Thursday, January 5, 2012

Black (Xbox/PS2) – EA screwed us out of realistic ammo management

Someone at developers Criterion implemented something very clever in the FPS game Black, but between early preview demos and final release, someone at publisher EA decided this nugget of genius had to be removed and, as a result, we were all screwed. I want my money back, and the perpetrator of these changes named & shamed.

Yes, I realise I’m several years too late, since Black was released in 2006, but that doesn’t decrease the livid indignation I feel over having paid money for this crap, only for it to be missing the very thing I bought it for.

I bought Black for no other reason than the promise of realistic gun reloading.

As shown in the PS2 demo given away with OPS2M 81, the game was supposed to feature realistic ammo management. You have a number of clips and if you press to reload you lose whatever you had in that clip when inserting the new one. So if you have a clip of 20 bullets and fire once (leaving you 19), and then reload, you will lose those 19 bullets. Contrasting against every other gun game where you click reload and your bullets are topped up from a large magical ammo bag.

That’s what I call dumb ammo management. I have read on so many forums that people don’t like the idea of realistic reloading because they like to push reload after firing every single bullet, and with realistic reloading would lose very quickly. If you’re one of these people, which developers pander to, then I hate you.

I chose to own Black for the single reason that the demo showed it not to feature “dumb reloading” and would require some degree of tactical thinking and, you know, actual intelligence. That unique quality that separates us, humans, from things like chimps and hamsters.

But no. Someone at EA, or possibly Criterion, must have got cold feet and between the demo and final release replaced intelligent reloading with dumb reloading. Why is it I have not seen this discussed anywhere else on the internet or in magazines? Note the screenshots:

I have two clips for the pistol.

I only have one clip and the rest of the ammo is wasted. This is realism. This is good. This is why I bought the game.

One big ammo supply with no individual clips.

Clearly someone in marketing was frightened that people would not buy the game if it featured any degree of actual realism, or required some degree of intellect, so they had it removed.

Bloody hell, what must I do to get away from this crap? I used to put up with it back in the 32-bit era, when I was naïve and young, but I have grown increasingly resentful of designers that treat me like an idiot. Why can’t more games feature intelligent reloading? The only ones that do are a tiny selection of PC FPS, and even then they’re from obscure Soviet developers. Even then, games like STALKER featured dumb reloading, forcing me to trawl for mods to correct this.

I don’t like PC gaming though, I like to sit on my couch and game. I had to really force my way through Uncharted 3, so annoyed was I by both the motion-blur and dumb reloading. For me it’s an absolute deal breaker. Deus Ex Human Revolution I couldn’t even finish – how can he pop open a revolver, dump the cylinder, pop a new one in, and yet not lose the wasted ammo?! It doesn’t make any sense!

Why must every game with guns pander to people who insist on tapping the reload button like some kind of rodent with orgasm electrodes wired into their brain?

Seriously, learn some self-control and appreciate the merits of tactical ammo management.

I am both disappointed and annoyed. I was saving Black for a dull day, like today, to really enjoy. And now it’s garbage. There is literally ABSOLUTELY NO POINT in either playing it or owning it. I have completely wasted my money on a product which was not as promised*.

It’s like going to your favourite steakhouse to buy steak, and discovering they converted into a vegan restaurant. I don’t care how amazing the fried tofu is, all I want is steak, and if I can’t have steak, which is the only reason I am here, then the entire establishment might as well burn to the ground for all I care. WHERE THE HELL IS MY RELOADING STEAK?!

* I realise the demo contained the warning that the games might change from the demo, but COME ON. This isn’t a minor change like menus or graphics, this is a fundamental alteration to the entire structure of the game’s mechanics. It’s an FPS designed around shooting – to make such a drastic change is like suddenly removing Mario’s ability to jump. Or Sonic’s ability to collect rings.

The demo lied to us. EA lied to us. Someone, somewhere, is responsible for this travesty. And as a result Black has gone from being possibly the best FPS ever, with realistic environments and realistic ammo management, and turned into absolute trash. There is no reason whatsoever anymore for me to play it. It might as well be a My Little Pony game for all the interest I have.

