Action/Adventure as a genre is a rather nebulous. What counts and what doesn’t? But in the grander scope of things, there are certain tropes—certain clichés that repeat over and over in games that have action and have adventure. You see them so much to the point where your eyes glaze over and what you see is tally sheet clicking off it as example #5622 of video gameness. They are annoying, boring, stupid, infuriating and laughable all because they get used because developers either think they have to be used or can’t think of anything else. We wish they stop using them for the simple fact they’ve been used so much and so badly.
Here are the top 10 Action/Adventure clichés.
10- Meaningless collectables that are hidden just off the beaten path
With the advent of achievements and trophies, every game now seems to have some version of a useless thing that you have to get 100 of, or 500 etc. They serve no purpose, are common enough that you pick them up every so often and are hidden enough that you have to act like a map surveyor to get them all. The thermoses in Alan Wake, the treasures in Uncharted, the classified documents in every military shooter ever. Why are these here? Why would you pick them up? What is the point of them? But most of all, why do we waste our time trying to find them all for a lousy ding in the upper right hand corner of the screen?
9- Useful collectables that are hidden just off the beaten path
Slightly or infinitely more annoying, depending on the game is the collectable that you have to get X of and they are hidden so you have to act like a map surveyor to find them all. Slightly, because while all the same silent nagging the back of your mind, it’s offset that you are getting a benefit for the collecting like power ups, extra health or money; infinitely, because to get all those power-ups, extra health or money you have to act like said map surveyor. Whether the power orbs from Crackdown, the energy shards from inFamous or the Light Seeds from Prince of Persia (2008) they are in the way of getting better at the game or progressing at all. These games are supposed to have action and interesting visual worlds to explore and instead you’re searching every dark little corner.
8- Tapping a button repeatedly in a QTE to make a character run
This cliché has fallen out of favor recently, but I bring it up because of how stupid it is. We know how to run. We’ve been doing it the whole game. QTE are supposed to be there to accomplish actions we couldn’t do otherwise. They’re for the super impressive fighting acrobatics or ultra gory finishing moves or putting a baby to sleep. They’re not to make a character run away from something. We can do that on our own. Resident Evil 4 did this repeatedly ever time a bolder or walking statue started coming after you and it turned into a QTE. Resident Evil 5 and Jericho did this as well. And (quite hilariously) did Spider-Man 3. Though that was more jumping than running. My point stands.
7- Grabbing the person’s hand after they just missed making the jump
Just once I’d like to see the a game where they either let the person fall off the cliff or make it without the "will he or wont he?" Yes he will, because I hit the button and the game started a cutscene game—it kind of takes the mystery out of it. This might have been exciting at one point, but now it’s been used so much it’s worn down to the nub and doesn’t have quite the same impact or point, if you’ll pardon the pun. Uncharted 2 pulls this off a ridiculous 5 times if I remember correctly. Some of them don’t even make sense, because we were going to make it until the game drops the floor out from beneath our feet. This cliché is mostly found in co-op games where some actually decided it might be a nice idea to make it part of the game play, though cutscene last minute save are still the norm and eye-rollingly stupid.
6- Bald white guy protagonists with a gruff voice
I put this much lower on the list because it’s become cliché to complain about it. I’d rather get it out of the way early and move on to other things you’ve already heard many times before. Why we keep getting this very peculiar list of qualities in every protagonist is what’s baffling. Resistance 1, inFamous, Kane and Lynch, God of War, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. You could try and mix it up—how about a bald black protagonist with a gruff voice, or keep the bald white guy but give him a squeaky voice just for laughs, or white guy with a full shoulder length head of hair with a gruff voice. Or, I don’t know, anything else. A Latino midget with a love of cappuccinos; an Asian heavy weight with a slow drawl; a woman in baggy pants and normal tee-shirt who doesn’t scowl. ANYTHING. And it’s got nothing to do with quotas or forced equality. I’m bored. And I don’t give a pass if he’s wearing a hat or helmet; that just means he’s bald underneath.
