Posted by lordgodalming (166 posts) -

Playing through one of my favorite childhood games recently, I was inspired (read: enraged) to write a little tribute to otherwise good games that don’t always play fair. I’ll start with said childhood favorite, and move on to two more recent games.

The Death and Return of Superman

Release date: 1994

Platform: SNES

Where it cheats: Level 7—Steel Reign

Perhaps the first good Superman video game ever, this is a brawler reminiscent of Double Dragon or the TMNT games. You play as five different versions of Superman in an adventure based loosely on the comic book story arc where Superman is killed in a fight with a creature called Doomsday. In Level 7, Superman is made of metal and carries a massive sledgehammer, but even an invincible man with a hammer can’t overcome a cheating game.

It’s not simply a matter of throwing larger waves of enemies at you, though that happens too. The enemies’ attacks get faster and more accurate, attacking from land and sky. Their hitboxes shrink so you have to be very precise in your own attacks (with a war hammer!). And the move that has saved your ass for the entire game, a pick-up-and-throw that can hit multiple enemies, becomes much less easy to pull off FOR NO REASON. Your attacks just don’t work sometimes. Plus now enemies fire projectiles at you the instant they appear on screen, guaranteeing that you will lose health no matter how well you play.

When I was a kid, I only ever made it to Level 7. So now, as an adult in possession of superior gaming skill and emulators with save states, I came back to this game to beat it for good. And I couldn’t do it. Not even with save states. Let’s allow that to sink in. This game cheats so hard I could not beat it by cheating back.

Dark Souls

Release date: 2011

Platform: PC, PS3, X360

Where it cheats: Ornstein & Smough

Dark Souls might be the best game of the seventh console generation, even better than Demon’s Souls (don’t make me choose!). But, man, f*%k Ornstein and Smough. They are two knights, one enormously fat and the other lean and quick. The fat one has crazy area-of-effect attacks and the other flies at you with a spear like a human bow and arrow. And when you finally finish one of them off, the other regains ALL health and becomes a giant with correspondingly giant attacks.

In single player, you can summon an NPC to fight with you, but I’ve seen him go down in less than 10 seconds. I’ve heard in Dark Souls II there is a fight with THREE boss enemies at once, and they summon others. Ha ha! Where do I sign up?

Gears of War

Release date: 2006

Platform: PC, X360

Where it cheats: The Berserker

In a game full of big, dumb football players, perhaps it’s fitting that the biggest, dumbest football player of them all can only win by cheating. As Marcus Phoenix, you blunder along through the game like a tank wearing another tank as armor, blasting and chainsawing anything that gets in your path, until you get to this hallway with a Berserker enemy. It’s fast and invincible and stupid. Basically it runs at you, and if it bangs into you, you die. Think Lawrence Taylor in the 1980s.

To defeat the Berserker, you have to lure him through an increasingly cluttered and difficult maze of hallways, standing in front of the correct walls or doors and then dodging at the last second so that he will knock down the barrier and you can progress. But the camera and Marcus Phoenix just aren’t up to the quick, fine movements required. It’s only by a combination of luck, memorization, and teeth grinding that you have any hope of getting the Berserker out into the open, where you blow him up with a laser from space. But by that point, you’d rather have the laser just blow up your game disc instead.

#1 Edited by Empirepaintball (1393 posts) -

Sometimes it seems like games flirt with the line between scaling appropriately to make the game a more deliberate struggle, and just straight up overpowering you in ways that are, frankly, bullshit.

Your point about GoW rings incredibly true though. Someone once compared the berserker to the tank in Left 4 Dead, but there's really no comparison. The tank sucks, yes, but in essence what you're doing is just pouring everything you have at it, and it will die. The berserker, on the other hand, is super silly to fight. You essentially have to hope and pray that the game is going to interpret those A button taps just right, and basically have to cheese your way through it all.

Solid write up!

#2 Posted by PollySMPS (224 posts) -

Every. Single. Kart. Racer. Ever.

Every single kart racer pretty much trumps most of the entries on this list. Ornstein and Smough can be handled fairly easily if you keep them away from one another and go for Ornstein first (no way I wanna deal with a roided Ornstein.) The Berzerkers in Gears of War are more or less puzzles that are fairly easy to figure out and goad into doing what you want with a few pistol rounds and a dive out of the way when they charge. There are a lot of particular enemy encounters throughout Gears' entire run that I feel are a lot more cheaty in terms of just being severely unbalanced with enemies that don't really feel all that fair when grouped with one another. One checkpoint in Gears 1 took me nearly two hours to finish with blind luck, a mandatory turret sequence in Gears 2 nearly broke me, and the final boss of Gears 3, even in 4 player co-op just felt like horse poopy.

