Martin's steed got stuck in quicksand and couldn't extract itself during our review of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. According to the latest patch notes posted on the CoD forums, spotted by Strategy Informer, the problem has been fixed. The update also boosts CoD's field of view allowance to 90 degrees, good news for anyone experiencing the strange tunnel vision queasiness that those tight FOV settings can cause.
Performance has also been smoothed out for those with four or more CPU cores, server matchmaking has been improved and "connection interrupted" multiplayer errors fixed. Patch notes below.
November 21, 2012 Update for Singleplayer, Multiplayer, and Zombies
Max FOV increased to 90 Fix: Horse falling through the world in Afghanistan when playing on some CPUs with 4 or more cores Fix: RC-XD and the AGR sinking into the map in MP when playing on some CPUs with 4 or more cores General performance improvements in SP, MP, and ZM for CPUs with 4 or more cores Fix: crash when a 7th player tries to join a 6 player league lobby Improved dedicated server matchmaking Fix: some cases of "Connection Interrupted" in MP while loading into a match
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is out. Evan, T.J., Tyler and Omri toss around their initial thoughts on its conspiracy-laden campaign alongside this week's news: the GTA5 trailer, Valve's new Source engine, next week's healthy lineup of releases, and more.
All that and a little more in... PC Gamer Podcast 337: The Blackest of Ops
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It's inevitable, I know. Do bears tango in the woods? Is there a party like an S-Club party? Will Call of Duty make money this year? Yes, to all these things. A thousand times YES. $500 million is the day one worldwide sales figure Activision are bandying around today for Black Ops 2.
“With first day sales of over half a billion dollars worldwide, we believe Call of Duty is the biggest entertainment launch of the year for the fourth year in a row,” intoned Actiblizz robo-boss Bobby Kotick. “Life-to-date sales for the Call of Duty franchise have exceeded worldwide theatrical box office receipts for “Harry Potter” and “Star Wars,” the two most successful movie franchises of all time."
Not bad I'm sure, given that I can't fit $500 million into my head without most of it leaking out as a stream of awed vowels. This means that the Call of Duty series is showing no signs of slowing down. It'll be interesting to see how they fare across the next gen transition. By our reckoning, Black Ops 2 was a middling addition to the series with a few interesting sparks. Get the full verdict in our Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 review.
Although we'll soon pepper each other with bullets and trade drone-guided explosions in Black Ops 2's multiplayer later this evening, Treyarch still wants the chaos guided by a set of rules keeping abuse in check and ensuring friendly times all around. Eurogamer scoped into Treyarch's weekend post of its stiff-sounding security and enforcement policy, and among standard ban pitfalls surrounding piracy and hacking, players using the in-game live-streaming service with "unlicensed content" such as music risk a ban as well.
Treyarch's policies also hound boosters—players "colluding with another user to exploit the game for the purpose of gaining XP, prestige, game score, weapon level, or in-game unlock"—with equal fervor as hackers and glitch exploiters. In most cases, culprits receive temporary bans with increasing severity per case until suffering the almighty permanent ban which locks out online play, permanently blocks leaderboard appearances, and resets stats & emblems. It's sort of akin to a drumming out ceremony, except with less ripped shirts.
Treyarch's post has more details on the no-nos, so head over to Black Ops 2's forums if you want a look.
Tyler Wilde, Associate EditorThe first player-controlled action in Medal of Honor: Warfighter is to shoot a guard in the back of the head with a suppressed pistol. I can’t move the pistol away from his head. An icon indicates that I should press the left-mouse button to fire. I don't want to.
After a few missions, I don't want to keep playing Warfighter's campaign at all. It isn't fun. It isn't lonely, either: along with Battlefield 3 and the last couple Call of Dutys, I don't think I like military FPS campaigns anymore. They've changed, but my taste hasn't changed with them.
So I went back to a classic. Ten years ago I loved Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (MOHAA) so much that I saved both discs and the CD key for my future self to play. Thanks, past me! I still love it (no rose-tinted glasses), and comparing MOHAA's opening mission to Warfighter's opening vignettes convinces me that I'm not the one with the problem. Spielberg, the devs who went on to form Infinity Ward, and their old WWII shooter have some lessons for the modern crowd.
Missions vs. puppetry
I’m not squeamish about violence. I don’t want to shoot this guy in the back of the head because I don’t have a choice. My soldier is a puppet. I have one of the strings—I can pull the trigger—but Warfighter is gripping the rest and won’t let me move on until I give in. Forcing the player to commit violence can be used for an unsettling effect, but in Warfighter it’s just a tutorial. It callously teaches me that, yes, as in every other shooter, the left mouse button shoots people.
So, why am I shooting this guy again? Because he's there? Oh, OK.
True, Medal of Honor: Allied Assault doesn't let me choose not to shoot Nazis. That's what I signed up for. It can't be played nonviolently, but it doesn't force my hand. It says, “Here are your objectives, and there are going to be a bunch of Nazis who’d really rather you didn't complete them. You’re going to have to shoot them. Good luck.”
