Think back to the early days of shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake. What did you do to avoid getting hit? Usually it was some combination of circle strafing and bunny hopping, staying as mobile as possible so that your opponent couldn’t keep you in his sights. These were the pro strats in the days of arcade shooters, keep moving, get the best guns, and whatever you do don’t die.
However, pro strats changed as regenerating health was introduced into the shooter world. Players started to move slower, jumping made you less mobile and not able to aim so well, and the aim down sights mechanic was used both to make you more accurate and to add a certain level of auto targeting to your gunfire. Suddenly circle strafing around a character was just a recipe for getting a quick thirteen bullets to the head, if only because aim assist would allow your sights to curve slightly to the right.
So things shifted in a different direction. Now, instead of staying mobile, people were using elements of the stage to protect them. They were hiding behind walls and ducking behind tables and waiting for their opponent to reload in order to shoot them. Then, of course, opponents would use grenades to flush them out, but then you could throw the grenades back or shoot the opponent while he was throwing them, it was a deep and complex rock paper scissors game.
But in more modern day shooters, we are seeing cover being utilized less and less. Titanfall kicked off the party with its wall running, double jumping, mantling, and crazy mobility options. Suddenly you could get from one side of the map to another in a couple of seconds. When you were in someone’s sights, suddenly it was better to find a wall to cling to rather than a table to hide behind.
The recently revealed multiplayer preview for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare gave us jet packs to fool around with, and they basically did the same thing. Now you can double jump, boost in mid air, and fool around with your trajectory. No one at the preview event was using cover. Instead, everyone was hopping around like maniacs.
But think about why we hop around like maniacs. It’s to avoid getting shot. Similarly why do we use cover? Same reason: to avoid getting shot. These two mechanics serve the same purpose in basically every FPS that they have been in, defense.
The difference, is that it changes the way defense is managed. Cover is sort of a passive defense. You can attack from it but you really can’t take any action to make yourself more safe, short of using a riot shield or something like that. Mobility, on the other hand, is active defense. Instead of putting defensive control in the maps’ hands, it puts it in the players’ hands. If you are better at moving around, it becomes harder and harder to shoot you.
Both of these scenarios have their counter measures. Cover has the grenade rock paper scissors game that I mentioned before. Mobility is countered by people who have faster trigger fingers or a homing weapon like Titanfall’s smart pistol. Either way they are still fulfilling the same role (although particularly mobile characters can also get to the fight quicker.)
Modern day shooters are choosing mobility over cover because they are trying to change the feel of their gameplay. Every shooter needs a defensive mechanic, but Advanced Warfare is about cool new future weapons and technology and Titanfall is about stomping your enemies with giant robots. They are a far cry away from the slow and methodical feel of a squad or military based shooter.
Who knows what defensive mechanics we will see in the future? Maybe shooters will get more mobile? Maybe cover will return? Maybe we will see something different all together? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
Senior Contributing Writer