#3 Edited by lordgodalming (166 posts) -
#4 Edited by lordgodalming (166 posts) -

@pollysmps said:

Every. Single. Kart. Racer. Ever.

Agreed. Kart racers at least have the grace to cheat in your favor too, though. Just wait at the back of the pack until the last lap and then get the win handed to you through rubber-banding AI and good prize drops. That's how Mario Kart works anyway.

#5 Posted by maverick1 (92 posts) -

Nice write up. I think alot of the older games did this more in order to extend the life of the game. I don't blame them for doing it though because when you where a kid back then you only got like 2 or 3 games a year. Does anyone remember spiderman and venom: maximum carnage that another one of those cheapo games. Also tmnt turtles in time.

#6 Edited by NMC2008 (1237 posts) -

I recently had a thought of "is this game cheating" about Split Second as I feel like no matter what someone is always 3 seconds behind, no matter how amazing I race. I consider rubberbanding AI cheating considering how quickly the AI can get way ahead of you in that game. Also, it seems like all the AI are against only me and not each other, a fucking hivemind of cars. This game needs another installment.

#7 Posted by markini6 (445 posts) -

The Berserker is a she btw, they even discuss it in the cutscene when it appears. Carry on.

#8 Posted by lordgodalming (166 posts) -
@markini6 said:

The Berserker is a she btw, they even discuss it in the cutscene when it appears. Carry on.

Ha ha. Noted, with thanks.

#9 Posted by BigSocrates (349 posts) -

This isn't really about games that cheat as buggy games or games with difficulty spikes. When I think of a game cheating I think of a game that breaks the rules it sets up for you. An example might be rubber banding in a sports or racing game. In terms of good games with really cheap sequences I recently posted (link contains spoilers) about Call of Juarez: Gunslinger and a point where you have a bunch of enemies who are barely visible shooting at you. I found that much more frustrating and "cheap" than the Berserker, which, after all, is more of just a sequence that's poorly designed for the controls of the game it's in than anything else. I found Raam much more annoying. How many exploding arrows to the head can one dude take? A lot is the answer. A lot.

#10 Posted by Pezen (1604 posts) -

Interesting writeup. This is something I've always thought about but I never really put into a coherent thought like this. Looking forward to future volumes of this. I am sure I have some in the back of my head. I think ambushing Luca Blight in Suikoden II is my own personal "fuck you video game" as it requires you to level up a lot more of your characters than you probably use since most are not worth playing around with, I only usually had 6-9 people leveled up enough. And you needed 18 of them to be decent level all of a sudden. So he wiped me out like nothing.

#11 Posted by atomic_dumpling (2473 posts) -
#12 Posted by BigSocrates (349 posts) -

I recall that the old Dominion RTS had a blatantly cheating AI -- since it was laughably incapable, it was propped up with infinite resources and other perks. The net result was … not great.

http://www.gamespot.com/dominion-storm-over-gift-3/

There are tons of examples of stuff like this. Frickin' Civ games (at higher difficulties) used to spawn units in areas you couldn't see, even if there's no way the civ the unit was for could have built/bought it. Oh man would that make me mad.

#13 Edited by tamriilin (94 posts) -

I love stuff like this.

I really like your writing style too.

Reading this, I was instantly reminded of how the Duels of the Planeswalkers games (new ones, not Microprose one) give the AI a TON of tools to cheat in lieu of actually coding competent, challenging AI. The enemy AI can see your hand at all times, the top card of your deck, and can re-arrange the top several cards of their own deck at whim (they can see those at any time, too)

#14 Edited by Empirepaintball (1393 posts) -

Just thinking about this premise, another game to add to this list might be Call of Duty, both World at War and BlOps are really bad about making Veteran difficulty equal "millions of grenades spawning in places that shouldn't be possible"

#15 Posted by lordgodalming (166 posts) -

Reading this, I was instantly reminded of how the Duels of the Planeswalkers games (new ones, not Microprose one) give the AI a TON of tools to cheat in lieu of actually coding competent, challenging AI. The enemy AI can see your hand at all times, the top card of your deck, and can re-arrange the top several cards of their own deck at whim (they can see those at any time, too)

I have never heard of these games, and after your description I'm kind of glad.

