Grind Session

Keep looking, you won't find that last, bastard one

A little while back, I wrote a review of Crackdown 2 which was less than favourable, given that it noted the game’s spectacular lack of ambition when it came to improving on the original. I also noted that the game was short, repetitive and duller than pisswater, making sure to dissuade any fans of the original game from parting with their cash – at least until the game drops to something the right side of twenty quid.

Since penning that particular piece, my opinion of the game has dropped even further, with new flaws becoming apparent on subsequent plays. So why is it that I’m still sinking more hours into it than it deserves? Well that’ll be the achievements. The same set of achievements that I wasted days on in the first game. More orb collecting, road racing and building climbing bollocks that sits completely outside of what passes for a story in Crackdown 2. Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the fucking grind.

Grind achievements are the worst kind. Before I shatter my fingertips in anger talking about them, let’s look at the other types. First up, you’ve got the gimmes. You know, the ‘press start’ or ‘complete the tutorial’ type; a little bit of filler before the main campaign gets going. Then you’ve got the skill-based ones, usually involving making a jump, winning a race or doing some kind of Riverdance tippy tappy movement with your thumbs. These are good, usually short but challenging. The kind of achievement that makes you happy.

Then there are your basic story progression type – completing chapters or having certain conversations, usually unmissable and just there to follow milestones in the story, marking your progress at apt points in time.

Then you’ve got your grinds. Grind achievements are like the Coldplay of gaming – inescapably everywhere, hated by everyone you know and yet inexplicably incapable of fucking the fuck off. They are the beige of gaming. The Michael Portillo. The endless Saturday wasted in the company of wankers who dance to ‘Come On Eileen’ at a wedding that you would ordinarily acquire AIDS in order to avoid. Grind achievements are Jamie Oliver campaigning for more broccoli in school dinners, but it’s a catholic school and you’re getting bummed by the headmaster.

Grind achievements serve one purpose – to pad out the game. They come in a few flavours but, inevitably, all achieve that one aim. You’ve all seen them. Collectathons, online grinds and repetitions. Each type involves one common factor: doing the same fucking thing over and over and over and fucking over. To make things slightly worse, these things are always quite easy. Picking up something, killing someone, winning something or other. All of them are quick and easy tasks but multiplied to a factor of ‘go fuck yourself’ by a developer who is all too willing to make you suffer. Well, we’re still waiting for the revolution but here’s a list of games that need to pay for their sins. HERE is a bunch of bastards:

Collectathons
Let’s start with the Jade Goody (the most common and most nauseating type) of achievements. The collectathon. If done well, it can lead you to explore a game world, getting the most out of your game. Most notably in games such as ‘This Game Doesn’t Exist’ and also ‘There Are No Examples of Good Collectathons’. If done badly, then it becomes a horrific fucking grind where your eyes spend most of their time looking at a map on your laptop rather than at the game.

Crackdown:
Now, Crackdown was a nice little game wasn’t it? But there’s the problem, it was little. The game was easily completed in under eight hours.; less, if you co-oped the whole thing. However, at this point your pain was only just beginning with 500 agility orbs and 300 hidden orbs to find. With no way of tracking them, people ended up on 499, with that last elusive orb being harder to find than piece of hay inside Jordan’s colossal vagina.

The trick to avoiding that fate is to either play the game using a map (instantly killing the fun of picking the things up as you find them) or simply not bothering at all (leaving you with a game that is shorter than the average cricket match).

Assassin’s Creed
You know, I met a lady from Ubisoft – one of those Fragdoll types with spiky hair and all the charm of a used car salesman – and she told me that the flag-collecting achievements in AssCreed were put in as “a joke by the producer.” I assume he gets all his funnies from the ‘Josef Fritzl Bumper Book of Fun’ as the flags were black, flat and mostly hidden in shadows. They were incredibly easy to miss and led to much wailing and gnashing of teeth from both myself and a borderline catatonic Lorna. Again, this achievement extended a sub-ten hour game up to a forty hour one.

Spiderman: Web of Shadows
Actingtheprickivision at least had the right idea with Web of Shadows as the collect-o-bastard achievement here didn’t require you to get every single Spidey token. This meant that you didn’t have to spend days trying to track down the last one but, to balance this out, you still had to pick up 2000 of the fucking things. Spiderman: Game by Pricks, more like.

