Don't be scared or alarmed by that oversimplified headline. I don’t want to go broad here and examine every pros and cons of regenerating health/shields versus health pick ups. I just want to give you one simple example that happened to me. And because of this example, I think that regenerating health might be restricting and “unhealthy” to gameplay. Not every time in every game, that’s for sure, but sometimes definitely yes.
Some zombies will drop grenades near you and one grenade did hurt me pretty bad - I was almost dead. Elevator was still on its way and zombies kept coming. I knew I just can’t survive much longer in front of the elevator shaft. So I had to sprint down into the darkness to look for some health packs. Now sprinting drains the same power that my flashlight uses, so I was either sprinting in complete darkness or I was using my flashlight. Using both at the same time would drain my suit’s power too fast and I would be dead.
So here came the frantic sprinting in the darkness with occasional uses of flashlight to reveal zombies and to search for health packs. I finally got it and I ran as fast as I can to the elevator with pack of zombies behind me. I just barely made it and my heart was racing.
Well, what’s the lesson? If I had regenerating health or shields, I would just sit tight in front of the elevator shaft, shooting zombies. No running in pitch black, no heart racing, no frantic searching for the little thing that can save you. If I had regenerating health, I simple wouldn’t experience that wonderfully intense gameplay moment. Absence of any kind of regeneration forced me to leave my “cover” (shaft behind me and Alyx covering one side) and burst into the darkness to save myself.
I’m not saying that all games should abandon regenerating health or shield system and replace it with old school health packs. I’m just saying that sometimes classic health system may give you some wonderful and almost forgotten gameplay elements that regenerating health system simply can’t offer. And it’s a little shame that you just can’t choose the system you like more in the options or to have regeneration on the lower difficulty settings and classic health on harder difficulties. That would be nice.