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Posted by Irishdoom

I have a confession: I don’t always play games at the highest difficulty. As a matter of fact, I sometimes play games in easy mode.

I would have never admitted this in my youth. Back then, I took pride in my neighborhood-renowned NES skills. But as I've grown older, and my time has become more precious, I've often found myself thinking about the easy way out.

Sue me.

It’s not that I fear higher difficulty settings: As a matter of fact, I don't find anything more satisfying than completing a game with a finely-tuned, ultra-difficult mode. And although my twitch skills have undoubtedly declined with age, I still have a grasp on what is normal. My real issue is that games don't scale anymore.

Tougher difficulties often substitute fun for frustration. They present a number of challenges, but too often they make bad choices. It's wonderful when they get it right, but it's horribly frustrating when they get it wrong.

Unending mobs

Doubling the number of enemies while cutting the available ammo in half isn’t challenging, it’s maddening. The famous "monster closet" has to be the most heinous sin imaginable. Re-spawning mobs makes a lot of sense in MMOs and Gauntlet, but that’s about the extent of their applicability.

It’s horribly frustrating to slowly and carefully clear a room of bad guys only to have them pop up again before you can continue. If I have to run like a little girl in hopes of hitting the next checkpoint, you’re doing it wrong.

Extreme enemy damage

I understand if you can’t take beatings in hard mode like you can on easier settings, but a single gunshot wound to the foot shouldn't kill me. Boosting enemy damage tables is the easiest way to boost the difficulty, but it's also the least imaginative. It doesn’t add anything to the experience in terms of skill. Instead, I just kind of tires me out.

Extreme enemy resilience

Nobody can take 10 direct gunshots to the chest and keep going -- not even Arnold in his prime. I’m fine with faster, stronger enemies, but just don’t make them God-like bullet sponges, please.

Cheap A.I.

Cheap A.I. comes in a lot of different flavors, but when the bad guys seem to be able to see through walls and predict every move you make, that's no good. I like fighting smarter enemies, but don’t give them the ability to ignore the rules of physics.

When they get it right, though....

It’s magical. Some of the most satisfying gaming experiences I have had came courtesy of the highest difficulty settings: Uncharted, Uncharted 2, andBatman: Arkham Asylum. When you finish one of these on hard mode, you really feel like you've accomplished something.

One game that I find really epitomizes the idea of a finely tuned difficulty curve is BioShock. If you think it's easy, go ahead and turn on the hardest difficulty (without the Vita-Chambers). Early on, you can't just unload your arsenal into the Big Daddies. You have to set traps, think ahead, and use all the tools at your disposal. It's a ton of fun. Sure, the Big Daddies are bullet sponges, but since BioShock is so booby trap focused, it makes sense.

BioShock's highest difficulty setting doesn't introduce more enemies, nor does it endow the bad guys with invincibility and supernatural intelligence. It was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in recent years.

What are your thoughts on super-difficult game settings? Can you think of any examples, either bad or good?

Edited by NTM

I don't know, I just know I hate middle difficulties; always have. I always play on easy first, and then I play on the hardest. I don't want to sound pretentious, 'cause I'm not, but I don't find any recent game in mind to be hard. As long as you play it correctly, it isn't really challenging, it's just about knowing what to do in certain situations, and dying in it is because you did whatever wrong.

I guess in a sense it is a challenge though because you have to figure which way to do it that's best for you; which is rarely hard because most games are pretty predictable. I agree, I don't like the whole enemy resilience some games use for harder difficulties, like Mass Effect 2. I thought the original Dead Space Impossible mode was pretty good; you would be more careful, and for it the horror effect was stronger.

Posted by mordukai

Demon's Souls on Game +25.

Posted by Oscar__Explosion

Normal. If I want to play it again then hard.

Posted by xMEGADETHxSLY

Halo 4 legendary solo is hard, but super fun. It was a blast to do. The Ai are assholes gameplay is top notch

Posted by monstersnsoup

I play a lot of RPG's so not much difficulty stuff. Usually easy for shooters and sorta hardish for strategy stuff, civ and the like. I'm no good at shootin dudes.

Posted by Zeik

It's entirely dependent on the game. Some games don't really benefit from playing on anything higher than normal, while other games don't truly shine unless you do. It's rare that I play games on anything higher than "hard" though, as games tend to get needlessly difficult at that point. But again, that's still situational.

Posted by IrrelevantJohn

I really dont have time to play games anymore so I usually pick easy for most games. For games that I know I will enjoy personally, I would go normal.

Edited by Zekhariah

I personally prefer easy games, in terms of not having to restart a bunch. Super meat boy, Hotline Miami, and Rayman Origins worked for me - but that is just a matter of it being a quick reload and little to no progress loss. And if the story is a central draw, I want the lowest difficulty setting to be absolutely trivial where required (I ran into issues with Mortal Combat on this, and getting blown up on beginner mode).

