Thoughts on Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII

I’ve had a long and strange on-again off-again relationship with the Call of Duty franchise that has taken place over the last couple of decades. The first time I ever saw the game in action was at a friend’s house on his PC — the original game that started it all. It was reminiscent of other World War II games that I had enjoyed during that era, namely the Half-Life mod Day of Defeat and the Medal of Honor series. What would come to pass over the years is interesting, and also indicative of the overall gaming industry’s trends; originally strictly created by Infinity Ward and now being developed by several different companies and the series has gone from being a PC exclusive to being available on nearly every platform since. At one point the series became an annual event, and the price of entry was just the tip of the iceberg — almost every single installment has had several staggered release DLC packs. Such is the way of business, I suppose.

The first title I actually purchased was the first sequel, Call of Duty 2. That same friend that has shown me the original decided to grab the sequel as well, so we used to spend hours playing random maps together. Back then, like most PC games of the time, there were user generated maps and servers with custom rule sets; it truly was the golden era of the genre. Call of Duty 3 was not available to me due to being a console exclusive and in 2006 I was primarily a PC gamer. When 2007’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare released however, I was on board. This was the first game in the series to be released on all platforms simultaneously, but it still retained some of the boons I mentioned earlier, namely some private servers with moddable content. After that, I sort of forgot about the series, probably due to being into MMOs and also lacking a console until about 2009. I also has a computer change after one PC died and I got a laptop but it couldn’t handle most FPS titles. So I missed out on World At War and Modern Warfare 2. Many hail the latter as being one of the best in the series, but I haven’t played either to this day.

Enter Call of Duty: Black Ops. This is probably my favorite entry in the series, but also when I became a bit disillusioned with it. I absolutely adored playing the Zombies mode for hours on end (which I would later learn was actually introduced in World At War), and I even completed some of the prestige levels in the multiplayer component, along with earning the Platinum trophy on my Playstation 3. I bought all of the map packs and loved it. I thought this love for the series would continue on, but after purchasing the lackluster Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, I lost my love for the series and declared a boycott on it and its business model. I would subsequently skip playing Black Ops II, Ghosts and Advanced Warfare. I did later try Black Ops II only because I assumed it would be as good as the first in that particular arc, but wasn’t very impressed. I would later purchase my Playstation 4 and it just so happened that Call of Duty: Black Ops III would be the pack-in game, so I was back to playing. This didn’t last long though. I never finished the campaign, never maxed my level in multiplayer, and didn’t play zombies as much as I would have liked. Only being a casual fan at this point, I subsequently passed on Infinite Warfare and WWII. The latter was a little tempting, only because I love that time setting but I still didn’t bother.

Now that we have come to the end of the line, I’d like to talk a bit about Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII, the newest installment. I purchased this one for my son for Christmas because he had been playing my copy of the third Black Ops, and had been talking about wanting this title. It’s the first time a Call of Duty game included a Battle Royale mode, because clearly that’s the new hotness. Beyond a slight amount of curiosity, it was frustrating me that he had not really touched the game despite asking for it because of his obsession with Fortnite (which I’ve clearly expressed my opinion on) and he also got grounded from gaming recently so it was collecting more dust. I figured I might as well give the game a whirl since I paid for it after all.

The first thing that stood out to me is that there was no campaign. Despite these games being like riding a bike, I still usually will play a bit of the campaign just to see what it’s all about, and then subsequently jump into multiplayer or zombies. I still have to say that the multiplayer experience in Call of Duty games is one of the best in my opinion, mainly because I detest the thought of running for a mile to get back to the action after dying ala the Battlefield series. It turns out this was a source of controversy that I missed, as there were conflicting stories that the campaign element was scrapped due to not being finished, and another tale that this was intentional from the beginning of development. I can believe either story, mainly because Activision will rush some shit out, and because multiplayer is the bigger, more popular component.

So instead of having a campaign, multiplayer and zombies, instead we now have Blackout, which is the Battle Royale mode. Upon further inspection, it plays like you would expect. It’s first person, you drop in on the map from a helicopter and have to avoid the cloud of death that shrinks the map as the match goes on. Apparently there are “land, air and sea vehicles” available to grab and move around faster, but I didn’t see any in my couple of rounds. What I saw that set it apart was the ability to grab weapon mods that you can attach to your guns, and some support items like riot shields and RC surveillance models. You can heal up with first aid kits (but they don’t help much, so stockpile those). I didn’t last too long due to ignorance of the map and what to expect, but it did seem like a good time. Much like the way Treyarch has sort of segregated Zombies from the Multiplayer and given it its own set of things to level up, you’ll get that here too. Looks like you can unlock mostly fluff items but it’s something to work towards.

