Kotaku

Stan Lee's The Week in Gaming AppsLegendary comic book creator Stan Lee only had his hand in one of the five Gaming Apps of the Day this week, but I'm pretty sure the rest of them were probably his idea at some point anyway.


It was a great week for gaming apps, with the exception of Monday. Apparently somebody didn't get the memo about GAOTD being reserved for good games, now that we've expanded our mobile gaming coverage. Still, roundup rules are roundup rules, so Pond Panic gets its spot in the list.


I just hope it doesn't rub off on Stan Lee. He's very impressionable, you know.


If you have a suggestion for an app for the iPhone, iPad, Android or Windows Phone 7 that you'd like to see highlighted, let us know.



Stan Lee's The Week in Gaming Apps

Pond Panic Isn't Exactly Darwinism

Pond Panic, a new app from Fabling Game Studios, has you try to save a ladybug from deadly piranhas that are in a pond. There are several different types of piranha, and you are supposed to flick them out of the pond. Then, after you flick a certain number out of the pond, you can drag the ladybug to a lily pad. More »


Stan Lee's The Week in Gaming Apps

Your Skylanders Are the Most Important Resource in Lost Islands

Build things to harvest things to build more things-the resource management genre is huge on mobile, thanks to its simple click-based gameplay and the ability to play for minutes at a time and still get things done. Activision takes that winning formula and layers another one on top-the ability to transfer real-world collectible figures into the game. More »


Stan Lee's The Week in Gaming Apps

This iPad Game Convinced Me to Be Friends With an Electric Cockroach

I'm not fraidy-scared of bugs. Unlike some childhood friends or past significant others, there's never been any terrified bolting at the sight of, say, caterpillars or giant moths. I don't love them either. Instead, I've always been fascinated by insect behavior. So I'm kind of glad that Help Volty lets me manipulate bug movements without having to resort to crude implements like a magnifying glass or hot wax. More »


Stan Lee's The Week in Gaming Apps

Stan Lee's Latest Superhero Creation Has the Power to Fall From the Sky. Hey, Me Too!

Stan Lee has created (or "co-created") countless superheroes over his long and illustrious career in the comics industry. Some of them have been fallen heroes. Pretty sure Verticus is his first falling hero. More »


Stan Lee's The Week in Gaming Apps

Cat Pirates: For All Your Adorable Cat and Pirate Needs

A smart game knows its audience. So let's take a moment to understand what kind of audience I am. More »


Kotaku

Amazon's Black Friday Lightning Deals Include Max Payne 3 for $15, Kinect Star Wars for $25Amazon will be selling games on the cheap all next week. Here's a list of their "lightning" deals which all last just a few hours. Expect even better deals for the Monday after Thanksgiving (that's two Mondays from now — Cyber Monday!).


Click the link below for all the deals.


Video Games Holiday Lightning Deals


Kotaku

Jailed ArmA Developers Denied Bail In GreeceMore than two months ago, a pair of ArmA developers from Bohemia Interactive were arrested in Greece for suspicion of espionage. Ivan Buchta and Martin Pezlar have now spent weeks behind bars because of a legal system strike (jeez), and now, they've been denied bail.


According to the Czech site Rozhlas (as translated by Eurogamer), their appeal has been denied along with bail, and they will be tried before a Greek court. If found guilty, they face up to 20 years behind bars.


From Eurogamer:


The pair have previously spoken from captivity and said conditions left a lot to be desired. Matters have not improved.


"They're in a cell with over 25 people, they sleep on the ground," Miloslav Buchta, father of Ivan, said. "They have food twice a day."


"Our boys no longer tell us on the phone that it's alright, that they're handling it," one of their mothers' said. "After the court's decision we only hear from them something that no parent ever wants to hear: Mom, dad, please save us."


A grim scene for all involved. DayZ creator Dean "Rocket" Hall has started a petition to get his friends released, and Bohemia Interactive have labeled the entire thing an absurd misunderstanding.


After 70 days awaiting trial, jailed ArmA 3 devs refused bail [Eurogamer]


Kotaku

This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is FreeYes yes, Angry Birds Star Wars is great, everybody loves it, it kills everything it touches, whatever. Have you played LostWinds? The sequel is free right now. You should go grab it. Come back and read this later.


