2 Games, 1 Genre
By: Josh Davis
Two games that seem to have the world of gamers declaring sides in a definitive, inner-console war are; Halo and Call of Duty. No matter which console a particular gamer prefers, they will have heard of both titles and probably have a preference (generally very strong) of one over the other. So what design elements contribute to the differences in these games and what make them the same, possibly even contributing to their joint success?
Both games are FPS style games. One element of the games that is very similar is that both encourage multiple play styles. In both Halo and Call of Duty, the games are very fast paced and often times, feel chaotic. There is not a lot of “moving between cover” in one-on-one “dueling” situations. Also, both games give the player rechargeable health/shields. In both games, when injured, the player must try to find a safe place to hide for cover to allow their health (or shields) to quickly regenerate. Both games also offer a similar mini map for players to see enemies with. If a player shoots a weapon, their position can be seen on the mini-map. The differences in the mini-maps come from differences in the games themselves.
Specifically, the multi-player is a great place to talk about the differences in these games. When comparing the individual campaigns, we only get segments of the features, and too much is discussed about the story. In the multiplayer, we can see everything the designers have to offer, all at once. The way weapons work is a major difference. With Halo, we see such a focus on weapons. This is because weapons themselves work in a way that changes the way players play the game, and essentially, how the game works. With Call of Duty, weapons are essentially either an after thought, or the only thought. A weapon can be used as a, “be-all, end-all,” or as a machine gun with slight differences to stats. Options of attachments, perks, load-outs, kill streak rewards and things of that nature dominate the gameplay. Weapons are generally chosen by a player and not changed through the duration of the game. Most players find a weapon that suits their play style and never change it. In Halo, everything revolves around the weapons you have equipped, or the places to find weapons on the map. If you have the right weapons, you can dominate the game. Map control is nearly entirely about controlling a point on the map where “power weapons” drop. If you want to do well in Halo, you must move to points on the map with power weapons, and control them. Load outs (armor abilities) are what changes a players gameplay style in Halo, whereas in Call of Duty; perks, weapon load-outs, kill streak rewards, and map positions all determine a players play style and everything else to do with the game. There seems to be an equal focus on all aspects of the game’s design in Call of Duty, thus, selection of the right equipment is the most important thing. For this reason, it seems as though player skill is closer in Call of Duty because of design. You rarely see much stratification in player skill in Call of Duty because they give all players of all types a way to succeed. In Halo, all players are given the same equipment and weapons. Skill determines who gets these weapons, and by design, players who are more skilled will have better weapons. This forces players of lower skill to fight with less powerful weapons, making them fodder for higher skilled players, or forcing them to become more skilled by becoming better than those that match their current skill level. The more elite players are made even better with the dominant weapons, and have to compete with each other based on their skill. At times, more skilled players lose these weapons and have to use their skills to get the weapons by killing other players who have them. This mix of player skill, and weapon based combat, gives the game a feel of having a bigger spread of player ability. In Halo, you can truly get a feel of how skilled you are compared to the community.