So then, can anyone recommend a different console game which features realistic reloading? I hear Alan Wake does, is this true? Does anyone else agree with me, or am I really the only gun lover who plays video games? I would think that given the high sales of Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, someone, somewhere would comment on the lack of realistic reloading and ammo management. And yet no one ever says a word.


  1. What's up with all the gamers that complain endlessly about games but still play them? Isn't it just easier to, y'know, -not- play them? Like, read a book or something.

    Or I dunno, it seems like a lot of gamers -want- to complain, more than they want to play games that they actually find good.

  2. Bungie's Marathon games had no manual reload button at all, you got a forced reload animation at the end of every clip, which I always thought was the most elegant solution to this problem. Impulsive gamers have their ammo reloaded without worrying about a reload button. Experienced players on harder difficulties know to shoot the last few rounds off to get a fresh clip before a big fight.

  3. I complain because games can be awesome - they can be better than books and films and opera and comics and music LPs combined. They don't have to be shit.

    The demo was perfect. I played the demo over and over, and I loved it.

    My complaint is they had something perfect, something integrated from the start, and some cretinous whinnying turd decided to change all that.

    That's why I'm complaining.

    If they'd left it as is I'd probably write a lengthy feature about why the game is great. Everything in the scenery can be damaged - you can't do that with FPS Rage by id. You're stuck in plastic corridors. Black offered interaction on a level seldom seen, and to start with it offered realistic reloading - my perfect ideal in the FPS genre.

    And then they remove it. And they removed it to cater to simple people. Imagine if the film adaptation of Lord of the Rings changed everyone's name to John and Mike and Steve, because Frodo and Gandalf was deemed too complicated for simple people to understand.

    The entire world would have complained. But because this is videogames, changes to increase simplicity are glossed over as normal and expected.

    Presumably because publishers think everyone who plays videogames must be a moron and wouldn't be able to handle ammo management.

  4. If you're going to complain about realistic loading couldn't hurt to use the technically correct term magazine/mag rather than clip which relates to a literal clip of bullets. Since despite that silly reload change Black is one of the biggest Gun Porn games around.

    SWAT 4 (and I think other realistic/semi-realistic shooters like Rainbow 6, Arma etc) have the entire mag change feature. Which is really great and one of the many reasons that SWAT 4 is such a solid title. Although it's a bit old to have the realistic scenery deformation.

  5. I picked up Mercenaries 2 on the 360 fairly recently, and it handles ammo exactly the way you like it for any magazine based weapon. Not an FPS, though, and other than that, I have to say no other examples spring to mind.

  6. I agree; I don't like dumb reloading since it just isn't logical. One of the first games I played a lot of online, though, was Rogue Spear, so I guess I got used to realistic reloading. I really wish it were in more games, though. I don't need to be coddled that badly; I'm an adult.

  7. I typically never use the reload button in single player FPS and instead just shoot away until the magazine is emptied.

    Anyway, just like in all of these topics, it cannot be overstated that publishers need to stop treating their customers like fucking idiots and give them OPTIONS for stuff like this (then again, reviewers need to stop BEING fucking idiots and actually start to explore and explain the options in the games that give them).

  8. Not an FPS and not console, but Alien Swarm on steam uses 'smart' reloading, and it's free! Plus it's got co-op multiplayer, so you can shame your friends for reloading too early. If you're worried about specs, I assure you it'll run on just about any machine out there.

  9. While I get, and agree, with the major point of your post (a compelling feature removed, you feel scammed), I cannot agree with this post. You sound like those kids that fight some forums because other people plays in a way different to theirs.

    From a designer's perspective, realism is overrated. You don't want to play a game designed with pure realism in mind. No better way to make a game samey and predictable than making it very realistic.
    Sure, you want a minimal amount of realism to keep the suspension of disbelief, but go overboard and you turn tasks into chores.
    Even so, you shouldn't be looking for realism in a regular action game (whose appeal is action), you need simulation games instead, whose appeal is realism.

    Also, you seem to miss the function of a demo. The disclaimer is clear. As a developer, the worst thing you can do is trying to appeal to the minority. Many games suffer terrible blows because the developer was trying too hard to be nice to minorities, specially the pushy and loud ones.

    Listen, I am really sorry you made a wrong purchase, it always sucks, but your stance is complete unreasonable and sounds like your opinion weights more than the people you "hate". It doesn't, you are just one more buyer. It is equivalent to me saying "I HATE you because realism is a chore!". Please, this blog should have better quality standards than this biased rant post.