You're probably busy playing the game now, so I'll keep this week's spiel brief. Angry Birds Star Wars is not going anywhere, get used to it. This week's free game list only includes one game from last week's list. Know what that means? A whole lot of building new listings by hands. I used to write SQL programs, you'd think I could come up with a better way.


Oh well, games for the weekend, coming right up!



Top Paid iPad Games - 11/16/2012

This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free1. Angry Birds Star Wars HD
Last Week's Position: 1 (0)


Welcome to week two of Star Wars Angry Birds dominance. Try the veal.


Angry Birds Star Wars HD on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free2. Wreck-It Ralph
Last Week's Position: 2 (0)


Welcome to week two of Wreck-It Ralph semi-dominance. Seriously, the veal is awesome.


Wreck-It Ralph on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free3. Bad Piggies
Last Week's Position: 3 (0)


Three weeks in the third spot for Bad Piggies HD. This means something. Something about the veal.


Bad Piggies on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free4. Minecraft Pocket Edition
Last Week's Position: 5 (+1)


Finally a little movement. Thanks, Minecraft !


Minecraft Pocket Edition on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free6. Flea Symphony
Last Week's Position: N/A


Just look at those Odd Gentlemen go!


Flea Symphony on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free6. Where's My Water?
Last Week's Position: 7 (+1)


He just refuses to be flushed, doesn't he?


Where's My Water on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free7. Flow Free Bridges
Last Week's Position: N/A


Welcome back to the iPad charts, Flow Free. Hope you survive the experience.


Flow Free Bridges on iTunes



This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free8. The Room
Last Week's Position: 4 (-4)


Looks like folks are finding their way out of The Room.


The Room on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free9. Angry Birds Space HD
Last Week's Position: 9 (0)


Angry Birds Space in the ninth position three times in a row? Someone call Herman Cain.


Angry Birds Space HD on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free10. Need for Speed Most Wanted
Last Week's Position: 8 (-2)


Need for Speed Most Wanted breaks off from the pack! Unfortunately in the wrong direction.


Need for Speed Most Wanted on iTunes



Whoa, we're halfway there. At least we've passed all of the toll roads. Time for some free games.



Top Free iPad Games - 11/16/2012

This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free1. Candy Crush Saga
Last Week's Position: N/A


King.com's popular Facebook game makes a big splash on the iPad this week. Can't stop playing.


Candy Crush Saga on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free2. Lost Winds 2: Winter of the Melodias
Last Week's Position: N/A


Frontier Developments has two games on the free chart this week, thanks to this incredible bargain.


Lost Winds 2 on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free3. Avengers Initiative Lite
Last Week's Position: N/A


The free version of the excellent Avengers Initiative is here to save us from paying $7.


Avengers Initiative Lite on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free4. Hill Climb Racing
Last Week's Position: N/A


Now that I've played Hill Climb Racing I can honestly say that I still don't see the appeal.


Hill Climb Racing on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free5. Coaster Crazy
Last Week's Position: N/A


Frontier Developments' seocnd game on the list. Haven't played it yet, but it looks incredibly intriguing.


Coaster Crazy on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free6. Bingo Run HD
Last Week's Position: 3 (-3)


So it dropped a little, it's still the only free game that made it from last week to this week on the charts.


Bingo Run HD on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free7. Mystery Detectives: Blackwood and Bell
Last Week's Position: N/A


Because sometimes we need to know where the mysteries are.


Mystery Detectives: Blackwood and Bell on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free8. Bubble Blaze
Last Week's Position: N/A


Step one in getting your game on the charts: Use the word "bubble".


Bubble Blaze on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free9. CSR Racing
Last Week's Position: N/A


The fastest customer service representatives you've ever ridden.


CSR Racing on iTunes


This Week's iPad Charts: All That Matters is LostWinds 2 is Free10. Fly, Zeus, Fly! HD
Last Week's Position: N/A


Zeus. King of the gods or just a little lost puppy? Your choice! Yip!


Fly, Zeus, Fly! HD on iTunes



Well that was fun, wasn't it? Join me next week when Apple and iPad gamers conspire to make every game on the list new, eating up my entire weekend.


Kotaku

We'll Answer Your Questions About The Wii U [UPDATE: Q&A Over]


The next generation of consoles is finally upon us.


On Sunday, the Wii U will launch in the United States, and although some might snark that it's not really a "next-gen" machine, it is the first new console we've seen since 2006.


