The Top 5 Gameplay Nightmares
There’s a universal language among gamers – we all know that strip clubs are to contemporary sandbox games what sewer levels are to fantasy games what ventilation shafts are to sci-fi/stealth games. We accept these odd conventions because, well, they’re ingrained within us. I mean, imagine an action movie without one-liners. It would seem odd, even though technically having just killed someone there’s no one to appreciate the hero’s wit.
So without delay, in order of ‘eyeroll-inducing’ to ‘destroying-your-console’ here are the top 5 gameplay elements EVERY. GAMER. HATES.
5) The Useless Mechanism
It’s exactly as it sounds: It’s a game that has a rather complex system that is functionally pointless because WHY THE HELL WOULD I USE A MOLTOV COCKTAIL WHEN YOU HAVE GIVEN ME A FLAMETHROWER?
I mean, really, think about it. Most shooters these days have at least one bizarre out-of-place weapon that you simply don’t need – grenades that explode with all the power of a mild sneeze. A weapon that can impale enemies with explosive stakes: But it only works at medium-range and the enemies are all charging at you, so you may as well just light yourself on fire.
And seriously, did anyone actually use the ‘squad command‘ functions in the Mass Effect series? I mean, it’s a cool idea in principle, but the game designers made your squad-mates, y’know, relatively capable so you didn’t need to bother with commands.
The worst offender is the kind of game that has the mechanic as part of its core gameplay. Dying Light is guilty of this most recently. It was touted and literally named on a mechanism by which the day/night cycle occurred.
During the day, the zombies were nasty but kind of chill because, let’s face it, nice climate. But come nightfall is when they get really aggressive and some even more horrible aggressive zombies come out to party. Which is actually quite a fun idea – in principle.
But I played the entire game and completed ALL its sidequests and the number of times I HAD to go out at night? Four. And on two of those missions I was literally picking flowers. In another I was tracking a zombie that actually RAN AWAY when it saw me.
Players were encouraged to do more at night because your experience and points were doubled, but honestly, by completing all the sidequests during the day by the end of the game I was flush with great equipment, tons of ammo, and an almost complete skill tree. There just wasn’t any point to being out at night running from grab-attacks when my character could easily just have a bit of a well-deserved nap at one of a dozen safe-houses.
4) The bizarre vehicle segment
You know this all too well – for some reason you’re escaping so you have to jump into a jeep. Or control a spaceship. Or pilot a flying monkey. Or hold on to the legs of a disgruntled moose with a giant spinning beanie top hat. And in that moment one of two things happen:
A) Wow, this is awesome! And you enjoy the segment! It’s well executed! It’s fun! AND THEN IT GOES AWAY FOREVER LIKE THE EMBARRASSED PARTY IN A ONE NIGHT STAND (GEOFF, YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).
B) It’s awful. The up/down controls have inverted for some reason. Pressing ‘fire‘ now makes your character begin singing songs from HMS Pinafore, and the pause menu makes your television screen go upside down and somehow punch you in the face. And because of this it takes goddamn ages to slog through.
And here’s the thing – if it happens to be option ‘B‘ – then it might not occur only once. There might be a few more of those god-awful segments shoved in to ‘mix up‘ the gameplay but not really programmed by anyone who is familiar with human hands.
3) The Constant Plot Cock Block!
Some games are fun to play, but the story was clearly written on the back of a napkin with a comically oversized marker so they ran out of room really quickly. And then someone used it as a coaster so it got all smudgy.
The solution is that the player is tasked with something simple – turn on the generator, rescue the prisoners, get the treasure, find my keys (“I know I last saw them in the Dungeon of Blight“) and so off you go: The Brave Warrior.
But two steps into your quest, you’re suddenly blocked a landslide. Or some ancillary character needs some batteries to open a gate in your way. Or your character is getting a craving for some ice cream. Or THERE’S FIVE-INCH STEP AND YOUR CHARACTER CAN’T JUMP. What seemed like it was going to be the introductory mission turns into one third of the game.
RAGE was terrible for this. While it was fun to play, its plot had… well, actually it had a beginning and then an end. Everything in-between was just kind of assholes and obstacles stopping you from going somewhere.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule that every game needs to have the complexity of Ulysses, but really, give us a bit more of a reason than ‘Oops, thing literally blocking you‘ for plot. It feels lazy because you can’t help but wonder ‘Why am I not just climbing OVER the rocks instead of doing a sewer level?‘
2) The Obvious Betrayal
“Hi, I’m Javier, your local guide with a bit of facial hair, a glint in my eye, a sketchy past, and a keen interest in joining you on your madcap adventures” read the classified ad. “Great!” You thought, dialing him up “A fun quippy companion!” but then you meet and he speaks in vagueries and the eyepatch doesn’t inspire confidence and WHY IS HE ALWAYS LICKING THAT DAGGER?
Look, if Nathan Drake can’t smell betrayal a mile away, I get it, he’s busy shooting everyone a slightly darker paint-swatch than him.
But the PLAYER can certainly smell that stench. So if we’re going to work a betrayal into the story, can we at least make it ACTUALLY shocking instead of the aforementioned character’s EVERY SINGLE ATTRIBUTE BEING SUSPICIOUS.
Did NOBODY question why Albert Wesker NEVER TOOK HIS SUNGLASSES OFF in the DARK HORRIBLE MANSION OF ZOMBIES?
Look, just hide them better. Make the kitten the bad guy. Nobody suspects that.
1) You saw this coming – The Escort Mission
For some reason game designers KNOW gamers HATE this but they keep doing it. There’s a marked difference between a ‘teammate’ and ‘someone-who-must-be-protected’ and while the former is fine, the latter is terrible.
The weirdest thing here though is that the character may – up until the point of escort – be remarkably competent, but the moment they must be ‘protected‘ they turn into human-shaped sacks of potatoes who have a burning desire to be consumed or shot.
In theory it’s an interesting idea to force a player to balance their own need to survive with another character, but like Communism, it doesn’t quite pan out in practicality.
This is usually because the escort mission is a one-off part of the game so programming a complex and intelligent AI for a ten minute segment is a bit of a waste.
However, if games could find SOME kind of balance between someone who lags 18 minutes behind you and walks at the pace of a snail-with-a-hangover and an unarmed-untrained-12 -year-old-who-charges-ahead-into-hordes-of-enemies-like-a-moth-to-a-bonfire well… that would be nice.
There’s more, there’s so much more, but these were my favorite stand-outs. If you actually enjoy one of these gameplay elements, you should see your family doctor about that, but not before posting what we might have missed in comments below.