You've got to earn advancement in MOHAA. There’s player-directed work to be done before you’re rewarded with the next chapter. In Warfighter, the mission has been programmed into my soldier, and I’m just there to help him aim. When he needs to walk so that a set piece can crumble at the appropriate distance, he walks. When he doesn't feel like holding his gun anymore, he puts it away. Warfighter wrestles me for control because I can’t tell its story competently.
As soon as I'm off the truck, it's all up to me.
Max Payne 3 also steals control when it needs to transition into a cut scene, but it’s consistent. When I’m in control, I have full control and I’m responsible for finding the correct path and shooting the dudes in my way. If I slack off in Warfighter, the puppeteer will take care of the hard work for me, because the show must go on even if one of the marionettes isn't cooperating. I tried playing the first mission firing only when I absolutely had to. I fired twice, and the game took care of the rest.
The M1 Garand vs. the Heckler & Koch HK416
In MOHAA, it's shoot or be shot, but I have the advantage that it's completely unrealistic. No one could fire an M1 Garand as accurately as I am while standing still, never mind in mid-sprint. As I invade an occupied French village to rescue a captive SAS operative, I run, strafe, and fearlessly twirl around German riflemen, haunting them like a whimsical, armed specter.
I can still die, but I have time to line up good shots and each hit is a little victory. The pop of my gun and the sight of a Stahlhelm whizzing off a Nazi’s head are great feedback. Clearing an area is a bigger victory, and once I’m sure everyone’s on the ground I’m rewarded with a moment of calm to look around before I charge into the next section.
Realistic? Not at all, but it's fun.
Warfighter isn't realistic either, but its modern approach is all about crouching behind chunks of concrete and watching out for falling set pieces. Any time I take to aim is time that I'm exposed, and as long as I'm exposed, I'm on the verge of death. It's not realistic, but it's a little closer to reality. It's also not very fun.
I’m not suggesting that all shooters be WWII shooters, but MOHAA's M1 Garand is a lot more fun than Warflighter’s 850 rounds/min HK416. Spurting bullets in the direction of bad guys isn't as exhilarating as flipping a helmet with a single shot. And instead of natural feedback, Warfighter gives me a skull icon to let me know when I've scored a headshot, because I probably couldn't tell. It isn't nearly as satisfying.
Just like MOHAA, Warfighter features an early beach landing mission. Unlike MOHAA, it's boring.
Cover shooters aren't fundamentally bad. Red Orchestra 2, another WWII shooter, is more dedicated to realism than either MOHAA or Warfighter. It's a lot of creeping, crawling, and peeking, but at the end of all that, my perfect shot feels earned. Or I miss and it's a huge letdown, but I still feel something. I don't feel much in Warfighter. I just do what it tells me so I can advance to the next scene.
It seems that in an effort not to be called “unrealistic,” Warfighter fails to ask, “But is this any fun?”
Being realistic vs. being real
Warfighter's desire for authenticity goes further: it wants me to believe these are real wartime heroics. “This personal story was written by actual Tier 1 Operators while deployed overseas," reads the official description. "In it, players step into the boots of these warfighters and apply unique skill sets to track down a real global threat, in real international locations, sponsored by real enemies. It doesn't get any more authentic than Medal of Honor Warfighter, coming October 23, 2012.”
It's real, real, real, and authentic. It was written by actual Tier 1 Operators. I wasn't there, but I’m highly skeptical that Warfighter depicts real anything. Men planting explosives then dashing through collapsing shipping crates while picking off a shooting gallery of bad guys is not the truth. So what's Warfighter's dose of reality? In the beginning, at least, it's a story about a soldier’s strained relationship with his wife.
How Warfighter handles a gap in between missions.
War is a terrible emotional burden, but shooting a guy point blank in the back of the head is just a tutorial? It's dishonest, and when you make a game about a war we're currently invested in, well...maybe you shouldn't. If you do, it'd better be intellectually challenging, or it'll just come off as jingoistic tripe.
MOHAA has a strong advantage here. It can say "Allies good, Axis evil" and we're fine with it because it's the globally accepted version of the truth. In pop culture, Nazis are equivalent to zombies and murderous robots, so MOHAA can skip all the posturing and get to the mission briefing. But even controversial wars, like Vietnam, benefit from perspective and distance. Battlefield: Vietnam didn't try to prove anything about American heroism to players, it was just a war game set in Vietnam.
How MOHAA handles mission briefings.
I know it's not in the spirit of the series, but what the hell is wrong with fictional wars? Call of Duty and Battlefield get it. The Chinese! The Russians! I'm fine with xenophobic pretend land. People aren't dying in xenophobic pretend land. And who would a truly realistic Medal of Honor be for, anyway? It would probably look a lot more like Arma II, but without the fictional country, and it'd be much more grisly than Warfighter’s glossy action scenes. A Linkin Park song wouldn't quite capture the gravity.
So, what happened?
In an early Warfighter mission, I drive an RC bot through a crumbled building, shredding guys foolish enough to point their flashlights at me. It's a cool idea for a scene. It adds variety, swapping constant danger for lack of danger. But it's not fun. Was Ender's Game fun after Ender figured out the game?
