The End Of A Game Should Be A Reward, Not A Chore

WARNING: This post contains mild Modern Warfare 3 spoilers.

Video games are all about the carrot and the stick. You endure repetitive tasks in order to receive just enough of a reward to compel you to complete more repetitive tasks.

Why, then, do so few games ever let you get your hands on the carrot after you've endured everything the stick can throw at you?

I'm talking specifically about the end of a game. And how almost every single game ever made feels the need to make the last thing you do the hardest thing you do. There's surely a reason for this. A need to put all the player's skills to work, probably. That the end of a game should be like the end of a movie, the toughest encounter the one before the credits roll.

But it's all so unsatisfying. You exert yourself mentally - and often physically - for hours, and what do you get at the end of it? You get a short cutscene, then credits. If you're lucky.

For someone who is playing a game for its story, that might just be enough to satisfy, but what about the other half of the reason people play games? For the thrill of actually playing? Those people are often ignored by an endgame, and that's not right.

More games should take cues from Modern Warfare 3, with the "Juggernaut" opening to the last level. Actually, no, not Modern Warfare 3. It's just following in the footsteps of something else. More games should take cues from the original Chronicles of Riddick game.

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was released in 2004. It was a dark, atmospheric and brutal game, one of a rare breed of first-person titles which makes you a vulnerable human instead of a bullet-absorbing superman. You spend a lot of time sneaking around in the dark and avoiding combat, so precarious and vulnerable is your position in the game world.

So imagine the player's delight when, at getting to the penultimate stage in Escape From Butcher Bay, they were asked to step out of the shadows and into the cockpit of a giant armoured combat mech. It flipped the game immediately. The hunted became the hunter and the vulnerable became the unstoppable as you stalk the corridors mowing down more bad guys in a few minutes as you would have in entire sections of the game doing things the hard way.

It was a joy. Just like Modern Warfare 3's closing. You weren't gaining anything story-wise from it. It was just the designers realising that, you know what, after hours and hours of making things hard, you deserve a break. A cathartic release. Relieve some of that stress and take it out on the bad guys who have been making your life hell for the past 5-10 hours.

Sure, it could have been better. Again, like MW3, once the fun is over there's still one last section to clear the old-fashioned way. In a perfect world, the table-turning would continue through right to the credit sequence, letting you directly revel in the glory the act of a boss battle and story sequence can only seek to simulate.

But taken against almost every other game ever made, where the final stage is often a tiring trawl through unbeatable foes and countless respawns, it's like a little slice of gaming heaven.

Total Recall is a look back at the history of video games through their characters, franchises, developers and trends.


    Half Life 2, supercharged gravity gun.
    'nuff said.

      My thoughts exactly, one of the most satisfying end sections of any game I've played... until the 'boss fight' and cliffhanger at the very end at least :p

    Luke no offense, I'm sure you'll take it that way, but can you possibly do an article lately without spooging all over Modern Warfare? This is getting embarassing. Really.

      Tend to agree, I thought this article was going to be about how awesome RIddick was, instead we get "MODERN WARFARE THREE DOES SHIT FROM 2004!"

        Uh, what? It was totally an article about how cool Riddick was. Luke said himself that MW3 has used the same technique as predecessors, it's jsut the most recent exampleo f games doing ti right. Like it or, something like 10 million copies of MW3 have been sold and (allowing for shared computers/consoles) probably been played by 15-20 million individual people by now. It's a very useful example to draw on because a lot of people can relate to it.

        You can bitch and moan about Luke liking MW3 all you like, that doesn't stop it being popular and well known.

          He said how call it was to get in the mech suit at the end, and how that's now in MW3 and makes it better because of that. Not much about Riddick was actually said beyond that and the "Sneaking Squishy Human"

          Would have been nice if the article actually went into some depth about the game. Rather than being used to promote more MW3 coverage on Kotaku

    I find it interesting that you bring up Modern Warfare 3 when you talk about "thrill of actually playing". Call of Duty has been more about the narrative than the gameplay for years now, the regenerating health and linear corridor level design is all about funnelling the player from set piece A to set piece B without getting bogged down by nuisances like running low on HP or taking a wrong turn and getting lost.

    Of course, after typing all this up I saw who the author was...

      I think instead of Call of Duty you meant "pretty much every FPS since 2006", and while your point is taken I have to ask why that invalidates Luke's point in any way whatsoever.

      MW3 had a good closing level with the Juggernaut bit, and does a good job generally of breaking up the mundane shooty-shooty bits with interesting bits. The juggernaut bit in the last level, the QTE duel with Makarov, the AC-130 parts, the calling in air support parts, the sniping parts, etc.

