Thursday, 2 July 2009

Enemies that aren't fun to fight

Do you ever sit there being painfully inconvenienced by a heat wave, trying to find a little bit of relief in an ice cold drink, only to discover that a wasp has decided to give swimming a go in the bottom half of your coke? It gets very frustrating. A similar equivalent to this in the gaming world is when you are knee deep in a euphoric massacre of enemies that you enjoy lopping in half, right up until you reach the half way point in the adventure and get confronted with an enemy that is as much fun to fight as a trip to the dentist with Hitler.

A lot of games have the tendency of throwing a brand new enemy at you, perhaps when you get to another region or point in the story, but they are not always that fun to fight. They are usually quite difficult to reflect the expected ramp up in difficulty, but in doing this, they occasionally impact on the point of a computer game, and abruptly decide that beyond this point, combat will be a struggle, not fun.

There are a few games like this that have really struck the wrong chord on a personal level and have caused me to memorise many a level as ‘that bastard hard one that made me break my lamp.’

In Resident Evil 5 for example, all was going swimmingly. Random villager after random villager was falling to my feet, and even though it sometimes did get a bit claustrophobic, it was still a fun experience to fight them. Then came the Ndipaya tribe. The politically correct bunch of African zombies complete with war paint, masks and spear chuckery all designed to make your day worse.

As a rule, I appreciate that zombies are supposed to be relatively stubborn when it comes to dying, but these guys took bullet after sodomising bullet and it seemed to have very little detrimental effect. Even when they fell down, allowing you to do the merciful thing and stamp on their head, they would jump right back up again like every actor in a kung fu movie would, somehow springing off of their back instantly. It just felt like hard work trying to cut them all down. Like scrubbing a wall that never gets clean, it was difficult to see my efforts make a dent in their relentless attacks. After the first one or two encounters, needless to say, I was frustrated that there would probably be more.

It is not that I do not appreciate a more challenging enemy, I just feel there should be more to it than just needing to pump them full of more bullets/arrows/hammers. Challenges should come from things like taking on the Scarab Tanks in Halo. They are huge, towering enemies that need to be boarded and killed from the inside out. They introduce a variation to gameplay that made the monolithic slog a more unique experience than just covering up the regular bad guys with more armour.

A similar problem happens halfway through Crysis when the aliens arrive. Sneaking around and taking out Korean bases as a one man army was fantastic fun, but then the aliens arrive and ruin it all. You were no longer the most unstoppable force on the island and the majority of your suit functions (the most defining features of the game) are utterly useless when fighting them. Being able to kill a man by throwing a chicken at him with great force is fun, but doing such a thing to the super flying alien is off the cards. They were just fast flying targets that needed to soak up a lot of bullets before they died. Hardly an innovative way to end the game with a challenge like that.

Finally I will give a quick mention to The Flood in Halo, as they are quite frankly irritating. There is nothing fun in fighting them, and they seem to go on forever without easing up. Battling parasites is generally not considered a fun activity, and this bunch are no exception. Their sole tactic is to rush at the player until there is nothing left to rush at, which might seem surprising at first, but it gets tedious shortly after. If I could choose to nuke any enemy from orbit, put the remains the box and nuke it again, it’d be those guys.


Unknown said...

MadWorld was particularly guilty for this. Towards the start, you're throwing thugs, ninjas and other brutes left, right and center, impaling and maiming to your heart's content.

As soon as you hit the castle level and it's enemies, including reapers, drill-wielding bulls and (quel su-bleedin'-prise) zombies, it's you on the receiving end, and the game instantly becomes less enjoyable.

Anthony said...

Yeah, especially those bad guys with the drills. Whenever you get a decent combo in, they would just dive back underground and pop up again later, and seem to ahve only taken minor damage.

I generally find that when a new enemy randomly pops up by surprise in the middle of a game, it usually means bad news. Just take the mutagens in Farcry 1. They took what was a relatively pleasant, shootiful romp and made it more of a chore filled slog.