The Rambleast Rant: Trophy Hunters’ Anonymous

Blastees, whore is a dirty word (back home, we say “hoore”, by the way – ours is a colourful tongue) and in this instance applies only in the broadest sense of its use, but my gaming endeavours of last Summer actively displayed traits found in so-called ‘Trophy Whores’, and at last I’m ‘fessing up to it. At times as I looked up at my top shelf and the modest, meagre games collection thereupon, I felt the slightest twinge of guilt that the majority of those titles had went uncompleted by me. Now, I use the term ‘complete’ in a strictly specific sense, here, in a sense I like to term “dashcomplete”.

Dashcompletion refers only to the game’s trophy list and the desirable Platinum trophy that resides at the top of it, which itself only unlocks after the rest of the trophies have been themselves unlocked. Call it OCD or whatever you fancy, but I like to have some sort of recorded reflection of my skill at a certain title. Having said that, one reflection is enough: a nice shiny (and ultimately arbitrary) 100% completion as viewed from the console’s dashboard (or on a number of online sites, somewhat unsettlingly) may not reflect actual completion of the game – for example, beating of the game on its hardest difficulty setting is a trophy-less task in each of the God Of War games – but for an increasingly dark period, it was enough for me. What follows is a chronicle of a few of the challenges that I met as I briefly lost my soul to hollow, joyless gaming and how I came back from the brink a better man. It even has a frigging conclusion, like the very best A-Level essays do.

Though I’d collected Platinums for Fallout 3 and the Sega Mega Drive Collection (all your FTW are belong to Ristar), I began in earnest with the God Of War titles, which required a full playthrough of each in order to either complete a speed run, collect items I’d missed or, in the third game’s case and the most frustrating of all, beat the mother on hard mode. Note that this wasn’t the hardest mode, and had a trophy existed for completing that I’d have abandoned the whole thing pretty early on. There were also challenges of specific stipulations for each game which required an absolute mastery of the games’ combat systems, and though they caused me great anguish when playing, in retrospect I cleaned the lot up pretty quickly. Good fun, and a good excuse to play each of those excellent games again. The first instance of having to try things about ten times (really not that much, right?) and retroactively convincing myself they took hours.

Soundtrack for GOW Trophy Slogging – Just the games’ soundtracks themselves. To be honest, there’s few game scores that get me going more than the God series’ horn-led masterpieces.

After that was Infamous, the criminally underplayed open-worlder from 2009, which required a second playthrough on the hardest setting and various combat-related and collectible-finding tasks. Most frustrating was my unwitting erasing of a save file one step away from completion that set me back a good few hours. If you’ve played the game you’ll recall collecting those nasty lil Blast Shards. Seriously, I had all but one of them and no sooner than I figured out which one I’d missed (they’re not tracked by your map) I saved over myself and then freaked out and broke a plate and swore and wept and took my top off and ran about in the wild night like a wounded thing.

Soundtrack for Infamous Trophy Slogging – The Radio 4 version of Knowing Me, Knowing You, which I repeated so often that every time I listen to it now, certain sections instantly recall portions of Infamous. I’m down wit’ dat.

Fallout: New Vegas, a game that took me a good forty hours to finish first time around, required a second playthrough on its ‘hardcore’ mode, which adds dehydration and fatigue to the already-substantial list of threats. Though this was among the most daunting tasks, the beauty of these games is that you get out of them what you put into them. As such, I was able to finish the story mode in an excitement-free but efficient 2 hours, knowing where to go and when to go there. This ignores some earlier Slogging in which I’d to consume certain amounts of HP from eating particular foods, inflict substantial damage with specific weapons and that sort of empty challenge.

Soundtrack for New Vegas Trophy Slogging – Unwisely, I combined some of my ultraviolent New Vegas sessions with the Floridian death metal of Deicide, which genuinely caused headaches and wired me to an extent where I wasn’t exactly approachable. Remember that this is a band whose music was used to torture POWs in Guantanamo.

Ratchet And Clank: A Crack In Time was a game that I uncharacterisically played on hard first time round, and as such had only one trophy left to get, which demanded a high score in the game-within-a-game found in the arcade (the twin-analogue My Blaster Runs Hot, boasting a multitude of Captain Qwark’s cathphrases of which “any of you villains order a nice tall glass of REVENGE?” is easily my favourite.) I’d tried to get back into the game to get it a few times before to no avail, but with my brother’s help was able to get it within a half hour or so of ‘organised’ co-operative play.

Soundtrack for A Crack In Time Trophy Slogging – The sound of my own voice chastising my bro for not getting his uncoordinated ass in gear yo.

Next up and most enjoyable was Naughty Dog’s pair of Uncharted games. Annoyingly, the first time I played Uncharted was a day or two before I downloaded the trophy patch for PS3 (which now comes pre-loaded), and so those trophies I had earned didn’t apply retroactively and I was too demotivated to play again, until just after finishing the second game (for the billionth time). What I disliked about the first Uncharted was less tiresome the second time around though its vehicle levels are as irksome as ever and the relentless combat sections towards the end grate even more on the Platinum-neccesary ‘Crushing’ playthrough – one of those needlessly realistic modes where a shot or two kills your player character. You know, like in real life. In addition, there were a couple challenges for killing numbers of enemies in succession with a single punch after softening them up with gunfire (that might even be the exact trophy description on the dash) which caused me no small amount of manfury.

