Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Most cliched video game tropes
GameCentral readers discuss the most annoying cliches in gaming, from QTEs to boss battles and red barrels.
The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Gannet and covered anything from gameplay mechanics to game design to character and story moments or just anything else that annoys you about modern games.
We had plenty of suggestions but many of theme were connected to boss fights and cut scenes, with many also complaining that modern games have become too predictable.
Complaining about nothing
I’ll tell you the one that gets me every time and it’s the sorry state of platforming in action adventures nowadays. Ever since Uncharted it’s all worked exactly the same way: absolutely no skill is needed to proceed and each game has it’s own colour of paint that someone has helpfully left to show what is a platform and what isn’t. In Uncharted it’s white, in Tomb Raider it’s yellow, in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order… well, I forget but it’s a different colour again.
The point is it’s all the same gameplay and it’s all completely bland and so lacking in skill you could do it with your eyes shut. And the worst thing? That bit where you make the jump perfectly fine and then the game decides that the bit of the cliff, or whatever, has fallen away and you have to climb back up with a QTE. Yawn!
QTEs in general are a bad thing but that combined with this stupid, vapid auto-climbing is just the worst. It’s the gameplay equivalent of those plastic squares of cheese you get at McDonald’s instead of actual cheese. Just a big pile of nothing.
For me it’s got to be talking cars. If you’ve played any GTA game you’ll know what I mean but it’s the endless reams of dialogue that Rockstar roll out as soon as you get in a car and you’re driving to a mission. It’s good dialogue usually, don’t get me wrong, but the formula soon gets old and often you stuck at how ridiculous it is just watching a car apparently talking to itself for minutes at an end.
At least in Red Dead Redemption the same thing looks slightly less ridiculous because you’re both on a horse but it’s still the same problem. You’re not doing anything skilful when driving between missions so I don’t know why they don’t put it on autopilot and do some close up shots of the people in the car. That or, you know, stopping with the constant yapping and just get on with the game.
I know GC are going to agree with me hear because they’ve often said its their pet peeve but audiologs. I really hate these as they seem so old-fashioned and lazy. They’re boring, they make no sense, and half the time you can only listen to them from within a menu rather than at least let them play as you’re exploring.
But really, who do you know in real life that constantly records their innermost thoughts (and often their last minutes of life) on a recorder and then leaves it lying around? I’m going to guess it’s zero. Audiologs seem to turn up in any setting bar medieval and the worst thing is they’re usually boring backstory anyway.
Some will say that means I can just skip them if I don’t like them. But you don’t know they’re pointless till you listen to them, or at least a large proportion of them, and by that time it’s too late. If someone has something to say in a game just have a character come up to you and say it. That should be the only way.
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Fights like a girl
The fast but weak trope for female characters, especially in fighting games, is one that always used to have me rolling my eyes. It’s not so common nowadays but it lasted for far too long and was frankly jus embarrassing when I’m trying to get my girlfriend interested in gaming and these are the characters being offered up.
Clearly fast but weak is a style of character that should exist but that doesn’t mean it always has to be a woman. Overwatch was one of the best games for turning this around though by switching up the body types for all the characters. That seems to have been where most other games got the idea to take their lead from, so kudos to Blizzard for that.
I hate that bit in seemingly every game nowadays where you get captured and loose all your weapons and equipment for just one mission and then just conveniently find them all in a box somewhere when it’s done. Even Red Dead Redemption did it and it’s so cringey because you know exactly what the game’s doing and yet it seems to think it’s the most original and unexpected thing in the world.
Just as bad, and common, is the set-up where you start a game fully powered up for the first little tutorial area and then lose everything at the end of them to spend the rest of the game collecting them all back up again. I think it’s called Metroid Syndrome or something by TV Tropes.
Again, it’s not that the idea itself is bad but that so many other games have done the exact same thing it just seems boring and unimaginative. Sometimes developers act like you’ve never played a game before and sometimes like you know everything before you start, they need to be more consistent.
The one that has always annoyed me is barriers in games. Invisible walls aren’t such a thing nowadays but knee high walls you inexplicably can’t climb over still happen, as do highly contrived piles of rubbish or debris that just so happen to block off all exits except for the one you have to take.
I know obviously you can’t just go everywhere all the time, and some games aren’t open world so you’ve just got what there is but there must be better ways to hide the fact. Sometimes it seems games aren’t even trying and you only have to look at something like The Last Of Us Part 2 where it cane be done logically and reasonably.
I’m a big fan of boss battles as a rule but the one cliché I hate is the boss rush at the end of some games were you have to fight all the previous bosses again, except usually even harder. The big appeal for boss battles is it’s a one-off fight like nothing else in the game, so having to do it again before you get to the final, new boss I find is always really off-putting.
Also, red barrels. OK, they’re fun, but at least try and think up a reason for why they are laying around. Most games don’t even bother nowadays.
One of the more modern clichés that annoys me is one I haven’t seen acknowledged a huge amount and that’s the idea that killing with a blade, or even with your bare hands, is mechanically easier than killing with a firearm. This applies to everything from Call Of Duty to Splinter Cell to The Last Of Us.
First party Sony games are particularly bad offenders when it comes to stealth kills but consider the physical requirement of stabbing someone in the back or, worse, grabbing them from behind, restraining them, cutting or suffocating them versus pointing a gun and pulling a trigger. Then consider the inputs you usually have to make on the controller for each respective action and, whether stealth is involved or not, a no-guns takedown often requires no more than a single button press.
Not that I want a straight simulation of close-up violent death but at least games like Zelda: Breath Of The Wild and Dark Souls just stun certain enemies when you get a melee drop on them so you often still have some sort of struggle that’s actually reflected in the gameplay. In fact, ranged combat is often the easier option in those games and yet the other games I mention seem to be the ones that are a lot more obsessed with immersion.
Related to this is my special mention for hiding in long grass so effectively that even enemies that are looking down on you can’t see you or are equally oblivious to all the grass that’s surrounding you waving about and making all that noise.
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