The Escort Mission

In the crunch-like midst of a project for a client I cannot name, today I feel compelled to write about games I’ve been playing rather than development.


The best racing games are, as you might guess, racing games. Series like Forza, Gran Turismo and Burnout have been reiterated, fine-tuned and improved on for years, and the results today are stunning. However, when an action game like Enter the Matrix decided to chuck in a driving level it didn’t so much as fall flat on its face, as drop out a failure tree and collide with every branch on the way down. As annoying, lame and repetitive as the driving sections were (particularly the ‘keep up with that plane, avoid randomly placed debris’ level), there’s a far worse section in a sewer (while I’m at it a sewer level is another thing video games could completely do without) where two friendly AI characters need to be kept alive. Two friendly AI characters with a strange and frustrating magnetism towards your opponents’ bullets.

Playing a certain section of Halo ODST has brought back a number of memories for me, and also helped me pinpoint exactly what it is that makes the inevitable, tacked-on Escort Mission so infuriating.

1. If they are hurt, it’s your fault, and you must be insulted

In an FPS, when a friendly AI decides to walk through my rather loud and visually obvious line of fire and shout at me for shooting them, it’s mildly annoying. This is exactly the kind of reaction you do not want from a friendly character who combines no intelligence and unnecessary foul language to create cretins like Killzone 2’s Rico. Rico will warn you of snipers ahead before running out into the open, getting sniped in the face and spouting his “muthafuckin’ higs!” nonsense (I revived him multiple times before realising more progress would be made if I left him incapacitated on the floor and carried on by myself).

However, friendly AI that actually requires an escort is far worse, they’re often defenceless, cause the failure of your mission when dead, move either infuriatingly slowly or jet off ahead to an early death, blaming you, the player, for their uselessness. Which brings me to my next point:

2. They have no intelligence

Team America

As cute as Bill was, rescuing Samwise Gamgee’s pony in Lord of the Rings Online still had me gritting my teeth with frustration. Why is the pony standing conveniently behind a mob of moderately powerful enemies? Why does it have to take a route through the middle of them in order to reach safety? Why can’t it run straight past them, using that horse-like quality that most horses possess, which is of course the ability to run at speed, and the very reason for a horse’s existence in the LOTRO universe – a method of fast transport. Why? Because it has no intelligence.

In Halo ODST, these two points are combined to create a section where Dare drives a vehicle forward very slowly, getting shot to pieces and shouting at me for the entirety of the journey. Perhaps on Heroic it needs to be a challenge, perhaps she was meant to die and curse at me ten times before we finally made any progress, or, perhaps this is another incredibly lame Escort Mission with repeating sections of road broken up by identical large doors and accompanied by a git with a mouth larger than her face and absolutely zero appreciation for my efforts.







5 responses to “The Escort Mission”

  1. John.B avatar

    AAHhhjjhjhjrhr! Escort missions, the bane of my existance. The thing is it’s just plain bad design, you the player is forced to usually crawl through a section with few save points and get punished for the stupidity of AI…how is that deemed fun?

  2. Aidan J avatar
    Aidan J

    Unfortunately this is why I didn’t like Ico that much. It’s not that it was done badly (nowhere near as badly as Halo), it was just frustrating that I had to escort this completely useless girl absolutely everywhere. I couldn’t even give her a stick and say ‘defend yourself’.
    Perhaps I’m just exceptionally allergic to escort missions…

  3. asamink avatar

    I had wiped from my memory the number of times I failed a GTA IV mission while waiting for a passenger to get into my car (and if you are reading this I mean you Little Jacob). Just get in the damn car! Oh, you have fallen over again, no bother; I’ll just wait here while there are 10 Russian guys blasting away at my parked car. Don’t hurry yourself on my account. I know I’ll move a bit closer so you can get in. OK that helps, throwing yourself under the wheels of my car. Oh, you are dead again. Aaargh!

  4. Emily avatar

    Haha, I remember Little Jacob. I was supposed to walk with him to the start of a mission, on this short walk he managed to roll over two car bonnets, but both times he just got up and continued walking and smoking as though nothing had happened.

  5. Lorna avatar

    Even Oblivion has a couple of these…sodding nightmare. Yes, fine, you go and take on all the nasties pouring out of that Oblivion gate, you’re only the poxy heir to the empire you dobba…

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