I'm still not sure why I'm gunning these guys down...something about illegal munitions?
So why is it there? Is it there to make us say, "Ooh, how authentic"? Maybe I little, but I think it's mostly there because robots are cool. Campaigns have turned into Universal Studios theme park rides. They're only sustainable as entertainment for a few minutes, and they bombard the viewer with every spectacle they can--robots, explosions, whatever keeps them invested. The viewer is under the ride’s control, because no one can be allowed to wander away and miss an explosion.
When I reviewed the first Medal of Honor reboot in 2010, I liked it more than most. I don’t regret that—I was being honest when I said I had fun—but the spectacle doesn't impress present me as much as it did past me. Too much spectacle is the problem. Rather than give us objectives and put obstacles in our way, Warfighter gives us a series of obstacles, and the objective is to watch them blow up. It doesn't work, because we don't have to do the work. We're just along for the ride.
If Warfighter were more like MOHAA, it would be accused of having a dated design, but isn't that better than having a bad design? I'm happy to play one of them ten years after it released, and the other I probably won't finish, no matter how "authentic" it is.
The actor behind the most famous walking talking 'tache in gaming, Bill Murray (not that one), has made mention of a somewhat inevitable follow-up to Modern Warfare 3. "Yeah, on Monday I am off to meet Infinity Ward about the next game, Modern Warfare 4, I’m doing work on the sequel to Modern Warfare 3, it carries straight on and I only ever appear in the Modern Warfare games” he told This Is Xbox.
It looks like Treyarch and Infinity Ward will continue to share the Call of Duty series year on year. I quite like the idea that Modern Warfare will continue as an ongoing 24-esque action series while Black Ops becomes steadily more bonkers. By 2022 Captain Price will have come back from the dead eighty times and killed every single terrorist in the world and Black Ops will be set on Mars.
Launch trailers usually go up at a game's launch. Not so in the case of Black Ops 2, which has boldly put this video out a whole month early. Unless this isn't a trailer to celebrate the launch of the game but a trailer for the launch event itself, in which case the arrival of Black Ops 2 on shelves will herald no small amount of flaming, screaming death, destruction, gunfire, horses and humourless-looking men throwing themselves off cliffs and out of planes. Most companies settle for free drinks and a tombola, but not Activision.
Well, gosh. The promise of more tactical play in the Strikeforce missions certainly doesn't take a back-seat to simple bombastic destruction. But will the focus on rogue robots remove some of the guilty visceral thrill of gunning down hordes of squishy, jam-filled men?
Black Ops 2's future setting moves its gruff warrior sorts into a world that's used to drone warfare, but hasn't invented awesome laser cannons yet. That lets Treyarch weave a pleasantly paranoid plot in the single player campaign without jeopardising the great golden goose that is CoD's multiplayer mode. I imagine Call of Duty devs are quietly terrified of messing around with that world-winning formula too much, which is why the eight minutes of multiplayer scooped by IGN look so darn familiar. The appearance of a little robot 5:44 in livens things up a little, though.
What do you think? Has Black Ops 2's new setting, zombie campaign mode, polished up PC version and open character design system convinced you to give it a try when it comes out in November?
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is getting an expanded co-op mode called "Tranzit" that'll send four survivors on a zombie road trip across the US. As one of those survivors you'll get to bus from place to place, mounting heroic stands against the zombie army at each location. IGN mention "buildables" that con be constructed to furnish you with new weapons, or open up extra areas, which are probably full of more zombies.
The latest Black Ops 2 zombies trailer shows a fuel stop, a diner, a farmhouse reminiscent of Left 4 Dead's Blood Harvest finale, a power station and a town center blighted by lava pools. Zombies AND lava? It's the doompocalypse alright. You'll find the video stamped into the page below.
Parts of the video show a tiny snippet of someone shooting zombies of the roof of the bus in first person, suggesting that we'll have to defend against legions of zombie marathon runners as the bust travels between locations.
As well as "Tranzit" there will be a versus mode that will put two four-player teams into the zombie apocalypse and encourage them to compete for zombie kills without killing each other. There will be a more traditional survival zombie mode for fans of Treyarch's previous efforts.
Treyarch could probably spin zombies into a separate release if they wanted to. It's been a fan favourite since its cheeky first appearance in World at War. Is the zombie mode your favourite part of Treyarch's CoD games, or just a fun distraction?
Some cheeky blighters have obtained what Activision are calling a “development demo build” of Black Ops 2, and uploaded a vid to prove it. It’s an extremely short snippet of action, and overlayed with a superfluous dev interview and some dreadful music, but it does show off the capabilities of the engine.
Spotted on Kotaku, the video sees the player activate a no-clip mode, allowing the camera to zip off, around and above a rather pretty hillside township - which the player then proceeds to fill the the bodies of his foes. A crossbow makes a brief cameo and the video ends with the player running about making 'finger guns' at the enemy - a returning weapon from previous CoDs accessible via the 'giveall' cheat.
The original video has been removed, as you’d expect, but it came from the channel of Call of Duty modder iHc James. Kotaku still have a working version at the time of writing, if you are that needy of your BlOps fix.