I didn’t do anything with Zombies outside of the tutorial, but I did like what I saw. The graphics look sharp and though there are familiar mechanics, there are some new twists as well. I think this game is a cohesive multiplayer PvP and Cooperative package and if you were smart enough to wait to get it on sale (I paid $40) it’s probably worth your time, particularly if you have friends that are willing to play. You will have to pay for the DLC packs to keep current with all of the maps though, so that’s more money to spend down the road. The choice is yours. Hopefully some of my opinions will help you to make that choice.

State of the Game: Mostly MOBA

This week has been like any other week. I bounce around from game to game, and end up finding new stuff to play, and ways to avoid finishing things I’ve started. It’s a vicious cycle. Still, I manage to have fun and keep things fresh. I find having a small list of MOBAs and Rogue-likes to play is a good practice, because it gives you something to do in short bursts, for the in-betweens in life. It also keeps any one game from getting boring, due to overplaying.

I have been a little sarcastic here though, I did still work on my playthrough of Shadowrun: Dragonfall. I also played a bit more of Alan Wake, but I don’t have much to report there. It’s not really a game that I can write about, as it needs to be experienced.

I broke a vow.

I played the Call of Duty series from its inception (when it was a WWII shooter and was only available on PC), all the way through the end of Modern Warfare 3. At that point, I vowed that I wouldn’t buy any more CoD games, mainly because paying $60 a year for a game and then $20 every couple of months for map packs was beginning to be tiresome. I also grew tired of the same-ol-thing every year, in a new skin.

Well, my roommate ended up getting a copy of Black Ops 2 on PS3, which is almost two years old (Ghosts was the incarnation from last year, and later this year will see the release of Advanced Warfare). Black Ops was my favorite entry in the series, outside of Call of Duty 2, which was my favorite on the PC. My brother-in-law also owns a copy of the game, and let me borrow it so I could play it on my PS3 with my roommate. At first I tried to resist. Thought that I’d play it and be able to say it sucks and move on. But then I played it, and I was hooked. Why does this series have such a pull on me (and everyone else)?

Ok, so I vowed that I wouldn’t BUY anymore CoD games, and I didn’t buy anything here 😀 I won’t be buying any map packs or anything like that either. I haven’t touched the Campaign, only played a bit of Zombies. I’ve mainly been focusing on leveling up in the Multiplayer portion of the game, and that’s where the game has always been the most fun. I do also rather enjoy the Zombies mode, I just don’t know anyone else playing the game anymore (my friends that I played Zombies with all the time have probably moved on to something else). So anyway, for a change of pace it’s been fun.

Call of Duty really is basically a MOBA when considering the scope of the multiplayer game modes (or it could easily be made into one by adding a few details). I’ve also been playing the games I always play, Awesomenauts and Hearthstone. I have my staples and eventually some of them might get retired, but for now I like the multitude of games I have at my disposal, especially due to them being multiplayer/pvp. I have a competitive urge on a daily basis!

I expanded upon the list of MOBAs I’m playing recently. I ended up getting access to some beta keys for Dead Island: Epidemic which is actually a “ZOMBA” according to the developer. It’s a mix of Diablo-MMO-MOBA gameplay. There’s PvE and PvP, and it seems to have a pretty decent system for crafting and upgrading your character. There are also quite a few characters you can unlock, though that will take some grinding unless you want to spend some cash. It does appear that the best gear is crafted, so leveling with crappy gear is just going to slow your progression a bit. This unfortunately means that PvP is pay-to-win to a degree, but you are free to grind PvE runs as long as you want. This means you can eventually get to the point where you are dangerous, even more than those who paid to win, it’s just going to take longer. I’m ok with smelling the roses, so this suits me fine. The game is in early access closed beta, so you can play it now if you like, but it’ll cost you $15 or there abouts. I’m not going to go into anything more specific than this, because I have a beta-time post coming. Here’s an action shot during a game I played with my bro:

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This game is a blast to play.

