return, a relatively punishing action game Treat your character like many games do for PS5 next week. When your health goes dangerously bad, your screen will show a series of cracks (supposed to mimic a broken visor) and begin to pulsate red (supposed to … mimic the rush of adrenaline?). These “red screens of near death”, as I like to call them, have been an absolute game design for ages – and I’m very much over them.
return is just the newest game to do this to me, but most of the games I’ve played recently have a similar setup. Outriders tarnishes the screen when you are low on health. Downfall
This ubiquitous choice of design is not without reason. Gosh, 2016 (what time is it?), The people at Game Maker’s Toolkit posted a great video Explain how and why each game includes the near-death red screen. Once upon a time, action games didn’t always rely on blurring the screen to show damage. Instead, the screen remained blank as it was imperative to signal enemy attacks to the player. Enter: the health bar. But over time thanks to games that introduced a charge shield mechanic (hi, gloriole) game designers focused more on increasing the stakes within Individual fights rather than between Fights. This is where a visual cue comes in – for example, a screen that is red and possibly a little blurry.
The almost death red screen also helps raise the stakes. You’re on the verge of death – a tense situation – and so the game increases the tension, possibly in the hopes that it could spark a dormant survival instinct. Red near-death screens also act as an instant visual cue to warn the player of impending death. They are useful, especially in games without a health bar.
But I can understand something and still be angry about it. (Appendix A: The plastic anti-shoplifting packages that are sent thousands of people to the hospital every year.) In games like Downfall and Outriders– Where to Restore Your Health by Killing Enemies – When you are low on health these enemies are harder to see which makes them harder to kill, which makes them harder to gain health and then you die. It’s an ouroboros of failure.
Also, many games that use Near Death’s red screen already have indicators of your health on the screen, which makes the whole thing more annoying and unnecessary. If I want to know if I’m going to eat it or not I can just look in the lower left corner. I don’t have to lose the ability to see what’s going on on the screen or suffer from a red, pulsing screen for seconds to minutes until I find an item of health or meet my protracted fate.
Ultimately, it’s a minor point of contention, and I don’t want to offend the game designers who I’m sure are working very hard to make these near-death effects so stressful. But in particularly punishing games where I die a lot, everything feels like overkill. I am dying knows, I get it! I am sure the rThe near-death screen isn’t the only cause of the number of times I’ve died in some tough games. But it certainly didn’t help.