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Hacked Off: When Video Games Have Escort Missions

This is a special topic, as this is the first time someone other than me has been annoyed enough to voice their grievances. Fellow GR writer Michael Fitzgerald shares his most painful memory of escorting a character. For some reason developers seem to love putting classic escort missions in games. No matter how many times we say we don’t want them, they seem to think we’re just joking. Blimey, Resident Evil thought escort missions were so fun that they made the whole of 4 into one. I suppose if you play 5 and 6 with AI, you could say they are escort missions too. No Sheva, don’t just walk up to the Executioner. Actually, do it, it’s the only way you’ll learn.

What better place to start than the game I just mentioned? Resident Evil 4. It’s weird to think that a whole game based around escorting would be regarded highly. It just makes you think how good the game must be. Ashley isn’t even a fun character. She just constantly screams when Ganados try to grab her; why not be productive and walk away from them? The rest of the time she just ogles Leon. The problem is you can’t even take out anger by shooting her as she just ducks out of the way. The only highlight is making her climb into a dumpster or the metal armour suit you can unlock, which means nothing will hurt her. I suppose there are worse escort missions, as at least when Ashley cowers she doesn’t just run in the way of shots or purposefully walks into the enemy.

Maybe it’s just something about zombie games that makes people you escort lose any of the few brain-cells they have. Dead Island and Dead Rising have escort missions by the bucket load, and neither of these games make them fun. I’m pretty sure if during a zombie apocalypse someone with a weapon was taking me to a safe house, I’d stay pretty close to them and not just stroll along without even attempting to avoid the undead. Then again, I don’t know if I’d follow them, it’s not like they have a badge or even a bit of evidence they aren’t just going to murder me as soon as I go with them.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain didn’t have many, but in one mission you must escort a group of children. They will keep moving on a determined route, and to stop them from being seen, all you have is an ability to tell them to ‘stop’ and ‘go’. This is hard enough, but bear in mind there are about 1,234 soldiers walking around and a helicopter. Oh, and there’s a timer, which means they’ll notice the missing children and send out a search squad that seems to move at the speed of light. All I can say is that there were plenty of restarts on this and a fair few curses towards the children. The kids seemed to go when I didn’t want them to and refused to stop even though I asked them to ever so politely. The guards seemed to notice everything. I’m sure they’d have been able to see a mouse moving in a field 29 miles away. Yet, they normally can’t see a man standing not two feet away.

Escort missions are not fun. Having to protect someone that goes everywhere and anywhere you don’t want is not enjoyable. The main problem is having to wait for them to get a move on. Why the developers give players but not NPCs the ability to run is baffling. These missions are the equivalent of helping an old lady across the road. It’s a nice thing to do and you feel good after, but how many of us would actually do it? Not only would it be incredibly weird to just randomly start helping an elderly person walk across the road, as they’ve been walking for longer than us and have presumably been competent enough at walking to at least get to the crossing, but it would take too long to do. We have things to do, and we’re not even video game characters, and they’ve got worlds to save, not just one person.

I understand that there are only so many types of missions a game can have, but at least spice them up. Why not not have a mission where every now and then the person you’re escorting randomly hides and leaves you a series of clues, each one harder than the last, to find them? I don’t know. I’m not the person who comes up with levels, but at least I’m trying.

 

Michael Fitzgerald

I’m worried that the following comments may be misconstrued as me being misogynistic, but I assure you that the level of intense dislike that I hold for this character has nothing to do with their gender and everything to do with their sheer incompetence. Were they a member of the opposite sex, I can assure you I would hate them just as much.

The character I speak of is, of course, Natalya Romanov from GoldenEye 007 on the N64.

She is a useless lump who spends most of the game wandering into the middle of gunfights or very slowly hacking into terminals whilst you get shot at by KF7 Soviet wielding soldiers. Sometimes she will just stand in a doorway and won’t get out of the bloody way, thus grinding your progress in the level to an immediate halt.

In the “Archive” level she will get startled as you tackle the guards who hold her captive, and she will sprint her way to the very top of the building, meaning you then have to traipse after her to bring her back and complete the level. If you’re especially unlucky and are standing too much into the doorway, she will eat a back full of bullets whilst having her pathetic panic attack, and you’ll be forced to start the level again.

And this is before you have to protect her through the “Jungle” level, a level which is already one of the most stressful and unpleasant ones in the game even before babysitting comes into it. And babysitting is what it basically is, because Natalya seemingly has the brain of a 2-year-old. Again, I’d like to point out that my frustration has nothing to do with her being a woman. If she were a man named Nathan, I’d still have nothing but unadulterated hatred for the clueless putz!

Anyone who has played a lot of GoldenEye 007 will have shot Natalya flush in the face at one point out of pure frustration and anger at her sheer uselessness. On a couple of occasions, I’ve gotten to the end of a level and plugged a couple of rounds into her arms and legs so that she doesn’t die, but she at least gets to feel a mere snippet of the pain that she’s caused me.

So yeah, escort missions suck at the best of times, but the all-round misery gets amped up to 11 when Natalya is around!

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