It’s always the same, no matter how many games you’ve played in your life (unless you’ve only ever played Just Dance, in which case, forget this and go away): interchangeable objects, characters, weapons, missions, dodgy AI and identikit control issues appear in almost every game to blight our pure, unadulterated fun.
Here, then, is my list of the most tiresome, irritating videogame clichés…
Who can relate to space marines? That’s right, no one. I consider myself to be an average gamer, and if I look at my own body, the only thing as large as my head is my pot belly. The things I could medically refer to as my biceps are way down the list of ‘large, round things on my body’, and yet time and time again we jump into the boots of some bulging, semiliterate man-burger who has seemingly been training in every military discipline since a couple of weeks before his conception.
Not only are space marines trained in every form of combat, from close range fighting to sniper rifle assassinations, but they can also pilot any kind of military vehicle, including the alien ones, tanks, jeeps, ATVs, helicopters and any weird combinations thereof. No mode of transport is too complicated for these militaristic savants, and yet each and every one of them looks and sounds like they would outright fail an IQ test on the ‘name’ section of the form.
Walking over stuff
See those things on the bottom of your legs with the opposable big toe and finger length digits? Of course you don’t, because if you did you’d be a monkey, and as everyone knows, monkeys rarely use the Internet (not enough porn). So, having established that our common-or-garden, non-freakish feet are only capable of picking up a pencil or the occasional verruca, how do videogame feet work?
We’ve all been there. You’re down to your last bullet, with hostiles all around you. You’re behind cover. To the side of you is one of your fallen enemies, the agony of the killing bullet etched onto his death mask. You move over to him and an ammo clip and two hand grenades get sucked up your trouser leg and into your inventory. Problem solved, you bound away to make nasty puddles of his friends.
Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t mind walking over whatever item I want to procure and pressing a button to get it. At least then I can imagine I have told my character to rummage through the corpse’s bomber jacket for bullets. I don’t have to see it, but it’s just nice to have a say in these things.
You’ve destroyed armies of the undead, numerous feral woodland creatures and only moments ago put an end to an unholy union twixt dragon and cactus. And yet, at certain points the game decides that if one poorly-armed guard gets a glimpse of so much as a heavily armored toe, the alarm is raised and you’re thrown out of the castle or disemboweled by guards before you can say ‘hang on a minute’.
The enforced stealth section grates for a few reasons, not least of which is ‘if I wanted Splinter Cell, I’d buy Splinter Cell’. They never add to the story and always feel like a chore to get through before returning to the business of killing things.
Add to this the fact that you know, if the game would just let you, you could be sitting atop a huge pile of guard corpses, swigging nonchalantly on a heath potion in less than thirty seconds, and you know it’s just the product of some evil level designer’s sadistic mind.
Bad voice acting
Back on the original PlayStation, you were delighted enough that actual speech seemed to be coming from the pixelated lips of your hideous slab-faced hero to worry about whether their voice acting was any good. But now games look more like films, and most voice acting is done by actual actors.
With modern high production values, it’s even worse when a bad voice actor from the Sean Bean school of acting (don’t get me started) turns up and starts gurning through their lines whilst simultaneously chewing virtual furniture. It simply cheapens the entire experience.
During Resident Evil 5, where its protagonists have to kill Irving on a boat, Chris Redfield and I had very different motivations for doing so. Chris was understandably interested in defending his and Sheva’s life, while all I wanted to do was shut him up.
You’re a hired gun in a local crime syndicate. Your last hit saw you make a mere hundred dollars, and you’re only armed with a standard pistol and a nightstick you took from a policeman’s twitching corpse.
Why then would your next mission involve escorting your boss’ daughter through enemy territory in an open topped sports car? Have these people not the slightest bit of self-preservation? How do they survive their criminal lifestyle? How many children did they used to have?
Whatever the scenario, your charge will be roughly as intelligent as the mailbox they keep running up against, finding danger where there is none and trapping themselves behind bushes, walls, benches, zombies and the occasional curb.
The chaperone sections in Dead Rising are some of the most tense and frustrating parts of any game ever. Forget the zombies or raging psychos that could be around every corner, it’s the screaming simpletons that would rather try to walk through a wall than around it that get your nerves on edge.
Yes, shooting a barrel to make it explode and kill lots of enemies is as cool as bow ties, but we all know it can’t happen. Explosions need pressure, fuel and ignition. The worst that will happen if you shoot a barrel full of highly flammable petrol is that the floor will get a new damp combustible covering that you wouldn’t want to stub a cigarette out on. But it wouldn’t explode, not even a little bit.
The otherwise fantastic Borderlands took this premise to new levels of stupidity with exploding barrels filled with static in what I am forced to assume was an attempt to make the most impossible game object ever.
After saving a village or town from the very brink of destruction at the hands of a gang of villainous rogues or a multi-headed dog monster, you’d expect a bit of a fuss made of you. A party, parade or naked townswoman jumping out of a cake would be nice. And generally you get some of these things in the usual cutscene following a boss battle.
After the celebrations is where the idiot townspeople come into their own. Often having no clue who you are, the local gonks resume asking you to find their lost dog/child/hat, deliver a message to someone in another part of town because they presumably can’t be bothered, or simply tell you to get lost because they’re dancing.
And the shopkeepers, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they wouldn’t even have a shop if it wasn’t for you, will not even give you a discount when you go to stock up on equipment used in the defense of their town.
Rhythm action style mini games
Similar to the stealth sections and different from Quick Time Events, these little breaks from the usual gameplay are as welcome as a pus stained plaster in your half eaten burger.
I’ve got Rock Band and I’m not playing it at the moment, so why are you trying to make me dance/diffuse a bomb/collect souls with a very similar but decidedly inferior gameplay mechanic?
If I wanted to play turgid mini games, my Wii wouldn’t have been under a pile of socks for the last eight months.
Quick Time Events
Most of the time I don’t actually mind QTEs too much. If they’re at the end of a boss battle and your hero just needs a little prompt in order to make him stab a creature in the face with its own ribcage, I think it’s fair enough. However, when you think you’re watching a cutscene while sipping on a cup of coffee and the characters start running like mad away from some as-yet-unseen enemy and a huge pulsating representation of the B button appears on the screen, utter panic sets in.
As you attempt to ensure your hero’s survival, you make a grab for the controller while still holding your cup, scalding ensues, your character falls down a hole, and you go to casualty.
Unless you are terminally unemployed or one of the idle rich, chances are you haven’t got time to get through your average 18 hour story-driven game in one or two sittings. Most of us have to indulge in our favourite hobby when we get the chance.
When you have got past work, food and basic hygiene and you finally do get to start a new game, it usually begins with a twenty-minute cutscene, then roughly ten minutes of tutorial-based action before another ten minutes of watching the plot unfurl. After a while, the frequency of the cutscenes dies down, and the story is usually told through missions given by NPCs, lots of NPCs, all confusing and convoluting the story in new and exciting ways.
I love playing first person shooters, and have played every Halo game from beginning to end, but my comprehension of the story goes something like ‘humans are at war with some aliens, there are rings in space that need to be turned off or sometimes on, and there are more aliens that everyone is at war with’.
Imagine how hard it would be to understand the plot of most films if you only watched them in ten minute segments every couple of days…
Have some clichés of your own that are wearing your gaming joy thin? Share them in the comments!