Friday, September 23, 2011

Achievement Chaser: The Ten Most Enjoyable

We love achievements, you’ve noticed that, right? But there are some we love more than most, some that actually enhanced our enjoyment of the game as well as enhancing our gamerscore. Picking our favourites was toug. We had to say bye bye to Fable’s Chicken Kickers and to numerous hair-raising racing achievements, but in the end, we settled on the following ten. What do you reckon?

Fight Night Round 4 / Pull No Punches 50G
It was a tough call between this and Fight Night Champion’s “I’m just doing my jab”. Both encourage stylish, fluent boxing over haymaker-spamming, and as a consequence make the game as fun to watch as it is to play. Pull No Punches gets the nod, however, as it’s a one match achievement: win a match and land 500 punches in the process. Circle your opponent and whip out plenty of jabs from a fast, rangey fighter like Thomas Hearns or the lethally speedy Shane Mosley and you’ll get this in no time. You’ll also feel like the most skillfull boxer the world has ever seen, a feeling you’ll need to get rid of before you get to the pub on a Friday night.

Red Faction Guerrilla / Disaster Area 50G
Destroying 1 billion credits worth of EDF property in a game that’s all about destroying EDF property obviously isn’t that hard, but it is great fun. Red Faction Guerrilla is a great game for achievement hunters due to the variety of achievements on offer and their tendency to be well balanced between challenging and frustrating. Disaster Area, however, is the quintessential RFG achievement, the one that fits most snugly with the games raison d’etre. To get it all you need to do is revel in the games structural physics by methodically destroying every office block, town hall, bridge and fuel dump you come across. It doesn’t care if you smash buildings with hammers, drive cars through them, blow them up with rockets or what, just as long as you’re smashing stuff up.

Just Cause 2 / Bridge Limbo 20G
The first time you get in a plane in Just Cause 2 you’ll enjoy a brief two or three seconds of flight before an inadvertant wobble of the joystick sets off an unrecoverable chain reaction of yaws and pitches that frustrate your increasingly desperate attempts to correct them and finish with you bailing out or ploughing into the ground, no more than 10 seconds after take off. The same thing will happen the second time. And the third. That’s what makes the Bridge Limbo achievement so satisfying. It asks you to fly under 30 separate bridges in a game where it initially seems impossible to keep a plane in the air, let alone fly complex manoeuvres close to the ground in cluttered airspace. The joy of finding a navigable river valley with plenty of bridges, the mounting tension as you successfully complete each fly past, and eventually the chime of the achievement, all add up to immense satisfaction. You’ve just done something that you originally thought would be impossible. Nice one.

GTA IV: TLAD / Get Good Wood 50G
Racing choppers and ‘rice rockets’ around the streets of Liberty City is one of the most enjoyable parts of GTA IV’s The Lost and Damned DLC. Races are where you can pull yourself out of the bleak and often sleazy story and just concentrate on the scale and complexity of the environment, and the joy of tearing through it on a motorbike. The races vary between comparatively easy and incredibly difficult, with some courses taking endless repetition to master and win, but while you’re racing over and over again, you’ll find that every baseball bat aided overtaking manoeuvre is bring you closer to an extremely generous 50G. Sweet.

Alan Wake / Child of the Elder God 10G
10G seems like a very small reward for an achievement that really cranks up the tension. Pursued by villains who are weakened by light, you find yourself at a farmstead owned by two retired rockstars who have set up a stage in their back yard, complete with strobes, spots and pyros. That’s handy, eh? Surrounded by roman candles and sweeping spotlights, you have to defend the stage from what seems to be never ending waves of baddies seemingly called in on you by the blaring heavy metal soundtrack, without being seriously injured. This being survival horror there’s limited ammo, and every time you think it might be over, another attack starts. The longer you last, the more euphoric you’ll feel, and the more terrified that one quick slash will bring your lucky streak to an end.