 

I ended up downloading two other free to play games on Steam, both that are MOBAs in a similar vein, though being in vastly different settings. A few years ago a game released called World of Tanks. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Of course you have. It was followed by the less successful World of Warplanes and the same company is working on World of Warships. They’re essentially Call of Duty style deathmatch or objective based maps with PvP, and using — you guessed it — Tanks/Planes/Ships instead of grunts. I played the first game of the series a while back, and it was ok, but a little too simulation-heavy for my tastes. Enter War Thunder, the arcade-y military war vehicle MOBA.

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I need a bomber for these ground forces…

This game mixes air and ground war, giving you the ability to choose which you prefer — tanks or planes. I think ships are supposed to be involved too, but as I just started with the game I’m uncertain of that. I only played a couple air missions, that also mixed the ground and air bits of combat, though I was only in the plane’s perspective. My mission was to destroy the enemy’s ground forces (I’m not sure if those were player or AI controlled) and at the same time avoid being destroyed by enemy planes, or letting them destroy my ground forces. I was given a few planes but quickly found out that once all of your planes are destroyed, you’re done for the match. It appears that those planes are repaired in-between matches. Overall the game plays well and is pretty fun, but I’m far from being an expert yet. You’ll hear more about this in the future, I’m sure.

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Here you see one of my destroyed planes, along with the map of the action.

The last new MOBA I tried out is basically the same type of game as War Thunder or World of Warplanes, but in space. It has the arcade-y controls as well, but being in space they are a little different. I haven’t had any luck playing the PvP portion of the game, as every time I’ve tried to queue up, I wait for a long time and nothing happens. It appears that the game’s population might be a bit low, but not so low that there isn’t anyone to play with. Thankfully there’s some PvE missions that you can play and that’s been fun for a while.

Capturing a point.
Capturing a point.

There are capture points and waves of enemies that come after you. You and your co-op partners have to survive, hold the points and destroy the enemy waves. At least on the mission I was playing. There are most likely further missions and the PvP is probably a lot of fun, but I haven’t gotten very far along with this title yet either. The graphics are pretty and the animations are smooth. I like the HUD and the combat feels fluid. Overall it’s a cool looking game, and I hope that enough people still play it to warrant full exploration.

Battles are pretty intense
Battles are pretty intense

Look me up if you play any of these games and want to join forces!

Lastly, the newest update for Nuclear Throne added a new character, so I had to check that out. Each of the characters have their own stats and their own unique special power. They aren’t really game-changers, but knowing when and how to use them is important. The new character, Horror, is a lump of radioactive goo that uses your primary source of XP, radiation, as a weapon. This is a good and a bad thing. For one, if you have a lot of radiation you can do a devastating attack, but that also means you’re stopping yourself from leveling and getting the awesome mutations. It must be used wisely. Also, Horror is not immediately available, he must be unlocked. Doing so is pretty tricky. First up, here’s a short video I recorded just so you can see him in action:

To unlock Horror, you’re going to need some patience. It took me a few tries to do it, but eventually you’ll get him. Basically you need to start a new game with any character, and when you find one of the radiation canisters (the ones that blow up if you touch/shoot them and drop radiation for you to pick up), ignore it. On the next level, there should be a larger canister. Ignore that one too. On the next level, Horror will appear randomly and if you defeat him, you can play him. Things to note: If you accidentally shoot a radiation canister (or an enemy does) or for any reason it gets broken, this will not work. If you don’t see a large container on the level right after you saw the small one (and ignored it), this will not work. If you don’t kill Horror (i.e. Horror kills you), he will not be unlocked. Hopefully that’s clear.

That’s about all for this week. As usually I’ll be back with another round up next week. Happy Gaming!

#stateofthegame #roundup #gaming

Call of Copy

Via Joystiq:

This is precisely the reason why I stopped playing the Call of Duty series. My relationship with first person shooters has gone back to the early days of Doom and Quake, but Half-Life really brought the FPS competitive scene to where it is today. More specifically, the mods for Half-Life — Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat (among others) were the games that had me chomping at the bit to commit mass murder. The Call of Duty series started out a long time ago, and I had played damn near every installation of the series up until Modern Warfare 3. I then boycotted the IP, and haven’t played one since. Yet here it still stands at the top of the pack, year after year, when it’s obviously copying itself, and not really improving anything. The same multiplayer system with minor tweaks and different guns, a slightly different military story with slightly different graphics, and the occasional additional mode doesn’t make for a good game. Reviews I have read are calling the game dull and not much of an upgrade from its predecessors. I feel that I made that distinction years ago. The last installment I really enjoyed was Black Ops, but that was my first experience with the Zombies game mode, which was addictive and fun. But even that got old and predictable, and from what I’ve heard Black Ops 2 actually ruined the mode. Before that you’d have to go back to Call of Duty 2, that was World War II based and had so many different maps it was ridiculous, but this was on the PC, and people made their own custom maps, something you still can’t do in any FPS games on consoles.

