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Can FPS Games Be "Too Real?" These Titles are Pushing the Limits

As gaming technology has improved, so has the realism in some of our favorite shooters, not only with higher-fidelity graphics but also with how developers approach in-game mechanics. For some, this hyper-realistic approach is insensitive to the real-world people the games are based on, while for others, video games are always a fantasy, regardless of the subject matter they are based on.

Regardless of where you stand, it begs the question, "Can a game be too realistic?" Below, we look at a few new and upcoming first-person shooters that are pushing the boundaries of realism.

Ready or Not Depicts Real-Life SWAT Scenarios

Image: VOID Interactive

Ready or Not is a first-person SWAT game that puts players in control of an operator that must complete missions in highly-dangerous and realistic scenarios. Developed by VOID Interactive and released into Early Access on Steam at the end of 2021, the game is getting a full release sometime soon, accompanied by an update entitled Streamer, which puts players in the center of the SWATTING of a popular online influencer.

Rather than the colorful futuristic items and characters in Apex Legends or the fluid movement and flashy frags in Call of Duty, Ready or Not opts for realistic, plodding combat, where there is no run button. Instead of slide-canceling into an enemy, players must slowly navigate realistic hostage scenarios, clear rooms, and detain threats, all while issuing commands to an AI squad or communicating with a team online.

The game has come under fire for some of the missions and content within those missions, including one that tasks the player with clearing a threat at a school (there are no children on any map), a nightclub mission, and the aforementioned Streamer mission. With mass shootings increasing significantly over the years, it's clear why some missions wouldn't sit well with some.

Image: VOID Interactive

However, with all this being said, as someone who played the game, it's evident to me that the developers are doing their best to create a realistic SWAT game rather than get views for shock value. If anything, they've avoided potentially problematic content and have created mission objectives that, while realistic, try to honor those involved in the real-life scenarios they are depicting.

While it's arguable whether a game like this should exist, the same could easily be said for other games, which brings us to our next title.

Unrecord Was Confused with Bodycam Footage

Image: DRAMA

Unrecord is an upcoming single-player FPS that puts players in the shoes of a tactical police officer from the perspective of their body camera. The graphics create an uncanny realism, and many speculated that the footage was taken in real life when the first trailer dropped earlier this year.

However, it was later revealed that the game was genuine and developed in Unreal Engine 5, according to online statements from the game's developer, DRAMA. The game looks like video clips from LiveLeak or YouTube, immersing players into the world of a police officer.

Rather than focusing so much on gunplay, the developer has stated that the game focuses mainly on solving crimes while using tactics and detective skills, though onlookers can't help but comment on how realistic early footage appears.

The French-based games studio, DRAMA, must tread lightly, especially considering the recent fatal shooting of teenager Nahel Merzouk by French police, which sparked protests and unrest throughout France. While American onlookers must contend with their own dark history of police brutality, having a game depict a detective's body cam footage as you potentially shoot suspects may feel too soon for some and never appropriate for others.

A game that appears so realistic leads many to question whether titles like this go too far, blurring the line between video games and real life. Though a firm release date has yet to be set, some of these questions should be answered when the game debuts and players can get a better sense of what it is actually all about.

Six Days in Fallujah Has Had Over a Decade of Controversy

While Unrecord and Ready or Not place players in hypothetical police scenarios, Six Days in Fallujah is based on an actual U.S. military operation called the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004, which saw 110 coalition forces die and is estimated to have killed thousands of Iraqi insurgents and civilians. For this reason, the title, developed by Highwire Games, came under intense backlash when it was first announced in 2009, eventually leading to the temporary cancellation of the game.

Image: Highwire Games

Flash-forward to 2023 and the game is officially revived and is currently sitting with a "Very Positive" rating on Steam, showing that sensitivity around real-life war scenarios seems to wane over time. That being said, the game has also come under fire for several other aspects, including negative, shallow, or stereotypical depictions of the Iraqi people.

War will always be a sensitive subject and for good reason. Still, it's arguable whether all the negative attention should remain on the title, as games have depicted real-life war scenarios, from Battlefield to the original Call of Duty games and many other titles, for decades.

Where the line lies with you will likely depend on your relationship with the story behind the game.

Controversy is Nothing New for Video Games

While it's clear to see why the above titles would garner attention for their realism, it's nothing new for the industry. Famously, in 1993, Senator Joe Lieberman held hearings to put Mortal Kombat execs on the stand to talk about violence in video games and the potential effect that may have on child development.

Today, it still looks like we're talking about similar things, though, admittedly, the Mortal Kombat franchise has gotten a lot more gorey and realistic since the 90s.

Whether or not these games are going "too far" or whether FPS titles can be "too real" will ultimately depend on the publishers distributing and funding their development and the gamers buying the games. As with many other things in our global economy, if it makes good money sense and people are willing to buy it, there's a high likelihood that someone is willing to make it.

Whether or not it's a net positive for society overall, however -- only time will tell.

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