Hacked Off: When AIs Have Incredible Aim in Video Games

This week’s Hacked Off could be entirely localised to me. There are two instances where it has really put a downer on my gaming, with the offenders being Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and The Division. There are plenty of games which have the accuracy of NPCs set to ridiculous. It’s just the way of making a game harder, but these particular scenarios involve snipers that are one shot wonders. All that sits between you and a game over screen is your inability to be as precise as a computer, which is kind of our own fault.

Without spoiling MGS V, there is a level where you face four snipers, each of which have a nice, chunky amount of health. I felt like I was trying to take them out with pretty much a stick that fired paper bullets. Actually, I’m sure that would have done more damage than the weapon I was using. It was my own fault, as all I needed to do was upgrade my weapons, but that would take hours, and that’s not even an exaggeration due to upgrading weapons through R&D linking to real time. Armed with my stick, I took the challenge head on. The hardest difficulty meant even if a bullet just grazed your right ankle, that’s a death. Clearly, Snake is either getting too old for this or has the bone structure of a dainty butterfly.

Much of my first attempt was just familiarising myself with the game over screen. You know, just making sure it was all in order. Eventually, I worked out a foolproof plan, which was a legitimate tactic, and I’m sure it’s what Kojima Productions planned for people to do. It was simple: I’d hide behind a rock which was out of range for half of the snipers – that’s two for those who struggled with the math. Next, I would shoot one of them. During the confusion of them  readjusting their positions, I’d carefully leg it to a rock not five metres away, thus completely bamboozling them of my location.

After both were down, I worked out a similar plan for the next area. After about 30 minutes of this high-paced action, I was left with one enemy who only had half health, then I died. Turns out they were playing with their food. Out of nowhere, they shot me, it was like a scene from Wanted, bullets curved. For all I knew, this last one was Lee Harvey Oswald. In order to proceed, I took the weak route and upgraded my weapons. Rocking up in a tank was my fallback if that failed, though I’m 90% sure they’d have just sniped up the barrel and still killed me anyway. While it was super infuriating, it was oddly satisfying. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t even want to touch that level again with a barge pole, but at least I had beaten it once.

The snipers in The Division would always go round in a gang, and not a cool street dancing one like in West Side Story. There would always be at least two, which would ensure you could not leave the confines of the wall you’re sheltered behind. As soon as you poked your head up to see if there was anyone around, you’re dead. I remember my friend and I being held down in a building as they had us pinned down. People with machine guns were running at us, and snipers were sniping us. We even had to crouch past windows. The only people who seemed to die was us, every ten seconds.

The snipers in that game could have shot a gnat off the Empire State Building whilst they casually sipped their tea from the Andromeda galaxy. Good old Mass Effect teaching people about space. If you’ve dabbled in Hacked Off before, you’d know I was not the biggest fan of The Division; well, to even use those words (“The Division” and “fan”) in the same sentence is bad enough. However, the sniping in that game took the biscuit. Instead of me being allowed to senselessly shoot the super spongy enemies, I had to look out for a little red light that would appear for a nanosecond before killing me. I have no idea who has reactions quick enough to register that. Even the Flash would be caught off guard; well, I assume so, as I forgot to ask him.

Fighting against something where you can’t make a single mistake might be fun for some, but only for those who ever make only a few. I, on the other hand, am constantly messing up. Hiding behind a boulder and waiting for an opening isn’t something I rush home to do, too much of a rocky situation.



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