Really, I don’t understand why people pay $60 a year to be a part of this infinite repeat. We’re talking $60 for just the base game, you can pay much more for “Hardened” or whatever-name-they-use special editions. We’re also not taking into account the Season Pass, or individual DLC packs. We’re talking MMO money here, but you’re not getting expansions, you’re getting a couple maps where you play the same damn game. Call of Duty should be a subscription based game, or free to play, and you pay for extra maps only, or pay to unlock things, with the in-game currencies earned by playing the game. It just feels like being a member of that club requires getting bent over, and I’m not into that. Perhaps you are, and by all means don’t mind me. I’ll just count my money over here and spend it on some variety.

/Camp. /Delete.

MMOs are a strange thing. They suck you in, making you want to play them all of the time. You think about playing your game while you’re at work. You think about it when you’re at home but not playing it. You think about what it is you want/need to do, in-game, all the time. And then there comes a point where you can’t play. Or maybe you take a little break to play a different game. And then the longer you go without playing your MMO, the easier it is to not play it. Sooner or later, you end up not even caring about it. And then, you quit altogether.

For some of us, when we get to that point of not caring, it’s because of one of two reasons. The first and most common, is burnout. The second, is something bigger and better has come along. For some, it may be a combination of both. For me, I believe it is.

As I mentioned previously, I had rolled a couple characters on the Nagafen (PvP) server. An Assassin, and a Shadow Knight. Both were fun to toy around with, and both had reached the mid-teens. Last night, I decided to log on, and toy with them some more. Up until that point, I had yet to see any PvP, and from what I had read on the boards, it seems a lot of players are avoiding it at all costs, to keep from leveling. So the fix of GU#41 was a double edged sword. Anyway, I logged into my Assassin, and as I was staring at his journal, trying to figure out what to do, something in the chat box caught my attention. There was a discussion going on about 9/11, conspiracy theories, the military, Bush, and other politically charged topics. As I read, I realized that 95% of the people on that server, at least in that level range, had to be 15 or younger. Not my kind of crowd. On Butcherblock, I have seen flame wars going on throughout the tiers, but they tend to be short lived. And most of the people I talk to in-game are older than me, so I know that most of them are unlikely to waste their time with out of character conversations. Regardless, I felt dirty having read all of the filth going through the channel, and I /camped. The two PvP toons I had made were promptly deleted.

The conversation in the channel wasn’t my only problem with the server. I was also not feeling like leveling another toon (or two for that matter) up to cap, and the lack of PvP targets during my normal playtime was also reason for concern. I thought about it over my weekend, and I decided that I should concentrate on only one server, and probably only one character. The addition of CoD4 into my life has also lessened my time spent in EQ2 land, so I figured I would cut my losses.

Call of Duty 4 is an amazing game. Once I start playing it, I find it harder and harder to pull myself away. I’m currently sitting at level 32 out of 55 levels. Yes, there is an experience system in the game, and ranks that you can achieve, along with many interesting challenges along the way. Gaining levels gives access to more powerful weapons, along with upgrades to said weapons. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m finally to the point where I can own, instead of having my ass handed to me over and over. The gameplay is much more realistic than it’s predecessor, and that’s a great improvement. No more running/jumping head shots with sniper rifles, that’s for sure.

There is another reason for my lack of interest in EQ2 recently. Aside from the burnout factor, and the secondary game factor, there’s a new game that I’m finding quite appealing, coming out next year. Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning, otherwise known as WAR, is one that I’ve been researching over the past few days. I’ve also looked into Age of Conan, another highly anticipated MMO, but I’m not too impressed with it. WAR seems to be exactly the game I’m looking for, doing things that EQ2 doesn’t.

