In this next-gen era where we’re all obsessed with graphics, AI (or artificial intelligence) is something of an underdog. It’s the lame, divorced uncle that no one wants to sit next to at dinner parties. The one who also happens to be a trash collector for a living, which means that – much like the AI in games – he’s utterly necessary but frequently undervalued.
Although most games these days are so reliant on online multiplayer, where the need for AI is completely removed by having actual people from around the world shoot you in the face instead of an algorithm, it’s still important. Single player games will never die out, of course, and now that graphics are more or less photo-realistic, it might mean that developers finally switch their priorities back – and maybe even make AI cool again.
It’s been around for long enough, and is arguably the very thing that true videogames were built on, so it is about time it came back to the fore. Did you know, for example, that even those four ghosts in Pac-Man had individually programmed artificial intelligence? No? Well, then you’re a disgrace. The original Halo certainly had a good go, too, and even gave the game the subtitle of Combat Evolved because it was so unique. I’d certainly never witnessed allies driving me around in vehicles before, or enemies rolling out of the way to dodge grenades.
But as far as AI has come, and as amazing as we’ve seen it get (Tom Clancy’s Advanced Warfighter anyone?), there’s certainly been some totally terrible misfires.
Here’s a list of them, see if you don’t agree.Next
7) Titanfall (2014)
I’m not sorry about this. Titanfall is, in bite-size doses, an incredible game. Much like cherry-flavoured chewing gum, the sensation is initially exceptional, but then that sweet, sweet goodness is gone after about nine seconds. Developers Respawn had a fair old crack of the whip and did many things right – but was trying to make the game accessible to people who’d never even picked up a pad before one of them? I would argue not.
In part, it’s clear why they did it: Atonement. After all, they did “gift” us with one of the most frustrating franchises ever in Modern Warfare. Quickscoping, host migration, hideously unfair killstreak rewards. It had it all. And so with Titanfall, everything was reversed. Completely impractical sniper rifles, dedicated servers and unconditionally idiotic AI bots that you can slaughter at your leisure to feel good about yourself.
You can even do it with your Smart Pistol, too! A gun that quite literally aims for you. Yes, just point it in the vague direction of those enemies who are silently facing you and pull the trigger when you feel like it! Need to reload? Not a problem, they’ll just stand there missing you until you’re ready again. Maybe casually walk up to a group of five or six and slowly kick them all in the back of the head while they’re busy pondering what to have for dinner later.
It’s a good thing Respawn used Microsoft’s cloud computing to run the AI, imagine how dumb they’d be if they had to fit it on the disc with the rest of the game.Previous Next
6) Dead Rising (2006)
Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a gamer more than the words ‘escort mission.’ But being tasked with protecting another character whilst you drag them through a level is not a crime in itself. Plenty of games have done an exceptional job of it (such as PlayStation masterpiece Ico). However, these games are completely outweighed by games that have you biting the back of you hand in frustration.
I’m talking about games such as Dead Rising, where the characters you’re encumbered with can merrily wander into a seething nest of zombies, get stuck in knee-high water fountains, or generally behave like they have less brain function than the undead monsters they’re supposed to be avoiding. The absolute worst part is even after you’ve torn out your last clump of hair getting them to safety, they never really seem that grateful. How hard can it be to program a bit of gratitude? I mean, the developers did find time to program in “Erotica” points for taking photos of female zombies’ breasts, so, you know…
Still, so poxy and unsuccessful where these escort missions, in fact, that Capcom finally admitted defeat and completely revamped them for their most recent sequel, stating the are no longer just “babysitting” missions. It almost worked, too. Points for trying.Previous Next
5) Hitman: Blood Money (2006)
The Hitman series is good for exactly two reasons. One, you play as a hitman and two, you get to wear a nice suit. That’s more or less the bread and butter of the entire franchise, too. I’ll be damned if I could tell you anything about the “plot,” and I certainly couldn’t name any other character than Agent 47 (which isn’t even a name anyway).
But it’s cool because you get to slope around mini sandboxes dressed as a chicken or whatever and try and kill people in hilarious ways. The AI reacts totally believably, too, which keeps you immersed in the experience. No wait, I don’t mean ‘believably’ do I? I mean ‘completely idiotically.’
We can just about forgive the developers for the decision to allow non-player characters to immediately forget who you are because you have a different shirt on, but we maybe can’t forgive them for giving them superhuman senses to compensate for their dodgy eyesight. Fire one bullet into someone’s head and your position is instantly swamped by 50 other agents who all heard it from the other side of busy nightclub, for example.
