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Here’s the thing. The Call Of Duty modern campaigns really don’t need to be dreadful. I think, after so many ugly, stupid attempts, there’s a perception that it’s just the way it is, the limits of the genre, the best you can hope for. And this simply isn’t true. Sadly it isn’t the case for the latest release, and I think I know why. There’s a conflict that’s gone missing, and they need to get it back.>
If you've played a game online, chances are you've experienced ragers in their full extreme, screaming glory. So it shouldn't be surprising that even top-level players rage, as Eurogamer discovered.
Here is a compilation of (sometimes celebratory!) rage moments during a European Call of Duty championship. One of the competitors notes that raging is done purposefully, as a psychological tactic of sorts. Apparently the players do better if they rage, or so they think.
Take Call of Duty: Black Ops II, for instance. Few things are as seductive to a CoD player as perfecting their kill/death ratio, and little about the game is designed from the ground up to encourage anything other than lone-wolf, kill-focused play. Even if that wasn't true, could you blame the average player? For years, the franchise has primed them to play in a certain way.
Getting players to change the way they look at a game is a Herculean task. Treyarch made a noble attempt when they included "scorestreaks," which reward players for their overall score. That includes kills, captures, objectives, assists and so on. Conceptually, the hope is that players would have an incentive to focus on something other than kills. In my experience, that hasn't actually happened.
I can't help but muse on this now while playing Gears of War: Judgment online. If you've ever played a competitive Gears mode, you might have noticed that most players live and die by the Gnasher shotgun. Last time I checked, about 45% of all kills in quickmatch are via Gnasher—keep in mind that the game has like two dozen types of weapons! It doesn't matter. Some players are so blindly devoted to the Gnasher that they'll refuse to use anything else—even when, say, trying to kill someone at long-range.
Sometimes, if you use something other than a shotgun, players will get mad at you for it, if not try to downplay your prowess in trash talk. It's as if it's widely accepted that there is only one way to play Gears of War, and that's with your shotgun out. In a way, this habit makes sense—the shotgun is an excellent weapon, particularly if you're a fan of gibbing.
Gears of War has gone through great pains to try to alter the shotgun predilection. Assault rifles were modified so much so that one of them-the retro lancer-could effectively be used in close range in a one-on-one against a shotgun-wielding opponent. The lancer rifle was beefed up to seriously hurt at long range. On the opposite end, the shotgun's starting ammo was decreased. More fantastic power weapons were developed. A new type of shotgun introduced, too—the sawed off shotgun. (Solving a shotgun problem with a shotgun? Sort of—the gun is so powerful that players might stand back and shoot at long rage instead of trying to gib up close.)
Despite all of that, you would guess the majority of players still seemed to think the Gnasher was the only weapon available, in the same way that many people defaulted to Ken Masters when playing Street Fighter IV online. It seems like most communities develop something like this—a preferred mode of play that people follow closely. Almost too closely—you start to wonder if they know there are other ways of playing a game. The hardcore Smash Bros. community has that famous meme, for example: Fox only, no items, Final Destination. Here, too, it doesn't matter that there are literally hundreds of other ways of playing the game. Nope. Only one character and no items whatsoever, on a very specific stage!
Not everyone follows trends like that of course—in Gears of War's case, some of us took great joy in lancering other people down: it can be more effective at killing people than the shotgun is, under the right circumstances. Plus, it is particularly delicious to see the utter confusion some people had when they saw that their holy shotgun wasn't pulling miracles anymore.
It still took a long time for me to stop automatically switching to a shotgun at the start of the match, though. Once I did, I was happy to find that a fantastic game only became better when you diversified what guns you used. I can't help but wonder how many games we play like this—where we assume one method of play or one specific trend is the only valuable or fun option. What if it's not?
Things are different in Gears of War: Judgment, though. You have to choose between either your assault rifle and a shotgun, coupled with a secondary pistol, instead of starting matches with both as in the older Gears games. So far, in the limited community I've encountered pre-release, almost everyone rolls with a shotgun. That includes me, though it feels like agony to have to choose in the first place. I wish I didn't have to choose—I wish I could use the appropriate tool for the job. Now it's like I've fallen back on a bad habit.
I'm afraid that this design choice will cement Gears as a shotgun-only game, even if players can pick up other weapons. Hell, I'm afraid that for most players, it won't even seem like a choice. But then again, looking at how difficult it is to get players to stop doing what they want to—well, maybe what choices People Can Fly offer us don't matter.