#16 Posted by Random45 (1201 posts) -

I remember playing that Super Man game as a kid, and I don't think I ever made it pass the third level, I can hardly remember at all though, to be honestly.

I actually heard in advance how difficult the two bosses were in Dark Souls, so for that part, I summoned two phantoms to help me out with it and beat it on my first try. I can't imagine how it would be if you were on your own though, that would just suck.

In Gears of War, I honestly don't remember that part being hard at all. It has been many, many years since I played the game, but when my brother and I played it on Co-op, that was probably one of the most fun and intense parts in the game. Maybe it's easier in co-op since you essentially have 2 chances in the campaign mode, so that could be it.

#17 Posted by Kolonel_Kool (330 posts) -

@bigsocrates: The Mario Kart series is the worst for rubber banding.

#18 Posted by Heltom92 (710 posts) -

Really don't understand what the fuss is bout with Ornstein and Smough, I beat them on my first try! Perhaps I was over levelled.

#19 Posted by TobbRobb (4646 posts) -

@tamriilin: Is that actually true? I'm inclined to believe it, because that's what it felt like while playing...

And while I agree with the rest. I don't think O&S are cheating. It's overwhelming and mean for sure. But it didn't break the rules the game set up for you. Better examples from that game would be the first time you meet Seath "the forced death moment" and the Bed of Chaos boss "unpredictable death and general trial and error bullshit".

#20 Posted by EarlessShrimp (1639 posts) -

I have to say I had the least amount of trouble with Ornstein and Smough. Smough (he's the tubby one, right?) is pretty easy to kill quickly. Then all you have to do to really win that fight is basically get one of those pillar bases between you and Ornstein. All he does is shoot his lightning bolts and if you line it up correctly they never go past the base. So basically he gets stuck in that animation loop and you can whack away at the right moment and run back around to the other side of the base. Just keep him in that situation and it's pretty easy. Although, they are hard as fuck not cheesing your way through it, I will say.

#21 Edited by nevalis (78 posts) -

Another major offender is just about any puzzle game, e.g., Puzzle Quest, Puzzle Fighter, etc. I bet just about everyone who played those games has a war story about an endless stream of luck for the computer resulting in an untimely defeat.

This is basically what happens:

The Tetris God

#22 Posted by Generic_username (611 posts) -

I managed to beat O&S on my second try, without too much trouble, but I'm still stuck at the four kings. They seem much, much harder.

#23 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

@generic_username: The Four Kings fight is basically just a DPS check. Put on your heaviest armor, equip a shield with the most magic resistance, two-hand your biggest weapon and just facetank the Kings.

Of course, the strategy changes a bit if you're playing a caster but with the right set of buffs, you can turn that fight into Two Kings.

#24 Posted by ZolRoyce (694 posts) -

#25 Posted by lordgodalming (166 posts) -
#26 Edited by Spoonman671 (4635 posts) -
#27 Edited by Apparatus_Unearth (3149 posts) -

I was gonna come talk about the Souls games but I think you guys have got those covered. It's not so much that they're not fair, it's just that they play really rigidly and getting used to that and playing within that ruleset is difficult.

#28 Posted by csl316 (8665 posts) -

Twisted Metal 2 cheated more than anything I've known. Getting caught with infinite freezes, so much crap.

#29 Posted by Disaya (290 posts) -

Every. Single. Kart. Racer. Ever.

Every single kart racer pretty much trumps most of the entries on this list. Ornstein and Smough can be handled fairly easily if you keep them away from one another and go for Ornstein first (no way I wanna deal with a roided Ornstein.) The Berzerkers in Gears of War are more or less puzzles that are fairly easy to figure out and goad into doing what you want with a few pistol rounds and a dive out of the way when they charge. There are a lot of particular enemy encounters throughout Gears' entire run that I feel are a lot more cheaty in terms of just being severely unbalanced with enemies that don't really feel all that fair when grouped with one another. One checkpoint in Gears 1 took me nearly two hours to finish with blind luck, a mandatory turret sequence in Gears 2 nearly broke me, and the final boss of Gears 3, even in 4 player co-op just felt like horse poopy.

I agree with your Gears comment. I don't think the Berserker was that bad but she was still annoying as hell. But the unbalanced levels were always something that drove me crazy throughout the Gears games, as much as I like them. I feel like there were too many levels that went from a nice amount of difficulty to just ridiculous and oh my god the final boss of Gears 3. But yeah kart racers too.

#30 Posted by Turambar (6784 posts) -

It always confuses me when people talk about how "fair" Dark Souls is.