In EQ2, I love the PvE game, but I also love the PvP game. I’ve enjoyed playing on both types of servers, yet there is no server that includes both game modes. Of course, you’re thinking I’m an idiot, because the PvP server includes PvE content; all of it in fact. Here’s where I make a comparison to a game I really cannot stand, but has what I’m talking about. World of Warcraft has servers (called “normal” servers) that include PvP action inside a PvE server, but you get to pick and choose when you wish to access it. On EQ2’s PvP servers, you don’t get to choose when to PvP, it’s a constant threat. I used to enjoy that concept, but now having 2 characters over level 70 on a PvE server, I wish I could PvP with them. In my game of choice, this is not possible. If I was playing WoW, it would be. This is the major downfall of EQ2 for me, making me want to look elsewhere for the solution. WoW is not the solution, because the PvE bores me, and the PvP is severely unbalanced. So I began my research last weekend.

WAR seems to be the solution. Not only does every server include the same gameplay, but the gameplay involves both PvE and PvP content. Apparently you will be able to pick and choose when to PvP, or can avoid it altogether. Some of the PvP will take place in instances (much like the Battlegrounds or Arenas of WoW), and some will take place in the open world. The races and classes in the game seem very interesting, and all seem very playable in a PvP aspect. The game looks damn good graphically too, and seems to me a combination of EQ2 and WoW graphics; not as cartoonish as WoW, but not as realistic as EQ2. I signed up for the Beta, though I doubt I’ll get into it. I’m crossing my fingers.

But, seeing as how the proposed release date for WAR is in Q2 next year, I have to keep myself occupied in the meantime. A part of me said “cancel your subscription to EQ2 and just play non-MMOs until then”, but another part said “just play your main on EQ2 and try to have fun with it until it’s time to part ways”. Of course, this gives me loads of time to experience the rest of the new expansion, and do whatever until WAR comes out. So I’ve decided that I will continue on with EQ2 until then; but since I’m a one-at-a-time MMO player, WAR is next on my list. There’s a chance the game will suck and I’ll come back to EQ2, but for now, this is my game plan. Maybe some of my friends will come with me.

PvP

So as I mentioned last post, the thought of playing on a PvP server again came up. I played PvP once before, shortly after I had started playing the game. I had a defiler and a dirge, both whom I played into the 30s, but I ended up going back to PvE where people I knew were playing. PvP was somewhat borked back then, and what a difference time has made.

Griefing was reduced when the eligible for PvP level ranges were reduced. Of course, major gankage can still occur while playing in unlimited zones, but in the newbie areas it’s not as bad as it had been. The inability to zone while in PvP combat change reduced runners, and not allowing evac while in PvP combat helped as well. Now, what I feel is the most important fix of them all, and also one of the main reasons I thought about going back to PvP, has finally happened. The elimination of twinked, level locked characters. During my brief stint in PvP in the past, it was impossible to avoid being ganked over an over in the lower tiers, as you were trying to quest or do something useful. It got to the point it wasn’t even worth doing anymore, and that was part of my decision to leave. Of course I wasn’t horrible, and I didn’t have a bad KvD ratio, but the annoyance was enough. Now these players will be forced to level, and eventually get to the end game. This will promote end game pvp, where the challenges should be more bountiful, and more fun. The only down side is that there will most likely be dry spots throughout the tiers, since people will either be just starting out, or capped. Still, I think it’s a good thing over all, and though there will still be twinks, people like me can start again and not have to worry too much.

So I did away with the Brigand I thought I had decided on having as my PvPer. The thought of grinding out the same exact class again didn’t sit right with me. Also, having read a post over at Average Joe, I decided on another class. I rolled an assassin today before work, and I’m liking him so far. Similar play style to the Brigand, but different enough to not feel repetitive. I’m thinking I might also roll a shadowknight, mainly because I’m predisposed to scout/tank classes. I’ve tried to get into healers, and I’ve tried to get into casters, but the only 70+ toons I have are a tank and a scout. So I figure go with what you know right? So I’m going to have 2 high level PvE toons, and maybe I’ll end up with a couple high level PvPers. I never know, because just when I end up liking something, I change my mind and I go back to the tried and true. I just needed to get away from the endless ROK grind, and I think this escape has helped.

Otherwise I play Call of Duty 4, and that’s been loads of fun as well. This weekend I plan to do a little of both, and I know that I’m supposed to be helping John finally get moved in. After that’s said and done I know we need to do some grocery shopping, but that’s about all I have to do. I’m sure more stuff will come up, but that’s all I have for now.