(this is a piece i wrote a few months ago. I posted it on a blog that I considered starting but never kept up with.)
God of War III was just released and I finished it in two days. The game was highly enjoyable and I applaud Santa Monica Studios on the hard work they put into the game. My problem with the game is the same that I have with all of the God of War games; at some point the game decides to throws way too many enemies at you, it then takes you a while to figure out a good strategy of how to defeat all of the enemies so that you can progress to the next room. The biggest problem with this isn't that it takes thought to get through it (that is wonderful) but rather that when you die a lot it asks you if you want to be pushed down to the easy difficulty. "OF COURSE I DON'T!!! stupid game I can get past you." Ten minutes later you feel like you've been doing the same battle for hours and you think, "I could have beaten this game by now if it wasn't for this fucking Cerberus but no I'm gonna try again I'm not letting you win, you are just a stupid, ugly mythological beast." I am fine with some level of pity, it is the next two times the message appears that bother me. You may still think in your head that you can get through it no problem, but the game is now mocking you. The game is telling you. "Really, if you're going to try this again you should really do it on easy." After that attempt the game really harasses you, it gives you its final screen that pushes you over the edge. You stare mindlessly at it, beaten and broken. There is an awkward silence that the screen breaks when the game yells, "YOU’VE HAD 20 FUCKING TRIES ON THESE THREE GOD-DAMNED ENEMIES GIVE THE FUCK UP. I AM TRYING TO GIVE YOU A BREAK AND LET YOU EXPERIENCE THE STORY." You finally do it.
The ability to switch to an easier difficulty midgame is great, every game should have it. The problem with this option in games is that it doesn’t allow you to switch back which would be great if you wanted to not feel as mocked for the rest of the game. The biggest problem is that this has happened to me in every one of the god of war games. playing these titles is very interesting for me because of the amount of things that frustrate me to the point of wanting to quit while I'm playing it, but five minutes after I finish the game something clicks in my mind and I understand how much I liked it despite the frustrations.
So many games do this. There have been games mocking me since the NES. If you think back Duck Hunt was one of the first games that at least I can remember that mock you if you do poorly with that damn dog. More recently Devil May Cry 3 asked me to switch over on the first level of the game. Splosion Man, instead of asking you to switch it, allows you to skip the level completely. However the way it asks you is by say that you are taking the way of the coward. It is convenient the game mocks you making you feel like you shouldn't be doing it. Especially in games that are as much about the narrative as it is about the difficulty of play. These games will always let me experience what they have to offer but not without making me feel like an incompetent bastard first.