The AK-47. The M-16. The G3. These weapons are all assault rifles and you know exactly what they are because they're what you use in a CoD game. I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen using submachine guns, shotguns, and light machine guns in CoD games because let's face it, those guns have drawbacks. But assault rifles do not. Assault rifles are accurate at a distance and fully automatic up close; they are literally the Swiss Army Gun. That's why they're the default in modern wars. And that's why they break games.
CoD's biggest sin is that they've made giving you a gun with no downside seem normal. You don't have to worry about distance too much and when a dude rushes you, you just hold down the trigger and pray you have bullets left. The point is, there's very little strategy involved. When you give the player a gun that you don't have to strategize around, then you've failed as a game. It's effectively a debug weapon.
And the balance of these guns has hurt gamers as much as it has the industry. It's made us lazy in online games. We don't want to work for kills, we want to get them as soon as we see a guy. None of this "leading your shots" business, no getting in range or keeping distance, just unload on the fool and watch him drop in less than a second. Now granted, this probably was what helped spur the development of perks for CoD4 in order to diversify things, and I'm not saying that wasn't a step forward. But the fact of the matter is that if you take out perks, killstreaks, and persistent upgrades and levelling, then CoD becomes a boring game, a game that can't stand on the merit of it's basic gameplay, but on the layered metagame surrounding it.
Recently, I read Jeff Gerstmann's review of Brink, and one thing jumped out at me. While he had a lot of valid points, one of his complaints was that enemy players "took too many shots to kill." In other words, they weren't going down in under ten bullets. The fact that a man of integrity like Jeff Gerstmann could make such a fratboyish argument shows how much our perspective on first person shooters has become distorted. In our collective consciousness, the wide variety of first person shooters has been encapsulated by a subgenre - the brown modern warfare game. It's not hard to see why; reviewers keep scoring them high and we keep buying them despite a lack of innovation.
At some point, we'll need to say "Enough!" and start looking down on games that just maintain the same cookie cutter formula. But until that time comes, thank God for games that take a chance and try something new. Thank God for Brink. Thank God for Painkiller. Thank God for Monday Night Combat. And really thank God for Team Fortress 2.
Oh, and if you really want to show your appreciation, try actually fucking buying them!
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