The End of a Game Should Be a Reward, Not a Chore

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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.


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General McFist

I am instantly reminded of Fable 2 with this article. You had to fight many, many hours through all those baddies, completing quests just to get to Lucien . . .

And with one swing of a hammer, in my playthrough, mind you, he was vanquished. I thought it was immensely satisfying. He wasn't some all-powerful boss, reminiscent of Jack of Blades. He was an man, his heart wounded by fate, who wanted to change the world to bring his family back. And in doing so he became a monster.

I thought it was a terrific ending, though many, many others disagree. Then the moral choice that immediately followed it. Sure, it didn't have pretty much any impact at all game-wise, but I think it was just a challenge to the gamers themselves.

What would you do if you had the power to bring back your family, or the thousands of lives lost to that pursuit?

Such a great ending.