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”.
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:
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?