  10. Actually, no, realism doesn't make games samey and predictable, the hundreds of unrealistic and dogmatic bullshit tropes we have make games samey and predictable, which extends this post over the level of a simple rant against an unliked feature to a statement about the monotone and creativity-hostile environment in the big budget video game industry.

    99% of all "action" centered FPS use dumb reloading (is this a term now?), so why couldn't there be that one game for people who want smart reloading? Because publishers hate variety. Variety feels dangerous for them, and we idiots are afraid of change, too, so we eat it all up and pay 60 bucks for roughly the same game in a new package every couple of months.

    And do spare us the "majority appeal" business talk. Business considerations cannot mean anything for a critic. We don't give a shit how well a game sells, we care about quality, creativity and variety, and a game that fails achieving those because it bows to the mass market is doing a bad job as a game.

  11. Look on the bright side though - this change means you'll never, ever run out of ammo.

    ...Actually, that's something I really don't like about modern FPS. You're just handed ammo, all over the place, no chance whatsoever of running out unless you deliberately choose a weapon that nobody else carries. I miss scrounging for resources. I miss finding helpful goodies in secret walls.

  12. Derboo, as usual, hits the nail on the head.

    Part of the reason for the rant is, as someone stated, Black is affectionately referred to a "gun porn". The weapons look realistic, reloading blurs your distance vision, everything has a meaty sound to it, weapons can destroy scenery (shotguns taking down doors), and so on. There's even the little touch of pushing too close to a wall and your gun sinks down, as if closer to your body.

    The entire game is built around being more real than other action games. The feature in the demo proves this. More significant than my rant is the fact we have proof here of publishers making changes prior to release. Don't tell me Criterion spent however many months developing the game with smart reloading only for their lead designer to have a change of heart and alter a central game mechanic.

    I played it yesterday without using the reload the button, spraying excess bullets to force an auto reload. I'd waste half a mag sometimes, or us an entire 60 bullet mag on one enemy. And you know what? There was way, way, waaaaay too much ammo around the level, even when I was wasting 75% or more of it. I finished the second level (the farm) and to tell the truth, most of the time I reached the 500 bullet ammo cap and could not pick up any more! This was normal difficulty.

    This proves to me beyond any doubt that the game was built, designed and structured around the concept of tactical ammo management - and even then had an excess of ammo. Using the "dumb reloading" method in effect breaks the gameplay because you will never be short of ammo. Maybe later levels are different, but the game actually feels broken because of this last minute alteration.

    Tactical ammo management would not have made it less fun, it would have made it better and more balanced.

    Have I invented a new term? I originally had a less politically correct term instead of dumb reloading, but changed it.

  13. Sketcz, I have read almost every post in this blog, and you invariably post whiny, irritating rants about the most uninteresting minutia. Do you thing anyone reading HG101 gives a shit about Yakuza 3, Uncharted 2, or this Black piece of crap? You just bitch for pages about the tiniest complaint you can think of. You can't just play Black on a higher difficulty, and not use the "dumb reload" button?
    It's not that I disagree with you on these points, and I would have rather had the host club parts in yakuza 3. Ditto with the damn motion blur in Uncharted 2. My point is, these are not things worth blogging about.

    Get a grip, please. You're making all of us look bad.

  14. I don't mind the dumb reload, but I also dig the realistic one. I know lots of games with realistic reload, but they all seem to be on PC (most likely because I'm a PC gamer), but if you can't find it on consoles, you can always connect your PC to your TV and use a wireless gamepad as input method, right? PCs are flexible machines.

    The best one as mentioned above is SWAT 4. basically each swat member carries 4 magazines. Whenever you hit reload, the largest magazine will be reloaded. So if you have 1 magazine with 19 rounds, 2 with 18 rounds, and 1 with 13 rounds, hitting reload will reload the gun with the 19 round magazine. The swat officers have a place on their left chest that's actually designed for holding magazines, which makes it even more realistic. I love this method, since it's not stupid like the rest of the shooters, yet you won't lose your bullets if you accidentally hit "R". It's perfect for both the strategists and shooters who like to reload as often as possible. That's what the game was aiming for, so I say it's a job well done.