That's exciting.


We at Kotaku have played the Wii U. We've got two in our office, and we've spent the past couple of weeks testing them out and playing around with both software and hardware on the shiny new machine. We've let co-workers try it out. We've written about what we love (and don't love). And we've reviewed two of the biggest launch games: New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land.


But you still probably have a lot of questions about Nintendo's new console. Shoot them below and we'll try to get everything answered. We can't talk about everything until Sunday, but we'll address whatever we can. So go ahead and ask!


Update: Q&A's over! Thanks for chiming in, folks! We have to head out of the office and work on more Wii U coverage to prepare for launch day, but thanks for your questions, and apologies if we weren't able to get to yours. We'll try to do another one of these next week when we can answer more questions.


Kotaku

This Ambitious Custom Skyrim Follower Embodies Everything Great About ModdingI like modding Skyrim. I know, I know, there are lots of other games out. But I still play this one, okay? Stop judging me!


I have a lot of great mods installed, but I've never installed one half as ambitious as Vilja, a mod that adds a new, hugely customizable follower (named Vilja) to the game.


A little history: Vilja was also a follower mod for Oblivion, so team that created her has a modding pedigree. (I haven't used the mod in Oblivion, mind.)


According to the mod description, she has around 4,000 lines of dialogue, though if you like, you can have her not speak at all. She levels up, has her own all-new questline, and her demeanor towards you changes depending on the conversational choices you make.


I've only played the mod a bit, and while Vilja's voice acting is definitely the work of an amateur (you can hear pops on the mic sometimes, and the mix is a little funny), she's also earnest and engaging, and certainly quite talkative. Your mileage may vary on the voice acting, but so far, I'm fairly charmed. In the readme, the modder who supplied her voice makes it clear that she's a work-in-progress, and that at some point, most things about her could be improved.


You can see a mod spotlight by Inasne0hflex on Vilja here to the side, which gives a good sense of what she's all about. I also liked how at the very start of the video, it accidentally appears as though the commentator's voice is actually Vilja's voice.


This kind of thing really gets at what makes mods so special—that a team of people put this much work into creating something so detailed and intricate says so much about the potential of mods, and why more developers should open up their games to user-created content.


Vilja in Skyrim [Nexusmods]


Kotaku

The Seductive Escape Of Persona 4


Ask ten people why they play video games and you'll get twenty different answers. Some will say they like taking out their anger on a military battlefield, shooting up friends and enemies for better ranks on a virtual scorecard. Others might want to go on surreal, dreamy adventures through deserts and mountains and rivers of fire. At least one or two people will say they just like to have fun.


But one of the more interesting answers is one that fewer people would like to admit: Video games are an escape. They let us forget about our troubles and inhabit other peoples' brains and bodies. The problems in video games always have quantifiable, achievable solutions. Where life is messy, video games are neat.


Maybe that's why everybody loves Persona 4.


Persona 4, in case you're unfamiliar, is a Japanese role-playing game designed by a quirky company called Atlus. It's a high school simulator, a murder mystery, and a hardcore dungeon crawler. You, a high school student, might spend a morning taking a history exam, lunchtime eating ramen on the roof with the girl you want to date, and the afternoon fighting shadow monsters in the fantasy world you access by walking into your television.


Yeah. It's a weird game.


It's also a beloved game, and over the past few weeks, I've spent a great deal of time playing the Vita remake, Persona 4 Golden (out Tuesday—our review should be up around then) and trying to figure out what makes it so special. This is my first time with the game; I've played Persona 3, but this is my maiden voyage through its sequel, which is considered by many to be the superior experience.


There are a lot of reasons to love Persona 4. For Americans, interacting with virtual characters in the sleepy city of Inaba, Japan is like peeking into the window of another world, a world where people sit on cushions to eat dinner, where they address each other with honorifics and go to school on Saturdays. It's culture shock in a way that few other games have captured: Japan's take on Japan is absolutely fascinating from an outsider's perspective.


The real fantasy of Persona 4 is not the talking bear or the monsters that live inside your television. The real fantasy of Persona 4 is the seductive lie of perfection.

