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Legendary Veteran of 1999: The Argument for Higher Difficulty Gameplay

HigherDifficulty Front

Alright gamers, it’s time to stop screwing around. I have spent too many hours reading articles, viewing rants on YouTube and listening to people complain about how easy games are geting nowadays. From First-Person Shooters and RPGs, to Sports titles and Real-Time Strategy games, there is seemingly no one who has any trouble making their way through any of the offerings game companies can produce.

Of course, anyone who’s played through a game in the past five years is probably inclined to agree with that point. Weapons are powerful, body armor is plentiful and health regenerates every three seconds you don’t get shot, so it’s not uncommon for players to run through entire games without ever coming close to seeing a game over screen. But why would they? They’re aren’t looking for a challenge, they’re looking for a gameplay and story experience. Why else would they choose the Easy or Normal difficulties? Well, it’s time to become really friendly with your friendly neighborhood reaper, because playing games on their hardest difficulty setting enriches the experience in ways you haven’t thought of.


Prove this description wrong…

As a primer, I speak from experience on this one. I have completed multiple games on the highest available difficulty, including most CoD games past Modern Warfare, Mass Effect 2 and 3, Civilization Revolution, Fallout 3 and New Vegas, Halo 3 and most recently Bioshock Infinite’s infamous 1999 Mode. Also, after twenty-three years of gaming, I have accumulated a decent amount of skill. More importantly, I also play games on lower difficulties when I’m just looking for a bit of light entertainment, but for those of you looking to test your limits and might be unsure of taking the next big step, I ask you to join me in seeing the joys of a more challenging gameplay experience.

Richer Story Experience


Washington is MUCH more intimidating now

Every story is pretty much the same for shooters: You, alone or with a squad, are the only one who can stop a dastardly plot to destroy/take over/destabilize the world. You pick up your rifle and wreak havoc on the enemy, and a small thought starts to invade your subconscious… “Seriously? I was the ONLY one who could stop these guys?” It doesn’t matter if you’re packing a rocket launcher or a derringer, enemies will fall at your feet with little resistance, limited damage and credibility shot to hell.

When you take your difficulty up to eleven, you realize that these villains were the Armageddon the game was talking about. These guys get angrier when you shoot them in the knee, they don’t become town guards. Every encounter is life and death, and if the game has a stealth element to avoid encounters, you’ll have a good reason to use them. The story makes sense now and you really get the feeling the game world is in jeopardy and you might actually be the only one who could stop them.

Builds Player Skill


That’s a newbie, stepping in front of two enemy players

You can tell in multiplayer which people just play easy mode. They’re the ones charging in without a plan and getting mowed down, usually accompanied by complaints of hackers and glitches. They aren’t always wrong (damn you Javelin glitch) but most of the time they’re just frustrated because they zoomed through the story and thought they’d do the same against the millions of other players online. The ones who play on a higher difficulty have an appreciation for how fragile their avatar is. They plan their loadout, study the maps, find and use cover and usually do well. Sometimes they charge in like the Easies, but they’re the ones who rack up the kills while doing so.

The explanation for this is the accumulated skill and application thereof, earned through always playing against enemies who can destroy them if they falter. If getting shot three times equals death, you will work harder to avoid getting to that point. You’ll learn to read enemies, learn their tactics, find their weak points and exploit the mistakes they make. Though transferring this concept to human players with the near-infinite variation that comes with that, you will be better prepared for it after a campaign on max difficulty.



