AU Diary: Enjoying Red Faction's Casual Affair

It would appear I did what a lot of other players have done with Red Faction: Guerrilla. I dropped its difficulty down to Casual.

Like Wired's Chris Kohler, I'd been finding Red Faction: Guerrila an enjoyable yet frustrating experience on the Normal difficulty. Chief of which was the realisation that, in a game constructed around the joy of destruction, I was doing an awful lot of hiding behind walls and engaging the enemy with firearms. All I really wanted to do was smash things with my giant space hammer.

As Russ Frushtick writes over on MTV's Multiplayer: "If the difficulty impedes access to the greatest part of a game, just toss the difficulty!"

So I did.

Switching difficulty levels in most games merely tweaks the maths concerning how much damage you can dish out and absorb or, occasionally, how many enemies you encounter. In a shooter, this forces you to become more cautious as you move up the settings; in Killzone 2, for example, you're far more reliant on taking cover.

In an RPG like Fallout 3, the harder difficulties necessitate more frequent use of your items - ie. you'll actually need to use the various drugs - and more varied use of the targeted body shots in VATS - ie. you'll now want to cripple arms and legs instead of a safe torso shot.

Most of the time, a game's difficulty settings don't change the way you play to any major degree. Instead they encourage or demand you make better or even full use of the existing play systems.

Bumping Red Faction: Guerrilla down to its "Casual" difficulty is almost like playing a different game. Crucially, too, it becomes a different game by emphasising the game's foremost strength: destruction. As my fellow bloggers have said, Casual play makes the hammer your weapon of choice and wards off the nagging sense that you're engaging with just another third-person shooter.

Another game that does this - and I realise I'm dipping back into the depths of time here - is the Thief series. On its Expert setting, Thief not only tasked you with extra objectives but it forbade you from killing anyone - and not just innocent civilians but the very guards out to stop you. As a result, to successfully tackle an Expert mission, the Thief player had to rethink what he knew, reconsidering the best angle of approach and reassessing the tools at his disposal.

Difficulty levels carry an increased challenge for the more seasoned player. More games should attempt difficulty levels that tinker with the nature of that challenge.

Can you think of any other games whose difficulty levels fundamentally change the way you play? And what games do you suggest have got their difficulty settings right?


    What about the difficulty setting actually changes in RF:G, though? I played through it on normal the whole way through, and it was pretty damn frustrating at times.

    metal gear solid 4

    Hitman never had a difficulty setting but the different ratings did make the game increasingly harder which is perhaps a good fit for the game, any level is only as difficult as you make it on yourself.

    silent assassin rank where you could not kill anyone except targets, use any firearms even on targets and have zero alerts made the way you approached a level completely different from replaying the levels for fun with every weapon unlocked so you could run in guns blazing.

      Hitman did have a difficulty setting, it was based on the Save system and I'm sure that the enemies were more aware as well on the harder settings, I don't remember specifics at the moment, but for example...

      Easy - Allowed you to save 7 times during the mission
      Medium - 5 times
      Hard - 3 times
      Expert - No Saves

      I'll admit that I have done the same with Red Faction, I'm still dying though, but mainly because running around the base with a hammer or rocket launcher trying to level the place... those flyers are annoying though...

    Funnily enough I have an article that should be popping up on IGNAU sometime soon that discusses this very issue. [/shameless plug]

    Halo has the difficulty settings spot on.

    For example, when you increase the difficulty you face more enemies who are more varied and use stronger weapons. However, once these enemies are disposed of you can pick up these stronger weapons and the copious amounts of grenades they drop.

    With significanly more explosives lying around the game becomes one of abundance, as opposed to most shooters where increasing the difficulty level makes you carefully ration your inventory.

    I had some issues tackling Red Faction: Guerrilla until I realised that, although you're encouraged to make use of a variety of different destructive methods, there is usually one fail-safe approach to complete a mission.

    For instance, at one point you're tasked with taking down three generators after making it through the Free Fire Zone. I tried wading in on foot. Couldn't do it, I kept getting wiped out. I tried driving through the generator buildings but the car always got trashed. Finally, I remembered I had a jump pack. So, I would rush to the building, jump on top and be effectively safe from all fire. blow a hole in the roof, plant three grenades on the generator, bail out into the nearest vehicle and rush to the next, then trigger the explosion. Missions successful.

    Ditto with another, where you're tasked with destroying a bunch of copters on helipads. At first, I tried rushing the base and destroying them with explosives. I kept getting mowed down. Remembering the mission briefing, to avoid being seen, I jet packed up the side of an obvious mountain, located outside the base. Then, I simply Nano-Rifled the shit out of each plane till it exploded. Mission complete.

    I've got to defend the difficulty, though. In an interview with one of the designers, which I believe you (or a US colleague) posted. The comment was that Volition wanted to player to feel as though they were playing as an insurgent. The title of the game is Guerrilla. In other words, you've got to be sneaky and creative.

    The game, at first, encourages a false sense of bravado. With all the explosive weaponry provided, you're made to feel as though you can run in. So you do, then you die under hail of bullets. Slow down, step back and reassess each situation and you'll see a different, more obscure method of completing each mission objective. I don't feel the difficulty is inhibiting, rather it's a deterrent to a direct "third-person shooter" approach.

      Here's a response in more detail:

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