    Singularity did this well - you get to the end of the game and then you get unlimited energy for your time device thingy. Nothing can stop you, you blast every enemy into dust instantly.

    Very satisfying.

    The worst ending to a game has to be the end of Borderlands. It's a stupidly hard boss fight, and you don't even get to get into the vault that you fought the whole way through the game to get to! Man that was disappointing.

      i thought the Vault boss was a cake walk, and i wasn't over leveled or anything. :s

        I was lvl32 Roland and was entirely perk specced to favour the sentry and not my own weapon. I beat it first try in a few minutes.

        Somewhere along the line I picked up a shotgun that fires the entire clip in a single trigger pull. Oh and it uses shotgun ammo, but rockets fly out of it. That and hot swapping to Kromm's sidearm killed it easier than almost any part of the game.

      I also had to redo that boss fight a few times to get it. But regardless of how easily you defeated the final boss I think we can all agree the ending was an amazingly colossal disappointment.

      No sequence, no vault, no nothing. Just "LoL you finished the game, wanna start again and keep leveling?"

      I do agree the ending could have been better, but the whole point was that we found the vault, just turns out that instead of a room full of treature, it was the jail of an extradimentional alien horror. Unlike dragons, they generally don't line their homes with gold coins.

      I think I stumbled into that boss fight in a random co-op game once - man alive all the dying! Still I think my Lilith went up 10 levels in record time just by going up against that thing.

    Quick point: Riddick is always the hunter.

    That said, I will agree with your general point but this is a battle with the constant push and pull of a game's difficulty curve. The final fight/encounter should be the hardest but there should also be just that little bit at the end of the struggle where it pays off and shows that the effort was worth it, not just a roll of the credits.

    The point of most games is for it to get harder as your ability increases. This is the standard difficulty curve line that makes gameplay compelling.
    The only games that really go against this are MMOs like WoW where the more you play at endgame, the stronger you get, and the easier the game becomes.

    ANOTHER douchebag article over COD and some other bits about games the writer probally has never played. Also you left out the insults of calling us idiot asshole elitists.

    Super Metroid

      Came here for Super Metroid mention, left satisfied.

        Hypercannon FTW

    *raises head, takes note, goes back to playing Skyrim*

    You guys should stop putting Luke's articles on the Aussie Kotaku site, no-one with half a brain cares about him jizzing over MW3 and sucking Kotick's dick.

    Riddick didn't put the hardest part at the end of the game? Then what was that rubbish with the two invisible death robots that spewed fire from chainguns while the bad guy hid in his panic cube thing and the player cowered behind a pillar?

    I thought Half Life 2 would have been a way better example here, as somebody already mentioned. When I first got my hands on that supercharged Gravity Gun I was like "NO WAAAAAY".

    Halo Reach also had an awesome ending, although it's quite the opposite to the examples Luke's given. That feeling of hopelessness mixed with the determination you got from seeing dead Spartans lying everywhere was pretty damn epic.

    why did you have to compare it to COD there are far more deserving games.

    I may get flamed for this, and I'm not saying it's the best ending evar!!!

    But I always liked the Halo Ending, it felt kind of epic driving like a madman through a space ship you just set to explode. Note you needed to be on Legendary to get the good ending.

    I suppose in a way that's what I really want from a Video games ending, closure. I don't want to see the credits roll and than have the bad guy get up and swear revenge with a "Buy the Next game to finish the fight" ad.

    Other endings that annoyed me for the wrong reasons. Was Ocarina of Time, I travelled time, took on all manner of evil and in the end all I got was to be a kid again. But in all fairness after all you sacrificed to get a second chance really was a great reward. But you know Adult Link was geared and a bad arse.

    And sometimes the best ending is a real sense of acomplishment when you beat a hard game and watch the credits roll and think yeah, I conquered this.

    And just to throw this out there, I'm not into CoD and I don't care if you are, by all means enjoy it. But I have to agree this is getting out of hand with the amount of articles this game is getting.

    I actually like the torturous all the way to the end instead of the sudden game-flipping scenariio where you have 5 minutes of "superman".....It reminds me that in war situations (which is what most games are based fantasy sci-fi or modern FPS), its not about being a fucking gungho hero (even if the story tells it that way), its about putting your mind to the job and getting on with the hard work

    Actually, reading this has made me think that I would've appreciated a "God Mode" reward for completing Arkham City, rather than "Here's the same game again but harder".

    What abotu Space Station Silicon Valley on the N64? You had to collect all the gold trophies in order to get the 'real' ending, but there was a glitch and you couldn't get one of them, so you only ever got the non-existant ending.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now