The writing is also stellar: the translators over at Atlus have done a tremendous job bringing Persona 4 to English. Everything follows a certain rhythm: whether you're taking a pop quiz in class or sitting out to lunch with some friends, the structure is so tight and punchy that it feels like a sitcom whose writing has been workshopped over and over to the point of perfection. Video games are usually much looser. Even when the game is barking orders at you—annoying lines like "You should go to sleep" or "You shouldn't talk to him right now" must make some game designers want to take an Evoker to the head—it's hard not to be charmed by the experience.


And the people, the characters inhabiting this world of Persona 4, are appealing even when they're one-note. These high school kids are also just like us—or at least like we were when we were in high school. The characters are confused, emotionally charged, jacked up on adolescent hormones. When they talk, they leave important things unsaid: one character, Kanji, spends a great deal of time dealing with sexual confusion, but never makes his sexuality quite clear, probably because he's 15. He has no idea what he wants, how he feels, how he thinks.


But these people are also very much not like us, and we find solace escaping into their world because of that. Real humans are hypocritical, inconsistent, constantly questioning ourselves and hurting each other. Each member of Persona 4's gang of Scooby-Doo-like misfits is driven and confident. They build up their stats and level up and grow more powerful in mechanical fashion. No matter how frustrating it might seem when they have no leads on their ongoing murder investigation, we all know they will find something. It's a video game. There's always an answer.


The real fantasy of Persona 4 is not the talking bear or the monsters that live inside your television. The real fantasy of Persona 4 is the seductive lie of perfection. This is a world where building friendship is a quantifiable activity, where you can start a relationship just by selecting the right bit of dialogue from a list of three options. Relationships are straightforward and concrete, even when the characters are ambiguous and confused.


To build relationships in Persona—an activity that is essential for improving your characters' performances in combat—you simply have to talk to people. If you want to go on a date with a girl, you walk up to her and say "hey, let's go on a date." If you want to hang out with your goofy best friend, you call him up at the movie theater and say "get on over here, buddy, we're watching Star Wars." These people never say no to you. There is no rejection. They are always upset if you turn down their requests.


In the real world, people will betray you. Your friendships can be frustratingly ephemeral, and your relationships can be as torturous as they are blissful. You will never get everything you want. You will be rejected.


In Persona 4, your character is silent and suave, beloved by every girl he sees. He has a rolodex full of people to see and hang out with, and building up a connection with someone is as simple as going to band practice, or heading downstairs and talking to one of his many friends and girlfriends. They always want to talk to him. They don't betray his trust or break his heart.


Developing relationships in Persona 4 is a mechanical activity, like piecing together a watch or solving a puzzle that always has a guaranteed, if not always obvious solution. You won't regret leaving someone or missing an opportunity to find love, or friendship, or comfort. You rarely have to worry about losing someone forever; if you make the wrong choice today, all you have to do is come back tomorrow and start up another conversation. Keep on leveling up that relationship.


The world of Persona 4 is surreal and unusual and fascinating and, in many ways, despite its hardships, it is also ideal. Intangible qualities are measured by statistics. Want to be more manly? Go read a book called Forever Macho. Want to learn how to be more diligent? Sit at your desk and start folding envelopes. Need a quick burst of knowledge? Head to your room, pick up a book, and watch your stats go up.


You never fail at studying. You are never sent to remedial courses because you just can't seem to keep pace with your classmates. You never have to deal with financial hardship or losing the spark in a relationship that seemed like it was going to last forever.


Even when it's capturing real life, Persona 4 is absolutely nothing like real life. Maybe that's why we like it so much.


The characters in Persona 4—fascinating, relatable characters whose internal dilemmas are as interesting as their awkward encounters—confront their demons as literal demons. To fight off her indecisiveness, Yukiko fights a shadow of herself. When dealing with his sexual ambiguity, Kanji has to confront a giant, sexually confused monster. Problems are solved with fights. Some of these boss battles are difficult, but they can always be overcome. They can always be confronted. There's always an answer.


Don't you wish real life was that easy?


Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG. It runs every Friday at 3pm ET.


Nov 16, 2012
Kotaku

Why We Love Persona 4


Ask ten people why they play video games and you'll get twenty different answers. Some will say they like taking out their anger on a military battlefield, shooting up friends and enemies for better ranks on a virtual scorecard. Others might want to go on surreal, dreamy adventures through deserts and mountains and rivers of fire. At least one or two people will say they just like to have fun.


