Friday, December 14, 2012

DBNO Removal in Gears Judgment - An Editorial

Judgment has been called "a brand new game", and while there are a few things that are returning, there are many changes as well. Removal of stopping power, weapon alterations, weapon additions, new grenade types, vertical map influence including dives off a ledge from any height, even 2 story buildings. There are new gametypes, such as Free For All and Overrun. The game needs to grow, since too much of the same old same old can lead to stagnation of the fans. But when changes affect the core mechanics of the game, is this going too far?

Recently announced was Epic's decision to remove the DBNO (Down But Not Out) feature from the Gears series. Judgment will be the first game without DBNO. Mechanic additions are usually welcomed. They require a bit of learning and adaptation to the game to make it work, but overall it's not always tossed into the gutter. Mechanic removals though? And this is a core mechanic that has been here since November 7th, 2006. One of the draws of this game was the uniqueness of that feature. No other game had a system like it, and for good reason. It was innovative. It was brilliantly executed. It was a risk that had one of the greatest rewards. Why though, was this overly simple idea such a large factor?

The game revolves around strategic gameplay. Even with the first Gears of War game, strategy was always crucial to rush the enemy, flank, provide cover fire, even just to sacrifice yourself for the good of the team. And the DBNO feature contributed a large amount to the way the game was played. Cover usage only increased in Gears 2 and 3 due in large part to stopping power and overly powerful rifles. Becoming downed was one of the ways to survive such a large onslaught of bullets. The crawling ability enhanced your survival odds. And what was the biggest way to get back into the fight? Revives. The gaming aspect of never leaving a man behind. It can change the balance of the round, leading to victory when all the signs showed defeat. It was a second chance to get back in the fight when an enemy couldn't finish them off.

Which leads to the next aspect. Executions. Gears is all about being brutal. There is a chainsaw on a rifle that is used to cut through an enemies torso, sending bone and blood flying. You can crush a person's skull underneath your boot. You can rip someone's arm off and beat them to death with it. Slamming rifles onto backs, decapitating struggling foes, crushing them beneath heavy weapon casings, even shoving a flamethrower into their chest and watching the fire burn through their bodies from the inside out. Gears is one of the most brutal shooters on Xbox live. It's demoralizing to your opponent to see themselves humiliated by using their own corpse as a meatshield and then shoving a grenade onto their backs turning them into a meat bomb. All of these features are lost with the removal of DBNO. A stat tossed out says that only 0.2% of the population used executions. I am fairly positive this was a random number spouted off to try and make it seem this was a good removal. Even if that number is true, how much do revives add to the usefulness of DBNO? Meatshields? Bag n tags? There is no way that the use of the DBNO feature adds up to 0.2% It's a ludicrous statement.

The reasoning we've heard from certain testers and developers was that it was removed to "speed up gameplay". There is not a chance that this will speed up gameplay. People were scared to move anywhere when over-powered rifles and stopping power was an issue. But they moved anyways because a revival was possible. Grab that power weapon, get downed, teammate revives you. Now, with no chance of being revived, it will require a constant stim grenade just to go anywhere. Flanking will be almost impossible without the chance of beating that one loner in shotgun duels to get behind the enemy team. Rushing will be eliminated because of the fear of instant death. Camping will be the newest form of gameplay, even to the point of staying in spawns. On the off-chance you grab a kill, the majority of players will retreat to the high ground and take potshots to keep that lead. If they keep the 'more kills equal automatic win' instead of 'eliminate entire team' the matches will be stale and boring. And if they do put it back to elimination, nobody will move and there will be stalemates every match. Another reason is it resolves kill-stealing. Wrong. People will still complain about it, saying "I put more damage into him, I deserve the kill." Complaints about kill distribution will never end. It won't. I can guarantee it there will be as much, or perhaps even more, complaints about this new system.

It was one of the four largest staples of the game. Cover, Lancer with a chainsaw, Revives, and Executions. Taking out DBNO, it eliminates two of  the four critical appeals of this series. There are many people who don't realize how big of an impact this will be. A few days worth of playing, it might seem new and exciting, but so did Gears 3. after months of playing a more casualized game, the edge of your seat adrenaline is replaced with "they're going over there, smoke em, toss in the ink and rush em." Over and over. There were no epic battles. There were no clutch situations. There was no glory through gore that we had in the past titles. This removal seems to enhance that issue, and it makes even I, as probably the most staunch supporter and fan of the series, consider this game as a campaign rental over a multiplayer purchase. I'm sure the story is great. From what I've seen and read it will give me quite a lot of entertainment for 10-12 hours. But what is after that? I don't buy games for a short campaign. I buy games with either a very deep campaign that has dozens, even hundreds of hours worth of gameplay, or a really exciting multiplayer. Judgment it seems, fails on both aspects that would make this game an automatic purchase.

1 comment: