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Most gamers all have completely different opinions when it comes to Xbox 360 achievements and PS3 trophies.  Some like them, some hate them and some just don’t really care.  One reason you see so many different opinions is because gamers can’t seem to decide whether achievements actually enhance the game play experience or not.  A large percentage of achievements are simply “busy work achievements”, which require more of a time investment then a skill investment.

Everyone once in a while though, an achievement comes along which totally changes the way a person must play a game.  To find out more about these types of achievements, hit the jump.

If you were to ask ten different gamers what their opinions of Xbox 360 achievements and PS3 trophies are, you would likely to get ten completely different answers.  There are people who absolutely hate achievements and think they are completely pointless dribble that add nothing to a game.  There are people who absolutely love them and who go out of their way to play a game as many times through as it takes to get them all.  Then there are those who just don’t really care and who don’t even know what their gamerscore and/or trophy count is.  Finally, there are the people who are completely obsessed, who actually rent games they would typically never play, just because it has really easy to obtain achievements.  Yes, it’s definitely safe to say that there are lots of different opinions out there about achievements in games.

For the most part, achievements all fall into one of three categories.  There are the typical achievements you will always get on your first play through of the game, because they are impossible to avoid.  There are the achievements you get for beating games on harder difficulty levels.  Then there are the achievements you get because you did a specific act x number of times.  Yes, I think it’s safe to say that 99% of achievements fall into these three categories.

Every once in a while though an achievement comes along that requires you to completely change the way you play a game; an achievement that shakes the foundation of a game to its very core.  Now I’m not talking about achievements that are hard to get just for the sake of being hard.  I’m talking about achievements that really make you step back and change the way you approach the entire game.  These are the really special achievements in my opinion, because they truly challenge the gamer in ways never before imagined.  These are the types of achievements I want to talk about today.  I have therefore come up with a list of some of the best examples I can think of, of achievements that change the way you play a game.  If you can think of any more please let me know.

Mirror’s Edge

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Mirror’s Edge is at its best when you are running as fast as you can, vaulting under or over obstacles, and jumping from roof to roof.  Since the entire game can’t simply be running from one point to another, the developer inserted sporadic battles into each level, where you have to fight off a number of guards before you can advance.  Now while the developers give the players the ability to use hand-to-hand combat to fight these battles, it’s much easier to simply disarm a guard and then use his weapon to take out the other guards.  In a lot of cases, especially those when it’s you against 5-10 guards, it can be next to impossible if you don’t use a weapon.

Using a weapon in Mirror’s Edge always feels a bit out of place, especially since the mantra of the main character, Faith, is to use her speed and the environment to get her out of tight spots.  Using a weapon just never felt like the solution she would choose to get out of a tough situation.  That’s why the Test of Faith achievement is so great.  Without the use of a weapon, it forces you to really think about situations the way Faith would.  If you are presented with 5 enemies, all with guns, how would you take them down with just using hand to hand combat?  The great thing is, that this really isn’t an impossible achievement.  It’s actually very attainable, if you just take the time to think through ever situation.  This is definitely my favorite achievement on my list today.

Prince of Persia

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Prince of Persia is probably the safest you will ever feel playing an action game, because there is absolutely no way to die.  Every time you come close to dying, Elika comes to your rescue and saves you.  If you miss a jump and start falling to your eventual demise, Elika grabs you and pulls you up to safety.  If a boss pins you to the ground and is about to thrust his swords through your abdomen, Elika does some type of last second “force push” maneuver that knocks the boss away and saves you.  If you fall into the corruption, and it begins to devour you whole, Elika someone how manages to pull you out.

I mean Elika is simply the most incredible woman I have ever seen.  Most women I know would eventually get so sick of their man constantly making mistakes that threaten his life that she would just let it happen.  Not Elika though.  She is always there to save the Prince from sudden doom and destruction.  Because of this, the player never feels like they have to be careful when they play the game.  They never have to think about the decisions they are making because if they make a bad one, Elika will always be there to save them.  Well the Be Gentle with Her achievement changes all of that.  Since Elika can only save the player a maximum of 100 times to get this achievement, the player has to be a lot more cautious and actually think about what they are doing.  It really changes the way the game is played, and hence I have added it to my list.  Take a break Elika, you’ve earned it.

BioShock

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Bioshock suffers from the same mistake Prince of Persia made.  Thanks to the wonderful Rapture invention that is the Vita-Chamber, your character never has to worry about the consequences of dying.  When you do die, you are immediately revived in the nearest vita-chamber, without any time passing since you died, and nothing has changed whatsoever.  You don’t lose ammo, you don’t lose health, and boss battles don’t reset.  The game simply starts back up exactly where it was at before you died.

Without death having any consequences, you never have to worry if a Big Daddy is bearing down directly on you.  You can simply pump him full of bullets until he kills you, and then you get revived, and jump right back into the battle, exactly where you left off.  The Big Daddy’s and other enemies don’t even recover any life back.  Things are exactly the way they were before you did, and you can continue killing everything as if nothing ever happened.  Imagine people surprise when you discovered that if you want to get the 100 points for the Brass Balls achievement, you have to beat the entire game without using a Vita-Chamber, and do it on hard mode.  Oh yeah, it knocked some people on their feat.  Once again this is not an impossible achievement, because the game has plenty of ways to play through it without ever dying.  It just requires you to think through all the situations in the game more.  It forces you to really choose when the best time to attack a Big Daddy is, and to plan how the entire fight is going to go in your head before you even begin it.  Try it sometime.  You’ll never look at Bioshock the same way again I guarantee it.

Ikaruga

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If you are a fan of side scrolling, or top down scrolling shooting games, then you have heard of Ikaruga.  When it was released in 2001 it took the entire SHMUP world by storm.  While in most shooter games the point was to not get hit by enemy projectiles, in Ikaruga, the game not only allowed you to get hit, it actually required you to do so to progress though the game.  Using a special black/white polarity shield system, you are able to actually absorb bullets that are the same color as the shield you have equipped at the time.  Only bullets of the opposite color can hurt you.

While this adds an extremely interesting element to the game, the majority of the game is still the typical shooter where the point it to kill absolutely everything that stands in your way.  This is, after all, how every shooter ever created works; if you see an enemy you kill it before it kills you.  The Dot Eater achievement changes all that though.  To get this achievement you actually have to beat an entire level without shooting your gun off a single time.  All you can do is either dodge or absorb the enemy bullets.  While this might seem impossible, it’s not, because any enemies you don’t kill eventually pass you by, and the last boss eventually gives up on trying to kill you and runs away.  All you have to do is not get hit once in the entire level, and not fire your gun once.  Now who would ever think of playing a SHMUP without shooting?  Well if it wasn’t for this achievement, probably no one.

Mega Man 9

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Ok, so maybe I’m just being rude by including this game on the list, or maybe I’m trying to show off because I actually got this achievement without much trouble, but either way it’s a great achievement.  Let’s face it, Mega Man 9 is an extremely hard game.  The people who love it, do so because it really harkens back to the NES era, when games where hard and real gamers were hard core.  To beat Mega Man 9 just once, using as many continues as it takes, is incredibly hard.  Imagine then the difficulty involved in beating the entire game without dying.  It essentially requires you to not just play through it carefully, but to memorize the entire game, right down to every last jump, and the perfect timing required to make it, in ever single level.  Oh yes, to obtain this achievement you have to become something completely different then a typical gamer.  You have to become that 8 year old kid again who had all day to play games.

  1. Really great write-up Shawn. I’m really impressed with how diverse the achievement system is. People rag on it for simply being a bragging tool, but really, who would have actively thought “I want to beat this game this certain way” for a lot of these titles.

    The achievement itself is a goal to shoot at. Sometimes, back in my retro days, I would try and beat games without firing a certain weapon, but at the end of the game, I couldn’t remember 100% whether or not I had actually used it. The achievement would be able to discern that for me, which is astounding.

  2. avatar Kek

    Nice! I love achievements, and it looks like you put a lot of work into this. I definately want to go back and rebeat some of these games.

  3. I use achievements/trophies to extend the life of a game.

    It was only this afternoon I was playing Pure on PS3 and retried an event because I’d realised I was only a few thousand points off of getting a trophy. Had the system never existed I wouldn’t have bothered.

    However, these gamers who obsesss over them and see gamerscores and trophy levels as status symbols in the community need to get a grip.

  4. Great article mate, very interesting read. I’m not a bit achievements fan, but I do see how they could be addictive.

  5. I have to admit that I am a little addicted to Achievements. There have definitely been a couple of games that I played through twice just to get all of the achievements. The two major ones that come to mind are Dead Space and The Force Unleashed. If it wasn’t for achievements I can guarantee you I would have never played through these games twice. Not that they are bad games, I loved them both actually, but I have never been the type of person to play a game more then once. I’m a one and done kind of gamer. Achievements have changed all of that though.

  6. @James
    I’m not really a true achievement fan either, but sometimes when I find a game I REALLY like, I’ll spend a few extra hours getting some wacky ones, like Grahame.

  7. Some achievements I do love, as even before games had achievements you’d play some games going “oh, I’m going to do this level without touching the floor” just to see if you could. It is those achievements that are great, and it seems you’ve picked a great bunch of those. It is the “collect every item in game” achievements that are just incredibly dull.

  8. Team fortress 2′s achievements are fantastic. Not only are they hilarious, if you get enough of them you unlock new guns.

    • avatar Martis

      I will also give you my seedy little pat on the head, coragnts to you & United on your title. As my powder blue boys were eliminated a while ago from the EPL title race I could care less whom was going to win Chelsea/United/Gooners, I am just glad I was able to throw a tiny thorn into Uniteds season with the FA semi victory over them! I now look forward to what is the biggest week in Manchester Citys history! I massive week ahead for me .I could be a very happy Ted ..or potential drunken snapping Ted like last year! PS like usual I will be watching the City vs Spurs delayed on Wed night .not Tue but Wed and the FA final on Sat night delayed also that is just how I role! See you all on the 28th Congrats Ricky!

  9. You skipped the Guitar Hero 3 one where you have to beat the whole game without a guitar controller and just use the regular old gamepad. Maybe because everyone already knows and has complained about that one?

  10. @Alex: I have to admit that the TF2 achievements are some of the best ever, but they are also some of the hardest. The Pyro achievements came pretty easy to me, but the Medic achievements and the Heavy achievements were a lot harder I felt. It would be nice if achievements actually unlocked items in more games like TF2 does.

  11. So there is one achievement I left out of this, which I meant to include but forgot. That’s the GNOME achievement from Half-Life 2. Does anyone remember that one? It was crazy!

  12. That was a ridiculous achievement, remember seeing so many screenshots of people taking that gnome on the journey.

  13. A gnome achievement? Sounds odd

  14. Good write-up Shawn! I’m a self confessed Achievement whore. I can only agree with you on the Test of Faith achievement is one of those achievements that I think actually improves the game it’s attached to. The guns in Mirror’s Edge were out of place anyway, so offering a reward for finishing without them was a smart move. I’d suggest anyone attempting this don’t go for the double-whammy with the hard difficulty achievement like I did however. I wanted to cave my TV in with my face several times.

    And crazy ass achievements like the Gnome one from HL2? They’re for the super-elite achievement players. Something to brag on and on about when they finally get them :)

  15. I was halfway through HL: Episode 2 before I read online that you find the gnome in the first hut… uck.

    At least the whole game’s only a few hours long!

  16. Well done article!!

    I will often read through a list of achievements before I play a game so that if there is something game-changing like the ones you listed, I can aim for it the first playthrough. I won’t play a game a second time just for achievements.

    Completing Dead Space using only the Plasma Cutter was a good example of this — I only achievement farm if I reallly love the game and would replay it any way (Fallout 3), or if there’s a really well thought out one like the ones you mentioned.

  17. Fallout’s achievments/trophies were good because there was very little repetition. Unlike some which require you to beat a game once to unlock hard mode, and then beat hard mode to unlock insane, if the game happens to be linear, it just gets boring.

  18. avatar Mark

    Nice write up. Now I will makes some detailed notes and go to work researching what each of these achievements actually is on the internet, in order to give this excellent and informative article some context and thereby some meaning for me.

  19. avatar Mark

    Sorry, my bad. I assumed these achievements unlocked something, I see now that they are just for bragging rights.

  20. Like others have said, Achievements and Trophies have made the game last a little longer for me. Dead Space, again as was mentioned before, is a game I would have beaten and then never touched again if not for the trophies I got to get my 100% Platinum.

    They are also great though when you have an open world game with some random elements involved. For example, Fallout 3. They give you Achievements to play both good and bad (and neutral) but they also give you awards for building all the weapons, locating item X, doing side-missions and such. They offer somewhat of a guide to get the full experience and most out of your game.

  21. avatar 13-year old boy.

    I’ve got an idea:

    Middle School: Pass middle school. Use proper grammar and correct spellings; ie, then/than, subject/verb agreement, making complete sentences.

  22. avatar name

    i dont see how they can be a bad thing.
    if you dont want to play the game the way the achievement wants you to its simple.
    DONT!
    if games dident have achievements and trophys there would be no reason to play a game more than twice.
    to me the only bad thing about them is they make me want to play the game more, eating up time i could be using playing another.
    or i play the game just so i can get that ach/tro and that causes me to go over the 7 day return policy.
    so instead of taking the game back and getting a full refund i am forced to trade it in and get half of what i could of.

  23. avatar name

    but there should definetly be some rules put into place.
    like some of them are extremly unfair.
    like the come in the top 1% trophy from killzone 2.
    to do that you have to have no life for a whole week, some of us work and go to tafe and are lucky to get 1 hour per day.
    or the 10000 kills in competetive mode from R2 same thing.
    trophies should be on how hard they are not how long they take.
    you should be rewarded for skill not for having no life.

  24. avatar jimmy two times write this

    good idea, decent article, but you need to stop repeating yourself. i swear to god i felt like i reread sentences at least 3 times.
    “Everyone once in a while though, an achievement comes along which totally changes the way a person must play a game.”
    “Every once in a while though an achievement comes along that requires you to completely change the way you play a game;”

  25. avatar VipSphinx

    I’m just enhancing what somebody already said, the ach/Troph prolongs a game’s life quite a bit. I’m obsesse with the ach myself, the only conflicting subject that it has been banishing little by little is that on first generation games some achievements required to be on top of the leaderboards online which I can see is very difficult to manage if you have a job and family which you need to spent time with. But, like I said, I don’t see those kind of achievements anymore, not that I know.

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