Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Ghillie Suit Snipers

The ghillie suit. Hallmark of stealth ops and military reconaissance. Venturing into the foray of first person shooter video games, it has mainfested itself hand in hand with the Recon/Sniper class setup. Irreplaceably effective at maintaining a low profile during tactical operations, relaying enemy positions and scouting targets for soldiers on the frontline.

In the virtual world, it is particulary appealing to young excitable players who enjoy the fabled mystique of being the lone sniper, picking off valuable assets from a distance, sees all yet remains unseen etc. All the kids want to be the next Vassili Zaitsev and earn the praise of nations as the kill hundreds for their country.

Popular shooter games such as Call of Duty and Battlefield have embraced the aesthetic value of the Ghillie suit to compliment its real life purpose.

The suit however does tend to distinguish itself a little too much compared to its neighbouring class appearances. In Bad Company 2, the ghillie suit often lends itself to those of a more "lone wolf" playstyle. This is not something that will be smiled upon within the community of such a teamwork orientated shooter. The recon kit, or more aptly named "wookie" can be the target of humiliating drill kills, frequent dogtag theft and group bullying via tracer dart decoration. It is a widely despised aesthetic in Bad Company 2, earmarking the player as a bad team player and inneffective at any objective play. DICE has taken note for the next installment Battlefield 3, presenting class aesthetics that are more streamlined and uniform which is the right direction to take.

Now on to the Call of Duty iterations of the ghillie suits (MW2 and Black Ops). In MW2, players donned the ghillie suit upon kit selection of a sniper rifle as a primary weapon. Overall, the account of the ghillie suit here is a rather tame affair. The same cannot be said for Black Ops. In Black Ops, a foolish (imo) design decision was to link first tier perks to your avatar's aesthetic. Now, I think it goes without saying that the Ghost perk in particular carries with it a lot of controversy. It is in my opinion a very powerful perk; it is the only perk that I think a newcomer to the game would do best in. Funnily enough, the Ghost aesthetic guessed it.....Chewbacca!...erm...I mean ghillie suit.

I never thought having the ghillie suit as an aesthetic in multiplayer based first person shooters was a particularly clever design decision. It is too distinct from its fellow class aesthetics and doesnt aid in providing a consistent experience for all players. There is a significant camouflage advantage to be gained from the suit alone. There is also something rather menacing about a shotgun wielding walking tree running at you with shells of carnage (yes, BC2 and MW2 included the ability for ghillie suit classes to wield shotguns). There are few things more comical than a frontline ghillie suited warrior; the suit itself does not lend itself to high mobility in real life with hefty weight, flammability and high internal temperatures.

There are beacons of light coming from developers though. The BC2 expansion pack Vietnam took a step in the right direction by rendering their recon class as standard issue soldiers. I enjoyed this directive in the design department as well as the expansion itself. Battlefied 3 has relieved me of my worries as well showing a rather bad-ass recon soldier without tree branches wrapped through his every orifice.

Special mention: Sniper: Ghost Warrior will be getting a sequel...

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