But then other games are kind of broken and do not work mechanically on low difficulty. Like a fighting game that is to overly kind on moderate difficulties will never be really playable in a single player sense. Or in a shooter that has some form of flexible encounter design, the difficulty drastically changes how much you have to think about maneuvering around the environment. And then both of those still fall short of how pointless a overtly easy RTS or RPG system is without difficulty providing the feedback that tells you how to adjust strategy or character settings.

Realistic mode in Deus Ex is probably the only high difficulty setting that I liked. Adding 1 shot deaths made proper use of the more RPG side items important, and in that particular game the enemies became just as vulnerable as the player.

Edited by benspyda

I don't enjoy story focused games when they're difficult because I'm mainly just trying to get to the next bit of the story and it pisses me off when games like Uncharted are brutal on normal difficulties. A second playthrough of a story focused game I may play on a higher difficulty.

Otherwise difficult games with very little story like Dark Souls, FTL etc. Bring it on!

Edited by Fredchuckdave

Depends on the game and how well balanced it is, for example I find Starcraft 2 on Brutal to be too easy but I find a game like Warhammer Space Marine is unnecessarily tedious and annoying on hard but quite fun on easy. For games without difficulty settings I like there to be challenge that makes you think and adjust and improve your approach to the game, Valkyrie Profile 2 is probably the best balanced game I've played in terms of difficulty, though I still like Vagrant Story more even though it is probably the hardest RPG ever produced. Vanquish and Bayonetta are both very well balanced on the hardest difficulties (well Vanquish is maybe a bit too rough for the vast majority of people but it is relatively fair and reliable).

Edited by HH

i always play on the hardest, then i'll turn it down if i hit a wall. A recent exception is X-Com, if a game has enough respect for death that they have an ironman mode, then awesome, i'll play on normal and try to stay alive, then step it up a level if i make it through.

i think the dragon age and mass effect games do their highest difficulties well, using the pause combat and co-ordinating your team's attacks will have you downing enemies pretty fast, and i find the pause mechanic really fun to use, i used to take ages in Origins, like be eating a meal and having a smoke all through a battle, i dragged that game out for as long as possible when i played it, (there's a quirk on the 360 version where spell sound effects carry over into the pauses, combined with the staggered pause / play you get while switching between characters, it made for a really great atmospheric wash of noise.)

BUT, then come the boss fights, where the flexibility you have in the main game (i played nightmare without using a tank) goes out the window, and you can't get past without a certain amount of preparation or meta-gaming (which i try to avoid), or pain-in-the-ass timing that just completely disrupts the flow of the game, so sometimes in bioware games i will drop the difficulty to easy for the boss fight, get through it as fast as i can, because fuck that shit, and then raise it back up to nightmare as soon as it's over.

Posted by DystopiaX

Depends on the game. Legendary on Halo, notch above normal on most other games. But I try to set it where there's a challenge but it's not frustrating.

Edited by Aetheldod

Not to sound snobish but I tend to always go for the hard mode ..... It became a habit because that meant more dudes to shoot in Wolfenstein/Doom era games , also it kind of made games last abit longer around the PS1 era (were sometimes I will finish 2 games per week 1/2) .... yet I do hate never ending infinite respawns ... just no , no , no. Only exception being fighting games were I adjust difficulty depending on my mood (aka if I want my ass kicked or not by AI). Very few game I leave them on normal. Yet I prefer difficulty less games like old Resident Evil games or lately Demons´/ Dark Soul games.(Yet I dont ming NG+ in them as it is relative to your level anyway).

Edited by jdh5153

God mode. (in other words, impossible to die / lose).

Posted by believer258

I'm sorry, but Uncharted's difficulty is terrible, it's a trial and error test of patience and luck.
Halo games on Legendary are generally a good example of hard but fair. Normally, though, I play games on Normal or maybe a step up from normal. Rarely do I try a game on the highest difficulty, except for Halo and Bioshock 1.

Posted by Nikoran

Normal is pretty much the perfect difficulty. Not too easy but not too hard.

If I enjoyed the game that much I'll bump up the difficulty and play-through it again.

Posted by Jack268

I play on normal/medium for the most part. It varies however, in Uncharted I usually play on easy because the retarded bullet sponging just makes me want to get through it as fast as possible, while in Crysis 1 I played on Delta difficulty because it wasn't particularly hard either way as long as you knew what you were doing.  
 
For some games though I just can't bear the highest difficulties at all, Call of Duty comes to mind. It just ends up being tedious retrying the same segment over and over and it's usually not very satisfying to complete anyway. 
 
I really like the difficulties in DMC3/4 however, Hell or Hell mode and Legendary Dark Knight really make you feel amazing when you make your way through.

