I started thinking while playing Modern Warfare 2 (I know, imagine that someone actually thinks while playing a game like that) about the mechanics of firefights in most recent games. I've played these games since Return to Castle Wolfenstein and I have to say that as much as I appreciate the fact that now you get that squad feeling in firefights instead of just running and gunning alone, what are the squadmates there for?

Probably 9/10 new FPS games hail themselves as the most realistic military combat game that's out there. I can see it maybe with Operation Flashpoint and Americas Army titles, since those are heavily based on simulating military tactics and places full importance on covers. It feels like a team that you're leading and losing a member is a major hindrance to how the rest of the op plays out. Others have to pick up the slack of the dead fireteam member. Unlike in Battlefield titles where the other members won't die and Call of Duty where another soldier replaces the one that just dropped dead at your feet.

So, what are these squad members for? As you play through these games at some point it will hit you that you cannot rely on the AI soldiers to do anything that would otherwise be a given in a combat situation. You are the lowly Pfc. that has to run and gun through every situation, enemy fortification and occupied house before you can be sure that that place on the map will not have an enemy soldier that will shoot you in the back as soon as you try to move forwards. The sergeant is always this gruff African-American vet that more often than not sounds like Keith David. I'm sure such an authority figure would be able to relay some orders to other soldiers as well, instead of always throwing the player character into the thick of it. Another thing that bothers me is how the AI soldiers follow the player, even if he is the most junior in the ranks. If in a real situation a private went off on his own, he would not be followed by the entire battalion.

I know, I do realize that it's all a part of the game design and mechanics for the player character to be thrown into the frying pan in each and every situation. Otherwise the player would get bored and perhaps not bother to buy the game on the basis of not having much to do in the game. That way the player can influence the game world much more and feel like he's achieving something.
I'm more worried about the generation that grows up playing Modern Warfare games and Battlefield and stuff like that, enter military service and suddenly has to deal with the fact that not every general is malicious, not every NCO is gallant, your unit is not the best equipped and best trained ass-kicking machine in the company and you will not be everywhere where there's fighting going on. Most people should understand that life isn't what it shows on TV and in the video games, but unfortunately there are those cases where people cling too heavily on aspects of life that in the end turn up to be imaginary.

A lot of people might not enjoy something that would emulate military combat or even the hierarchy. I know this, but that doesn't mean that game developers shouldn't give it a try. Brothers in Arms was a gamble because it limited how much the player could and should do in a relatively open gameplay area and it became a pioneer, a pathfinder for the next generation of FPS games.
Either it should be given a go, or developers should stop calling their games the best in military combat shooters and whatnot, when they clearly have nothing to do with military or combat. Deep down each and every one of these is just a Wolfenstein 3D with some makeup and useless AI squadmates slapped on them.

I'll get off this military-theme soon, I promise.