GameFront 2010: The Hardest F**king Games

After what we all went through last year with Demon’s Souls, discussing a game‘s difficulty is almost philosophical. For our list of the hardest f**king games of 2010, then, the GameFront felt obligated to rethink what truly makes a game more “difficult” than its peers. Below you’ll find some games that are hard in the traditional sense, and maybe we’ll have one or two that aren’t, on the surface, so bad, but one thing they definitely all have in common is they made us make the face that guy up there is making now. Read on.

Phil Owen’s picks

Alpha Protocol

Because it’s a Western RPG, you can take your Mike Thorton and make him be good at whatever you want him to be good at, like sneaking around or shooting guns or hacking computers and picking locks or taking bullets with a smile. But you can’t be good at all of those things, and so you must specialize.

Because the combat is mostly terrible and annoying, the sneak skill naturally seems very important, and if you’re playing on Hard, it’s the only way to go. It’s also a ton of fun, since it allows you to turn yourself invisible and run around stabbing folks in the neck with a reckless abandon that would make Detective Mark Hoffman proud.

And then you have a boss fight. the first one isn’t too difficult, and so you go right on upgrading your sneak ability and not upgrading a shooting guns ability. And then you run in to, say, Conrad Marburg, and you’re absolutely f**ked. You will not beat him. The other boss fights are a little easier, but they’re still absurdly more difficult than the rest of the game because you can only deal with them through brute force.

Fallout: New Vegas

One of the changes Obsidian made for New Vegas was to give armored people and creatures a damage threshold. This makes the game much harder than Fallout 3, particularly in regards to the most dangerous creatures in the wasteland: Deathclaws.

I was terrified of deathclaws in Fallout 3, but that fear was tempered by the knowledge that if I got a deathclaw one-on-one, I could take it. That is not the case in New Vegas, even if you’re playing on Very Easy, because their DT is extraordinarily high. My quest to take down the deathclaw alpha and the mother deathclaw at Quarry Junction was easily one of the most trying experiences I’ve had in gaming this generation outside Demon’s Souls.

Shawn Sines’ picks

Since we’re talking hardest game by difficulty and not hardest game to play, I have one stand out choice… Mega-man 10. The Blue bomber’s series is renown for its difficulty. While Mega-Man 10 was not quite the thumb grinding, soul crushing activity that its predecessor proved to be, I still have nightmares of repeating level after level in an attempt to just kill the next boss and make the pain go away.

Another game I just could not handle was Monster hunter Tri on the Wii. I’ve been attempting to like these games since the first import on the PS2 years ago but I just can’t manage to get the hang of the solo hunting gameplay. Hunting with limited teammates proves even more disastrous for me since I’m bad by myself.

The final “hardest” game on my list is not so much the game itself, but some of the creatures in it.. I mean what the heck was up with the bears and mountain lions on Red Dead Redemption? I rarely got killed by banditos, but one random bear would come out of nowhere and take out my horse and me… and then I’d imagine it just sitting on my corpse out of spite while it licked it’s lips munching on old betsy.

Mark Burnham’s pick

LIMBO

LIMBO will deceive you. Exclusively on Xbox Live, LIMBO appears to be a quaint little platform-puzzle game, with a dark, and yet charming black-and-white art style. It’s simple enough, until you get about an hour in. Then it starts to melt your brain while slapping you in the face. You die. Every. Second. Once you get the very simple controls, you’re dead. If running, jumping and activating machines are like rock n’ roll, LIMBO starts playing hard bebop jazz on your ass pretty quickly. It takes simple platforming elements and weaves them into evil puzzles.

There’s all this weird stuff with gravity, for instance. You’ll need to flick switches that reverse gravity, in mid-air while you’re falling, back and forth multiple times per fall. Timing, in general, is a real bitch in LIMBO. Miss a jump, or rope swing, and you’re going down hard.

You’ll die so many times that each small victory is a stand-up-and-cheer moment of reward, which is one of the best things about LIMBO. The momentum of actually moving through its (very short) campaign is seriously rewarding, even if you tend to reload right where you died anyway.

Don’t expect to just power through LIMBO with dumb trial and error, either. Some of the puzzles are so hard you’ll have to put down the controller and think for a while–contemplate your options, think outside the box, have existential epiphanies. Stuff like that. Then you try again, and die more.

Ben Richardson’s pick

Dead Rising 2

Yeah, yeah, I know Dead Rising 2 wasn’t really that hard, and it was certainly much easier than the first game. It is, however, extremely uncompromising, a quality for which I give it a lot of credit. You can’t help but admire Keiji Inafune’s stubbornness: his game plays the way he conceived it, and he’s not about to hold your hand, or commiserate with you if you die. The save system he conceived is downright Byzantine, and when you couple it to the relative power of the various psychos the game throws at you, you end up with a lot of loading screens to look at. The game has a nasty way of enticing you to take risks, then gleefully punishing you for not saving beforehand. By the end, I was using the restroom more than prostate cancer patient at a beer pong tournament.

There’s also the fact that everything works on a timer, which further rankles my coddled, modern sensibilities. Embarassingly, I had to restart my playthrough from scratch a couple hours in, after filling my allotment of three save games with a trio of unplayably procrastinated files. You told me about the the goons at the first three bank vaults, but failed to mention the fourth posse with the van! Damn you, Inafune!

