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The (Un)Realism of COD: MW3
I know, I know
It's not supposed to be completely realistic. Trust me, I'm well aware of that fact. But I am currently taking a college course that has my class evaluate Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (MW3) as a possible military simulator. Let me tell you up front, it does not make the cut.
Simulations are basically judged on two key factors: validity and fidelity. Validity is the simulation's ability to carry out its intended purpose. If a simulation was built to train pilots how to fly through a thunderstorm, it would only be a valid simulation if the pilots get done using it and actually know how to fly through a thunderstorm. Fidelity is defined as accuracy or exactness. The Army uses the word fidelity to describe how closely a simulation mimics the real world. The more realistic the simulation, the better the fidelity.
Since we did not know what MW3's specific intended purpose would be as a military simulation, we had no way of testing validity. So we stuck to testing fidelity, and here's some highlights of what happened.
Visual Inconsistancies From One Player to the Next
I noticed this when I was doing bullet penetration testing. The photos below are screenshots of the exact same character taken at the exact same time with the game paused in theater mode. One was just taken in 1st person view and the other from the side using the free camera. As you'll notice in 1st person, the gun is pointed directly at the car window with the soldier aiming down his sights. But in 3rd person, he is aiming at the ground well below the car. The same thing happened in the second set of screenshots, only this time he seems to be looking up. This is strange and somewhat disturbing to say the least. But I suppose it might explain all of those aggravating multiplayer deaths with people shouting, "but he wasn't even aiming at me!"
Defying All Logic. And Physics.
Would it really have been so difficult to place hit tests on the knees? Really, would it? How about both feet? It seems that a lot of blatant bugs were left in the game because leaving it the way it is was easier than actually improving it a bit.
Next was the bullet penetration test. Some pieces of this artificial environment actually matched the bullet penetration of their real-life counterparts. Others just made me face palm.
So here's how I did the test. I put player health on minimum, turned off health regeneration, got out my M4, and shot the other player straight in the chest at point blank range. Bam. One shot, he's dead. Then I shot at him through different objects in the environment to see if they would have any effects on the number of bullets it takes to kill the enemy.
As I myself have never fired an M4, I don't have firsthand experience in knowing what the bullets will or will not penetrate. My knowledge on the subject is pooled from hours of online research and spending several days of this class with the military science professors. If you believe me to be incorrect on any of these tests, feel free to prove me wrong!
Sometimes the visuals just don't add up. Fire does no damage to the player and also does not consume flammable objects around it. Dishes don't break when you shoot them and they appear to be made out of concrete. Guns and soldiers' bodies tend to pass through objects that appear to be solid. The list is endless.
Soldier Hitboxes and Health
I think it is quite obvious for anyone who has ever played MW3 that the bullet damage is extremely unrealistic. In the standard multiplayer modes, the soldiers have a phenomenal amount of health and barely even flinch when hit by a bullet. Not only is bullet damage minimized, health automatically regenerates after a short period of time. One might think these problems would be rectified by playing in the hardcore modes, yet the hardcore settings present problems of its own. Although bullet damage is minimized with the normal settings, the hitboxes are more accurate than with hardcore settings. In normal mode, it takes more bullets to the foot to kill a player than bullets to the head. This reflects real life in a sense. But in hardcore mode, it takes one bullet to kill a player. It does not matter if the bullet hits them in the head, arm, or foot, the player is dead (at point blank range). In real life if you shoot someone in the foot at point blank range, they won't immediately die. They might scream, curse at you with every word in the dictionary, and have to be taken to the hospital, but they won't die right there.
Unfortunately, the only "hitboxes" on a player are the one on the head and a separate one covering the rest of the body. There is no damage difference between shooting a soldier in the chest to shooting him in the foot. Programming-wise this is much easier than making different hitboxes for each area of the body, but this tends makes the game quite unrealistic.
Putting the damage setting on "half" is closer to real life than either "normal" or "minimal" (health is auto set to minimal in hardcore mode). Even though it is still not 100% accurate, it's the closest you're going to come to real life bullet damage within the game.
I shot a player at point blank range with an M4 and recorded how many bullets it takes to kill him. Here are the results:
Have you ever ran at a full on sprint and then come to a screeching halt? How about doing that over and over? It's pretty exhausting isn't it? Now put on full combat armor and carry around a weapon that weighs several pounds. You'd be lucky if you could run at all. Although soldiers are conditioned to wear all of their gear, they're still human. There's no way that any soldier could sprint like the soldiers do in MW3. Absolutely no way. I had a chance to try on full combat armor and a rucksack in my class, and let me tell you, that sh*t is HEAVY.
In MW3, soldiers also perform feats such as climbing over cars and jumping out of the second story of buildings. In real life situations, this would never be done because it HURTS. There is barely any fall damage present in MW3. It may sound like the soldier brakes an ankle when he falls, but he doesn't even get damaged. This is ridiculous. The soldier should drop and roll or at least fall down for a couple of seconds. Or just give the soldier some fall damage. It's as simple as that.
As a game though...
Clearly MW3, or any other video game for that matter, cannot perfectly replicate the real world. If any video game could manage to be entirely realistic, then it would just end up being boring. So there is a good reason for a lot of the unrealistic qualities of MW3. If the soldiers in the game tired out too quickly or were easily killed by just a single shot, it would not be as exciting to play. That being said, I would still like some changes to be made so that the more blatant bugs, like bodies and weapons falling through walls and visual inconsistencies between 1st and 3rd person, are eliminated. I don't want a game that's 100% realistic, but it would be nice not to have so many silly things happen when I'm trying to enjoy pwning noobs.
If you have any questions, have anything to add, or just want to prove me wrong on certain points, feel free to ask, inform, or rant away!