Imagine, if you will, playing for seventy-odd hours through a fairly kick-ass game. Now imagine that that game ends with a forty-second cut scene, followed (with no transition) by a button that you have to press within roughly half of normal human reaction time or you die. And then have to sit through the forty-second cut scene again to get another chance.
Well, you don’t have to imagine it! In fact, God of War II gave us this lovely experience a couple of years ago. It just happens that I am only now getting around to playing it.
Everybody say it with me now: A NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE ONE-BUTTON PHYSICAL CHALLENGE WITH THE DIREST OF CONSEQUENCES DOES NOT MAKE YOUR GAME “HARD.” IT DOESN’T MAKE PLAYERS FEEL “HEROIC.” IT MAKES THEM FEEL (and of course, I’m projecting MY feelings on the gaming audience at large, here) LIKE DRIVING DOWN TO THE SANTA MONICA OFFICES OF SCEA WITH SOME LARGE IMPLEMENT OF DESTRUCTION. Like a bulldozer, or maybe a very angry bobcat. I mean, seriously, what the hell? I have literally played this scene dozens of times now. Even sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for it, I have successfully hit the first button once. I even sucked it up and let them switch me to easy mode, something I’ve resisted for the entire game. Alas, easy mode only affects “combat” — aka, it does nothing for the button-mashing games.
It wouldn’t be so bad if you just jumped into the button-mashing directly, but having to sit through the same forty seconds of complete bullshit just to die instantly? You people are bloody sadists and I hope you enjoy the special circle of hell you will be roasting in shortly. (Escaping is easy! Within the next 100ms, just press… triangle! No, square! Hahaha! Maybe next– triangle! Still too slow!)
I realize it’s hard to design an endgame experience that doesn’t feel like a cakewalk (I’m looking at you, BioShock) yet isn’t so challenging you want to throw your controller through your TV screen. So hey. Let’s pretend you’re professionals and that you get paid to do your job, and not punish your goddamn customers by gating your endgame with a stupid, impossible bit of torture.