As video games advance from gigantic pixels to a million little pixels, and from no stories to great developing and unique stories. There has been one change which I cannot grasp, why it’s happening and to be honest I don’t like; the lack of a Life Bar.
Where did it go and when did it become a problem. Now before I go on I want to say that yes I’m well aware some games still do use the life bar and yes I’m also aware the reasoning behind it. With that said what happened to the life bar? Ever since the NES era life bars have been a way to add difficulty and a new challenge to a game. Not only must you navigate your way through unique and interesting locations but you must also battle baddies and watch your health. This was acceptable and a challenge because it added realism to any game no matter how fictional. You were in a fictional world but you still had to worry about death, you were a Battletoad but you could still die/ You get hit once and you take damage. Sometimes one hit sometimes multiple hits, and having to find a way to get your health back with food in garbage cans and/or walls. Even if the life bar is nonexistent some form of other kind of strategy is used, Mario gets hit and shrinks, Sonic Looses Rings and Crash Bandicoot uses a mask.
Most games nowadays use the good ole regenerating life. Where your screen goes red usually to indicate how much damage you have taken and the direction it is coming from. This is fine as an indicator, but to just hide behind a wall or stay in a corner and wait until your health regenerates is not challenging. This is mostly seen in First person Shooters such as Call of Duty, Battlefield and yes even Halo.
Some would argue that using this in FPS games is necessary but I argue that the original Call of Duty did not use this tactic and neither did the Duke.
Duke Nukem 3D doesn’t use a life bar but a percentages of health. The game is already surprisingly hard with maps and secret areas to navigate and explore, and it’s even more challenging when you have 1% health and alien scum got your cornered and you’re only choice is to fight or die. That is a game. Games such as Call of Duty Black Ops, in which you take too much damage, you just wait it out as your health comes back to 100% with absolutely no strategy or challenge really ruins the immersion. Gears of War is also guilty of this technique along with Kane & Lynch. In games such as X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Splatterhouse it’s understandable as to why their health regenerates and the hiding in the corner to wait for your health to come back. Wolverine’s a mutant who heals with time and Rick is a demon sort of thing with supernatural abilities. But in Call of Duty in which you play as a soldier, health regeneration does not make
sense. The point is to play like a soldier not to play as a super soldier
I mean wasn’t it fun having to fight your way in a game and knock over crates and find health when you most needed it? Streets of Rage, Golden Axe, Dead Space, and hell even Dead Rising 2!
Sometimes for example when you’re supposed to be playing an everyday guy or girl who is put into an unusual environment the point is to immerse yourself into the game at hand. Let’s take for example the Ghostbusters game. Regular guys that just so happen to have machines for busting ghosts. Fair enough. Except these guys can regenerate their health by sitting away from everything for a little bit. A health bar is present but its only thereto be used more as a time limit to how long you should wait for your health to come back.
Look how beautiful these different Life Bars are!
Basically what I’m saying is, having a regenerating life bar in a game should be a unique and selling part of the game. In Prototype your health regenerates because your character is a super power human and that is a selling point and that makes sense “an unstoppable man, with powers”. In Call of Duty you’re supposed to be a soldier but if you can regenerate yourself then you are indeed a super soldier. Instead of this being unique it is becoming the norm. Gears of War, Ghostbusters, most first person games have all become health regenerating games, even though the stories usually involve people trying not to die, it ruins the game when you can’t die, and they pretend that they can. Let’s not let the life bar reach zero, and find some food to keep it alive.
Hopefully Dead Space 2 and the upcoming Duke Nukem: Forever stays to its roots and uses the health bar system rather than the now cliché regenerating life bar.
What are your thoughts, agree disagree? Leave a comment below.