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.

The War Report: Zombies 3.0

I’ve had a strange relationship with the new Commander 2018 product. My initial impressions were that the were a mostly crap product. This is still a bit true, as many of the precon exclusive cards were lackluster, there were no good high dollar reprints and much of each deck is chaff that won’t see play. There were the new commanders though, and those are usually worth having to brew around. I’m just focusing on the Esper and Bant precons at this point, and have already built Yuriko, Estrid and Tuvasa, though I have come around to deck ideas for both Yennett and Varina, the latter which we will be covering today. It’s funny because I went from considering not even buying these precons to actually wanting three of them to wanting to build a ton of decks out of them. Varina was written off by my immediately, but having more time to think about it, I’ve come to the conclusion that this should be my Zombie deck version 3.0. The first Zombie tribal EDH deck I build used Gisa and Geralf at the helm, then when the Scarab God released I changed to him (but kept G&G in the 99) and now I’m adding another color and keeping both the prior commanders in the 99 of the deck. But that’s not all, this is a heavily modified version of my last decklist with Scarab God at the helm. About a 50/50 split of cards from the prior build and cards I do not own (yet). Let’s take a look at our General and then see how things have changed.

For 1 and Esper, we get a 4/4 Zombie Wizard that lets us loot for every attacking Zombie each turn. As a bonus, we also gain that much life. With her second ability you can pay 2 mana and exile two cards from our graveyard to create a 2/2 tapped Zombie token. In my prior Scarab God build, I already had some token strategy, some sacrificing, some lords and anything that really had zombie flavor. It was basically a “Zombie Goodstuff” deck, but it was never overly competitive. I feel like the shenanigans can get way more out of hand with Varina, as it should be easy for us to fill up our hand with cards due to producing a bunch of zombie tokens and then attacking with them, and when we discard things we don’t need, we get extra value by exiling those cards to make more tokens. With a mixture of sacrificing and hand manipulation we can include some graveyard tricks and get value out of cards that aren’t doing anything for us at that moment. We’ll be able to churn through our deck efficiently and should be able to find our game breaking cards rather quickly. Let’s look at our token strategy first:

Token Strategy:

Anointed Procession is quite possible the single most important white card we’ve added to the mix, as it will do some amazing things. Have it on the board and cast an Army of the Damned? How’s 26 2/2’s sound? Attack with Grave Titan and get four instead of two. Sacrifice a big creature with Ghoulcaller Gisa to get double that creature’s power’s worth of tokens. You see where this is going. There’s a fair mix of token generating spells and creatures here, along with one Planeswalker that not only gives us Zombies but is also a one sided board wipe. Aven Wind Guide is one of the only non-Zombie creatures included in my list, but it does have the Embalm keyword, so it can come back as a Zombie when it dies, and it gives all of your tokens flying and vigilance, nice! Another special note for Lich Lord of Unx, he has a nice damage + mill effect for a minimal amount of mana that could be a finisher under the right circumstances. Lastly, Zombie Infestation is sort of redundancy with our commander, but instead of exiling from our graveyard we’ll discard two cards to create a Zombie token, which we can then exile to create another and if you have procession out… well you get the picture.

Lords:

Any self respecting tribal deck should have a number of lords included in it, and I think Zombies might have the most. There are five here that give all zombies +1/+1, and most have other subtext that also provides evasion, life drain or recursion. Undead Warchief both cheapens casting costs for Zombies but also gives +2/+1 to them, and the OG Zombie Master gives our creatures swampwalk and regeneration. There is a creature that was included in the deck called Zombie Trailblazer that will change opponent’s lands into swamps so you can swing unhindered.

Drain Effects:

Besides creating a ton of tokens and swinging for the win, we have a subtheme where we drain the life from our opponents just for having our creatures changing zones. In some cases, a Zombie enters the battlefield and we drain opponent’s life and gain some in return. In other cases each opponent loses life when a Zombie dies. Shepherd of Rot taps to drain life from everyone for each Zombie you control (including you, but lifelink should help). The Merchant counts your devotion to black and then drains and gives you life. Besides some of our creatures I’ve already covered (and a couple I didn’t) that have sacrifice outlets, there’s also Ashnod’s Altar and Altar of Dementia which give us mana and mill opponents respectively. There’s also a fun card in Call to the Grave that forces each player to sacrifice a non-Zombie creature each upkeep, and since we mostly have Zombies we will be unscathed. Ditto Kindred Dominance naming Zombies.

