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High-Damage Output Modes: Time to Kill in Games

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Over the past couple of years, I have found a new preference in my gaming habits; I enjoy single-player game modes where I deal increased damage to enemies, and in turn the enemies deal increased damage to me.

This concept will sound familiar to you FPS fans out there; in multiplayer games this is called Low Time to Kill, or low TTK. While Call of Duty is certainly the most prominent example of such games, people tend to take a dim view on the franchise and its gameplay so I would like to posit some alternative examples.

Rainbow Six Siege is seen as a slow, tactical shooter but it also has very low TTK. In Siege, one bullet to the head from any gun will kill anyone. Despite the low TTK, gameplay is slower than you would think thanks to operator gadgets and obstacles.

Battlefield 4's Hardcore Mode would also be a good example. While weapon damage is static, the player's health pool is reduced to 60 rather than the usual 100. This changes TTK more dramatically than one might think; body shots from snipers will kill, and headshots with DMRs and some pistols will kill now as well. Hardcore mode also disables most of the player's hud, which means no radar or even ammo count. Once again, while TTK is lowered, the game has not become a mindless twitch-shooter that people associate with Low TTK.

Incidentally, both Rainbow Six Siege and Battlefield 4 Hardcore also have friendly fire. While this is a rather small detail, I think it shows us that the developer were going for a more "realistic" or "grounded" experience. This detail can also slow gameplay down a bit, as you have to be more careful with your shots.

So now that we have established the baseline, we can delve into the actual topic at hand.

So let's take the concept of Low TTK and apply it to single-player experiences. I do not know if Low Time to Kill is even the right word or phrase for what I am describing, and if there is a better one please let me know. I want to call it Increased Lethality, but to keep the language consistent through the post we will stick to Low TTK.

For instance, in Assassin's Creed: Origins there were two "Cursed Weapons" in the game, a Khopesh and a Spear. These weapons did 200% more damage (AKA they tripled your damage), but in return your health was reduced to a third of its max. This changed the game dramatically; you could take enemies out very quickly, but one wrong move could kill you. In a game where many enemies became a bit of sword-sponges, this helped make the game a lot funner for me. Actual strategy had to be used to take out camps, because of how fragile you were. But in turn, you could ambush people and take them out in seconds. I have heard there is a similar mechanic in Odyssey, but I have yet to play it.


Another game that did this was Shadow of War, which introduced a new difficulty level about a year after launch. While the exact numbers are not clear, Brutal difficulty drastically increased damage of both you and every Uruk. Supposedly it also increases the number of grunts in a horde. While the clear damage increase if fun in of itself, Brutal also increased the number of betrayals you experience from your captains. On top of that, dying to both Grunts and Captains becomes more common, which creates numerous enemies with very high-levels. I recommend also disabling Counter Icons, they make the game more generic, and the animations are clear enough that you will always know when to counter.

I have yet to play Ghost of Tsushima, but I think the Lethal difficulty is similar in concept.

To take an example that isn't a third-person, open-world, action game, I think the Metro series does this type of difficulty very well. While the Ranger mode exemplifies this best, I think normal difficulty can also have this. Enemies can be killed quickly, but if you don't use some semblance of stealth and tactics, you will find yourself restarting a lot.

There is also an interesting, and rather popular, Fallout 4 mod called "Modern Firearms". While it introduces various modern, tacticool weapons into the game, it also reshapes the game. One bullet from most these weapons can fell any raider easily, but the same holds true for you if you find yourself on the wrong end of the barrel. To quote the creators of the mod "…being shot should hurt. Being shot twice should stop the hurt altogether."

I am sure there are many examples of such modes or games, ones that I overlooked or completely forgot about. I would love some recommendations.

And while I enjoy these games, I am not saying all games should be like this, or even include such modes. But I do find it quite fun when I come across such things.

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