EDIT: That said, I don't think Ornstein and Smough are unfair. Just tough as balls.

I somehow doubt one mandated death is going to break you. Bed of Chaos is a boss the developers themselves have apologized for designing poorly though.

#31 Posted by TobbRobb (4646 posts) -

@turambar: It's not really about breaking. It just sucks to have literally zero control over what happens there. And to top it off there is no way to see it coming and afterwards you end up across the dungeon in a place where you will most likely die and lose whatever you had beforehand. It breaks the rules of fairness in prediction and intuition that the game sets up, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

#32 Posted by StarFoxA (5157 posts) -

Pffff. Dark Souls never cheats. I never once felt like the game had an unfair advantage over me.

#33 Posted by Turambar (6784 posts) -

@tobbrobb said:

@turambar: It's not really about breaking. It just sucks to have literally zero control over what happens there. And to top it off there is no way to see it coming and afterwards you end up across the dungeon in a place where you will most likely die and lose whatever you had beforehand. It breaks the rules of fairness in prediction and intuition that the game sets up, and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

Fun fact: the game actually lets you escape that fight by going back through the fog door that you originally came in from. That's the only time it works, so obviously it was purposefully designed as such. No real way of knowing unless someone else tells you though.

#34 Posted by Generic_username (611 posts) -
#35 Posted by HerbieBug (4212 posts) -

I get most annoyed with it in games where the enemy unit is supposed to be, or at least ostensibly supposed to be, of the same capability level as the player's. So, things like racing games where the ai cars do not have to abide by the same physical laws as your's does. Fighting game ai characters that have different frame data and can perform combos that are impossible for the player's version of the character to perform. I'm not talking about clearly labelled 'boss' character versions here. I mean, bump the difficulty even slightly in most of the 90's Street Fighter games and you will see some fantastic stunts pulled by the ai of all the normal characters.

I also think excessive checkpointing as a crutch for bad game design is flagrant cheating on the developer's part. You go to such lengths to make death meaningful in your game, then you have these bits where the player is going to die repeatedly because you fucked up and you wanted it to be cinematic in a particular way or something, and player respawns at a location immediately before the death cause. That sucks. Bad. Ditto for most implementation of QTE's.

#36 Edited by Random45 (1201 posts) -

@turambar said:

@spoonman671 said:

It always confuses me when people talk about how "fair" Dark Souls is.

EDIT: That said, I don't think Ornstein and Smough are unfair. Just tough as balls.

I somehow doubt one mandated death is going to break you. Bed of Chaos is a boss the developers themselves have apologized for designing poorly though.

Hopefully they learned that lesson and nothing like that is in the second game. The Bed of Chaos boss fight made me rage so hard due to how poorly designed it was.

#37 Edited by hermes (1480 posts) -

I don't like when a game with the same characters on its side uses it on ways that are impossible for a human player. Some examples are:

  • In Valkyrie Chronicles, enemy units will attack your unit if you are in their line of sight, and even while you are in menus or aiming. I never saw one of my units attack an enemy that moved within eyesight of them.
  • In Street Fighter, charge characters will be able to use special moves (like Guile's Sonic Boom or Honda's Zutsuki) while moving forward. That is impossible for a human player because those moves need you to press back for a couple seconds.
#38 Posted by Jaqen_HGhar (896 posts) -

One of the first games I noticed the CPU cheating was Constructor. The way the difficulty works is simple. You can play it on easy, but then you cannot use all the fun stuff your "undesirables" can normally do. Bump it up to medium and the opponent will be a lot better. So after failing a lot of times I decided I would cheat. I placed one of my workers inside the construction site of the very first building the enemy set up. You need this building to unlock anything else, and you need the resources they make there. And when an enemy character stands around on a construction site, all work comes to a halt.

So I kept that up, since the CPU tries to build a second one. But failing that, they will just build whatever. Workers, foremen, resources and unlocked buildings just continuously happen for the CPU. Meaning the CPU in Constructor has used several cheats in order to be challenging. I was young at the time so maybe I will managed the game better now, but an enemy that don't need to unlock things, or even collect resources? Pretty cheap if you ask me. The game is great though.

#39 Posted by RWBladewing (118 posts) -

@tamriilin: Do you have a source for this? I felt something like this was going on the entire time I played and would love to see it confirmed as true. My guess had been that the AI's hand was fluid, filled with blank cards that could turn into any card in their deck as the situation demanded, though this would also make sense.