But one of the more interesting answers is one that fewer people would like to admit: Video games are an escape. They let us forget about our troubles and inhabit other peoples' brains and bodies. The problems in video games always have quantifiable, achievable solutions. Where life is messy, video games are neat.


Maybe that's why everybody loves Persona 4.


Persona 4, in case you're unfamiliar, is a Japanese role-playing game designed by a quirky company called Atlus. It's a high school simulator, a murder mystery, and a hardcore dungeon crawler. You, a high school student, might spend a morning taking a history exam, lunchtime eating ramen on the roof with the girl you want to date, and the afternoon fighting shadow monsters in the fantasy world you access by walking into your television.


Yeah. It's a weird game.


It's also a beloved game, and over the past few weeks, I've spent a great deal of time playing the Vita remake, Persona 4 Golden (out Tuesday—our review should be up around then) and trying to figure out what makes it so special. This is my first time with the game; I've played Persona 3, but this is my maiden voyage through its sequel, which is considered by many to be the superior experience.


There are a lot of reasons to love Persona 4. For Americans, interacting with virtual characters in the sleepy city of Inaba, Japan is like peeking into the window of another world, a world where people sit on cushions to eat dinner, where they address each other with honorifics and go to school on Saturdays. It's culture shock in a way that few other games have captured: Japan's take on Japan is absolutely fascinating from an outsider's perspective.


The real fantasy of Persona 4 is not the talking bear or the monsters that live inside your television. The real fantasy of Persona 4 is the seductive lie of perfection.

The writing is also stellar: the translators over at Atlus have done a tremendous job bringing Persona 4 to English. Everything follows a certain rhythm: whether you're taking a pop quiz in class or sitting out to lunch with some friends, the structure is so tight and punchy that it feels like a sitcom whose writing has been workshopped over and over to the point of perfection. Video games are usually much looser. Even when the game is barking orders at you—annoying lines like "You should go to sleep" or "You shouldn't talk to him right now" must make some game designers want to take an Evoker to the head—it's hard not to be charmed by the experience.


And the people, the characters inhabiting this world of Persona 4, are appealing even when they're one-note. These high school kids are also just like us—or at least like we were when we were in high school. The characters are confused, emotionally charged, jacked up on adolescent hormones. When they talk, they leave important things unsaid: one character, Kanji, spends a great deal of time dealing with sexual confusion, but never makes his sexuality quite clear, probably because he's 15. He has no idea what he wants, how he feels, how he thinks.


But these people are also very much not like us, and we find solace escaping into their world because of that. Real humans are hypocritical, inconsistent, constantly questioning ourselves and hurting each other. Each member of Persona 4's gang of Scooby-Doo-like misfits is driven and confident. They build up their stats and level up and grow more powerful in mechanical fashion. No matter how frustrating it might seem when they have no leads on their ongoing murder investigation, we all know they will find something. It's a video game. There's always an answer.


The real fantasy of Persona 4 is not the talking bear or the monsters that live inside your television. The real fantasy of Persona 4 is the seductive lie of perfection. This is a world where building friendship is a quantifiable activity, where you can start a relationship just by selecting the right bit of dialogue from a list of three options. Relationships are straightforward and concrete, even when the characters are ambiguous and confused.


To build relationships in Persona—an activity that is essential for improving your characters' performances in combat—you simply have to talk to people. If you want to go on a date with a girl, you walk up to her and say "hey, let's go on a date." If you want to hang out with your goofy best friend, you call him up at the movie theater and say "get on over here, buddy, we're watching Star Wars." These people never say no to you. There is no rejection. They are always upset if you turn down their requests.


In the real world, people will betray you. Your friendships can be frustratingly ephemeral, and your relationships can be as torturous as they are blissful. You will never get everything you want. You will be rejected.


In Persona 4, your character is silent and suave, beloved by every girl he sees. He has a rolodex full of people to see and hang out with, and building up a connection with someone is as simple as going to band practice, or heading downstairs and talking to one of his many friends and girlfriends. They always want to talk to him. They don't betray his trust or break his heart.


Developing relationships in Persona 4 is a mechanical activity, like piecing together a watch or solving a puzzle that always has a guaranteed, if not always obvious solution. You won't regret leaving someone or missing an opportunity to find love, or friendship, or comfort. You rarely have to worry about losing someone forever; if you make the wrong choice today, all you have to do is come back tomorrow and start up another conversation. Keep on leveling up that relationship.