The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games. It runs every Monday at 6PM ET.
Beginning Wednesday, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will begin offering "personal customizations" on the Xbox 360, the game's community manager said this morning. The items don't affect gameplay—they're items like weapon skins, targeting reticles, and player calling cards. Moreover, the multiplayer map Nuketown 2025, originally a preorder incentive back in November, will be made available for free.
"This content contains either personal customizations or nice little luxuries that I've seen players request," Amrich wrote on his official site. "None of them affect gameplay, but they are small, specific ways to enhance your online experience."
The content comes in themed packs for 160 Microsoft Points each, and will contain a weapon camo, three targeting reticles, and a Calling Card.
Additionally, Nuketown 2025 goes free for everyone on Wednesday, and Nuketown Zombies now comes as a standalone purchase for 400 Microsoft points. (It had originally been included with limited editions of the game.).
Players may also purchase 10 more create-a-class slots for 160 Microsoft points, and Flags of the World Calling Cards. They're grouped by region and available for 80 Microsoft points per pack.
"At the end of the day, all of these items are completely optional, and were created for players who've asked for more customization options," Amrich wrote. "If that's not you, that's fine; everybody gets Nuketown 2025 for free, so definitely take advantage of that."
More information will be available on the official Call of Duty website tomorrow, Amrich said.
Nuketown 2025 free starting Wednesday on 360 [Dan Amrich, oneofswords.com]
Power weapons are tools that allow us to deal immense damage. Think stuff like sniper rifles, or even vehicles like tanks. These can dictate the entire flow of the match, so it's not surprising that they're so important in multiplayer games. Players must resolve to always be in control of power weapons, even if they're not using them.
I'd go so far as to say that, if done right, power weapons are one of the elements that define the entire experience. What is Gears of War without its chainsaw gun? What is Halo without the Energy Sword?
Sure, these weapons are available in the single-player modes, but the titillation of defeating an AI is not the same as defeating an actual person. People struggle, they fight back—which makes destroying them with a power weapon all the more gratifying (despite how unsettling it is to say!)
Having your stock rocket launcher, your sniper rifles, your shotguns is simple enough; many games have them. Developing a good power weapon is much more difficult. This is my criteria for the makings of a good power weapon—though naturally, a weapon doesn't have to fulfill all of these traits at once.
Weapons in a game are like extensions of ourselves. They represent us in some way. Think about it: you often can't see more than your hands and your gun, so you might as well say you are are the gun. And if the purpose of most games can be boiled down to "power fantasies," then a good power weapon knows how to make a player feel like a badass.
My favorite example here would have to be the Ghost from Halo. The glide of the vehicle is otherworldly, making zipping through the maps a joy even if you're not shooting anyone. It's what I imagine handling a futuristic motorcycle would be like—the very epitome of cool.
You can't just give a player immense power without there being a catch. It's partially a matter of balance: making a weapon dangerous to use gives other players a fighting chance. It's also a matter of design—the 'reward' is all the more satisfying if it's something that could easily ruin you. Never underestimate the thrill of dancing with danger and then getting away with it.
As an example, the OneShot in Gears of War takes a normal sniper rifle and super charges it. It's literally one shot one kill, no matter where the shot lands—and it can go through some cover. It also has a long charge time, a visible aiming laser, it's audible, and scoping in makes it difficult to be cognizant of what's going on around you—which makes you easy pickings.
The benefits of risk and reward also explains the recent obsession with bows and crossbows in many multiplayer games (Tomb Raider, Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, Gears of War: Judgement, etc)—bows often require enough precision that, should you miss, an enemy can probably gun you down before you have a chance to take another shot. If you don't miss, though—chances are one arrow is all it takes to kill someone.
What use is having a power weapon if it's much like your normal weapons—or hell, like the weapons in other games? You can't feel cool with a run of the mill gun; that's why stuff like "rocket launcher" doesn't make the cut. A unique power weapon is also necessary to establish a game's identity and flair, ultimately encapsulating what sets game X apart from game Y.
Uncharted is the game where you can call down spiders on people. Call of Duty is the game where you can nuke the entire playing field. Gears of War is the game where you can chainsaw people with a lancer. All rather memorable experiences—and memorable games.