#40 Edited by Royce_McCutcheon (207 posts) -

@hermes said:

I don't like when a game with the same characters on its side uses it on ways that are impossible for a human player. Some examples are:

  • In Valkyrie Chronicles, enemy units will attack your unit if you are in their line of sight, and even while you are in menus or aiming. I never saw one of my units attack an enemy that moved within eyesight of them.

Come again? Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but that can't be right at all. It's a pretty core component of the game.

#41 Edited by Spoonman671 (4635 posts) -

@hermes said:

I don't like when a game with the same characters on its side uses it on ways that are impossible for a human player. Some examples are:

  • In Valkyrie Chronicles, enemy units will attack your unit if you are in their line of sight, and even while you are in menus or aiming. I never saw one of my units attack an enemy that moved within eyesight of them.

Come again? Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but that can't be right at all. It's a pretty core component of the game.

Yeah, that's kind of how the game works. How could even play the game without your units firing on enemies?

#42 Edited by Yummylee (21636 posts) -

I thought the Berzerker boss fight in Gears 1 was pretty cool, and never had much trouble with it. If you're playing in coop especially then it's easy to keep aware of where she's going with help of your buddy, and as long as you roll away when she's on your tail, she'll basically never get you.

Now the Lambert Zerker in Gears 3 on the other hand can fuck right off...

#43 Posted by hermes (1480 posts) -

@royce_mccutcheon said:

@hermes said:

I don't like when a game with the same characters on its side uses it on ways that are impossible for a human player. Some examples are:

  • In Valkyrie Chronicles, enemy units will attack your unit if you are in their line of sight, and even while you are in menus or aiming. I never saw one of my units attack an enemy that moved within eyesight of them.

Come again? Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but that can't be right at all. It's a pretty core component of the game.

Maybe I am forgetting something important, but I do seem to remember that my units made no movement or attack any incoming units unless it was my turn, while the same was not true of the enemy units.

If I tried to move one of my units into enemy territory, all the enemies would turn and attack me, even when it was, technically, my turn.

I believe they do fixed it in the sequels, though...

#44 Edited by SgtSphynx (1389 posts) -

@lordgodalming:

Cool idea and nice write ups. FYI, the character you are playing as at that point in that Superman game is John Henry Irons, AKA Steel.

#45 Edited by HistoryInRust (6311 posts) -

@yummylee said:

I thought the Berzerker boss fight in Gears 1 was pretty cool, and never had much trouble with it. If you're playing in coop especially then it's easy to keep aware of where she's going with help of your buddy, and as long as you roll away when she's on your tail, she'll basically never get you.

Now the Lambert Zerker in Gears 3 on the other hand can fuck right off...

Totally forgot about the Lambent Berserker in Gears of War 3. That might've been my favorite moment in a video game this generation. Just a knock-down, drag-out, empty-everything-you've-got-until-nothing's-moving epic slugfight.

#46 Edited by Royce_McCutcheon (207 posts) -

@hermes: That's....not correct.

If you move within range of enemy units, they shoot you. If they move within range of your units, you shoot them. It's called 'Crossfire' in game. It prevents cheesing by having units charging into one another and shooting them in the face at point blank range.

Valkyria Chronicles does not cheat. In fact, the AI is often so bad in that game that you're the one getting the unfair advantage.

#47 Posted by Yummylee (21636 posts) -

@yummylee said:

I thought the Berzerker boss fight in Gears 1 was pretty cool, and never had much trouble with it. If you're playing in coop especially then it's easy to keep aware of where she's going with help of your buddy, and as long as you roll away when she's on your tail, she'll basically never get you.

Now the Lambert Zerker in Gears 3 on the other hand can fuck right off...

Totally forgot about the Lambent Berserker in Gears of War 3. That might've been my favorite moment in a video game this generation. Just a knock-down, drag-out, empty-everything-you've-got-until-nothing's-moving epic slugfight.

Ha, fair enough. I thought it went on a little long, and constantly waiting for its glowy centre to open up for the chance to get in a few shots made it a bit frustrating. Completed that game's campaign many a time (in fact it's one of my favourite games of the generation), but I would always dread returning to both the lambent zerker and the Myra beetle thing at the end.

#48 Posted by me3639 (1756 posts) -

Good games that cheat? EVERY fuckin one.

#49 Posted by OneLoneClone (78 posts) -

Civ 5 cheats on the higher difficulty levels, but it warns you. When you select difficulty levels above normal if informs you that it will give the AI divs advantages to make them more competitive.