The Problem with Blind-Fire

June 3, 2010 by  
Filed under Features, Reviews & Features

The Gears of War series may not have created the cover system, although it did popularise it. Shielding yourself from bullets joins the likes of recharging health as a feature that is very much in vogue in many of today’s action titles, but there’s something not quite right with many of these cover systems, something that really, really annoys me.

Gears of War also brought great finesse to the cover system, making it very simple to switch from cover to cover, giving any spectators the idea that you really know how to defend yourself from all that spewing lead. So, this excellent cover system proved to be extremely successful: executed wonderfully well, and, other than an overly accurate blind-fire, it’s actually pretty close to perfection.

Right, it’s the blind-fire that is actually the bugbear of many a cover system; many developers just haven’t got it right, seemingly forgetting that you’re supposed to be blindly (note the emphasis on the word) firing around or over cover.

I mentioned the blind-fire of Gears of War, though it’s nowhere near as problematic as some of the games that have been released since then. The mighty, “perfect” Grand Theft Auto IV has tidied up gunfights over previous games and is complete with a very welcome cover system; it just so happens to be a cover system with a blind-fire option that is so shockingly precise that you’ll rarely need to leave your position of safety until you are required to advance. The same applies to FPS Quantum of Solace (it’s funny that the game got a fair bit of flack for this, whilst it went largely ignored in GTA IV), the cover system of this Bond game may showcase a brilliant Daniel Craig model, though blind firing is all too easily achieved. Another example is EA’s Army of Two, and I’ve got to wonder why it has become such a trend? I mean, we’re supposed to be blind, right? Last I heard, is that when you’re blind to something, you can’t actually see it.

One of the best examples of blind-fire that I’ve come across is Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. There’s no crosshair to indicate where bullets are going to hit and, with the amount of ammo that is wasted during its attempted use, it actually feels as if it’s a tactic that should be left for desperation or for when enemies are nearby. The recent release of Uncharted 2: Among Thieves should have been a repeat of this, but, no, Naughty Dog have decided to make the blind-fire of the sequel an overly helpful tactic, now that was sensible.

Blind-firing should be a lottery, successful hits should feel really random and come across as if you have only a vauge idea as to where the enemies are and where the bullets are going to fly. With the above mentioned games in particular, this just isn’t the case. Should firing blindly really give you the feeling that you have the ultimate precision of Robocop? Of course not, particularly if you’re a normal person without any cheating bullet accuracy technology.

The simple solutions are to make it feel completely random, create a cover-based game without blind-fire for a change, or maybe someone will even come along and truly innovate: giving us the feeling that we are actually propped in a place where we’re not able to see what’s ahead of us whilst in blind-firing mode. For me, I’d like to see some change as it’s always in the back of my mind that I can exploit these design flaws to take out enemies without taking hits myself.

Words by Chris Wigham