If you’d asked me two years ago if I was into shooter games, I probably would’ve laughed. While I tried both first-person and third-person shooter games like Halo: Reach and Gears of War, I never quite got into them. My aim was terrible. I barely knew the difference between a pistol and a shotgun. My best luck was with Mass Effect for its amazing storytelling and addition of biotic powers (basically, magic plus shooting stuff), followed by Borderlands which is gorgeous, funny, and has RPG elements.
But in general, shooter video games just weren’t my thing.
At least until I started playing them co-op. Shooting with someone else makes games a lot easier, especially if you’re with a veteran player. Basically, my partner carried the weight for me, which let me get a feel for shooters, improve my aim, learn how best to dodge or take cover to avoid damage… all without feeling the pressure of all enemy eyes on me, since my partner was distracting them and taking them down one headshot at a time.
In a sense, I was playing support. A part of me doesn’t like to see kill counts at the end of the mission. After loving the three main Gears of War games, having to see my measly numbers compared to my partner’s in Judgment made me feel a little demoralized. I thought I was doing just fine, but apparently I was lucky to get half the number of kills my partner did…
But also, playing with someone else just makes the whole experience more fun. You can joke around as you battle or strategize together.
Anyway, I started with the Halo series. I played all of the main games, including ODST. They are amazing, but playing co-op on Legendary was still challenging. There were a few missions that had me totally frustrated. Sometimes my partner and I would take turns hiding while the other ran into the fray to deal some damage before getting shot down. (As long as one of you is alive, the other will respawn when it’s safe.)
Next up was Gears of War. This, for me, was miles easier and more fun than Halo, because it’s third-person (I already played a lot of Mass Effect, which is also a TPS game) and it’s cover-based.
In Halo, you have to jump to dodge attacks. You’re constantly on the move. This makes setting up shots really challenging for a beginner like me. My aim is bad enough when my character has two feet on the ground. Obviously, playing on Legendary difficulty made my novice-hood much more apparent.
Meanwhile, Gears of War lets you take on a slower pace. My partner and I played on the hardest difficulty available, and then went back to the first game’s Ultimate Edition and replayed it on the Insane mode that’s unlocked after completing the game the first time. While a few missions did give us a pretty crazy challenge — sometimes taking more than two or three hours to get through what could have been a 20-minute mission on an easier difficulty — I enjoyed the games’ leniency in letting me take cover, then pop out just long enough to set up a shot and fire before automatically ducking again. You don’t have to worry about constantly being exposed; you’re only vulnerable when you stand up, or when enemies start drawing too near (which does happen sometimes, believe me).
Since then, I’ve started playing Destiny. It’s by Bungie, the same developer who created the first Halo games. It has a similar feel, in that you don’t take cover but have to jump to dodge incoming enemy fire.
The weird thing is, I feel like I’m about 10 times better at that than I was when I played Halo. I think it’s for a few reasons. First, Destiny is easier than Halo on Legendary, especially in Destiny’s early story missions as you level up to 40. Secondly, my aim has improved in the past year and a half playing a lot of shooter video games. Thirdly, Destiny includes superpowers that I use a lot, just like I did in Mass Effect.
But maybe the biggest thing is that I have more confidence with shooters now. Putting in the hours certainly makes me a better player, but also, you need some balls to succeed at a shooter. You can’t duck for too long, and hiding doesn’t work as well as actually facing the enemy and dodging.It’s not always skill but just putting yourself out there, getting into a rhythm, and taking a chance getting close to an enemy for a stellar takedown, even if it means you might get shot down on the way.
Now that I’m more familiar with shooters, a part of me wants to try Mass Effect on a harder difficulty. I don’t usually do that, but I feel like I can handle it now — even by myself.