The world of Persona 4 is surreal and unusual and fascinating and, in many ways, despite its hardships, it is also ideal. Intangible qualities are measured by statistics. Want to be more manly? Go read a book called Forever Macho. Want to learn how to be more diligent? Sit at your desk and start folding envelopes. Need a quick burst of knowledge? Head to your room, pick up a book, and watch your stats go up.


You never fail at studying. You are never sent to remedial courses because you just can't seem to keep pace with your classmates. You never have to deal with financial hardship or losing the spark in a relationship that seemed like it was going to last forever.


Even when it's capturing real life, Persona 4 is absolutely nothing like real life. Maybe that's why we like it so much.


The characters in Persona 4—fascinating, relatable characters whose internal dilemmas are as interesting as their awkward encounters—confront their demons as literal demons. To fight off her indecisiveness, Yukiko fights a shadow of herself. When dealing with his sexual ambiguity, Kanji has to confront a giant, sexually confused monster. Problems are solved with fights. Some of these boss battles are difficult, but they can always be overcome. They can always be confronted. There's always an answer.


Don't you wish real life was that easy?


Random Encounters is a weekly column dedicated to all things JRPG. It runs every Friday at 3pm ET.


Kotaku

Last month Runescape creator Jagex promised to bring fast-paced combat racing to Facebook. What they've actually delivered in Carnage Racing is better than that, and it's all thanks to portals.


The game call it phase shifting. I call it portals. As you do laps around the various tracks in Jagex's social racer, performing tricks and shooting powerful weapons at the competition, a gauge slowly fills on the right side of the screen. Once you're full you can drive towards one of the many warp spots scattered about the track, press the space bar, and whoosh.


Whoosh is the official sound of going through a portal.


Suddenly you're way ahead of the pack, unless of course they use portals, or hit you with the Warp gun and create a personal portal ahead of you. It's complicated.


Pressing the space bar with a full phase shift meter is also a means to avoid enemy weapons. It turns the world a pleasant shade of blue as well.


This nifty phase shifting mechanic also means that the developers didn't have to worry about making circular tracks. Just place a warp at the end that takes you back to the beginning and presto! Lazy, or brilliant? Yes!


Carnage Racing has a goal-oriented single-player mode to help get players up to speed, but the real meat is in multiplayer. Players can take on random opponents, challenge their friends in real-time or post their score and give their contacts a day to do better. Win in-game cash, customize your car, upgrade your weapons — all the fun bits of console combat racers are right here, for free.


It might not be Need for Speed Most Wanted, but Carnage Racing is definitely miles ahead of any other racing-type games on Facebook. Indeed, it might be too hardcore for the average Facebook gamer to handle, but I'm sure you folks will do just fine.


Carnage Racing [Facebook]


Kotaku

Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Is Still The Call of Duty You Love…Or Hate I've spent the last week playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II's multiplayer; arguably the real reason many will purchase the game. While I still have a lot to experience—the number of unlocks is ridiculous, and the competitive metagame is difficult to discern this early—I still think I've got a reasonable feel for it all. Good enough to at the very least say with confidence that Black Ops II does nothing that would entice someone who was turned off by the series before, though Treyarch has made a few changes to the franchise.


Where the single player saw huge changes, and zombies saw some alterations as well, multiplayer, on the whole, will be familiar to anyone that's played a major iteration of the Call of Duty franchise in the last few years. It's still a fast-paced twitch shooter that has maps with dizzying number of nooks, crannies and corners that encourage a frenetic style of play.


Black Ops II feels like another iteration that tweaks things a little. The game largely plays the same, except for a few changes, which in my opinion aren't significant enough to make the game feel any different.


The only people who will think the changes in Black Ops II are significant are the more hardcore of the bunch, for whom any change, however small, feels like a huge thing. For everyone else: hey look. It's more Call of Duty—almost exactly like how you remembered it, too.


I want to touch on spirit of the multiplayer as a whole before I delve into the nitty gritty, just so I'm clear on what that classic Call of Duty multiplayer feel is. The marvel of the franchise for me is how paranoid one can become while playing.


It's still a fast-paced twitch shooter that has maps with dizzying number of nooks, crannies and corners that encourage a frenetic style of play.