Phil Hornshaw’s pick

StarCraft II

Beyond just being a difficult game to be great at playing, Blizzard knows how to stack up a challenge. StarCraft II’s campaign isn’t seriously difficult for the most part, but every once in a while (mostly when Kerrigan shows up), things go nuts, especially on the harder difficulties. The game’s final mission — holding back swarms of Zerg while occasionally eviscerating them in a wave of energy from a special artifact — starts out okay, and quickly escalates into a full-bore race against the clock just to survive.

Granted, StarCraft II is a hard game to be good at, period, but there wasn’t much else this year that challenged me so much as managing all the various forces and buildings as the Queen of Blades steamrolled through my outer defenses. Some of the old strategies from a decade ago that 14-year-old me relied upon, namely stockpiling a ton of battle cruisers and watching them go to work, failed me horribly on more than one occasion.

For somebody who doesn’t often drop a console controller in favor of a mouse and keyboard, StarCraft II gave me a few hair-pulling moments that I had to come back to later. It was the kind of game that would sometimes wake me up in the middle of the night with a fresh idea for a strategy to best a mission — I can’t say that for any other game this year.

Jon Soucy’s pick

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow

Not sure why but I just could not get through any boss fights without several deaths, even with the very first bosses. I can’t really nail it down to either the game being “Just That Hard” or if I really just suck “Just That Hard.” I will go with the latter for now although I did have the difficulty set to max. Maybe I’m not the only one who smashed their face into the controller on this game, but it was still an awesome game and worth a play through if you haven’t tried it.

Ross Lincoln

Fable III

2010 is the year of games that substituted cheating for actual challenge, and Fable III is the single worst cheater of them all. By that standard, it is without a doubt the most difficult game of 2010.

Here’s why:

1. You spend the first half of the game as the leader of a rebel movement to overthrow your tyrannical brother. Easy enough. But when you finally do so, you learn that he only turned into Stalin to prepare the kingdom to withstand the vague, monstrous invaders that have NEVER EVER BEEN MENTIONED BEFORE BY ANYONE, EVER.

2. As it turns out, the weapons and defenses necessary to prevent the kingdom from being destroyed will cost 6 million pounds. Money you, as king, are going to have to cough up.

3. The problem is that you made a lot of promises to your supporters, and honoring those promises costs you a lot of money. Every time one of them comes to collect, you’re presented only with the choice of living up to your word, or completely stabbing them in the back. This makes sense when choosing between saving Orphanage or turning it into a Whorehouse, but it makes none whatsoever when you have to choose between no taxes, period, or TAX THE HELL OUT OF EVERYONE. Very likely you’ll end up losing almost everything keeping your promises.

4. And yes, that’s right, you can’t do the obvious and raise taxes on the rich while not soaking the poor. Seriously, a game set in a fictionalized version of England, but the king of all the land can’t hire an economic advisor who’s read Keyenes or Smith? Bull.

5. Also, you can’t just tell the citizenry about this threat and see if they’ll chip in.

6. So instead of enjoying yourself, or rallying the people you “liberated”, or anything that isn’t a tiresome bore, you end up spending the entirety of the second half desperately trying to earn money, only to find you simply can’t. Sure, you can go out on quests and earn some money, but it’s always a paltry amount compared to the time spent. And any time you amass an even slightly substantial nest egg, the game comes up with an excuse to rob you of all of it, typically in the form of “screw, or do not screw over your constituents” choices. And don’t look to the minigames for help. Whether you help a baker or a blacksmith, no matter how big the gold multiplier becomes, it will never actually generate more than a few hundred pieces of gold per sword or pie. You will literally spend days trying to overcome that restriction.

7. In the end, if you fail to earn money on your own, you either have to stab all your friends in the back, soak the poor, and save the land but pretty much lose because everyone remembers you as the worst tyrant who ever lived, or you do right by your people and they all die, and even when you defeat the personality-free final bosses, the kingdom is ruined and you’re remembered as the ruler who ruined the country. It’s infuriating, and is the reason you’ll probably only play it through once before giving up and going back to Oblivion for the 700th time.

Managing to make a game that is, scene to scene, extremely easy while still imposing restrictions that make it one of the most difficult to complete is no small achievement. For being damn near impossible to win and still be enjoyable, Fable III is, hands down, the most difficult game of 2010.

Phil O’s two cents: After playing through the game once, I was so pissed that I wasn’t able to be a good bro and save everyone that I was dedicated to beating Peter Molyneux at his own dastardly game the second time through. I maxed out my pie-making skills as soon as possible, and then I spent about six hours of game time doing nothing but making pies and, from time to time, buying property. Once I bought every store and the really expensive houses (the cheap houses are too much of a time sink to be worth much), I resumed playing the game. I completed every possible sidequest and generally wasted as much time as I could before arriving at the final battle with 8 million gold in the treasury after having kept every promise and made all the Good decrees. Then I beat the game and unlocked an achievement called “Tough Love.” This achievement is given for saving the maximum number of citizens, and it’s called “Tough Love” because the game thinks you can’t be good and save everyone, or at least that you aren’t going to do that. That’s really dumb, guys, and that achievement really drives home what Ross said above.

Impressed by Dead Rising 2′s difficulty? Planning to pick up the Case West DLC? Take advantage of our full walkthru.

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