I’ve recently been playing Red Faction: Guerrilla, a game I acquired a few months ago but hadn’t found time to play up until now. It’s not a new game, released in 2009, but playing it got me thinking. The game is a free roaming, third person shooter and while admittedly I haven’t played it for very long, I have played it enough for one aspect of the gameplay to stand out: Destruction. The game has a heavy focus on tactical (or not so tactical) demolition.
Pretty much every building and structure can be brought down through the use of various mines or a physics-defying sledgehammer. This adds a nice dose of strategy to an otherwise straightforward shooter, allowing you to bring down enemy-filled buildings with only a few well placed charges or hammer blows.
The buildings crumble and collapse in a realistic way that’s satisfying to watch. It adds that little something extra to the game, making the world seem real and not full of static, immovable objects, while also letting you fulfil any dreams you may have had of tearing down buildings with an enormous hammer. While Red Faction games have been synonymous with destructible environments since the release of the first one, destruction doesn’t have to be quite so extreme to be immersive.
Some games do get it right without going overboard, with trees being splintered, pillars being chipped and broken. The small details that just make the world that little bit more believable. While this sort of thing is becoming more common, we must be coming to a point in game design where it is unthinkable to not have environments that behave in such a realistic way. For the sake of this argument I am obviously ignoring games that are intentionally unrealistic.
The Battlefield series has adopted destruction as a key feature, allowing you to blow apart walls to get at sneaky enemies hiding behind them, create shortcuts, or just collapse a bothersome building. While the destruction certainly adds to the spectacle and excitement (there’s nothing that quite get’s the blood pumping like escaping through a house as it explodes around you), it is still limited to specific objects.
Battlefield 4 coined the term “Levolution”, destruction events such as collapsing skyscrapers or rupturing dams that drastically alter the gameplay. While certainly awe-inspiring to see, they are still very specific occurrences, with you often needing to spend some considerable time and effort (and ammo) to make them happen. They don’t often happen by accident, which is a shame because it makes them feel scripted and less like collateral damage.
While I can understand games like Battlefield needing to restrict the amount of destruction for the sake of performance and gameplay balance, surely the next step is for developers to find a way to increase the amount of interactivity with the environment and maintain the game balance. Cosmetic damage and flashy set-pieces are all very good, but what destruction really brings is more freedom and room for creativity.
At this point in time, Grand Theft Auto V must surely be the pinnacle of an open world. But the question is where do they go from here? Is the next step for GTA a bigger map, with slightly nicer textures and lighting etc. Probably. Games can keep getting bigger and prettier forever, but eventually there must come a point where you say “You know what, this game is big and pretty enough for me”.
But imagine playing a GTA game where the world reacted to you. You could drive your car through a shopping centre to escape the police, crash a bus through a bank, not have your 60-ton tank brought to a stop by a tree. do whatever your imagination can come up with. A whole new world opens up to you and you have complete freedom. While technology might not be quite there yet, there will certainly be a time when it will. And it will be glorious.
Do you want more destruction? Maybe you think that it ruins gameplay and want less? Let us know in the comments below.