    I remember another game, probably SWAT3, but not sure, which was even better. It was the same mechanics in SWAT4, but if you were in a pinch and didn't want to take your time placing the almost empty magazine in your pockets, you could hold reload. This would make the swat guy just ditch the old magazine and insert a new one. This would sacrifice some bullets for gaining a shorter reload time. It is the most realistic and flexible reload system I have seen.

    Another game I remember having realistic reloads is Operations Flashpoint (the first one). I haven't played the Flashpoint 2 neither the ARMA games, so I can't confirm those.

    But then again, this isn't something that's really too difficult to implement, so you can probably find mods that do it for any modable game. (But still they're on PC)

    I guess your problem is not the games that use dumb reload, but it is the fact that console games are aimed at people who don't want this kind of stuff.

  15. Way back in the day, seemingly a million years ago, Day of Defeat the Half-Life mod (original Half-Life) had very strict, realistic ammo management.

    However, it was even more strict/realistic than you're calling for. You had a set number of mags and if you reloaded, you didn't even TOSS the mag, you simply put it away with your other ones.

    And you couldn't tell how many rounds were in a mag when you loaded it, so if you fired/reloaded willy-nilly, you could pull a mag that had, say, three rounds left in it.

    I personally wasn't the biggest fan of this system at the time (I thought it was "inconvenient") but as I've turned into an Old Bastard now, I can see how it's a really neat design.

    I don't know if DoD Source carried this feature on, I should look into it some day.

  16. Doesn't America's Army do this? The newer ones are supposed to strive for utmost realism, but I've never actually played it myself.

  17. Until somewhat recently I'd never had much experience with first person shooters, and I always just assumed that all reloading was "smart" in the way you describe here. While playing my first FPS I instinctively attempted to use every bullet in a clip/magazine to make sure I wasn't wasting ammo. Of course, it didn't take long to notice it didn't work that way, and that there were no consequences for excessive, overcautious reloading.

    I've only played a few sci-fi shooters though...until now I just assumed that all those super popular "realistic" military titles had smart reloading...I mean, aren't they basically war sims?

  18. GoldenEye on the N64 had this I think. Another feature was that you had to release the trigger for the auto reload animation when the clip was empty. Anti - noob mechanic when playing with machine guns.

  19. sorry about my earlier comment. just checked out a youtube video. GoldenEye did not have intelligent reloading. my bad

  20. The problem would be solved for both mass market and realism snobs of smart reloading (so to speak) was a selectable toggle in an options menu. Seems like that'd be pretty simple to implement. I'd probabably use it. I just ploughed through both Crysis games and wished it had done that.

  21. "Black" was never meant to be a true sim, nor I can't fathom anyone thinking that this game was meant to be realistic. I remember vaguely the true reload mechanic in the demo. And to be honest, it would have worked fine in that game because it was balanced for it. I don't think it would work well in a CoD game, or Serious Sam for that matter. The ebb and flow of Black is considered - you build elements up to a crescendo and watch the climax. That intensity makes the game intriguing. It's good game nonetheless, and I wish they made a proper sequel.

    Why hasn't anyone mentioned Red Orchestra 2? If you want proper ammo management, you'll get that and more! Adjust sights for minute-of-angle? Properly set up a machinegun? Go nuts!

    Lastly, you have an interesting point, but you approach to your criticism comes off as a "bitch" rather than an argument. I'd like to think that this site is a bit more sensitive to decorum than, say, 4chan.

    Also, interesting points and counterpoints overall in the comments section. It made me think about the Marathon games.

  22. I didnt know michael moore played video games. Seriously why keep playing when you clearly hate games so damn much?

  23. Just gonna say this for future reference since you're a writer...

    there's a difference between clips and magazines. Most movies and games use clip wrong. A clip is a piece of metal that holds strips of bullets, those are in the boxes of ammo you get at a store. You remove the bullets from the clip and load them into a magazine - the magazine is what you actually put in the gun.

    Everytime you hear a movie say "toss me a clip" unless they hand them a strip of bullets - they're using the wrong term.

    Look over your article - if a game says you have "10 ammo clips" you can reload and reload all day - all it means is you got a bag of extra ammo as well. If the game says you have 10 magazines, that's different.