*See Also: * Two Worlds (twenty hour game, twenty hour post-game grind), Condemned (collect bits of metal that are surrounded by bits of metal that you can’t collect. In the dark) and all J-RPGs.

Online Grinds
Oh man, oh man. If there’s one thing that gets my goat it’s being forced to play online with the associated pond-life on Xbox Live ranked matches. If there’s one thing that gets my goat, hunts it for days, saws off its hooves, replaces them with hot bees, punches it to near-death and then features it prominently on the pages of Heat magazine, it’s the online grind. Online grinds all work the same: beat lots of people, lots of fucking times.

The way I see it is that if I can do something once, or if I’m being kind let’s say five times, then I no longer have anything to prove. Making me do the same thing over and fucking over until I’m sobbing piss out of my eyes just isn’t on, especially when the developer thinks their flawed-as-fuck piece of shit game is going to take off online. Here’s an open letter to anyone making anything that isn’t an EA, Bungie or Activision game: your game will be dead online in weeks.

Here are the worst offenders:

Yes, I'd rather do this than play online matches

The Darkness
If you laid out all of the spooky FPS games on the 360 end-to-end, it’d reach the fucking Sun. The Darkness, Jericho, Shellshock 2, Condemned, Metro 2033 etc, etc. There’s a glut of them. Anyway, The Darkness is arguably the best, with a great story and some top-class voice acting to carry it along. The gallon of piss on your portion of chips comes from the online achievements – win 250 matches online.

  • Firstly, why the fuck does this game have an online mode?
  • Secondly, why does the online mode have no Darkness powers in it?
  • Thirdly, what made you think this game would have any kind of online community when the online is so fucking terrible?
  • Four, you’re an arsewipe. Stop making games.

In an extra effort to make people hate them, the devs also managed to put in a bug that randomly drops the number of wins you have down to 100. You know, all random like. Hnggghhh.

Gears of War
Gears of War games. Fuck me, is there anything less inspiring out there? Outside of perhaps Doctor Who, no. Anyway, once you’ve completed the mediocre single-player campaigns, you can take your skills online where you’ll be met by a community of players so obnoxious, dishonest and annoying that you’ll wish, with all your heart, that the reptilian lizard people would come down here and fuck us all up for crimes against decency.

Now any stay in this particular community will feel like a fucking lifetime to normal people but our friends at Epic Games decided that what this mode really needed was an achievement for getting 10,000 kills. 10,000? That’s more kills than the game has shades of grey and brown. 10,000… seriously…10,000. TEN. THOUSAND.

Ah, but wait, in an effort to cement their place in the 2008 ‘Stupidest Fucking Arse of The Year’ awards, Epic went one further for the sequel. Well, not one further but rather 90,000 further. Yep, one hundred thousand kills. I can’t rant about that any further as I think I feel blood in my underpants already.

Fifa 2010
EA’s FIFA series has come on leaps and bounds in recent iterations, completely outclassing the Pro Evo series and delivering just about the most complete simulation of the sport of football. However, for reasons that are between EA and their god (a god that, I imagine, is quite happy with the idea of butchering children and feeding them to their parents), they put in a ‘win 100 ranked matches’ achievement just as the world was getting rid of them.

Now a hundred matches doesn’t sound too bad, but it is. It’s worse than bad. It’s abysmal because, as everyone but EA knows, playing FIFA online is completely ruined by their community. Any cheap trick is adopted universally from the ‘running through the defence from kick-off’ trick to the ‘square the ball’ tactic that baffles the goalkeeper every time. Add to that, glitched formations and the fact that EVERYONE picks the same team and you’ve got yourself one joyless experience.

To make things even better, quitting while you are losing has no real consequences and it denies the other player a win. Add to that, the fact that you can’t adjust match times so you are committed to six minutes per half. So expect that shit-stain on the other side of the internet to quit on you eleven minutes in when you are 3-0 up.

See also: Prey (250 wins on a game so deserted and laggy that it may possibly be set on the moon), Beautiful Katamari (play for 100 hours online), Mortal Kombat Vs. DC (win 25 ranked matches in a row, quitting players cancel your streak) and Brothers In Arms (play online every day for a year or something).

