I’ve been playing my fair share of Killzone 3 lately, first blasting through the (incredibly short and boring) campaign, before heading to multiplayer. I went ahead and started my very first multiplayer match as a medic, for several reasons:

  • "Tactician" sounded vaguely daunting and hard-thinking (I discovered this to be false and "Tactician" to be a misnomer, when what they really meant was "bloke who runs around shooting people just like everyone else").
  • "Engineer" sounded technical and nerdy.
  • I was always a rubbish spy in Team Fortress 2.
  • Bugger snipers.

I spent three hours as a medic, during which a sufficient haul of XP was harvested to chomp through the entire medic unlock tree. After that amount of time, opinion on classes further grew to incorporate:

  • Bugger medics.

I like healing people in team-based first person shooters. It’s a sure-fire way of knowing you’re contributing to your team regardless of whether you’re mowing down the opposition or not. At least, I thought that was the case until I tried doing so in KZ3.

Space nazis. I hate space nazis.The problem stems from my method of play, which I would like to go ahead and christen, “The Combat Medic,” because it sounds cool. I’ll illustrate how it works through a simple scenario. You are in a room with two other occupants, a fallen teammate who can viably be revived and his killer, who is still very much alive. What do you do? You’re a good team player, right? So your primary duty is to do your job as specified by your class. Your goal in this scenario is to bring your teammate back to life. Below are the four possible outcomes, complete with scientific technical diagrams, that will arise based on how you act:

Pew pew!
You instinctively whip out your medical equipment and make a dash for your friend. You are therefore unarmed and most likely running in a straight line. The bad guy empties the remainder of his magazine into you, killing you.

Pew pew pew!

You instinctively whip out your medical equipment and make a dash for your friend, whom you revive. The bad guy kills both of you.

Pew pew pew pew pew pew pew pew!
You instinctively whip out those damn paddles and revive your friend. Through some miracle you manage to revive him and either you or your friend kills the bad guy.

Pew pew! argh
You take out your own weapon and fill the bad guy full of holes. Looking magnificently heroic as his body slumps to the ground, you calmly revive your friend, who now thinks you’re some sort of Greek god.

Pew! Zap! Pew! Zap! Pew!
Secret Option! There is cover next to your friend which you use while you revive. The bad guy kills your friend, and you revive him again. This continues until the internet dies of old age. The lunacy of the situation means you build an unlikely rapport with this enemy soldier that is more precious than any flag needing capture, and a life-long friendship is forged. However, you will go to Hell.

The correct answer is #4. One-dimensionally, it makes sense for a medic to try to revive his comrades at the earliest opportunity, but this is the wrong move in most circumstances. Think of it this way, if you walk into the scenario described, the bad guy likely has little or no ammo in his current magazine, has his crosshairs pointed at his fresh kill and is likely hurt. You have the advantage. Reviving first gives him time to recover, reload, and regenerate health. Then he’s faced with two distracted targets, one holding a pair of defibrillators and the other likely still figuring out his bearings.

Your chances of doing your job as a medic are far improved if you kill first, heal later. The chances of reviving, then winning are lower, you might not even be the one who gets the kill, and if you fail your teammate will hate your guts for “ruining” his kill/death ratio because he’s a whiny little git.

Killzone 3 ruins the ability to utilise the "combat medic" approach. In an effort to make a class-based tactical shooter and still appeal to the vast, ADD-addled Call of Duty horde, they reduced the spawn timer to a mere five seconds. After that length of time, the option to respawn by tapping ‘X’ appears on-screen. Even if the dying soldier collapsed into my crotch after being shot, I still wouldn’t have time enough to fumble with my paddles and slap him back into rude health. The idea any medic can do his job properly with that sort of time limitation is silly.

Okay, so maybe you’re thinking that the respawn option appears, it doesn’t mean you have to hit it. Intelligent players will wait for help, right? KZ3 doesn’t provide any helpful indicators that there is a medic in the vicinity – there are no special markings on the radar to show medics, and when you fall you can’t even pan the camera to spot a potential saviour. Instead, the camera shakes, goes dark, turns grey and locks in onto your killer for the whole respawn clock. All five seconds of it. I haven’t seen a single soul waiting to be revived on the ground in the thirty or so matches I’ve played, because they have no idea that there's someone able to help next to them.

To illustrate how it should be done, let’s see how Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, a free, eight-year-old game which focuses on the same attack-and-defend mechanic as KZ3, does it.

  1. Respawn timer of 20 seconds for attacking team, 30 for defenders.
  2. Medics marked on map.
  3. Camera instantly snaps to any medic in the area, clearly showing their movements, even at distance or around corners.
  4. You can press a button to call for a medic specifically, in case you think you haven’t been seen.

Playing the medic class well in Enemy Territory is rewarding and vital for your team. Playing any class well in Enemy Territory is rewarding and vital. When making a class-based multiplayer game, especially one that follows the attack-and-defend template so closely, it would be a good move to see exactly how the best do it.

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