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The search for that elusive platinum

I am proud to say that, after 35+ hours of gameplay, including one 9-hour marathon session where the game finally froze on me in an attempt to make me finally turn the @%@%@ machine off, I completed Sleeping Dogs the other day. I'm not talking about my usual "completion" where I finish the story, maybe play around for a bit and see if I can knock off a few achievements or just have a little more fun. (Short review: see my First Impressions article and then maximize all of the enjoyment I expressed in that article at least by three)

No, I'm talking serious completion. Yes, baby, I mean full 100% completion, 1000/1000 gamerscore. (Don't be offended by me calling you baby. Come back here and finish reading! Please?)

After traipsing around Hong Kong for what seemed like an unholy amount of time, I was down to the final achievement: buying every car available in the game. Thankfully there are only four or five car dealers in the city (so obviously this didn't take place in the Midwest). When that final achievement clicked with that distinctive "plok" sound, I felt enormously satisfied.

The last non-XBLA game I completed fully (barring the CSI games, where you'd have to work not to get 1000 gamerscore) was the first Assassin's Creed game, and that was with an online interactive map of flag locations. You can imagine how happy I was.

And it got me thinking, which is always a dangerous thing (Empty Chair: "yeah, especially for your readers.")

Where are the games for us who wouldn't mind completing a few games here and there with some effort but who don't want to spend 200 hours trying to do find all 500 doves that are scattered around the game world? I'm proud to say that I solved Sleeping Dogs without looking at the Internet at all, other than to find the last two world events that I couldn't find (they don't show up on your map).

As the story in Sleeping Dogs progresses, you unlock the ability to see various collectibles on your mini-map (not your main map, but the circular one at the bottom of your screen as you're driving around).  Lockboxes, health shrines, jade idols, security cameras. It doesn't make it super-easy for you, as you still have to drive around a lot. And some of them can be tricky to get to. But they're all there. You don't need to go to the Internet and look at a guide unless you really want to save time. Most of the world events happen as you're driving around too, so exploration is the key. The game doesn't make it easy on you.

But it makes it easier, which is my point. 

Also, there are a lot of other achievements that are difficult but not impossible and not super-frustrating. They just take time and effort to do. The "Safe Driver" achievement requires you to drive at an elevated speed (not top speed, but pretty fast) for two minutes without hitting anything. That is very hard to do! Even on the highways around town, you're going fast enough to pass everybody, and the drivers in all of these games can be annoyingly obtuse. But again, while it's difficult and requires effort, it's not impossible.

The most time-consuming ones, however, are the stat-based achievements. The game tracks thirty stats, anywhere from spending a cumulative 30 minutes driving a Class A car (sports car, basically think Porsche) at top speed to destroying 50 vehicles to breaking 100 bones in melee combat. There are medals awarded for reaching certain levels. Thankfully, you can replay missions and these will add to your stats. I played "The Funeral" mission another five or six times after I finished the story so that I could get the gold medal for wrecking 50 vehicles (lots of vehicles in this one to blow up). One of the achievements is getting a gold medal on all 30 stats.

(There's also one for getting kills with 10 different melee weapons, which includes fish! (Fish not seen here))

The thing is, while these are time-consuming, do take a lot of effort to do correctly (you have to have the moves for breaking bones down pat, for example), they are not impossible for the "average" gamer. They require dedication. They do not require "extreme gamer skillz." (Empty Chair: "Way to try and be hip")

I have to admit. In most games, when I've finished the game, I look at the achievement list, see which ones might take time and effort but will likely not cause extreme frustration, and do those activities. I then toss the game aside for the next one. I don't have the time or energy to spend trying the same thing over and over 200 times just to finally get that 15 points or bronze trophy. Getting 100% completion doesn't matter that much to me. Yes, it's an accomplishment. Yes, I did get satisfaction doing it this time. But it's weighing satisfaction against frustration for me, and the scales have to tip in the right way for me to carry through. (Empty Chair: "How many phrases are you going to use today that those under 30 won't be familiar with?")

In Sleeping Dogs, it did. Because I saw each achievement as doable. Yes, hard. But I knew I could do them.

I wish more games were like that. For those true achievement hunters, I know you love your challenge. I would never ask that all games be like what I'm saying. It would be nice, however, to have a few bones tossed our way. Some of us would like to get 100% completion more than once in a five-year period. I'm also not advocating that all games be as easy as the CSI games.

I understand why some achievements are the way they are, requiring more than one playthrough of a game. It's to keep people engaged with a game for longer than the eight hours it takes to complete it. These annoy me slightly, but I understand why they're there and I don't complain about it. I just chalk it up as a game I will never earn 100% in.

Is there anything wrong with occasionally catering to those of us who are relatively hardcore gamers, certainly not "casual" gamers, but who don't have the time or skills to get 15 headshots in a row?

Thankfully, Sleeping Dogs is that game to me. It was a breath of fresh air. But it also brought to mind how seldom this actually happens.

It is a rare thing to be enjoyed and savored, like a fine wine or a perfect microbrew beer (Empty Chair: "Way to appeal to that under 21 demographic that's all over the site") 

(Note: I know I played Sleeping Dogs on the Xbox, but "platinum" made a catchier title. Certainly more visually satisfying than "The search for that elusive 100%," because I find symbols useful but not catchy)