You always feel like you could be shot down in a split second. This creates tension that gives rise to both bold and guarded measures—maybe you brave that hallway, Rambo style, or maybe you camp it out for a short while.


That tension is always palpable, especially when you consider how fast the game moves. You have to keep up, or make sure nobody gets the drop on you. Everything is a potential threat and sometimes you shoot at nothing at all, or knife at teammates—you get spooked and react with your sole defense, a trigger finger. You develop your reflexes to be as rapid as they can be, and yet you never feel it is swift enough. Who has not, at least once while playing Call of Duty, felt old because of their reflexes?


Every death is a shock in how quick it happens, yes, but in how quick it leaves you, too. Alive. Dead. Alive. Dead. They start to blur. If you're losing, the difference between the states might start mattering less and less to you. For the engaged, a death can feel like a gasp cut short because of how suddenly it happens, and then how suddenly it's gone.


Yes, Call of Duty is addicting. Very much so. But if you asked me to describe it to you in one word, that'd be "traumatic." And yet in spite of that, or perhaps because of that cutthroat environment, you start craving any ounce of success you can get. The high of a kill feels more pronounced than it might in a different game—so maybe scorestreaks are unfair, and maybe they just allow those who are winning to bulldoze that much more efficiently. But, goddamnit, you feel like you earned them.


Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Is Still The Call of Duty You Love…Or Hate


And as a quick aside—now compare to the current political landscape, similarly paranoid, similarly making enemies out of everyone, similarly carried by that "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" mentality no matter how unfair it might actually be for everyone else. Truly, I can't think of a game that better reflects the society that created it. I almost feel guilty for finding the multiplayer so thrilling, but this guilt is overridden by a constant fearful vigilance punctuated with short-lived rushes of adrenaline after I land kills. I got you, you bastard.


All of that has been the crux of the franchise for a while now, and that hasn't changed with Black Ops II. No reinvention, no evolution—same thing with different maps and new guns. You're still playing a variety of modes, from death match, to objective-based, to party games as well as combat training for newbies. There additions, sure, but nothing major. Notably, these are the inclusion of League Play, Scorestreaks (basically killstreaks, only not just for kills), and the new Pick 10 system.


League Play, I suspect that many will welcome with open arms. Here is why: there are no unlocks. Everything is available to you from the get-go—all the guns, all the perks, all the scorestreaks, and so on.


Point blank, I hated starting out in the Core playlists because it was immediately obvious that the game was not balanced. It can't be. Whoever has the better gear will invariably win in a duel, and the starting guns suck.

Everyone is on the same playing field, so to speak. It's up to you to figure out what best suits your needs, and the game doesn't get in the way of you experiencing what you want to play, and how you want to play it.


Compared to the other modes, which require you to sink a considerable amount of time into them to unlock stuff, this is a godsend. Point blank, I hated starting out in the Core playlists because it was immediately obvious that the game was not balanced. It can't be. Whoever has the better gear will invariably win in a duel, and the starting guns suck. Every bit and bob you can customize—attachments, abilities (ie, perks) and extra gear makes a huge difference in how effective you can be on the battlefield.


That and, the more you participate, the better League Play is able to pit you against similarly-skilled players. You start off with it requiring you to do a number of "placement matches" that assess you skill level, and then put you on a ladder with a division and a subdivision. Regular matchmaking might put you against someone ten, twenty, thirty levels your senior. Needless to say, that's awful. I'm having a hard time thinking of why I'd ever really want to go back to normal competitive—the only thing I can imagine sparking that action is being overtaken with the desire to grind. That's, uh, not likely.


League Play also seems like a good choice for those interested in clans, or those interested in forming a team for the league. I've not been able to fiddle here just yet, but I figure that once I get a core team of interested friends going, I'll probably make a league team right away and never go back.


Granted, you don't get to pick the modes when in League Play, and there are a couple of cosmetic unlocks you can't get in League Play, either. I'd wager you'll also be playing in a more serious environment, and that might not be appealing to everyone. Personally, I'm fine with all of that if it means having access to what I want immediately and playing against similarly skilled people.


Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Is Still The Call of Duty You Love…Or Hate


Plus, if I want something not-serious, I can always boot up party games. This is where all the old wager matches from the first Black Ops went. I'm sad that I can't bet points on my performance in matches anymore, because the frenzied, almost hedonistic play of Call of Duty plus betting seems like a match made in heaven (or hell, depending on how you look at it.) But even without that, party games are a blast—I'd go so far as to say that they are my favorite thing in BLOPS II's multiplayer.


