Hop onto any video game forum, and you’ll likely come across an old timer complaining that today’s video games are too easy. That they don’t put up enough challenge to give players a sense of accomplishment when the credits roll. And it’s true, with a few notable exceptions, that video games today tend to be easier to beat than they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But don’t let that get you down. In many modern games, anyone looking for a challenge simply has to head into the settings menu and turn on a higher difficulty mode.
But like anything in the creative medium of video games, not all hard modes are created equal. Some, like Halo, are so nicely balanced that they push players to find new tactics to achieve success. Others aren’t quite so well executed. Some hard modes are just annoying. Here are some games you might want to think twice about before cranking up the difficulty.
1. Rock Band 4 – Brutal Mode
Learning to play an instrument proficiently takes hundreds of hours of practice. So does mastering the plastic instruments that come with Rock Band 4. But if you’ve conquered Expert Mode — a Sisyphean task for most players — welcome to Brutal Mode, a difficulty level designed by people who must hate players with the force of a thousand suns.
Brutal mode monitors how you’re doing and becomes more difficult the better you perform. It does so by shortening your note highway, giving you less and less time to react to the notes coming your way. That means you have to keep your eyes open and your reflexes finely honed to press the buttons at exactly the right moment. Brutal is right.
2. Uncharted 4 – Crushing Difficulty
If you’re planning to get the platinum trophy in Uncharted 4, you might want to wear a mouthguard while you play. That’s because if you don’t, trying to beat the game on Crushing Difficulty will make you grind your teeth so hard you’ll need emergency surgery. With limited ammo, swarms of enemies, destructible cover, and constant barrages of incoming artillery, it’s almost impossible to pop out long enough to fire your weapon at all. It’s probably best simply to stay away from this mode altogether.
3. Metro: 2033 Redux – Ranger Mode Hardcore
Metro: Last Light is no cakewalk even on normal difficulty. The game takes place in a post-apocalyptic Moscow after the survivors have moved to the subway tunnels for safety from the mutant attackers. Ammo is scarce, enemies are tough, and life is cheap. But when you put the game on Ranger Mode Hardcore, you’ll have almost no ammo, and enemies can kill you in just a few hits. Making matters worse, this mode gets rid of the heads-up display, so you have very little useful information available — like how much ammo you have left. It all adds up to an excruciatingly frustrating experience.
4. Fallout 4 – Survival Mode
The Fallout games — and Bethesda RPGs in general — use difficulty as a tool. Wander too far in the open world and you’re likely to encounter enemies that are too tough for you to beat. That’s the game’s way of telling you to come back here later, once you’re more powerful.
In Survival Mode, the whole game’s like that, but worse. The damage you deal to enemies is cut in half, while enemies do double the damage to you. Instead of healing you instantly, stimpaks make your health recover gradually, giving the bad guys more time to cut you down. Lastly, Survival Mode makes you more likely to encounter Legendary enemies, which are — you guessed it — ultra tough.
5. Bioshock Infinite – 1999 Mode
Bioshock Infinite is a reasonably challenging game in normal mode, but when you kick things up to the highest difficulty — called 1999 Mode — things get a lot more frustrating. For one thing, you don’t have as much health in this mode, but enemies hit harder. You don’t get as much ammo, either, and if you die, you’d better have $100 in your pocket, because that’s how much it costs to respawn (if you don’t, it’s game over). Gone too are conveniences like the navigation arrow that points where to go, and any kind of aim assistance to help you land your shots. Was life really this hard back in 1999?
6. Dead Space 2 – Hard Core Mode
The whole point of any survival horror game is that you have to juggle limited resources as you run up against seriously tough enemies. That’s how Dead Space 2 is under normal conditions. In Hard Core Mode, it’s much, much worse. There are no more checkpoints in the game, so when you die, you’re going to lose a lot of progress. To ensure that’s the case, the game only grants you three saves for your entire play through. Oh, and enemies are stronger, you’re weaker, and you’ll get significantly fewer item drops. Good luck.
7. The Evil Within – Akumu Mode
This game is hard enough on normal difficulty mode, but Akumu Mode is a living nightmare of controller-breaking frustration. Instead of changing a litany of statistics regarding health and attack power, the makers of The Evil Within made it as simple (and tough) as possible: one hit, and you’re dead. It’s elegant in concept, but in action it’s guaranteed to make you rue the day you were born. Steer clear.