This, plus a Gold Trophy/100+ Gamerscore addition

As with any game, completion brings with it a great satisfaction, whether the the story was great or the gameplay was fantastic, and concluding a multiple hour video game feels great. However, when you take a look at your trophies/achievements list, it always feels like there’s something greater to strive for. When you complete the game on the highest difficulty and you see the popup on your screen, all that remains is are a few esoteric, menial tasks on your way to 100% completion. And if you think you aren’t up to the task of beating the top tier of a game, here’s a little secret you might not be aware of…

It’s Not As Tough As You Think


The game won’t treat you this badly…

Don’t be fooled by the title of this one. There is very good reason for the scary name of the highest difficulty you see in video games. You will be more vulnerable, your enemies stronger, ammunition less plentiful and your patience tested. Game developers probably have a sadistic side they take out on players when developing the most challenging difficulty. However, don’t assume it’s impossible either. Even though enemies are firing bigger bullets, their tactics tend to stay the same; enemies won’t magically learn to fly or tunnel underground if they didn’t already do so. Cover is equally unchanged. If the enemy couldn’t hit you through walls before, they can’t do it due to a higher setting. Even better, there are these wonderful things called checkpoints. Although Stay-At-Home Gaming is critical of how little death affects your gameplay, for some players who find a game too difficult, taking advantage of this system can be a saving grace.

Bucking Bronco

Seriously. Bucking Bronco saves lives

The key is to apply new strategies where before you kept a constant approach. Bioshock Infinite’s 1999 Mode, for example, gave me little trouble my first time through. I played on Normal, as I stole borrowed it from my brother a week after its release and heard all about the great plot twists and incredible aesthetics. Armed with the Shotgun, Machine Gun and the Murder of Crows Plasmid Vigor, the only thing that slowed me down was the compelling story and gorgeous views I had heard so much about. When my first fight on 1999 Mode at the Raffle ended with me losing 3/4 of my health bar, most of my ammo and barely any items on the enemy corpses, I knew my tactics had to change. By games end I was packing a Hand Cannon and a Sniper Rifle, while switching to any weapon I could pick up, and had somehow made an art out of switching Vigors, specifically Murder of Crows, Shock Jockey, my new best friend Possession and Bucking Bronco, which went entirely unused in the other playthrough, and never will on a subsequent playthrough.

You Can Do It!


Ready to stop fearing screens like this?

No, we’re not quoting Rob Schneider. If you keep your wits about you, act intelligently, adapt to your situation and are prepared to die a few times, you will make your way through any difficulty. Trial and error can be an important aspect of conquering the high difficulties, but rest assured you will get better at it. You’ll see yourself doing better in multiplayer, unlocking achievements you never thought possible. And when you finally beat the game, you’ll know you did something most people are too scared or unsure of themselves to attempt. And that is the true reward right there.

Anyone have any additional advice for players new to higher difficulties that we may have missed? Drop your advice in the comment section below!


About RedGuinness

Andrew Shortall (RedGuinness) is the Writer, Editor, Administrator and founder of Stay-At-Home Gaming. He also suffers from sleepless nights, summer new release withdrawals and trying to behave himself in front of his new nephew.

7 comments on “Legendary Veteran of 1999: The Argument for Higher Difficulty Gameplay

  1. Stephen Wolling
    April 28, 2013

    My most recent game was Halo 4 solo legendary playthrough. How is Fallout 3 and New Vegas on hardcore mode?

    • RedGuinness
      April 28, 2013

      New Vegas’ Hardcore Mode is fantastic. At first you feel like you’re screwed as everything has more realistic weight, but the balance of taking more ammo versus taking extra water adds a whole new level to the experience. Definitely worth a try if you are comfortable with the Fallout engine.

      • Stephen Wolling
        April 28, 2013

        Thats always been my concern the weight and water. Is it a pain in the ass or a new challenge that is always in the back of your mind?

      • RedGuinness
        April 28, 2013

        It starts out as the former, but by the time I made it to New Vegas I found that it was second nature to pack an extra lunch with me. I felt like an actual person in the world instead of a man amongst ants. I so love immersion in a video game.

    • Matt
      May 5, 2013

      Fallout is beyond easy on hardcore mode mixed with very hard mode.

  2. Stephen Wolling
    April 28, 2013

    Same here. I love video games that suck you into their world where you ARE the character.

  3. Pingback: Bioshock Infinite: The Long-Awaited Review | Stay-At-Home Gaming

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