In Defense of Easy Mode

Metal-Gear-Rising-Revengeance

I felt a little uneasy upon slipping Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance into my 360 for the first time. I’m a diehard Metal Gear fan, and my studies of the series’ complicated, nonsensical lore border on an obsession, but this wasn’t the plodding, predictably rhythmic stealth gameplay I was used to; Revengeance is a game for the hair-trigger crowd, a game where the best defense (or only defense, due to the lack of a dedicated “block” button) is an unrelenting offense. I hadn’t played any of Platinum’s previous games, nor any of Revengeance‘s spiritual predecessors like Ninja Gaiden or Heavenly Sword, so I began to feel like I was a little bit out of my depth, this being my first lightning-quick melee action game and all. I had heard prerelease rumours about the game’s difficulty being comparable to Platinum’s previous super-hardcore hit Bayonetta, and a friend of mine (who is much, much more skilled at these kinds of games than I am) confirmed the rumours upon release. I became worried whether I’d even be able to beat the damn thing, and I hadn’t even played it yet.

As I began adjusting my menu options upon starting a new game, I paused at the difficulty select screen. I knew that if I picked “normal,” I would undoubtedly kick the bucket more than a few times, and I really, really wasn’t looking forward to trying to take down those infamous Platinum Games bosses. So I struggled with some shame for a few minutes, then decided I really didn’t give a damn whether anyone knew I played Metal Gear Rising on easy mode, and just went ahead and dialed down the difficulty.  It proved to be the right decision; although the game is laughably easy (not once have I ever been in danger of dying), easy mode has allowed me to just power through the repetitive combat and quickly get from cutscene to cutscene, which is admittedly what I’m really playing the game for. In all honesty, I think I’m also enjoying the combat far more than I would’ve playing on a higher difficulty; the absence of any imminent danger has allowed me to get really creative with my combos, allowing me to go for style pointz rather than fall back on the frantic button-mashing that characterized my early acclimation period.

It’s not often that I play through a game on easy mode (in fact, Metal Gear Rising is the first one I can recall), and it’s possible that’s due to that ugly Internet stigma against games these days being too easy (a thinly veiled “uphill both ways in the snow” argument if there ever was one). If there’s anything that a hardcore gamer is more insecure about (other than fake gamer girls), it’s being perceived as a casual. I’ve never considered a punishing level of difficulty to be  a selling point for me, mainly because I get absolutely no pleasure from a masochistic, frustrating gameplay experience. I don’t find replaying a section of a game over and over again very fun; I enjoy quickly making progress and moving on to see the next piece of new content. There becomes a point where the “challenge” quickly boils over into “apathy,” and I can no longer bring myself to keep banging my head against a wall.

Part of my decision to play MGR on easy mode also had to do with what I personally wanted out of the game. Like all Metal Gear games, I was really just in it for the story, for the melodramatic monologues to the poetic treatises on the nature of war. The story itself , with major conceits centering around the war economy, electrolytes, and orphan brains, is just the kind of psychotic, nonsensical mess I was hoping for. So by allowing myself to just waltz through the combat, I don’t feel like I was sacrificing a major part of the experience; someone who played Ninja Gaiden for the super-difficult combat sequences might, but I didn’t. There are certain difficult games that I’ve indeed mastered in the past (Fire Emblem and Super Meat Boy come to mind), so it’s not like I can’t handle challenging games, but I ain’t always up for it. I play games for pleasure, not to work myself up into a rage.

Having tried easy mode and actually enjoyed it, I think it’s entirely possible that I might make the switch for other games in the future. When I began playing Fire Emblem: Awakening last month, a game in a series that I’ve always played using self-imposed limitations to artificially make the game harder (why I continue to do so is beyond me, but it’s like tradition now, I guess), I considered turning permadeath off and enabling mid-battle saving, which many diehards would claim is blasphemy. I ended up leaving it on, and I suffered many character deaths and forced restarts over the course of the game.  Awakening is one of those rare games that is so damn good I don’t care if I have to replay an hour of gameplay, but I still wonder if I could have saved myself some time by just disabling permadeath and enabling saving. Let the trolls have my supposed “dignity”; in the future, I’ll just enjoy my games on whatever terms I please, thank you very much.

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