfect Dark, though some of my all time favorite levels ever, were still ultimately made for multiplayer.  What I mean is, it seems like the people who built those buildings built them specifically for people to later have shootouts in.  Today we see levels that look as though they were designed for other purposes, like what buildings in real life would be designed for, and you just happen to end up having shootouts there.  This adds to the level of realism that graphics alone can’t account for, and my old self would be pumped to be having a shootout in a map like the actual city of Paris, and not just another maze level with rooms and bridges that don’t have any outside significance.  But this shift to realism is probably influenced by outside factors that have actually taken place over the past decade or so.

What is this? Someone's basement?

The wars influence our shooters

The 90’s were a pretty peaceful time overall, especially compared to the 2000’s (still awkward to say) as far as America is concerned.  See, 7th grade me lived in a time where we weren’t involved in any wars, and so shooters were basically developed either to be historical, based on movies, or to tell stories of their own.  But after our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, our daily lives were inundated by the wars.  This inevitably influenced our national consciousnesses and had an impact on our shooter games.  Genres that had typically focused on World War 2 soon found themselves making more modern shooters, setting us in the Middle East with modern and DARPA weapons instead of historical or fictional weapons.  In an attempt to make the games somewhat fictional, they almost always involve Russians, which could be due to any number of reasons, most likely because a purely accurate and nonfictional depiction might be offensive and because developers want to make their own story, to make their game “theirs” instead of a documentary.  Regardless, with many developers now consulting with returning veterans to make these games, the feel has becomes far more hardened, gritty, and realistic.  What was once a fun, action packed genre has now evolved into an intense, violent and chaotic genre that focuses on realism and immersion more than anything else.  My time traveling self would find this new shift fascinating , as the changes in our world have had a direct impact on the games we play.

We've got Oddjob camping on the remote mines, and Boris is downstairs in the Archives.

In the end, there are tons of changes that the FPS genre has undergone over the years.  Some is based on technological advances that would have inevitably arisen, some is based upon more popular innovative ideas that other franchises have latched on to, and some is influence by the changing world around us.  I would love to play some Battlefield with my middle school self, if only to see the full extent of his amazement at what has come about.  I’m sure there would be some crazy things he would notice.  I remember playing Goldeneye for the first time, and being amazed at the technological advancement in the game at the time.  Now it is aged and old, and whats new seems the norm.  But with the fast paced advancement of gaming technology, I can’t wait to see what 36 year old me is playing in 10 years.  I’m sure it will make Battlefield 3 look outdated and cartoonish.

September 14, 2011

The FN P90


After last week’s look at the Skorpion, its time to jump back over the Iron Curtain and take a look at the NATO SMG of choice for users ranging from police SWAT teams to international counter-terrorism units.  Yes indeed, its the FN P90’s time to shine.

The P90 uses a 50 round magazine, unique in that it is horizontally loaded onto the top of the weapon, which can easily be seen above.  It fires the FN 5.7x28mm round which is small caliber and designed to penetrate Kevlar.  The spent casings are ejected directly out of the bottom of the weapon, preventing any obstruction in the user’s view.  It is symmetrical, meaning that left-handed users are able to use it unmodified.  It fires at an incredible 900 rounds per minute, and if you held the trigger down on a full magazine, it would be depleted in just 3.3 seconds.  An SMG in this respect is thus better suited for semiautomatic fire, and in fact FN later produced a semiautomatic version of the P90.

The P90 was introduced in 1990 (hence the 90 in its name) by the Belgian company FN Herstal.  Their aim was to produce a new SMG that was more than just an automatic pistol, something that could penetrate body armor.  To help achieve the seemingly conflicting goals of obtaining both high penetration like an assault rifle and the mobility and compactness of a small machine gun, FN used a new concept at the time, the bullpup design.  By having the firing mechanism within the stock of the weapon, they were able to greatly shorten the weapon while allowing the barrel length necessary for accuracy and high velocity rounds.  The gun is visually unique in that it has ergonomically designed grips and trigger guards.

I see your taillight's out

The first I had heard of this gun was, you guessed it, in Goldeneye 64.  In this game it was called the RCP90 and was one of the best weapons offered in the multiplayer.  The game designers decided to bump up the magazine capacity to 80 rounds and retained the bullet penetrating and high rate-of-fire characteristics of the weapon.  At times it was also possible to duel wield the guns, though in reality blazing full-auto with two bullpups would be unbelievably difficult.  But to hell with realism, I doubt anyone was worried about it while running through the jungle, RCP90 in the right hand, grenade launcher in the left.  In multiplayer games with power weapons, often times the games would revolve around who could control the RCP90 respawn area, a testament to the gun’s impressive statistics, which, though exaggerated, still remain largely true to life.

Cartridges do not fly out the side of the FN P90, but instead the bottom

The FN P90 is currently used in the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series, and is expected to return in Modern Warfare 3.  It has also been featured in games such as Perfect Dark, Metal Gear Solid, Timesplitters, Battlefield, and Fallout.  The bank robbers in Taxi, multiple characters in multiple Bond films, the police in I, Robot, and the fake police officers in Hostage all use the P90, as do countless more.

The P90 makes an appearance in the Fallout series

The FN P90 made its debut in the Gulf War, used by Belgian forces.  It was used later that decade in the successful Peruvian military engagement that ended the Japanese Embassy hostage crisis in Operation Chavin de Huantar.  The hostage takers were equipped with body armor, yet all were killed and 71 hostages rescued, greatly aided by the fact that the P90 is one of the few SMGs that fire armor-penetrating bullets.  More recently that bastion of democracy, Muammar Gaddafi, had his troops use the P90 and other weapons on his own citizens, which worked well when most of his supporters refused to fire on their countrymen and defected.  This gave the impoverished rebel forces a significant cache of weapons that were used in the successful uprising.

We won, but we still live in Libya. A mixed victory, to be sure.

The FN P90 is now twenty-one years old, but continues to see wide use in over forty countries to this day.  The Houston Police Department was the first American department to adopt this weapon, and to keep ahead of the game, were the first to use it in a shootout.  Now it is in use with over 200 organizations in America, including the secret service.  Its originality of design, bullpup configuration, use of small caliber, high velocity ammunition, and wide acceptance among NATO countries has allowed the FN P90 to be an originator of concepts in this next generation of firearms.  I attempted to buy a P90 off the internet to test it out myself, but wound up with something else entirely.

Either way, I got some guns out of it