In my mind, Russian-made games accomplish two things extremely well. One, they provide a unique atmosphere that is both nonsensical and believable. Two, they can make me go from a state of pure elation, to rage in a matter of seconds. You might ask, "Well, what's so wrong with a game like Metro 2033 that makes you seem like a sociopath?" The answer is simply this: poor AI. Metro 2033 is a magnificent storytelling device, creating a frightening world ravaged by nuclear warfare and the story of a young man tryingto save all that he holds dear. But when it wants me to actually play the game, my love for it takes a back seat. Nothing pulls me out of a story more than when a comrade of mine pours his heart and soul into me, talking about his wife and kids and how he didn't want to die, only to combat a group of soldiers by running in circles ten seconds later. The only reasonable explanation for this behavior would be him taking a lethal dose of ecstasy while I wasn't looking. That, or he is a sociopath who is obsessed with the mystery of circles. Either way, the game's AI not only makes the game tedious, but also ruins any sense immersion (something Metro 2033 seems to be going for). You might as well have a message pop up saying "This is a video game, this isn't real!" every five minutes. Yes, yes, there are other problems Metro 2033. The combat is mediocre, the frame rate plummets, and everyone looks like they just spent the last 72 hours at a seminar on the history of cardboard. But none of these things are anywhere near the level awfulness that the game's AI manages to achieve.
Of course I wouldn't want to only pick on Metro, as there are plenty of non-Russian games out there with equally poor AI. One game that comes to mind is Resident Evil 5, which advertises itself as a great co-op experience since it can't be played any other way. Well to be fair, you can play the "not co-op" part of the game as long as you're prepared to romp through a zombifi- erm, infected Africa with a drunken misfit of a partner named Sheva, who seems to have slammed her head with a car door one too many times. For those who haven't had the pleasure of interacting with "Computer-Sheva", just imagine giving a gun to a five year old with ADHD and you will have somewhat of an idea of how computer Sheva acts. So congratulations Capcom, you managed to surprise me by making a Resident Evil game that actually made me miss Ashley from RE 4. Yes, that Ashley. The one who could fight against a one-legged, anemic 97-year old with arthritis and still lose. She may have been completely useless but at least she didn't squander any usable item . One would think having an AI that can tell the difference between taking cover and taking bullets would be a priority for a game that has an AI companion following you everywhere you go.
Then there are those games that only go halfway when it comes to developing good AI. For example, Halo Reach has some amazing enemy AI that does all kinds of different things to keep its life while trying to end yours. Conversely, the companion AI has the intelligence of a tree. Bungie tries to compensate for your companion's poor intelligence by making them immortal, so your spartan pals can take 4 missiles to the head and leave a blood stain the size of Ohio while continuing to stand outside of cover not shooting at the enemy. It's a cheap fix (if you can even call it that) and wouldn't even work if your brothers in arms were dead eye shots, because then the game would be playing itself. You would be able to sit back and relax while your unstoppable AI companions obliterate the covenant opposition (only to be killed in a two minute cutscene of course).
So if there are all these problems with AI in video games today, then what's the fix? How do you make your companions effective in battle, while not making them a crutch at the same time? Well, for action-RPG's I would use Final Fantasy XII's gambit system (or Dragon Age's tactics system). For those who aren't familiar, you basically program what your character does in a certain situation. For example, you could tell a character to consume the weakest health potion in your inventory once they reach less than say, 25% health. These commands can also be prioritized so more important actions (like keeping your characters alive) are more important than lesser actions (like casting buffs). It's a great system since you can't exactly be irritated with how your characters react since it's your own damn fault if they turn out to be idiots. Action games and shooters should adopt a companion AI system similar to Gears of War, where your companions are effective and actually kill enemies, but will be "knocked out" during the battle if they take too much damage. The only problem is finding the "sweet spot" where your AI companions don't get wiped out in the first five seconds of a fight, but aren't unstoppable killing machines either.
So there you go. Those are my thoughts on where AI in video games is today, and what can be done to improve it. Hopefully some game developer out there will take this knowledge to heart and make a truly amazing interactive experience. Or, they could make another damn Lemmings game.