Rant: Checkpoints in Video Games

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

It’s that time of the month again, where I need to get something off of my (mostly) hairless chest (better there than my head), and this time I am going to be ranting about games that use checkpoint, and use them sparingly, and especially those who defend it over quicksaves/quickloads.

I will be mostly talking about Shooters, where this problem is the most affected, genres like platformers and sidescrollers don’t seem to be as badly affected by this problem.

I have played many games, and a lot of them are shockingly PC games, that use checkpoints, and if that wasn’t bad enough, they are few and too far between. It’s p*ssing me off! These games are really frustrating, hair-tearingly merciless! I’ve played many games that would’ve been otherwise fantastic, ruined by sparse checkpoints, I can maybe understand (older) consoles games using checkpoint, but many PC games nowadays do this as well!

The first argument people make about checkpoint is that it creates challenge. It does not, I repeat, does not create challenge, they just create frustration! Since when was doing the same easy parts over, and over, and over, and over, and over again just to have another shot of a hard part, challenging? If you think that kind of things are challenging, then you’ll love Call of Duty: Finest Hour, or better yet, play the PS1 Medal of Honor games, which completely lack checkpoints, or better that, Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, which doesn’t even let you skip cutscenes, which play at the start of every level. Maximum challenge(!)

Try to imagine this, you were stuck on a level of a first person shooter, that the majority of it was fairly easy, you go through a couple of checkpoints every 5 minutes, you can get by it no problem, but then at the end, 15 minutes or so into the level, and you die instantly, not knowing what killed you, so then you go by the 5 minutes worth of easy parts again to have another shot, you die again, but this time, you have an idea of where the shots came from, so you go through another 5 minutes worth of easy sections, and you look to where you think the shots came from, you notice the person who keeps killing you, but before you can get him, he gets you, you have to go though the same 5 minutes worth of easy bits, and you finally get the guy who keeps killing you, great! So you go forward, you’re near the end of the level, but then a dozen of bad guys come out at one and shoot you dead within seconds…

See where I’m getting at? You’d have to have the patience of a saint just to avoid throwing your controller into your TV! That’s not challenge, that’s frustration!

Let’s compare that to the same scenario, but with quicksaves, you go through 15 minutes of easy stuff, you get shot dead, and you don’t know where it came from, so you go through the level again, making quick saves along the way, and you make one more quick save just before you get to the hard part, where you were shot dead, you die again, but this time, you have an idea of where the shots are coming from, so you just load your quicksave, and look at where you think you got shot, just before you could get him, though, he gets you, load the quicksave again, and then get him, make a new quicksave then proceed.

See how much better that is, the difficulty hasn’t changed, but it’s a lot less frustrating. Doing the same stuff over, and over, and over again doesn’t create challenge, it’s just punishing!

Take the first 2 Payne games, for example, compared to the Call of Duty games (after 4, that is). I’ve played though the 2 first Max Payne games and Call of Duty: Ghosts on easy mode, and I’d actually say that the Max Payne games are more challenging than the Call of Duty series, however, the Call of Duty games are more frustrating, because the former uses quicksaves, the latter checkpoints.

There’s not just the issue with frustration, there’s also when you get bored, with checkpoint games, you have to take a chance, and for most games, hope that the last checkpoint you passed is close enough to where you are, but a lot of games don’t let you save there, so you have to complete the level you’re on before you can save the game or turn it off.

With PC quick save games, just quick save, and that saves to the hard drive, so you can just quit the game there, then start back exactly where you left off later on.

Which brings me to my next point, for those who don’t think consoles, or at least consoles without Hard Drives, can’t only do checkpoints. Well Valve, of all companies, has proven that as a Myth, with their (cancelled) Dreamcast and (released) PS2 ports of the original Half-Life, the PS2 version has a quick-save feature, but only stores it onto the RAM, which is alright, it removes the frustration aspect, but if you want to leave the game when you get bored, with both version, you can save exactly where you are and turn off the game, this takes longer than quick saves and loads, hence the existence of them in the PS2 version.

One could argue that games with checkpoint last longer, and in theory, I suppose they might, but I immagine in most cases, people would be less likely to complete the game out of frustration. I’m not like that, I never give up on a game, I want to play though entire series, one at a time, in chronological order (Similar to How I played through and commented on the Soldier of fortune series), and sadly, many of the games in series I play contain checkpoints…

I’m not saying checkpoints are bad, period, they save users the effort of making their own saves and they can be okay if there are plenty and are placed right, but most games I’ve played never do that, they are usually too few and far between, and it gets frustrating.

That’s it all off my chest now! Honestly, why anyone would prefer them over quicksaves are way beyond me, I know I sound like a broken record, but they just make the games annoying and practically force you to finish the level you’re on before you can stop playing…


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