Soundtrack for Uncharted and Uncharted 2 – Honestly, I can’t remember. I think I was listening to iTunes on shuffle. If it was on Top 25 Most Played, the Super Hang On soundtrack definitely figured into the equation. Perhaps more on that in the future…

Inspired by my enjoyment of Infamous I tracked down the Sly Trilogy (tracked down insomuch as when I found it, I had to pay Euros for it) which provided another three quick if not simple Plats. In particular, one level had picked up a bug in the porting ‘twixt PSes 2 and 3 and was damn near undoable, but I got there in the end. Not much more to say other than at that stage trophy hunting, and the addiction thereto, was beginning to suck the enjoyment out of gaming and I convinced myself I hated the games once I’d done with them, but since I’ve begun to pine for them a little bit and a rebuy is on the cards.

I parted company with another bunch-o-Euros for Resident Evil 5, a game which I’ve made no secret about despising and for some reason felt compelled to dashcomplete despite its awful story, hideous character design and all-round legacy spoiling. It wasn’t difficult but certainly time consuming, and if I look back I can see it as the first step on a path I just about managed to stay off of, namely one of playing games I had no interest in for trophy points (like those with Terminator 4 on their lists). The end of my brief tenure as a Trophy Hunter (oh, yeah, most of this happened in a month or two, maybe a little more – my gaming was as productive as my actual life was unproductive) was in sight…

Soundtrack for Resident Evil 5 and DLC Trophy Slogging – The sound of my own voice tutting, exclaiming that 1996 Chris would look at 2008, egg-drinking Chris and make this face:

I honestly will not stop ’til I get this meme off the ground…

Infamous 2 followed not long after and to be honest took me only a few days. Easier than the first and a challenge-free Plat with a few miffling trophies for playing user-created missions developed by absolutely the craziest of cracked minds.

Soundtrack for Infamous 2 Trophy Slogging – The game’s soundtrack – it didn’t take long enough to merit resorting to the ‘mute and music’ combo.

A couple PSN games also received the 100% treatment, including Sonic The Hedgehog (difficult because it’s one of my least favourite games of ALL time: read about that right here later this week), Sonic 2 (difficult because, well, it’s really difficult), X-Men (laughably easy and great, great fun. “MASTER OF MAGNET!”), and Infamous: Festival Of Blood (Sucker Punch really knocked it out the park with some first-class single player DLC).

Which brings us up to date- I’d played through as much of Batman: Arkham Asylum as I could but I hit a snag on the combat challenge missions (five of which require completion for a chain reaction of a mere three trophies that’d net me the platinum), which makes my earlier declaration of ‘combat mastery’ in God Of War seem like a cruel joke in comparison. This put me off the hunting for months and months and months, compounded by my absolute lack of interest in completing Bioshock a second time. It was around that point that I stopped thinking about Platting every disc I owned, and played through new releases on their own merits. While my newfound fondness for trophy collection saw an increase in my fondness for gaming, it (narrowly) avoided reaching the stage of playing games for Gamerscore points like so many Xbox users do. I’m not interested in competition: only a completion level within my own account. It almost got a little ridiculous, as games that I have no chance of ‘platinuming’ (such as Killzone 2, which requires skill enough to rank in the top 1% of that week’s leaderboards) I intended to play on another account. Part of my rehabilitation saw me overcome this, and the 0% that dog my account for the likes of LA Noire and GTA IV no longer haunt my sleep. I never got to the stage of picking up kids’ movie-adaptations for quick points, and besides, at this late stage in the game, what’s the point in trying to catch up anyway?

Recently, I’ve been playing Metal Gear Solid 2 for trophies and haven’t really had the time to enjoy the game on its own merits, considering how quickly I’ve been dashing through its various difficulties collecting dog tags (arguably my favourite challenge in gaming history, to be fair. Love making those Ruskies dance…). In fact, I’ve played through the main game at least 9 times in the week since its re-release, and have begun to despise it a little, not least because playing it on Extreme requires a level of actual skill I may not possess. Skill, or patience. Either way, I may leave it for a while and come back to it later, though I doubt I’ll ever Platinum the mother because there’s no way I’m completing all those VR missions- I’ve had Substance since its 2003 release (the very day of, in fact) and gave up on it some four years ago.

And guess what? In writing this, I’ve even managed to wrangle a point out of it, and that is this:

Do you, at heart and like I suspect I do, resent the Trophchievement culture forced upon contemporary gaming? I’ll grant you that it’s by no means that prominent that everyone feels obliged to do it, but it has enough power over certain types of people that renting, borrowing or indeed even buying Hannah Montana: The Movie is accepted as an occupational obligation for a few ultimately meaningless points. To be honest, as much as that trophy pop in the top right hand corner of the screen occasionally thrills me, I imagine I’d much rather play a game for what it is and what I want from it, but I’ve been conditioned to an extent (and by years of owning my own STUPID MIND) to feel bad for not running after those little cups. In the midst of my spell under the Trophy Wizard’s, fuck, I should have said ‘thrall’ because now I need to use the word ‘spell’ again…

Um…

Yeah, in the midst of my THRALL ‘neath the Trophy Wizard’s spell, I began to worry that I’d have no interest in playing games without Trophies (such as Orange Box or anything on Wii at all), but found that when it came to doing just that it was strangely liberating and it reminded me of a less governed time where your accomplishments within a set of strict gaming standards weren’t published for all to see and you could just play Resident Evil 3 on a Sunday afternoon without everyone knowing about it and checking how many times you fought Nemesis, how quickly you beat the game or whether you’d mixed Gunpowder AAA over a hundred times or not.

So now, I take it one day at a time. Uncharted 3 is something I may dashcomplete because I enjoyed the previous two so much, and the God Of War PSP games I’ll likely do just to have a full set of five, but If I try something once or twice and trying it a third time makes me hate myself a little, forget it. Frankly, I’d sooner stick on Super Mario World and fly through the air without a care in the fucking world.

For more confessionals and a general sense of making everything out for SO much more than it really is, check out Rambleast at your own risk.

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