Cheat Codes

Here is an interesting tidbit I stumbled upon when playing Red Faction: the game apparently has cheat codes. Or not cheat codes, but “cheats” nevertheless. This was something interesting, because cheats was something that faded away into obscurity in the recent years. When I was younger, most gaming magazines had a thick section in the middle devoted to listing “cheat codes” for various games. These were either actual codes (that you would type in during game-play) or sequences of movements (like the famous Konami Code). These codes usually made something awesome happen: gave you unlimited ammo, unlimited lives, infinite continues, unlocked all weapons and etc.

Eventually all the gaming publications in US figured out that you can quadruple your profits if you fire all the video game journalists and devote 100% of your pages to paid advertising. Cheat codes then moved to their own specialized publications, and migrated online. A lot of these portals still exist but they no longer contain much cheat codes. Instead of “up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, b, a for infinite lives” they now list stuff like “beat the game seven times on hard to unlock the chicken suit”. Which is not a cheat code at all, but an unlockable perk.

Somewhere in the late 90′s or early 00′s the cheat codes started fading away, and getting replaced with bullshit like achievements, trophies and DLC’s. Very few games these days have anything even resembling cheats of the past decades. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Red Faction had a “cheats” menu hidden in it’s options screen that included features such as “super toughness”, “super sprinting” and “super jetpack”.

Red Faction Cheat Codes

Red Faction Cheat Codes

That’s totally old school, and awesome as fuck, isn’t it?

Well, it turns out it isn’t. These cheats are not available by default. You actually have to “unlock” them by getting achievements. Which, I believe misses the entire point of cheat codes. But that’s not all. As soon as you try to enable one of those cheats, you get a lovely message that looks like this:

They missed the point entirely

They missed the point entirely

Yep, that’s right – enabling cheats prevents you from saving the single player game. Why? Because fuck you, that’s why.

Honestly, I can understand disabling high score system or achievement system, but saves? Why do you care so much if I cheat? What is the point of adding this option into the game if I can’t even use it during normal game play? It’s not even like the Red Faction cheats are all that game breaking – they only make the game slightly easier, and a little bit more fun (mostly by making the foot travel much faster and hammer driven demolition slightly easier).

The great thing about old school cheat codes was that they were fully optional. Kinda like the developer console Bethesda puts in their games. If you wanted to experience the game the way it was designed, you just ignored the cheats. Then you used the cheat codes on your second or third run through the game, to speed things up or skip the boring newbie quests and get to the good stuff. At least that’s how I used to use them. For example, these days I usually crank up my walking speed in Morrowind via the console because I’m just to lazy to use the Boots of Blinding Speed exploit, and without it the game is just tortuously slow. Or sometimes I use them when the game is hard, annoying and stupid but I still want to know how it ends.

It seems that Red Faction developers acknowledged one use for cheats – a temporary GTA style insane mayhem mode where you stop questing and just go on a rampage, and then reload the game afterwards. Which is fine – this is one valid use for cheat codes – it is always fun to run wild and destroy things with super powers. But it is only one of many different uses of cheat codes.

Some players like to use them to get a little bit of an edge, or to make an aspect of the game that we dislike to go away, or at least become less annoying. For example I remember a cheat code in original Farcry which forced game to auto-save on the spot. It was technically a cheat because the game was checkpoint based. Without it, I would have quit the game after about two or three hours. Because of it, I actually managed to have some fun with that game.

Why did video game studios become so weird about cheating? It was always a fun part of the gaming hobby. The cheat codes used to be fun, useful and enjoyable Easter eggs and secrets. What happened? Did the gamers grow up and collectively decide cheating ain’t cool anymore? Or did the corporate bean-counters somehow decided it was not profitable?

Whats is your stance on cheat codes? Do you miss the good old days, or do you think we are better off without them?

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6 Responses to Cheat Codes

  1. I had GameGenies and GameSharks back in the day. I love gaming, but there are so many games out there, and I’m not terribly good at them anymore it seems. I don’t have the time to play them all, so I’ll use cheats/trainers/etc. to essentially speed the game along so I can enjoy the story without having to redo areas, wasting precious time that could be used for another game. I get hung up on getting 100%, leaving no stones unturned, so that takes up a lot of time too.

    I really like using emulators for all the old NES, SNES, Genesis, etc. games I never finished because I can create cheats (memory hacks) and speed up the emulator (effectively fast-forwarding through mandatory and painfully slow cut-scenes, etc.), allowing me to finish the stories but not take up time where I could be finally finishing another game I also never got around to doing.

    I’ve noticed on a lot of newer RPGs (e.g. Oblivion, Skyrim) you come across way more items than you can hold, then you’re “burdened” and if you didn’t think movement speed was slow before, it sure as hell is now. I’ll use a code/trainer to get rid of carry limit once I get annoyed by it.

    I love destructible environments too. Hexen II was one I first noticed it in. The level is not complete if there’s something that can be destroyed remains standing! In the original NWN, I made some crazy-strong barbarian who didn’t need to pick locks, he’d just bash down doors.

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  2. Hugo Paceli BRAZIL Google Chrome Windows says:

    I would never play GTA if not for the cheats. Never finished any quest, just went rampage or did cool stuff while flying. I used to spend hours and hours just running away from the military using a motorcyle or some hovercraft thing (this one was in San Andreas, Vice City had a better soundtrack though).
    Good times.

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  3. Morghan Safari Linux says:

    I used Game Genie codes on RPGs for gold. I love RPGs, but I hate wandering around killing things for hours so I can upgrade my equipment.

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  4. Miranda FRANCE Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    In a world where leisure has become a more and more important industry, the concept of playfulness has been all but lost.
    Vinyl records used to sometimes have little messages scratched into the unused grooves at the centre, just for fun – can’t do that with cassettes, cds or downloaded tracks.
    Cereal packets used to sometimes contain little free presents, now it’s all fibre and fat free milk….

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  5. Rich UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    Cheat codes turned into hacking consoles or PC games for the thrill of doing that which used to be much easier. Cheat Codes were for the diehard, the experimenters and the disinterested (in the normal course of a computer game). Why not spice up your life and add some cheat codes to a game, it made the game take on a new perspective, this element of superhuman/ superevil abilities always made like more interesting within the video game!

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  6. Alex Opera Windows says:

    If you want to still save games and cheat, use a trainer.

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