In gaming, we remember the good moments, but never ever forget the horrible anger and frustration derived from either a developer torturing us with a specific gameplay mechanic or moment or a poorly conceived feature gamers are forced to endure. It’s nearly impossible for any game to avoid frustration entirely, but some games get saddled with moments that aren’t quickly forgotten due to their insane and time-consuming difficulty resulting in lodging a controller in a moderately-priced flat screen television set, which seemed like the best idea at the time. The following are more ways frustration emerges in gaming.
1. Mortal Kombat 9 – Challenges
Challenge #251 – Defeat Baraka, Sindel and Shao Khan as Shang Tsung (One health bar)
Challenge #275 – Defeat 3 Goros as Ermac (One health bar)
Challenge #300 – Defeat Goro, Kintaro, Mileena, and Shao Khan as selected fighter (One health bar, opponent receives random bonuses)
Returning “Mortal Kombat” to its original trilogy roots was a brilliant move and filling it with an incredible amount of content including a lengthy story mode, single and tag ladder matches, online multiplayer, and a 300-level challenge tower made it a robust experience. However, a warning should precede attempting the challenge tower: it’s one hellacious experience at the last fifty challenges.
Before describing why this is annoying, starting at challenge #251, here’s the typical thought process while playing:
“Screw you, Ed Boon. Screw YOU, Ed Boon. SCREW YOU, Ed Boon. SCREW YOU, ED BOON. SCREW YOU, ED BOON! ” Yes, this is wrong; really NetherRealm Studios deserves a part in the mental rage. These challenges become absolutely brutal requiring the utmost skill and endurance to conquer.
The worst part about the tower is by the time realization hits that it’s ridiculously hard, 250 challenges have been completed at this point meaning numerous productive hours have been invested. Majority of the tower is easy thanks to silly matches, character-based tutorial levels, and mini-games sprinkled in and while a few hard challenges crop up, nothing like a challenge requiring the usage of an absolutely horrible character like Shang Tsung to beat 3 opponents, including the hard-hitting Shao Khan, with one health bar. There’s a reason nobody plays as Shang Tsung: he sucks as a playable character. His skulls never land where you want them and why use the transformation ability when selecting the specific character you want to play as instead of transforming into the opponent? Choosing Shang Tsung is like Lois from “Family Guy” dressing up as Peter Criss from KISS. Nobody likes Shang Tsung, not even Shang Tsung, which is why he transforms into other people. To stave away the depression of being Shang Tsung.
Skipping individual challenges is allowed, but almost pointless since completing the tower by bypassing the difficult challenges results in no achievement or satisfaction. And no, there’s never a thought like, “Oh gosh, it’s midnight and I’m not in the right frame of mind currently. I’m going to stop and return later when I’ve got a clear head and steady hands.” It’s more like, “I’m gonna beating this stupid challenge even if I have to stay up all freaking night! ARRGH! STUPID SHANG TSUNG!”
2. Mafia 2 – Chapter 14 – Derek
A few annoying quirks already invade “Mafia 2,” mostly deriving from an erratic auto-save feature, which is the only way to save progress. It usually doesn’t save until a cut-scene so expect a lot of progress to be wiped out by random driving deaths. There’s also the annoying Chapter 14 glitch where the game will freeze on a loading screen if Vito decides to rob stores throughout the mission to collect money. Not only does the freezing glitch cause Chapter 14 to be the most annoying part of the game but also because of a ridiculous firefight which finds Vito involved in a dockside gunfight, except he’s outnumbered with his adversaries all toting tommy guns. If the rat-tat-tat doesn’t rip him apart, upon entering the dock building to get his target, he’ll be barraged by Molotov cocktails from above, without an easy way to retaliate.
After 10+ times of failing, a player starts to develop wild new strategies: let’s drive a car into the building, but of course there’s no way to fire out of it so that’s usually a death trap. Taking cover usually is a great way to meticulously pick off enemies, but fire doesn’t cede to coverage. Running up the stairs to immediately face your target sounds like a good idea, but since he can miraculously take several gunshots to the head, sorry, that’s not cutting it either. Ultimately it boils down to a mixture of speed, luck, and skill, which never align for the first, or fiftieth, playthrough.