I am particularly fond of Gun Game and Sticks and Stones. The former requires you to land a kill with every single weapon. So you start off with a pistol, then two pistols, then another gun, then a shotgun, and so on. I like this mode because it requires me to be versatile; I can't default to the gun that I prefer. I like this mode so much, in fact, that I stopped writing this mid-sentence to go play a couple of gun game matches. It's just that excellent. Sticks and stones, meanwhile, is a mode with only a crossbow, a ballistic knife and a combat axe. Have fun and oh—try not to get hit with the axe, because that nets you a "humiliation" where you're reset back to zero points.


Going back to what's new for a second—scorestreaks. The idea was to replace killstreaks with something that rewarded kills AND other stuff too. This is particularly important when we're talking about objective-based gametypes. You need your teammates to all be on the same page, trying for the same goal. So now you can get a UAV for killing a few people in a row, or you might get it for capturing a point. In theory, this is a great addition.


Here is the problem: Call of Duty is not a collaborative game thanks to the overall community, nor is it one that gives powerful incentive to change lone-wolf, kill-focused type play.

Here is the problem: Call of Duty is not a collaborative game thanks to the overall community, nor is it one that gives powerful incentive to change lone-wolf, kill-focused type play. Giving me extra points for capturing a hardpoint does not make me more likely to go after the point, especially given how much more lucrative maintaining a high K/D is to the community and how easily you die.


The way I see it, the franchise has got years and years and years of gearing the community to think of the game in a certain way, to play in a certain way. Everything from the map design to the health and so on facilitates a certain mode of play—and Black Ops II is still mostly the same as it was before, design-wise.


Unless you make some radical changes to the design, people will largely play the same. And why not? Consider that both killstreaks and scorestreaks only reward those who are doing well. So if you're already winning, this just cements the win that much more. So uh: what part of that is more likely to make me to play any differently? How will scorestreaks change the usual "do-well-do-better" or "do-bad-do-awfully" reward paradigm found in the franchise, which is available if I just keep playing for kills (hypothetically)?


I will say that the scorestreaks seem less rage-inducing now. They still reward players who are already doing well, but so far I've yet to be in a match where it was completely impossible to so much as breathe because a player managed to get on a roll with them.


Also new is the Pick 10 system for custom loadouts. Everything you equip costs one point, and your ability to mix and match is fantastic. Almost anything goes, as long as you don't spend more than ten points. We're talking like, having two primary guns at once type mix and match.


Black Ops 2 Multiplayer Is Still The Call of Duty You Love…Or Hate


Personally I'm running something that gives me three attachments to my primary gun, but because of that, I only have one grenade instead of three. I also have "Perk 1 Greed" wildcard (wildcards are intended to "mix things up," or bend the rules of the class system.) Perk 1 Greed allows me to take both hardline and lightweight as initial perks. Normally I'd only be able to pick one out of this set. Having this enabled, however, means I don't have a secondary gun—at least, this is what I got rid of to make room for another perk. But I never really use my secondary gun or grenades, so whatever!


And these are the notable changes to Black Ops II—if these sound major, it's because I've spent time on minutia moreso than it is because the game has become significantly different.


But overall Black Ops II is still the Call of Duty you love...or you hate.

You also have the ability livestream or shoutcast—things I've not significantly explored, admittedly.


There are other elements that make a return: you can customize cosmetic things, like skins on your gun, or your knife. Unfortunately the things I cared about the most—customizing your appearance or etching letters onto your guns, like you could in the first Black Ops—are absent. Shame! It was badass to be able to put on warpaint, even though everyone tried looking like the Joker.


But overall Black Ops II is still the Call of Duty you love...or you hate. It plays the same, it largely functions the same—not a bad thing, by any means, if you happen to like the game already. Those who are sick of the franchise might want to sit this one out though.


I can't help but wonder how long Call of Duty rests on its laurels. You do it for long enough, and it's not having the luxury of remaining stagnant because nothing else comes close, but rather opening up the opportunity for someone else to come and take the crown.


For now, rejoice: there's more Call of Duty to be had, and some will find it as excellent as always, and others will become or remain burned out on it.


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