Medal of Honor / It Takes a Village Out 10G
Two things Americans need to know: 1, Honour has a ‘u’ in it. 2, Air strikes against villages are war crimes. Having said that, in Medal of Honor they’re also great fun. You’re tasked with pacifying insurgents in a hilltop village, but there are achievement points on offer for flattening 30 buildings in that village. The challenge, of course, is that while you’re concentrating your fire on the buildings, the insurgents are free to shoot at you, so chasing this achievement can often end in a points-free, Black Hawk Down scenario. When you nail it, however, you’ll pick up 10G and a slightly grubby feeling that makes you want to stop playing games and do something wholesome for a few hours.

Bioshock 2 / Master Protector 15G
It seemed unlikely that a sequel to a game as good and as ‘complete’ as Bioshock could ever be any good. Even if there was nothing wrong with it, surely it would feel superfluous? Amazingly, Bioshock 2 managed to avoid that fate. It was smart enough not to fix what wasn’t broken, keeping the gameplay mechanics and environments from the original, whilst trimming away some of the fat by eliminating the time-consuming pipe hacking. Best of all, while the mechanics didn’t change, it introduced new things to do with them: boss battles with the speedy big sister, and ‘gathers’ with the little sister. To get the Master Protector achievement, you need to defend a little sister while she picks over Rapture’s carrion. Squads of irate and speedy mutants will attack you from all angles, and surviving the assault will require careful pre-planning, clever defensive placements and lots of boobytraps. Your heart will sink if you get it wrong and the baddies sweep towards you unhindered, but a clever set-up will see you decimate the ranks of the Splicers with ease. It’s one of those lovely achievements that rewards a combination of careful thought and lightning thumbs.

GTA IV / Chain Reaction 20G
The great thing about GTA IV’s Chain Reaction achievement is the way it shows off the variety and versatility of Liberty City. In many games it might only be possible to explode ten vehicles in ten seconds at a certain place, or using a certain method, but not in GTA IV. It can be done with grenades or rocket launchers or just with a damn big vehicle. It can be done in tunnels, on bridges or at junctions. All you need do is take advantage of the persistent reality of Liberty City: blowing up vehicles is as plausible in that world as breathing air is in ours. The most common method for getting the Chain Reaction achievement is to block the end of a bridge with a bus, allow the traffic to build, then let rip with the rocket launcher. Or you could get it by accident, like we did, by barrelling across a junction at full speed, clipping another car and losing control. By the time we’d gotten out of the car and gotten our bearings all we could hear was screaming and explosions from 50 yards back where the accident happened. Before we could even look back, bing, we were 20G richer.

Fable III / If It Bleeds We Can Kill It 20G
Like its predecessors, Fable III’s combat system is a masterclass in combing several simple ingredients to make a thoroughly satisfying whole. Combat in Fable is never anything less than a doddle-it’s not a game about challenging fights, it’s a game about swashbuckling derring do, and nothing makes you feel more like an intrepid adventurer than effortlessly disposing of your foes. Just because it’s easy, doesn’t mean it isn’t cool, however. The thumbstick lets you choose your direction of attack, while the face buttons let you swap between swords, guns and magic. The result is an intricate ballet of bloodletting, as acrobatic as a Jackie Chan movie and as lethal as Smallpox. Spend enough time fighting and you’ll eventually pop an achievement for ridding yourself of 500 enemies with a certain style-for us the first to pop was for melee combat, but we soon popped the others as well.

Red Dead Redemption Mowing Them Down 20G
Red Dead Redemption has plenty of rewards for despatching 500 opponents with a variety of weapons from pistols to rifles to shotguns, most of which you’ll unlock in the course of ordinary play. Mowing Them Down, however, won’t just pop for any casual player. To kill 500 opponents with mounted weapons you’ll need to be truly dedicated to the cause of artillery assisted slaughter. The trick is to take over the Presidio in Mexico, wipe out the guards to get a wanted rating on your head, then take command of the cannons to blow up every posse they send in to get you. It can be time consuming, and you’ll need to pick the right cannon: they can break in and backshoot you at any cannon, but you’ll be safest at the one on the North-eastern corner. Sit there, zen out, and let those cannonballs fly.