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Game Cover Systems

Gaming

December 5, 2006 07:15 AM PST

FPS games typically evolve very slowly. There is a pretty recent trend lately, however, to add some sort of a 'cover' system to this games. Being able to take cover from fire adds more realism and fun to the game. It's nice to be able to peak around corners without exposing yourself to danger. With some games you can even 'blind fire' around corners with your gun alone. This is not the way to achieve any accuracy, but it is handy in laying down some suppression.  In most older FPS games the best you could do for cover was to crouch down behind something and hope for the best.

Three recent 360 games I've been playing have cover systems, although they all take a slightly different approach. GRAW (Ghost Recon Advance Warfighter) was the earliest game of this type I played on the 360. It has a pretty decent cover system that lets you stick to walls, peek and fire around corners, and climb over low obstacles. The down sides are that you can't blind fire and the fact that it takes some 'action' to leave cover (button press or pulling back on the thumbstick.) This 'stickiness' can really nail you if you get caught by surprise by a flanking enemy and panic. Trying to get out of cover without doing the proper action cuts your response time and leaves you vulnerable. The biggest disadvantage GRAW has here is that you can't use cover in multiplayer games. They even cut the ability to climb over things. Bummer.

GOW (Gears of War) has a pretty innovative cover system that is all the rage on the intarwebs right now. In fact this game is all about cover. It supports lots of handy moves for getting into and out of cover. You can easily perform swat turns from one side of a doorway to the other. You can slide into and dive out of cover. You can easily hop over low walls and perform defensive diving rolls in any direction to avoid fire. The system supports blind firing (and blind grenade tossing) and at least a rudimentary aiming ability before you pop out of cover to take a shot. Firing from behind cover requires you pull the left trigger in order to look down the cross-hairs and aim before taking the shot.  I think the weakest aspect here is that like GRAW, the cover is 'sticky'. Once you slide, roll or or run into cover, you have to take some action to get back out. This is either leaning left, right or up and pressing the action button again - or pulling back on the thumbstick. So again, in the heat of online battle you can often find yourself getting accidentally stuck to an obstacle facing the wrong direction at the worst possible moment. Overall this doesn't happen very often, and as you gain experience, you'll end up doing this less and less.

Rainbow Six Vegas is new game that has an innovative cover system to rival that of Gears. (The graphics are also close to being on par, but that is another story). Like its cousin, GRAW, Vegas lets you peek and fire around corners and climb over obstacles. But unlike both GRAW and GOW, cover is not 'sticky'. You enter cover by holding the left trigger. You lean / pop out of cover to shoot by moving the left thumbstick in the direction of your choice. You leave cover by releasing the left trigger. Pretty simple and no chance of getting stuck. Also unlike the other two games you can accurately line up your cross-hairs on an enemy while behind cover, and pop out to make the shot. While this might not seem very sporting, or realistic for that matter - it is incredibly fun to do. Vegas supports blind fire and grenade toss like GOW, just pull the right trigger without leaning out of cover first. Vegas doesn't have the cool cover and dive moves that GOW has, but it does support using a fast rope and doing an inverted rappel down the side of a building while taking shots at bad guys with a silenced pistol - and that ain't bad.

It is cool to see how cover has evolved from a novelty in previous generation games like GRAW, to a critical element of game play in GOW and Vegas. Another thing that is interesting is all three of these games take different approach to view perspective in general. For example, GOW is  played in 3rd person and zooms to first person when aiming from cover while Vegas is played in 1st person, but changes to 3rd person when you enter cover. GRAW can be played either way, although it defaults to 3rd person, with a tighter over the shoulder view for aiming. There is no clear winner amongst these strategies. They all work pretty well in their respective games. When playing Vegas I find myself missing the cool defensive moves, slides and rolls of GOW. When playing GOW I miss the ability to accurately aim while behind cover and the easy way you can leave cover that Vegas supports. It would be nice to find away to combine the two, although I admit I'm not sure how you could do it with the current game features and controller configurations. The bottom line is that regardless of implementation, I think the current cover trend is a welcome addition to a genre that has been stuck in 'more of the same' mode for a long time now.

Summary of cover systems in these three games:

Ghost Recon Advanced Warrior:
Normal game view: Default 3rd person, optionally 1st person.
Aiming view: Default zoomed over the shoulder, optionally zoomed 1st person. (Accurate aiming optional)
Cover view: Same as normal game view.
Cover type: Sticky.
Aiming from cover view: Tight over the shoulder view, optionally zoomed 1st person. (Accurate aiming optional)
Enter cover: Approach cover and press move forward a second time.
Peek / pop out of cover: Press move left, right or forward.
Exit cover: Press move backward or action.
Can shoot over as well as around obstacles: Yes.
Blind firing: No.
Accurate aiming from cover: No, must pop out to get cross-hairs.
Cover special moves: No.
Cover support multiplayer modes: No.
Defensive rolls: No.
Climb over obstacles: Yes, but single player only.

Gears of War
Normal game view: 3rd person.
Aiming view: 1st person.
Cover view: 3rd person.
Cover type: Sticky.
Aiming from cover view: 1st person
Enter cover: Press action when close to or running toward cover.
Peek / pop out of cover: Pull left trigger while pressing move left, right or forward.
Exit cover: Move backward, or press action while moving left, right or forward to perform special move.
Can shoot over as well as around obstacles: Yes.
Blind firing: Yes including grenades.
Accurate aiming from cover: No, must pop out to get cross-hairs.
Cover special moves: Yes, slide into cover, swat turns, dive out of cover.
Cover support multiplayer modes: Yes.
Defensive rolls: Yes in all directions.
Climb over obstacles: Yes, more of a 'hop over' obstacle.

Rainbow Six Vegas
Normal game view: 1st person.
Aiming view: N/A. No additional aiming required when out of cover.
Cover view: 3rd person.
Cover type: Non sticky.
Aiming from cover view: Course aiming in 3rd person, 1st person to pop / fire.
Enter cover: Press and hold left trigger when close to wall / obstacle.
Peek / pop out of cover: Press move left, right or forward.
Exit cover: Release left trigger.
Can shoot over as well as around obstacles: Yes.
Blind firing: Yes including grenades.
Accurate aiming from cover: Yes when you are close enough to the edge you get cross-hairs.
Cover special moves: No.
Cover support multiplayer modes: Yes.
Defensive rolls: No.
Climb over obstacles: Yes.


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