One of the current gaming generation’s trends that I dislike the most is when the screen get’s all distorted when you’ve taken a lot of damage, but recently I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Something came to me – I haven’t met anyone who actually prefers it to a standard life bar or some other health indicator.
Now before I get started I’m not talking about regenerating health, just the visual representation of how much life you have remaining. Regenerating health is a whole other discussion.
I know the main reason for making the screen red (or desaturated) and spraying it with cherry jam – to make it more apparent to people who can’t be bothered to spend a split second to look at the corner of the screen. Like so much else this gen though (loading screen hints, tutorials, etc.), do developers really have to go that far? And why does every freaking game do it now?
Generally speaking, it looks tacky. Mass Effect 2 for instance has a very ugly critical health indicator. Blood at least makes some sense if you’re going to do this, but red veins covering up half the screen?! I can understand removing HUD elements to make the UI look cleaner, but most of the time distorting the whole screen just reverses the process. In some games it also makes it harder to see at a time when you need to be more perceptive.
I just can’t figure out what force in the industry allowed this to become the standard. The game I think popularized regenerating health – Halo, actually had shield and health bars as well as audio indicators. The first big game I remember transplanting the feature and using the bloody screen was Call of Duty 2 (a whole console generation later strangely), and back then people like IGN even complained about having regenerating health in World War II. I still haven’t seen a person actually say they like games that do this. I guess nobody could figure out a better tool.
I like how Dead Space handles this along with its entire HUD – displaying it on the character himself. It’d be nice if that feature became more common in futuristic third person games. I don’t see why games like Mass Effect can’t just use health bars and make them flash like the original game.
Resident Evil always had changing character animations to signal when you should check the status screen. That’s why Revelations looks doubly stupid for keeping that system along with the bloody screen. Since your health doesn’t regenerate in that game you might have to deal with that distorted screen for extended periods of time if you’re out of herbs.
One game that I think uses a good variation of the bloody screen is Gears of War. The increasingly visible skull cog symbol in the center of the screen is an instantly identifiable sign of danger you can’t miss but doesn’t really distort your vision.
Like a lot of things, this is just one more example of how homogenous mainstream console games are getting these days. It might be a good feature for the one or two games where it actually makes sense, but I just think there’s something wrong when almost every game I play does it.
- The latest 101 Free Games list is out: http://t.co/IEbOMe00
- This week’s Amazon PC game sales look pretty nice, especially The Witcher 2 for $14: http://t.co/Oor9yOiq
- BitMob just featured one of my earlier blogs: http://t.co/Ym1DRqp6