Repetitions
Otherwise known as ‘miscellaneous’, these achievements require you to do the same thing over and over. This can be anything from completing all the side missions, delivering all the cars, levelling up all your characters, completing the game numerous times and everything else that makes you weep into your pillow at night. As with collectathons, these achievements emphasise soul-crushing repetition that requires little or no skill, keeping you barely aware of what you are doing, like a patient on the edge of a coma.

Here are the shitty dicks of the bunch:

Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
This oddly linear Korean RPG was largely ignored by the Xbox user-base when it was released but a slow and steady online community and near-permanent bargain basement pricing have made Kingdom quite the cult gem. Now this isn’t a review and I’m not about to recommend it to anyone, even if I did like it, but the achievements reveal something incredibly bleak.

The librarian's minions lay some heavy shit down on the latest moron to tea-ring an ancient tome

The achievement for levelling up all six characters to level 80 takes over 100 hours to do. It effectively requires you to complete the entire game at least twelve times and is likely to leave you mentally scarred. However, in a staggering display of arrogance and sadism, the achievement is named ‘Curse of the Developer’. They knew that the achievement would only bring pain and then joked about it. Well, in kind, may I wish upon them a completely fair curse in return. May all your children be born as clown/midget hybrids.

In space, no one can hear you grind

Darkstar One: Broken Alliance
Fans of not-all-that-great Elite clones were well-catered for by this effort. My review can be found on the main site but a one word summary would be “‘salright.” Darkstar One is kind of like a Sunday drive, but in space. You tootle happily around the galaxy twatting pirates and begging your poorly-acted companion to shut the fuck up before turning the sound off completely and putting on something less irritating…like ‘Greatest Blackboard Scrapes Volume One’.

Completionists found their stay in space extended far beyond what was reasonable by an innocuous achievement that required you to visit 300 trade stations. Trade stations act as shops in Darkstar One and given that the trading is shallower than a bath that Dawn French has sat in, you really have very little reason to visit them at all normally. Visiting 300 hundred of them is about as entertaining as visiting 300 branches of Poundland and just as worthwhile.

Burnout Paradise
Or, the game that absolutely ruined Guns ‘N Roses for me. No-one is really sure if this is even a good game or not. I mean, it’s kind of fun online, doing challenges with up to seven buddies but look at those challenges – they’re shit aren’t they? They involve next to no skill, with all the fun provided by the players themselves who, starved of any interest from the game, inevitably take turns crashing into each other.

The single-player campaign brings everything in to horrible focus: races against trademarked, horrible AI, music direct from Room 101 and distractions from your mates all conspire to make Burnout Paradise feel entirely ordinary. Especially as Paradise City feels like a bunch of roads to nowhere with buildings marginally less interactive than those in GTAIV.

It gets worse though as you progress through your licenses. I remember the point where it all became too much for me; just after I got my A license, the game cheerily informed me that over 140 events stood between me and my Elite license. I know I can do them, the game isn’t that hard, but I just don’t want to. It’s on my ‘not on your fucking life’ list along with watching Big Brother or listening to Nickelback.

*See Also: * Just Cause 2 (all of it basically. One hour’s gameplay extended to the lifespan of the known universe), The Saboteur (destroy 1000+ freeplay targets), Pure Football (unlock all the players – with no checklist available this takes at least thirty hours) and Virtua Fighter 5 (defeat enough AI opponents to fill all of Japan).




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11 Comments

  1. Rook says:

    I had an idea to write an article about collect achievements after the woeful collect 189 wanted posters in Mafia 2. I did it, but it was tiresome. I think the best collection mission I’ve done was in Bully because as you completed the geoegraphy classes, it would actually update your map of the locations of the collectables.

    Other brain numbing collect misisons would be 200 pigeons in GTA, Dog Tags in Wolverine, Gems in Tomb Raider, all weapons on EDF. They only serve to make you spend more time in the gameworld, and try to kill your enjoyment for the game.

