Alternative roles in video games

Last night I watched the midnight showing of Resident Evil: Retribution 3D. Lots of fun/over-the-top-to-the-point-of-silliness action, though perhaps significantly too much shooting zombies in the chest for the fifth movie in a series. They keep adding nods to the games, to the new games, many of which I at least recognize despite never having played any of them. I tried, a bit, but quit within minutes. The first three were too difficult because of the (intentional) limitations of the interface, and while 4’s interface was some improvement, I’m still not quite good enough at that sort of action game to succeed. But watching Milla et al kick ass on the big screen is pretty fun, now and again.

Anyway, what I wanted to post about was this: One of the two groups of protagonists we follow through the film (until the two groups eventually manage to meet up) is a group of five guys, all well-armed, experienced, et cetera… but one of them stood out to me, especially in the first scene they’re facing an oncoming army of undead soldiers. You see, throughout most of the battle, while four of the men were shooting, shooting, shooting, his gun was slung, his computer was out, and he was hacking, mapping, and planning. How are they going to get out of this unwinnable situation? Where can they turn? What about the [evil character who directs the attacks], and interfering with them? What about how this is making them run late; where is the other group, now?

I watched this sequence and thought, “Now there’s a role I’d be glad to play in a Resident Evil game.” I’m not much good at shooting zombies, but maybe I could hack into the computers to look at the situation (accessing cameras, heat maps, systems, et cetera) and plan escapes and systems-based counterattacks, while my team of NPCs shot the zombies for me. Then we all move around together, according to the plans/routes I helped find. I don’t mind a little action being mixed into the experience, but more on the scale of QTEs and/or triggering things I set up or discover with my technical prowess. If I hack well enough, plan well enough, and out-think the [evil enemy] at every step, my team stays alive. The more mistakes I make the smaller my team gets, until eventually I lose when I’m the last man standing and can’t stand against the zombie hordes (or whatever) on my own.

Now, I’m not looking for a “traditional” support role, as seen in MMOs, where the challenge is not much different from the DPS in its button-mashing, just making your side’s health go up rather than the other side’s health go down. I’m looking for something more engaging and cerebral. Something where, as I would in a single-player shooter/RPG, my character is effectively leading the action and the guys shooting the zombies/whatever were really the “support” characters. I generally don’t want to micromanage things like where they stand during a firefight, what weapons and special abilities they use, or who they target; they should be smart enough to figure that out on their own. I should have to pay attention to things like “how much ammo do we have left”, and then if I can find the armory/gun-shop on the map when needed and get my team there safely, they should know to reload and pick up as much as they can carry. Or if one of my guys gets injured, then it’s up to me to find a way to a hospital/clinic/whatever, hack the doors to get us in, et cetera.

It’s not a fully fleshed-out idea, just a brainstorm. Saw the guy doing it in the movie and wanted the option in a game. Even if it does boil down to half a dozen mini-games to resolve different sorts of hacking, plus map-reading and planning, with QTEs thrown in for action, it would probably be more fun for me than having to be the big guy with the gun standing in front. Make me the geeky guy standing in the back. Let me use my brain.

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