Posted by WarlordPayne

As several people have said, Halo pretty consistently gets it right. I also think Mass Effect 2 did a really great job. Adding the different protections for all enemies, while kind of screwing the adept, makes weapon switching and correct power usage a requirement.

Bayonetta, and I think Devil May Cry, adjusted enemy placement so you'd run into stronger enemy types sooner and in greater numbers, which is a fantastic way to handle harder difficulties since it actually changes the game.

Metal Gear Solid 2 had an instant fail if you get spotted option, that was a great way of boosting the difficulty.

Bioshock 1/2 on hard with no vita-chambers is the only way I've ever played them, and the only way I ever will. Vita chambers are for pussies.

Posted by Canteu

Turned all the way up please.

Games are too easy.

Posted by Eldave0

I get bored with games quickly so typically I play on Easy or Normal difficulty. Guitar Hero and Uncharted are two exceptions, both of which I always play on the highest difficulty.

Posted by Irishdoom

So who will play a game on the harder difficulty selections in the name of Achievements/Trophies? I did that in Uncharted 1 and 2, but only because I REALLY liked the games and was going to be playing through them again anyway.

Posted by Dagbiker

Your opening statement made me think of the Dos Equis Guy.

Posted by Deranged

Honestly, I always play on Normal the first time around just to enjoy the story and the experience overall. When I want to hunt down some extra achievements or give it another shot, I play on the next available difficulty.

Posted by awesomeusername

I mostly play on normal because I don't know how hard the game will be. Some games I'll start off on hard if I've played the previous game. Like Uncharted 3, did my first playthrough on hard because I knew normal would be a bit too easy. I also did it because all Uncharted games force you to beat the game on hard to unlock crushing but nope. This was the game to change that without letting me know. Bastards.

If I really like a game or it has some really easy trophies, I'll give the game another go on the harder difficulty until I beat the game or give up. I gave up on Mass Effect 2 on insanity mode because that shit was HARD AS FUCK. What still kills me is that I only need that one trophy to get the platinum and I can't beat it for the life of me.

Posted by crusader8463

I never play beyond normal/default. Anything higher always feels artificially harder and in no way fun. If it's a game I don't really care about the gameplay of and just want to enjoy the story then I will crank it down to easy and try to get through it asap.

Posted by Irishdoom

@crusader8463 said:

I never play beyond normal/default. Anything higher always feels artificially harder and in no way fun. If it's a game I don't really care about the gameplay of and just want to enjoy the story then I will crank it down to easy and try to get through it asap.

That's very true, and one of the points I was making. Difficulty settings are too often artificially harder. Enemies take more bullets, enemies seem to see you behind walls, enemies are undending, etc. It's rarely more difficult because the enemies are SMARTER in some way.

Posted by FiestaUnicorn

The "perfect" difficulty is whatever you have the most fun with. If someone thinks they're cool because they play games on hard only, they're probably not worth worrying about.

Posted by tunaburn

i play every game on hard

Posted by Mezmero

This is not off-topic. It should have been in General. I've been gravitating more and more towards doing my first playthroughs on hard difficulty. I usually do it for games that I expect to have a good time with in order for the experience to last as long as possible. Far Cry 3, Syndicate, Darksiders 2, and Dust: An Elysian Tale were all games I completed on Hard on my first time through and all of them gave me a much more satisfying experience overall as a result.

Online
Posted by Irishdoom

@Mezmero said:

This is not off-topic. It should have been in General. I've been gravitating more and more towards doing my first playthroughs on hard difficulty. I usually do it for games that I expect to have a good time with in order for the experience to last as long as possible. Far Cry 3, Syndicate, Darksiders 2, and Dust: An Elysian Tale were all games I completed on Hard on my first time through and all of them gave me a much more satisfying experience overall as a result.

Yeah, I swear I had selected General when it asked if I wanted it in the forums. Any mods around that could move it for me? :)

Posted by Ravenlight

Depends on the game. Usually Normal for my first playthrough then on the highest available difficulty level for the next.

I like games that have modifiers other than "harder enemies" for higher difficulties. The MGS series' European Extreme Mode is a great example of this: Being spotted = game over. That difficulty completely changes how I play those games.

Posted by WickedCobra03

@Zeik said:

It's entirely dependent on the game. Some games don't really benefit from playing on anything higher than normal, while other games don't truly shine unless you do. It's rare that I play games on anything higher than "hard" though, as games tend to get needlessly difficult at that point. But again, that's still situational.

Same. A lot of times I will play hard if I am a fan of the series or pretty familiar with the game/series/genre. On other games I will play straight normal. There might be only like one game out of every 2-3 years that I play on the "easy" mode if I am just going in for a quick play or more for the story.

