Before I say anything else, I will start by announcing that, for those whom it may concern, I will post my Halo: Reach Review next Saturday.
This however, is not a review. I wanted to adress an issue that comes up in many, many games.
Gamers want a challenge. Whether it's for an achievement, bragging rights, or pride, we like to push ourselves against near-insurmountable odds. Even if we dread very second of it, we will do it anyways. It is this drive for challenge that causes video game developers to make their games with super-high difficulty settings, for those masochists out there. But there are times, when even these individuals just give up.
Take for example, Halo 3. If you try to do it alone, completing the game on Legendary is nothing short of suicidal. Enemies are tougher and more accurate, while you will die in 2-3 hits. To beat Halo 3 on Legendary requires a lot of patience, skill, and tactics. But there is one level in the game, which is difficult REGARDLESS of what difficulty you play on. The 8th Campaign level, Cortana, is the bane of many Halo 3 players. Why? Because along with patience, skill, and tactics, it requires something else. Something the other levels don't. Can you guess?
Alright, ignoring the stupid reference, it really is infuriating. Cortana (the level) puts the player in a massive labrynth of identical orange hallways, surrounded by flood (who respawn behind your back), with only a few weapons with which to win. The only way to win is to hope the flood don't spawn before you can move through the door (it's random), and hope they don't spawn with Brute Shots (which they will). I literally used the same strategy every single time, and it eventually worked, just because I got lucky with the spawns.
When luck is a necessity to win, a game is being unfair. Because it's very possible that you may never get the right conditions to allow you to win. And when that happens, an otherwise great game can be ruined for the player. But there are other ways games can be unfair. For example, if it cheats.
In Starcraft 2, players can go up against a bunch of varried AI difficulties, in order to hone their skills before going online. However, the highest level, Insane, literally CHEATS against the player. For one thing, it has an APM (actions per minute) of 1000. No real player has that, or is even capable of that. Also, the game cana ctually see what the player is doing AT ALL TIMES. If you go Siege Tanks, it goes Banshees. You get Colossi, you can be damn sure you're fighting Vikings. The game is unfair because it does things there is no feasible way the player can do. It CHEATS.
Now lets quickly look at another VERY difficult game. Mass Effect 2 Insanity difficulty is maddening. Players need to have perfect control of their powers, as well as their squadmates', while figuring the right way to use them. Enemies can take alot of damage, and will always have either shields, barriers, or armor. But for all of that, the game is not unfair. It doesn't cheat, and you don't need to be terrible lucky to win. Simply find a good strategy, and use it. Don't worry about getting shot through walls, or random spikes falling on you forcing you to start the enite level over. Mass Effect 2 is tough, really tough, but it's fair.
In the end, while I always hope games will provide a challenge, I want game developers to stop trying to push players away with random bullshit. If you don't want them to beat the hardest difficulty, make it near-impossible (Demon Souls), but keep that difficulty consistent.
So there is my rant/blog. Tell me what you guys think.