The Average Gamer

Are games now designed for dummies?

Hitman: Blood Money HUD Being a PC gamer, I never really understood where the whole “lose-the-HUD” thing came from. I’ve been watching console games a lot more lately and I think I get it now. I think maybe console games are being progressively dumbed down. Or maybe they were always like that and i just never noticed. Just for the record, I think HUDs are necessary in some settings (like FPS) and sometimes totally stupid in others (keep reading).

Tomb Raider: Legend (Xbox 360 version). There are sections where you need to grapple an overhead thingy and swing from it to cross large gaps (I don’t think gameplay mechanics are spoilers). Rather than expecting you to, say, look around and spot the shiny shiny grapple spot for yourself, you run towards the gap and a whacking great A with a circle around it appears at the top of the screen telling you that if you press the button twice you’ll grapple and swing. Gee, thanks guys for saving me both those minutes that it would have taken me to figure that out in a game where navigating past obstacles is the gameplay!

Looks like a similar thing for Hitman: Blood Money if GamingTrailer’s this unnaturally-scripted video preview (scroll down, it’s called GT Video Preview, posted April 21st 2006) is anything to go by.

“…a handy on-screen indicator that shows you
what you can pick up, drop or interact with and what button will do it for you. The game takes the guesswork out of things like climbing and jumping.”

Uh, thanks. I had no idea it was such a guess to walk up to a wall and press the climb button if I wanted to climb it. Where’s the guesswork? Is this wall climbable? I hope not, coz I can’t stand games where there’s only one route to the target and it’s the only route that exists. I shall also be very unimpressed if I wind up accidentally climbing all sorts of walls that I just meant to walk past at a wonky angle.

I do wonder, is the button-indicating HUD there because they think it’s too complicated for us to remember that A means jump, B means down, and so forth? Or is it just a reaction to their own poor design, where (in Tomb Raider: Legend) A means jump or climb up, B means down or drop-off-ledge and Y means grapple. Unless you’re on a rope. Then A and B both mean fall to your death and Y + left-analogue-direction means move up/down/left/right. And if you’re walking towards a ledge then Y still means grapple but A twice means grapple and swing.