I dunno, and some games there is a very high ledge that you have to climb from the "normal" to "hard" mode where you almost have to learn a bunch of skills before you can even be remotely successful or progress in the "hard" mode. There are games like Metal Gear Solid that I like to play on Hard and not Extreme, because Extreme just becomes a game of absolute perfection and memorization. Halo on the other hand I don't mind playing legendary alone, but that is because it is well built and still, I really only play legendary on my favorite levels anyway.

Posted by ImmortalSaiyan

The answer when it comes to difficulty in games in always Ninja Gaiden Black.

Posted by Jolt92

I like to play games that are fair.

Posted by Everyones_A_Critic

Usually normal. The only games I ever really got "good" at were rhythm games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band where I'd start out on expert every time.

Posted by BRich

For games I love like Halo and Mass Effect I always max the difficulty on the first go. I never replay games so its nice to get all those achievements in one go too.

Posted by Pezen

I generally go for Normal, it seems to be enough and I have come to realize with time that "beating the odds" on games just.. isn't for me. I like the illusion of challenge rather than actual challenge because I tend to give up and move on. There are exceptions, obviously. Call of Duty on veteran is one of those odd choices I have done, somehow the game doesn't actually get harder in the true sense of how I perceive difficulty, just more hectic. But a week ago I started playing Uncharted 3 (finally) and actually put that sucker on easy. Just because I wanted to experience the ride and story beats. I never finished the first Uncharted on Normal because those combat sections can go to hell, boring as hell and not even a fun challenge. Uncharted 2 did the combat much better, somehow, and while tricky at times was still a fun ride. But I decided that I don't have time to fiddle with the combat sections so easy it is.

But, it still takes some of me talking myself into easy because it has such a weird stigma of being a cheat mode. I just have to convince myself that my time is more important than the importance of a mentality fit for kids with endless time on their hands.

Posted by onyxghost

Easy. I work 40 to 60 hours a weeks. I bought a house I'm redoing. I recently hot married. There just isn't the time to see a games story through like there used to be. Two exceptions are Halo and Gears, I play both of those on legendary with family.

Posted by Deusx

Hard as fuck.

Posted by Irishdoom

@onyxghost said:

Easy. I work 40 to 60 hours a weeks. I bought a house I'm redoing. I recently hot married. There just isn't the time to see a games story through like there used to be. Two exceptions are Halo and Gears, I play both of those on legendary with family.

Haha, that's certainly the reason I usually take the "easy" way out in games, at least at first.

Posted by ShadowConqueror

If there are four difficulty choices, I usually go with the second highest. If there are only three, I'll go with the middle or hardest option.

Posted by phrosnite

Dark Souls

Posted by kgb0515

I always start on Normal these days. If a game holds my attention enough to play through again, I might bump it up the next level. If I play co-op, it's always the highest difficulty though. Especially on Halo. The only game in recent history that I have had to bump down was Uncharted 3 during the stage where Drake is hallucinating that all the bad guys are demons. I could not get through that sequence for some reason, and I finally opted for Easy mode after repeated hair pulling and foot stomping. I'm a baby....I admit it.

Posted by Trilogy

Usually the one under the hardest difficulty. Examples are, heroic (halo), hardcore (gears of war), veteran (torchlight 1 and 2). I find that it usually offers a good challenge without being an exercise in restraining myself from breaking something.

Posted by rentfn

There is nothing at all wrong with this. Sometimes you just want to see the story or just feel uber powerful. I commend you for your bravery in admitting this!!

Posted by Trainer_Red

Games like Mass Effect and Uncharted have to be tuned up all the way to get the whole experience of the game.

Games like COD or Battlefield can be played on Normal or Easy. Same shit, just higher bullet damage.

Posted by nail1080

@Irishdoom said:

I have a confession: I don’t always play games at the highest difficulty. As a matter of fact, I sometimes play games in easy mode.

Scrub, I grew up playing games where there's not a cherck point every 2 seconds or big yellow arrows telling you where to go. So yeah I play games on the hardest difficulty possible, which is generally too easy anyway (See Black Ops 2 campaign for instance, it was so dull and easy on Veteran I simply couldn't be bothered playing anymore)

Posted by TheHT

Uncharted 2 on hard was fun. Max Payne 3 on normal was good too, except for the stadium. Maybe I just wasn't used to the whole "no, no, this is like a proper gunfight, suppress before you move etc." but I died a LOT there.

Challenging but fair is always the ideal and I expect that to be closest achieved in 'hard' in general, but I usually play on normal to account for the 'getting used to things' period. Then if there's enough interest I'll jump back in on a higher difficulty.

Posted by Subject2Change

PC - FPS on Hard or Veteran

Console games - Normal for everything, I played a lot of Catherine on Easy tho as I was playing it for the story, not the puzzle game

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