This aspect is probably the most difficult.
This is somewhat related to risk and reward, in that it's both a balancing issue (players have to earn the right to use a power weapon) and that, if done right, complexity and nuance make the payoff that much better.
Giving a weapon complexity and nuance also keeps things interesting for the player, which is good for long-term gaming. If adhered to, complexity and nuance means the weapon requires some form of mastery to use—which eliminates stuff like 'noob tubes' from consideration.
Would piloting an Apache in Battlefield be the same if anyone could do it with ease and finesse from the get-go? Probably not. And the same goes for figuring out, say, the nuances of how the Scattershot bullets in Halo bounce off surfaces, or how the many ways in which you can use a Digger in Gears of War is as enjoyable as the moment when you pull the trigger.
And what of normal guns? Arguably, they should follow all these mandates too. I'd say that the best weapons empower you such that, with proper usage and know-how, there's barely any difference between a power weapon and a normal weapon. That's why even small side arms, like the Magnum in Left 4 Dead, can feel so powerful despite not being a special gun or ability.
I'm curious, though: what are some of your guys' favorite power weapons or abilities in games? What about them is special or interesting? Sound off in the comments!
The Multiplayer is a weekly column that looks at how people crash into each other while playing games. It runs every Monday at 6PM ET.
Top image credit: commorancy
Sure, shooting people is an option in Black Ops II, and that's plenty of fun. Or, you can play catch with your enemies. With a live grenade. Don't worry, it won't go off. Here's how.
The folks over at defendthehouse found that, if two people have the "fast hands" perk—which allows you to throw back grenades thanks to a reset timer—they can just keep throwing a live grenade back and forth forever. Kind of absurd, eh?
Now the question is: how many grenades can be juggled between two folks?
Playing Catch with a Frag! [Myth 6 of 31] [defendthehouse]
Jason West, a co-creator of Call of Duty and co-founder of video game studio Respawn Entertainment, has left the company he helped found, two sources have informed Kotaku. The departure was amicable.
West, who left because of family issues, has been gone since last May, according to one reliable source who asked not to be named.
West, along with fellow Respawn co-founder Vince Zampella, helped found the studio Infinity Ward back in 2002. As a subsidiary of Activision, Infinity Ward turned their first-person shooter series Call of Duty into a worldwide phenomenon. West and Zampella were fired from the studio in 2010.
In recent years, West and Zampella were tangled up in a massive lawsuit involving Activision, EA, and possible subterfuge.
According to our reliable source, West has been gone since the lawsuit was settled in May of 2012.
West has not been involved with the development of Respawn's first game, which will be published by EA. Respawn has teased that they'll show it off at this year's E3 in June.
We reached out to Respawn Entertainment, but they would not comment.
Call of Duty makers Infinity Ward posted two telling photos to Facebook and Twitter this week, showing off what appears to be an Xi3 Piston PC, one of Valve's adorable prototype Steam Box devices, with the company's logo plastered on it. (UPDATE: Or any of the other Xi3 mini-computers—the Steam Box is just one possible variation.)
It's also got another device (maybe a hard drive?) attached on the bottom. The photo on Twitter came with the message "What's this?" while the one on Facebook said simply "Game development."
Talk about cryptic.
This could mean a lot of things. Maybe Infinity Ward has partnered with Xi3 or even Valve to launch the next Call of Duty game when Steam Boxes start rolling out. Or maybe something much less predictable is going on.
Either way, I think that tiny Piston is kind of cute. I could see it (or something similar) sitting beneath my TV.
The original headline of this story was "Cryptic Infinity Ward Messages Show Off Branded Steam Box Prototype." That was a mistake. The PC pictured here could be a Steam Box, but it could just as easily be any of the other PCs that Xi3 is making using the same shell. We apologize for the error.
It can be easy to become desensitized to Call of Duty's brand of realistic-yet-cartoonish violence. As motion-captured video-game dudes blow each other away over and over again, whatever I'd normally feel at watching that kind of carnage melts away. I see the game for what it is, and it stops having an impact.
Videos like this one, a live-action recreation of the game by Aperture VFX, can be an odd reminder of just how violent Black Ops 2 is. It's very well-made, and I was impressed by how realistically they managed to re-create the first-person killing of Black Ops 2. But it's also a reminder that, yeah, in this game you pretty much just horribly murder your friends over and over. And laugh about it!