Streets of Rage 4‘s easy mode is described in the game as, “For those who love every part of beat ’em ups, except getting beat up.” I initially took against that, but actually, I do fit that description. Especially because I don’t think dying in Streets of Rage 4 is much fun.
On death, the game does present you with the option of various assists for your next attempt, but you can’t get away from restarting the whole level. Admittedly levels aren’t that long, but given the range of aids on offer, not having to do the whole thing again would have been a welcome option. Because I’m lazy? Yes. Time poor? Somewhat. Bad at games? Oh yes.
It’s also a shame that the difficulty level can’t be changed mid-game. Again, it’s not a long game, so restarting on easy isn’t a huge hardship. But for me it’s an oversight in what is otherwise a very well thought-through game.
It does feel like games are on a path to being more accommodating of different tastes and abilities though.
I’ve certainly appreciated the flexibility in Horizon: Zero Dawn, which I’ve been playing very off and on for over a year. Coming back to it after months away, knocking it down to easy gives me a chance of not repeatedly dying every time something comes near me. And beyond easy there’s the ‘story’ difficulty level – it’s not just about ability, it’s about priorities and what you want to get from the game.
More of that can only be a good thing – and it sounds like something The Last of Us Part 2 does well too.
But difficulty and even death can be made accessible and fun. Few games have achieved that as fulsomely as Rayman Origins – a topic I banged on about eight years ago. Restarting is virtually instantaneous, checkpoints are perfectly placed, and there’s no time to mope around – the game just gets you straight back in there. It’s about as fun as death gets.
One of the barriers to more games doing that is loading, and that’s where I’m hoping the next console generation – Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5, with their fancy SSDs – can make a real difference. If the technology means they don’t have to have a break in the action after death, then hopefully more games will remove the usually-tedious ceremony of the game over screen, and let the player get straight back to it. That really would be a generational leap.