They only seem to have one response level too, which is ‘fire gun at stranger.’ Maybe if they just politely asked me to leave, I would. Manners cost nothing.Previous Next
4) GTA IV (2008)
‘Maybe I’m just imagining it,’ I think to myself as I pop the disc in to check. ‘Maybe my memory is a little tainted or hazy. The police AI can’t have been that bad.‘ Then, just as I finish that thought, I accidentally – and gently – bump into a policeman’s car. The officer steps out and declares that I’m “really starting to piss him off,” before immediately opening fire on me.
I drive away panicking, but before long have I seem to have half of the Liberty City Police Department hunting me. They hurtle down the streets, carelessly mowing down pedestrians and even – at one point – a group of other officers. They unflinchingly smash into lampposts and street vendors while tracking me. Despite this, I’m actually driving slowly, maintaining proper roadcraft. I’m stopping at red lights and junctions, but every time I do, three or four police cars will career into me like it’s some kind of deep South destruction derby.
Despite committing no crime, I decide this madness must end. I hand myself in. I step out of the car and stand motionless. One of the burning police cars (that the LCPD themselves set alight to whilst in reckless pursuit of me) explodes, killing several more innocent bystanders. “Son of a bitch!” the cop yells at me. Although I still haven’t moved a muscle, they reign down machine gun fire on my position. In the background, a violent but unrelated street fight is in progress, with no officers paying attention.
‘Yes,‘ I think to myself. ‘The AI is completely terrible.‘Previous Next
3) FIFA 12 (2011)
A game so infuriating that I hardly care to dwell on it. In short, some kind of behind the scenes algorithm meant that any team, and at any stage of a match, could still beat you by scoring as many goals as they liked – though usually in the 90th minute of play.
It was apparently a kind of manufactured momentum used to slim down the distances between good and bad play, making all games close-knit affairs and thus, much more lifelike. Now, quite obviously there already exists a system in football (and any other sport you’d care to mention) that ensures games are close fought and fair: leagues. If a really good team plays a really bad team, the really good team will probably win – that’s basically science.
Even more maddeningly, EA seemed to include this little AI gem in the online play, allowing any old jerk to score lucky, injury-time screamers against your on-form, top-of-the-table club. Also, the referee is a wanker.Previous Next
2) Rogue Warrior (2009)
Let me preface this particular segment by saying that I love Mickey Rourke and think that swearing is hilarious. Therefore, Rogue Warrior could quite easily have been my 2009 Game of the Year. That is, if you leave aside the hideous low-res textures, sound that seems like it was recorded from a black and white Western onto a tape player, and enemy AI so criminally bad that that everyone at Bethesda should have been arrested for charging $60 to experience it.
In fact, it would probably be unfair to other programmers to even use the term ‘artificial intelligence.’ It doesn’t really apply here because I’m not even sure there is any. Enemies lollygag about the dismal grey environments as if they’ve been forced to as part of a community service order and don’t even raise their eyebrows when you throw a grenade at them, let alone seek cover. You can also use stealth-kill moves in the heat of a firefight, because they apparently can’t fathom that you’d be brave enough to stroll over to them while they’re trying to shoot you.
In one instance (on the hardest difficulty setting, no less) I came across two guards talking in a hallway. Mid-conversation, I shot one in the head, and he slumped to the ground in front of the other guard, who then… did nothing. He just stood there, perhaps wondering if his friend had sudden onset narcolepsy, or why he’d used bright red hair gel.Previous Next
1) Assassin’s Creed (any)
Assassin’s Creed is a franchise that demands attention. Every release is a critically acclaimed tale of ancient cloak-and-dagger brotherhoods, secret societies, and of course, politically motivated assassinations – all dressed up in vast, historically accurate towns that you can seamlessly bound over at your leisure. The problem is, they’re actually terrible games.
Perhaps I should elaborate. The titles in the Assassin’s Creed franchise are boring, overly long, nonsensical (with hideous modern-day exposition), buggy, have hideous mission layouts and dreadful combat, and – the reason it made this list – they all have severe NPC issues. Everyone you interact with appears to either be a complete imbecile or suffering from some kind of very recent trauma that has rendered them utterly witless. Whether it be guards who haven’t got a blind clue what’s going on (despite said events unfolding in front of them), friendly characters going off on a tangent, or any of the other thousand street-dwellers who run away if you jump off a roof near them but don’t bat an eye when you throw a corpse in their direction.
I have paid, with my own money, for every single one of the games in the Creed franchise, and every single time I get about halfway through before wondering just what on Earth is wrong with the human race for liking it. Assassin’s Creed is basically the next-gen FarmVille, though I think even that has better AI.
Played any other games that have appalling character AI? Let us know in the comments below!Previous