  2. Lorna says:

    Fucking loved this Rich. As ever, grade A rantage and, aside from your lack of respect for Burnout, I agree. Grinding is the bane of a completionist’s life and ranked online achievements are the work of pure evil. Collectathons are pretty horrific…I have started Saboteur, however, I got distracted wandering around taking out the myriad of freeplay targets and haven’t actually progressed far into the game at all. I know that by the time I do get back into the game, the end will be dulled by the thought that I now have hundreds of targets to blow up over a massive map.

    Yes, still shiver over that missed Assassin’s Creed flag. The shimmer that the flags gave off was identical to a weird tear-shimmer that the game had when looking over a distance…the number of times I rode madly to get to it to discover nothing excpet a building or piece of scenery made me livid. For other arse collectables, see Alan Wake…missed a thermos or sign? Tough tittie, you’ll have no idea which chapter it was on to even narrow it down, unlike the radio and TV braodcasts. At least the signs remained, so that, if need be, you could just do them over. That shredded my nerves like there was no tomrrow…worse is that I will eventually have to play through the cluster fuck DLC to get the missed alarm clocks there…screw that. The DLC was a pain in the arse.

    Anyway, rambled long enough. great, stuff, fab Jordan jokes, and made me laugh like hell :)

  3. Edward says:

    As Lorna said, stupidly hilarious, amazing to read, and also pretty informative about the worst of the bunch :)
    Awesome stuff!

  4. Jase says:

    I have a horrible habit of starting collectithons and then ditching them halfway through its a horrible habit.

    Great article Rich especially the bit about schools :D

  5. Tania says:

    Great article Rich. You really are the King Of Rants, and never fail to make me laugh with them! Especially lol’d at the Dawn French joke :)

  6. Richie says:

    Thanks for the comments, Loves.

    Also great work from Markuz on the screenies/captions.

  7. MarkuzR says:

    All compliments should be directed at Lorna my friend – not had a chance to even read the finished article yet thanks to exhaustive work schedules this week. You’re right though, she did a great job on all the articles this week :) I’m looking forward to getting a chance to sit down and read it properly, hopefully tomorrow or later tonight.

  8. Richie says:

    Well done, that girl.

  9. Ben says:

    “10,000? That’s more kills than the game has shades of grey and brown.”

    It’s funny because it’s true :)

    Made for nice reading with my Sunday chocolate and crisp sandwich.

  10. Jimmy says:

    I think the only game that has done collectables right was Arkham Asylum – The Riddler challenges were optional and a fun little mini game.

    The worst for me has to be the GTA series and GTA4 in particular – 200 pigeons!! Fuck that, you lazy game padding arseholes.

  11. MarkuzR says:

    I’m blessed. Blessed in two ways really… the first is that I don’t give a shit about achievements or even, for the most part, completing a game. It’s all about escaping from drudgery for me so, as long as playing the game means I’m away from work or any other typical mundanity, then I’m happy to play until I want to stop. The second of my blessings is that I tend to be very meticulous through natural gameplay anyway so those collectathon cheevs usually pop even though I’m not specifically trying for any.

    Having said that… I do admit to trying THREE times to get the last four achievements in Mad Moxxi’s Underdome as I wanted to actually complete Borderlands. Yes, there are those games that I enjoy enough to take to completion but it’s very rare. The first time, we got to round 11 and one of us got put in the penalty box without telling the other so when the other one ended up in trouble they were shouting for help and none came… which meant bumping us back down several levels and then we got disconnected from each other. Second time we got to level 17 and ended up in the penalty box and bumped back to level 15… then from that point we couldn’t even get past level 15 to progress to the next level, both of us being level 61 characters and, therefore, with tougher enemies. Pete had to leave, which meant leaving the XBox on for two days until he was back so we could continue… but they switched themselves off after the inactivity period. Third time… disconnection issues again.

    When we finally managed to get through all 100 levels of the Underdome, it was with Pete playing as a level 8 character and me in my level 61 mode. It was a grind, for sure, but it was worth it in the end. I just wish we’d done it legitimately rather than copping out to take the cheat’s way out. Still love the game though!

    I’m currently playing through Oblivion on the PC but last night had a brief moment where I thought I may actually go for completion in Fallout 3 and Oblivion on the XBox as I’ve completed “the game” in both instances, but not COMPLETED them as far as XBox is concerned.

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