Other Utility:

These cards all support our main themes. Casting Approach of the Second Sun and then digging it back out should be quick and easy — that’s a win. After draining everyone through the course of a game, you can finish them with a well played Exsanguinate — that’s a win. Rooftop Storm makes your Zombies free, Reconnaissance can pull your creatures out of combat so they don’t die but you’ll still get the card draw. Oversold Cemetery will get you back the cards you’re discarding to Cryptbreaker or your commander. Gravecrawler is value and be cast over and over again in a single turn if you have another zombie, and that can drain people out, especially with Rooftop Storm. There’s some other recursion here along with Fatestitcher for some untapping action, Vesper Ghoul for some extra mana, and Blood Scrivener will help us with more card draw if we end up dumping our hands into our library. Overall I think the synergies here will work much better than my prior builds and I can’t wait to test this out! You can see the full decklist here.

Killing Floor 2: Nearly a Year Later

So the other day I randomly noticed that Killing Floor 2 got a new update. It’s actually had several updates, but I hadn’t played the game since last summer so I hadn’t paid much attention. I mentioned this to my old roommate and we both decided to download the update and get our Zed killing on!

Things have changed. Bits and pieces of the UI have been improved. I feel that there are noticeable differences here, and though it’s subtle it’s a nice touch. Besides some visual upgrades, the newer build has included a number of updates to the game, most recently is “Endless Mode,” where you guessed it, you’ll fight endless waves of Zeds until your party dies. This is more reminiscent of Call of Duty’s Zombies mode, which I have had a lot of fun with over the years so I was game. When we played this mode we decided to use our level 25 perks, and I selected hard difficulty which I thought would be easy. It was not. We managed to make it to wave 13:

Still, wave 13 is three waves beyond what a normal match contains so that’s pretty good for a first run. We also has a couple of low level classes playing with us (this does seem like an optimal way to level up other perks) so that may have affected our efficiency. Also my friend is dead weight, sitting at the bottom of the leaderboard (LOL!). Featured in the above screenshots is one of the new maps that was added between now and the last time we played. It was called DieZone, and was narrated by the Patriarch himself. There’s some good comedic relief in there, and the music is still metal as fuck and awesome. There were three other maps also added to the game in that time, we haven’t yet played any of those but they look great.

Another new feature added to the game is this “Dosh Vault” which actually rewards you for accumulating Dosh (the in game currency). This is presumably for people who already have max level characters or perhaps those like me who still have a few to level, but still having another progress bar to watch is a nice bonus. The RMT stuff in this game is pretty awful, so getting some more boons periodically is nice. It’s always cosmetic stuff you’re unlocking anyway, so not really necessary.

I’m not sure why I got it, but there was a new character available when I booted up, along with some new skins for him. Like the other characters, it really just amounts to a skin for when you are playing and other people get more of the benefit of it than you do — but it was free so why not be a robot for a while?

That seems to be all that has been added but it’s instant value for the game. Having something else to do and keeping things fresh is the only way games like this survive, and I’m glad this developer is committed to adding new content (and mostly for free no less). I know with the original title they were adding stuff in for a long time, so I hope they keep this pace going!

Killing Floor 2 — A Righteous Gorefest

I was actually gifted a copy of Killing Floor 2 last year. I had played the original during one of those free weekends on Steam — as a matter of fact I believe it was during one of those gaming events the blogging community used to take part in. I was looking forward to the sequel because I enjoyed the format of the game. Regular readers will know that I enjoy games that are first person shooters, lobby-based, co-op, and have to do with Zombies. Though Zeds have become a bit of a tired addition to gaming for a while, I still enjoy the Zombie survival game modes that have been around for a decade or more. Most famous are games like Call of Duty that had its separate Zombies game mode, or other titles like Sniper Elite that had spin-offs such as Zombie Army Trilogy. The co-op, wave based survival mechanic is not entirely over done just yet, and not having other game modes tacked on keeps things focused.

Generally speaking, you’ll start off by picking a class which are actually referred to as Perks in this particular title. Each perk or class has a particular starting loadout of gear, along with specific weapons they can buy between rounds that are designed for them. Classes will earn more experience by staying within their weapon group, but everyone has the option of using any gear they see fit. As the perks level up, additional bonuses unlock for that perk, allowing for some nice passive effects. For instance, the class I am currently enjoying most — the Swat perk — unlocks a passive at level 5 that gives him 50% armor for free at the start of the game and that can mean more money in your pockets for that round 2 upgrade.

