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Do I Suck That Bad? or Why Do They Make Games SO Maddeningly Difficult?

Written by: The CinCitizens

ImageThis week our resident gamers throw their hands up in frustration, kick in their televisions, and throw their consoles out the window.  Are you happy now game developers?  Is this what you wanted?  Do you have to make games that hard?

Russell Davidson:

There I am, playing the new Xbox 360 game Viking: Battle for Asgard. I’m about two-thirds of the way done when I hit this stretch where I gotta infiltrate the bad guy’s barracks, kill ‘em all, and move ever onward. No problem, right? So I try getting through this part, I get chopped to bits, and get sent back to the beginning of this section. Oh well. Need a new strategy, I figure. So I try something different. No luck. And I try again. And again. Actually kill the two big guys, hooray! But then I’m buried in villains and killed again. I get sent back. By the time I’ve cursed and screamed and pulled my hair out it’s been a total of almost four hours on just this one part, and I still can’t get past it.

Fuck it, right? Enough’s enough. I shall play no more Viking.

Admittedly, I’m not a hard-core gamer. I don’t play the “expert” setting. I don’t button-mash for 14 straight hours. I love games though, and I’ve certainly finished my fair share. But it really bugs me when I get stuck. And I mean STUCK, like there’s no way I’m advancing. I was playing Conan, got about halfway through but just couldn’t make this one jump from ledge to ledge. It never worked. Fell to my grisly death every time. I was so frustrated my family wouldn’t go near me, and rightly so. Played Lost Planet and just couldn’t kill this one Boss, and I sure as hell tried. Got crushed every time. There comes a point where you have to give up, to bag it.

Now, I don’t believe in cheat codes. Never use ‘em. Never let my nine-year-old use ‘em. It’s cheating, right? A walkthrough? Well, that’s different. I use those, but only when I have to. But as we can see from the above examples, a walkthrough isn’t the same as a get-through. Are these games so geared to the serious player that even the “normal” setting is too tough for people like me? Or am I just that lame?

Sometimes the problem is a really crappy save system. In Viking, if I could have saved my game as I played it I wouldn’t have had to go back and do the same things over and over just to get to where I got sliced and diced. Some of these game programmers are no doubt sadists of the highest order. They want the game to be tough, and I get that, but c’mon, give us a chance. If I really want to be head-smashing-against-the-wall stressed I can play the higher setting, right? Let those of us with other things going on finish, please! These games are supposed to be fun.

I have no doubt readers can come up with their own personal experiences in regards to this. And look, I like a challenge. I want there to be a struggle. But when my blood is boiling and I throw the controller and almost kick the TV in, that’s pushing me too far.    

Finishing a game is tremendously satisfying. Please let us.


Big Ross:

I feel your pain, Russell.  I really do.  I also am by no means a “hardcore” gamer.  My Xbox Gamer Score?  Something around 6,000.  I enjoy playing games, and I play as often as my schedule allows it, which admittedly isn’t as often as I’d like.  And when I get a game I like, I’ll play that sucker all the way through.  I don’t go for every achievement, but if it seems manageable I’ll try, and I do get a sense of satisfaction when the little window pops up telling me I just added a few more points to my total.  And if I find a game I really like, I’ll keep it and come back to it weeks or months later just to play through it again.  It’s great to find a game like that, and when it happens I applaud game developers for their efforts.  But like you Russell, sometimes I wonder just what the hell is going through their minds.

There was a time when a lot of games out there were notoriously hard.  Back in the old days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Genesis games had to be nigh-impossible to beat to make them last longer.  Hell, at least one of those games was so bad it became part of an April Fool’s Day prank.

But those days are long gone, right?  Right? Now there’s multiplayer, online play, and the money and technology available for developers to make broad, sweeping games that can offer hours upon hours of play on the single player campaign alone – without having to play the same level over and over and over again just to progress.  And yet as Russell pointed out there are still games getting made that just seem impossible.  I think the developers-as-sadists theory is as good as any to explain it.  Here’s a couple of games that have recently had me in fits:

Image Conan – Yep, this one got to me too.  I actually managed to beat this game, but it was an effort in anger management to be sure.  The final boss took me over an hour to beat.  I’m all for epic boss battles, but this was just fucking ridiculous.  The bosses in Conan are designed in the defeat them in ever-increasingly difficult stages school of thought.  For the final boss, you have to completely reduce his health, then execute a God of War-style  button combo to set him up in a vulnerable position so you can then execute another button combo to deal him a quasi-fatal blow.  I say quasi-fatal because you then repeat this three more times, each time the level of difficulty getting noticeably higher.  By this point I wasn’t even enjoying the game anymore, I was just so pissed I was bound and determined to beat it.  Once I did, I promptly traded that sucker in for store credit towards a new game.  It may have been fun for awhile, it may have made my Top Ten Games of ’07 (a decision I’ve second-guessed since), but a place in my personal game library it does not merit.
Image Dead Rising – This game was actually pretty fun when all I was doing was running around wasting zombies with shotguns, golf clubs, lawn mowers, and other impromptu weapons.  As entertaining as that was, it got old sooner than one might think, and when I actually tried to make it through the storyline of the game, I met nothing but a dead end (pun intended).  One part that stands out is where I had to escort a woman across the zombie infested shopping mall.  The AI (which does mean artificial intelligence, but not in the traditional sense) controlling this NPC (non-player character) was deplorable, and after several increasingly frustrating attempts I finally managed to get her to a mall exit, only to find I had to get her across a courtyard full of zombies, at night no less.  To add insult to injury, we were attacked by three rednecks straight out of a Rob Zombie movie driving a Jeep and sporting automatic rifles.  Needless to say I soon lost interest and gave up on this game, which was disappointing considering it seemed to have a lot of potential.
Image Ace Combat 6 – I’m normally not one for flight simulators and the like, preferring RPGs and first-person shooters, but I had heard good things about this game and decided to try it out.  Holy fuck did this game make my blood boil.  I couldn’t get past the second level.  The second!  Enemy bombers were en route to strafe a hapless city, and I was part of a squadron of fighters that had to shoot them down before they decimated civilians.  By the time I flew across the map to get to where the bombers were, I couldn’t shoot them down before another bomber group showed up on my radar, on the exact opposite side of the map.  Every single time I tried to complete this mission one or the other bomber groups would reach the city and I’d fail.  I couldn’t take it anymore and gave up.  My gaming time is precious; I’m not going to waste it on a game that does nothing but make me angry.

Have you own hair-pulling, expletive-spewing experience with an overly difficult game?  Get it off your chest and relieve all that pent-up rage in the forums!

Author: The CinCitizens

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