Print Edition: September 18, 2013
When I was a teenager, some games seemed impossible without cheat codes. The Grand Theft Auto games in particular were nearly impossible without cheats – having to buy all your weapons and armour back every time you died during a mission was not fun!
In general, games have become progressively easier, but they have continued to include cheats. In the last few years, the line between normal gameplay and playing with cheats melded together has decreased the challenge for gamers. Saints Row IV is a prime example.
Several innovations have made games easier in the past decade: health recovery in Halo and Call of Duty, no resource losses after death (most evident in Grand Theft Auto IV), even accompanying CPU characters who take out enemies alongside you.
Games have become easier, but some have still retained their sense of fun. Of course, there are games like Dark Souls which are extremely challenging, but overall the challenge has weakened. And when you have no challenge, you need to be distracted by either strong narrative or a gameplay aspect that masks that lack with intense and entertaining visuals.
While the first two Saints Row games were mockeries of the GTA series with over-the-top dialogue and profanity, they still presented the player with challenging and engaging gameplay. The third game was able to replace challenge with hilarity by letting the player simply drop-kick people out of their cars or beat them down with certain large sexual objects. But after the story was finished, the game became cumbersome. You could unlock unlimited ammo and extreme resistance to damage – you became a god. And it took all the fun out of it for me.
We’ve always wanted to be a god in the video game world. All-powerful, unable to die, with limitless weapons… the works. This is where cheats have come in.
But after a while, most of us will get bored of the power and want to return to the challenge. Saints Row IV is so easy, I have no idea what the cheats could offer that you can’t already get in the game. Once I increased my power to jump over 100 feet in the air and then started to fly, I realized the game was incredibly boring.
Sure, it was fun for a bit. But eventually I felt I was completing missions just for the sake of completing them rather than to enjoy them. When you can defeat all your enemies simply by running up and smashing them into the ground with super strength, what’s the point of using a gun, or any other weapon?
Saints Row IV has you taking on alien beings instead of gangs, fighting in a virtual reality simulation of Steel Port, and you must hack in to rescue your friends from a Matrix-style coma. While that sounds absurdly awesome, it wears off fast. This is an issue that quickly-made sequels have. Due to the publisher shift after THQ’s bankruptcy, Deep Silver produced a game so similar to the third it’s laughable.
Steel Port is exactly the same and the number of weapons has decreased. Instead of a new game, it feels like a large but lacking expansion pack. The story is entertaining and humorous but doesn’t hide the single main fault of the game: Why use a car when you can jump over a highway? Why use a weapon when you can freeze or stomp on enemies? Why use a gun when you can break them with your melee attacks?
The idea of overpowering has been a subject in gaming for years in terms of weapons, kits, or spells in online combat. But when the player is overpowered in general gameplay, a line must be drawn. When you need to play against the progress of the game to make it challenging, you are playing the wrong game.