3. Fallout: New Vegas – Reaching Melissa (Deathclaws)
Reaching certain locales through the broken landscape of any Fallout game can be confusing considering the compass uses a 2D map in a 3D game. Start heading towards a destination and get stuck running into a mountain. Melissa, of the Great Khans faction, is camping out in a hilly quarry, which takes time in scaling correctly. Climbing a hill, even with the ridiculous jumping motions, isn’t frustrating by itself, but in reaching Melissa, the creatures around her pose the annoying threat. One of the biggest pain-in-the-ass creatures, cazadors, makes their home in the area, which decimate low-leveled wanderers. However, cazadors pale in comparison to the oversized, incredibly powerful deathclaws. They’ve nested in the area around Melissa, possibly getting down and making little deathclaws, which could be why they’re so riled up.
Considering it’s a requirement for several quests in seeing the great Melissa, it’s a pain to get to her. Try the lazy way and simply walking to her gets you massacred. Use stealth, get spotted somehow, get massacred. Run in with the biggest weapons available; get massacred from the numerous deathclaws. Survive somehow get to Melissa, have a deathclaw accidentally follow you, it massacres Melissa. Sometimes luck plays a part where you’ll get a clear path to her, but after loading the same save multiple times and having absolutely no success can really damper one’s day.
4. Batman: Arkham Asylum – Combat Challenges (Extreme)
Between stealth and combat challenges, one would most likely choose stealth as the harder to pull off in a video game; not in Arkham Asylum. In the extraneous, but extremely fun, Predator and Combat challenges, Batman has to complete a series of tasks to outwit the Joker, which means defeating his goons in elaborate fashion to receive medals, used for achievements and reaching 100% completion. The Predator, or stealth, challenges require taking down henchmen by utilizing Batman’s arsenal, including pulling down walls or popping out of the darkness to stun, not kill, Joker’s men. Some, including stunning 3 enemies at once via a crumbling wall, which sound difficult but are pattern-based, so after countless trial-and-error replays, or watching YouTube videos, can be achieved. Combat challenges are all up to you skill-wise, buddy.
The freeflowing combat of “Arkham Asylum” is a joy to watch and experience, but having to battle through throngs of enemies, usually with a particular manner to defeat and continue a combo can be brutal, especially in levels that the henchmen have guns, which easily disrupt combos. Higher combos result in higher score, so mistakenly punching a knife-wield maniac when a stun move was needed can kill the combo and the chance to complete the challenge. “Shock and Awe” is the worst requiring complete the challenge before an electrified floor kills everyone including Batman. Add in needing four rounds of near perfection in the “Extreme” versions of challenges, and either you’ve got the sensibility to quit quickly or suffer for a long period of time.
5. Portal 2 – Co-op challenges
Brilliant writing, ease of challenges, and being alone makes the single-player test chambers relatively simple and frustration-free in “Portal 2.” Because four portals are better than two, it also increases the thought process in solving the co-op test chambers. While most of the chambers are solvable by simple teamwork, a few of the later test chambers require real brain power. It’s ultimately rewarding to solve each test chamber, but when you’ve got two people who can’t figure out simple physics, it gets annoying, especially when all those hipster punks are yelling “space” all over the internet.
Being a co-op challenge, you are with a friend, so frustration can be shared and be a release valve for a steadily boiling rage set at a high temperature, unless instead of helping you solve the puzzle, your partner is busy emoting dance moves and waving. There aren’t many difficult challenges in the game, but spend more than 30 minutes on a puzzle and you’ll be self-consciously doubting yourself. The “Portal” series makes you feel smart but it’s a double-edged sword since if you can’t figure out a puzzle, it can kill the spirit of fun and make you feel like the world’s biggest dunderhead. I’m still sure some of the solutions I’ve done with friends in the “Mobility Gels” test chambers were fluky and a result of jumping in places no robot should be able to jump, or portal, into. It’s also easier to admit to yourself that using YouTube video guides isn’t cheating than having to explain to friends your inaction during attempts to solve the puzzles as you switch from the game to the PC to watch.
You can check out my awards for last year’s most frustrating moment in gaming and previously highlighted frustrating moments at these links. Be sure to post your own frustrating moments in the comments section below.