Gaming can be a great way to get a break from life’s frustrations. We can let our imaginations go free in worlds created by artists and developers and not be tethered by earthly limitations and shortcomings. It is therefore even more irritating when your games create the frustration that you were trying to shake. Sometimes it is the entire game that elicits the frustration due to its bad design or execution. (Yes, I am talking to you, developers of the Loony Tunes Acme Arsenal game.)
There are some instances where the game itself is brilliant but flawed by the execution of certain scenes. A recent shining example comes right to mind in Far Cry 3. I absolutely loved the entire game except for the final boss battles. Without spoiling the plot of the game (which is extensive), I can say that the beautiful and freeing feeling that you get from the open world design where you attack targets and select missions without the pressures of time and physical limitations is completely compromised by these boss battles. The controls are reduced to simple timed button mashing and the entire sequence is scripted and completely unforgiving. To make matters worse, the characters you are battling deliver lengthy speeches prior to each section, so as you make mistakes you hear the same monologues over and over. And you will hear them over and over as the sequences are designed so that the only way in which to know what to do is to have done it before. This same situation exists in several of the Assassin’s Creed games where the free traveling open world is suddenly reduced to scripted button mashing. Luckily in both of these games, the good greatly outweighs the bad.
In the case of Far Cry 3, while the boss battles are frustrating, it is not due mainly to the level of difficulty. In some games, however, that is exactly the case. There are instances that burn in my memory where I was caught in a scene unable to advance and nearly had to quit the game. In the case of The Simpsons Game (for the Xbox) the scene that gave me trouble was beating god at “Dance Dance Revolution“. The timing of the moves in this section nearly made me pull my hair out and certainly made me fight hard not to curse in front of my three sons who were much younger at the time. Eventually, my oldest son figured it out and we finished the game. The web is also a great asset when you get stuck but sometimes even knowing what to do doesn’t really help. After playing through Mass Effect 2, I thought it would be great to go back and play through the first game of the series. I did so until a certain scene where the characters are all trapped on a rising circular platform where I watched my teammates die time after time leaving me to battle a roomful of enemies by myself. I am sure that if I went back today I could find where I am going wrong and finish the scene and the game, but at some point it becomes much less attractive to do so.
Many games contain parts that appear to be much more difficult than the rest of the game. You find yourself questioning whether there was enough play-testing prior to the game’s release. Sometimes you find something that you missed that makes the scene much easier (again, use the web) and other times not. These issues are secondary however to the biggest gripe amongst avid gamers. While playing with my party last night I asked everyone what they considered their biggest complaint when it came to gaming. The unanimous reply came instantly – lag. All those who play multiplayer first-person shooters know exactly what I mean. The situation may exist in many games but the biggest culprit lately is Call of Duty Black Ops II where the effect is especially pronounced. The typical way that it occurs is during gameplay you see an opponent, aim and shoot and then they somehow squeeze off a few shots resulting in your instant death. When the kill is replayed it shows your opponent’s point of view and the action is completely different. They had plenty of time and hit you many times while your shots came too little too late.
There is no doubt that some players are much better than others at deathmatch style FPS games. It is also true that some players will go to extremes to beat the system. These included the use of “Modded” controllers that allow weapons capabilities that they don’t typically have such as rapid fire and auto-aiming as well as unsportsmanlike gameplay like playing on the opposite team and allowing your friends to rack up free kills on you and thereby earning points as well as killstreak rewards for their team. Most seasoned gamers agree that multiplayer FPS games are best enjoyed when they first come on the scene. It takes time for players to find the games’ weaknesses and exploit them. But once the games have been around a while, it’s the Wild West, anything goes.
My last gripe concerns peripheral hardware, and not for the new platforms coming this fall. There are already too many places where we can read about how disappointed people are with what is coming and why they can’t use what they already have. I am referring to the current generation of consoles. I have had great luck with third-party controllers, batteries and accessories. I wish that I could say the same for headphones. I have spent a good amount of time researching what to buy and spent a good amount of money buying the best headphones in my desired range only to be frustrated time and again. The issues usually involve the built-in microphones. I have returned several sets of headphones from two different manufacturers over the last few years when their mics completely stopped working. The headset that I currently use echoes my comments and occasionally others’ sound as well. I have read the instructions and consulted online help threads and not found the answer. The game sound is great, but the echo in the conversation is a constant irritation. And no one needs that when they’re playing.
Do you have a pet peeve that I missed? A game that drives you nuts? A scene that you just can’t get pass in a game that you otherwise love? A hardware or network limitation that is ruining the fun? I would love to hear about it and include it in a future follow-up.