5- Rooms with multiple waves of enemies
You burst into a room and everyone in there is upon you. Then you fight or shoot until they’re all down. Then you notice there are more of them. No they haven’t gotten back up, more just decided to run in through the back door, or drop down from the ceiling or spawn right behind you. Then you fight/shoot your way across the room and you have to turn around and shoot your way back. Every game with fighting or shooting seems to have this. Why? Could you not give us a second room? I conquered this room. I planted my flag and claimed it for my own and given I’m about to move on, why do I have to defend it now? The biggest abuse of this cliché is from Black’s final room. It’s the last level of the game and you have to shoot your way across a room with a near hoard of riot shield using machine gun toting enemies. Then since there’s no door, you have to shoot your way back. After doing this five times and end up back where you started. You’re out of health packs, low on ammo any thing that could have been used as cover is so shot to hell the game doesn’t render it anymore. Then the guys with rocket launchers and gattaling guns hidden in the concrete bunkers come out. This isn’t challenging. This is stupid. You think after I just slaughtered 30 of their guys they’d think it better to just gas the room or lock me in. Why would you match to your death like a lemming?
4- Mandatory escort mission where the escort’s death means game over
Escort missions, fine, boring, but fine. Mandatory escort mission, now I’m weary. Mandatory escort mission, where it’s game over if the escort dies, but it also as thick as a brick, okay now it’s shit and it wouldn’t be on this list if every game decided to do it. Cousin to the mandatory stealth mission, which has thankfully died, this can follow it and the sooner the better. It’s FedEx for people, except you aren’t allowed to buy delivery insurance. Dead Rising is the most know for having done this, but inFamous pulls this off once or twice, as does God of War 3, which just makes me scratch my head. At least when Ico did it that was the whole point and was a cliché done well. Resident Evil 4 made Ashley competent in getting out of the way and you could hide her in dumpsters. Forget what the movies tell you, security escorts are just in case—not the first and last line of defense.
3- The Final Ultimate Super Last one I promise Bad Guy form
It’s best known for something Square RPGs took to ridiculous extremes, but most games always did this for the final boss and nothing had changed in the modern era. You’d fight a boss in stages with new rules or settings or something. Each time the boss changes strategy, form and/or their name. Metal Gear Solid 4 did all three in the final fist fight. God of War II makes you defeat Zeus in three different forms which are basically three separate stages. Heavenly Sword, Brutal Legend, Enslaved, Resident Evil 1-5 along with Okami and pretty much every Legend of Zelda… the final boss can’t just have only one chance—he’s got to have three, minimum, and each one had got to be bigger and badder than the one before. Why not pull out the ultimate form first?
(Editor's Note: Because fuck you, that's why.)
2- Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal
We all know it’s coming. He has a mustache, which equals backstab. He speaks with a British accent—that means he will die or turn evil. Your best friend isn’t. He’s actually your father. We as players can see the backstab coming from a mile away, and it’s fine if the characters can’t see, as they are a bit preoccupied after all with all that world saving. It’s fine if they’re surprised, but game should stop acting like we’re supposed to be surprised. Players play like they’re the only person in the game that matters. This is one of the laundry list of reasons why. That kindly old advice giver will turn into a vampire otherwise. We look out for number one usually because well everyone is our enemy, even if they pretend otherwise. Let me count the games: Uncharted 1 and 2, Brutal Legend, Bioshock, Portal 1 and 2, Far Cry 2, Red Dead Redemption, God of War, Assassin’s Creed, Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia (2008) and Sands of Time, every Resident Evil (maybe I’m not sure what’s going on half the time), inFamous, Mirror’s Edge, Kane and Lynch, Dragon Age: Origins, Deus Ex, the entire Metal Gear Solid series. And that’s just off the top of my head.
1- Crates, crates, crates
Yep, crates. They are everywhere and they always seem to be empty or have one ammo clip in them. Evil overlords, rogue generals, shadow cabals, we get it you need to keep supplied, but do you have to work in the same places you store your extra car mufflers or whatever. They could be used by unassuming people as makeshift stairs to infiltrate your hideout. (Or be the marker for hidden air vents.) And whenever we break them open, they are empty 80% of the time. Why do you keep empty crates lying about? They take up space, can be used against you and are frankly ugly. Brown boxes are so interesting to look at over and over and over in every warehouse, factory, office building, science lab, empty street, inexplicable unused sewer. Always got to have crates. They are the placeholder of thought that no one ever questions no matter how stupid it is. Anything could be in there and that thing will make sense because the crate is there. Even though they’re really empty boxes. I don’t have to mention any games, because every game has at least one, including Mario.