Game play is standard fare, though I would like to say that the game is beautiful (gory too!) and runs smoothly even on the PS4, and the gun play is top notch. Zed AI is fairly straightforward with each enemy type falling into predictable patters, though the boss creatures are particularly painful. I should note that despite having played this on PC for a bit, it seemed that the player base was rather light so I didn’t get to give it a proper go. It ended up being one of the free games for PS4 this month via Playstation Plus however, so I got on my friend to download it and we have been playing it for the past few nights. We’ve been having a blast, and despite not being all that great at shooters, he has been holding his own. It helps that you have a team of 6, and as long as everyone is paying attention you can all help each other out. Typically no one dies until the boss fight, even on the longer round matches. I assume you wouldn’t want to move onto the harder difficulties without leveling your perks up a bit first though.

I’ve earned a few of the trophies thus far, and most of my screenshots will reflect that, though it’s pretty cool how some of them turned out, because the PS4 automatically saves a picture when a trophy is earned. There are quite a few cool action shots as a result:

I also happened to remember to save a video clip after finally getting a boss kill, and thought I’d share that with you all as well. It’s the entire boss battle, so it’s a few minutes, but it was pretty intense and I ended up being the last man standing (though my best friend was the last to fall before I got the killing blow). We did later fight that boss and take him out before he managed to run away to heal (as he did in the video) which nets a gold trophy. At this point I just have to find all of the collectibles on most maps (have the trophy for one) and play many more matches to have won 25, along with leveling a Perk fairly high. Anyway, here’s the video:

If you have a Playstation 4 the game is free right now, so go check it out. If you are a PC only type of person, I can still recommend the game, but you might want to convince some friends to buy in as well, as it seems the PC crowd is fairly small.

H1Z1: One Week In

It’s been a week since the H1Z1 launch, but if we’re to be honest, it wasn’t really available til the wee hours of the 16th, at least that’s when I got into it. So what have we seen happen in that week?

For starters, there was the complaints about G99 login errors.
Then there was the Airdrop controversy.
There have been 3+ patches, providing various tweaks to the game.
SOE has been very transparent through the process, providing feedback and news via Twitter and Reddit.
Anook started an H1Z1 page.
I wrote about the game twice. The podcast tomorrow talks about the game as well.

I was ganked. I paid it forward:

I’m still thoroughly enjoying the game. The other night the above happened, where I had been playing for a few hours and gathered some goods, when out of nowhere I was attacked by a player who had nothing on them, therefore nothing to lose. It was while the loot bug was active, so there was very little in the way of supplies, yet I had still managed to get a nice collection. The guy attacking me got the drop on me, and I had my bow and arrow out which put me at a disadvantage close up. By the time I realized I was getting my ass kicked, I was low health. I made him earn the kill, I seriously ran around and tried to duck him for a good 20 minutes. He still managed to get me eventually. When I respawned, I paid that forward to the first guy I came across, which is where that picture came in.

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Yesterday I started up fresh, and spawned near the Ruby Lake. I wandered around a bit, until I came to the neighboring town of Cranberry.

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I’m not sure if it was put in by the devs, or if players started to wall off the city, but there was a barricade barring my way on the main drag into town. There were also spike traps and the like at nearby entry points. I did eventually work my way into the city, and as I was scavenging, I kept hearing people talking. I couldn’t tell if they were friendly with each other or fighting, but I skulked around for a bit just waiting to see what happened. Shots were fired, and I wasn’t sure where the players were at.

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Later, while still wandering around, I came across a lone bear cruising down the street. I took a picture.

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I decided I would try and kill it, because why not? I shot an arrow into it, and it quickly charged me. I ran for quite some time, and thought that if I hid in a building I’d get away, but it managed to fit through narrow passages with ease. Two hits later I was dead. Note to self, don’t mess with the bears without a gun.

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When I respawned, I had come full circle. This was the same area I had started in when I first played the game a week ago. I followed the bridge to the gas station and houses I knew to be on the other side. This ended in my demise much like the first time I played the game. This time I was scavenging and had already made a new bow. I heard someone running around outside of the building I was in, and I hid. Apparently they were either a ganker to begin with, or they were just attacking me because they thought I was trying to gank them. He simply said “hello buddy” and then popped into view, shooting me with an arrow and taking my stuff. Such is life on a PvP server.

Looking forward, I really need to get someone in the game to roll with. When I’ve been flying solo I end up losing my stuff to whoever comes around to kill me. I’ve gotten a couple of kills myself, but haven’t really gone out of my way to gank fools. Strength in numbers might be where it’s at. I’m Izlain on the Romero server, and Izzy on Pandemic. If you have the game and want to group up, let me know.

#h1z1 #zombies #survival