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Posts Tagged ‘XBOX Live’

We’re now a month in since the release of Modern Warfare 2 and after racking up nearly a full days worth of play time I think I’m ready to post a few thoughts about it.

Infinity Ward have done something that Epic and Bungie (the first time round) failed to do, and that’s deliver a sequel that is not only every bit as good as its predecessor but actually better.

Firstly the Single player campaign:

There’s not much to be said really, the campaign plays like a Hollywood movie with some of the best set pieces seen on a console. The only games I’ve played with set pieces anywhere near as good are Gears of War, Halo 3 and Resident Evil 4.

People are bashing the single player experience as too short but in my opinion, it’s the first Call of Duty that didn’t seem to have levels thrown in the middle just for the fun of it. As good as COD 2 and the first Modern Warfare were, I felt that especially during the run up to the finale there were levels that didn’t develop the story enough. World at War was another prime example and COD 3 just seemed to go on forever. I’m really happy with the length of the campaign though, I’d much rather a short game where every level is great rather than a long campaign that drags out gameplay just for the sake of it.

My only criticism (and it is a very small one) is that in using the Cockney voice actors from the previous Modern Warfare I was a bit confused as to who the characters around me actually were and both games seemed to morph into one in my memory. As I said, a small gripe but nothing that spoiled my enjoyment.

Infinity Ward finally fixed veteran difficulty and put an end to the infinite respawns and grenade throwing. Again, this is getting knocked by the hardcore players who say that veteran is way too easy now but I’ve got no problem with it at all. There were areas in Modern Warfare that seemed absolutely impossible to play through properly and it was only once I’d decided to forget about killing enemies and just sprint to the next checkpoint that I managed to make it to the next save.

World at War was another example of how utterly frustrating COD can be when the difficulty is too tough, the grenade throwing and endless respawns were ridiculous. Corkscrew and Blowtorch took me about 6 hours of non-stop gaming to complete and it was after that level that I decided to hang up my vet boots. When I used to see gamercards where the whole of the game had been completed I felt a bit of pity for the poor gamer who dedicated so much time to remembering the enemy paths in order to finish the game. And that was the point about previous veteran difficulties, it was not so much about skill, more remembering where the enemies would come from and trying to find the invisible line that would stop the spawning.

The bottom line is that I’m happy, veteran MW2 was an absolute great experience. Yes there were still levels that I was stumped on for hours at a time and Yes I still managed to trigger checkpoints at the most inappropriate times (screen red, close to death etc) but every level seemed totally do-able.

As for the ending – absolutely top-notch and has got me foaming at the mouth to see what happens next to Capt Price & Co.

And now the Multiplayer:

More of the same really, fantastic maps that seem to be really well balanced, the introduction of killstreak customisation and more perks & challenges. MW2 online is every bit as addictive as Modern Warfare and unfortunately, that is its downfall.

Now I might be going against the grain on this but I think that the very reasons that MW2 is a great game are also the reasons why it won’t be a fantastic game that’s remembered for years to come.

The online experience is only so addictive because it’s so rewarding, with so many challenges to complete and because the levelling up system is so transparent, it seems as though getting X amount of kills with X weapon is all 90% of online gamers are bothered about.

Its getting increasingly obvious due to the lack of in-game chat that most team members are just going it alone in a bid for more kills. It doesn’t seem as though many people are actually bothered about winning matches, as long as they get the all important couple of thousand points for kills they’re happy.

Near enough every game will have a good example of this. How many times have been playing, seen someone get killed and immediately after respawning, sprint straight back to the point where they were killed? The idea behind it is that they know there’s an enemy waiting, hence there will be a kill waiting. Inevitably this just leads to feeding the opposing team a bunch of free kills.

A good online experience for me is joining a match where everyone is on a mic, a bit of game chat and a lot of banter. I’m getting really tired now of joining matches only to play in complete silence and it’s making what should be an amazing game into a bit of nothing.

If you need any evidence of this, check out the kill/ death ratio of your friends on the leaderboards. If it’s anything like mine the players who have reached the high echelons and made prestige have absolutely horrific ratios, this is because they don’t care how many times they’ve been killed as long as they’ve racked up a couple of dozen themselves. I think it says a lot when the MVP of a team has 15-20 kills with double that amount of deaths. And this isn’t something that happens rarely, I regularly see this sort of thing after a game.

Am I still pleased though? Abso-bloody-lutely. MW2 is one of the best games I’ve ever played, I just don’t think I’ll be busting a gut to still play it when COD7 is released by Treyarch next November.

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ODST

Last Thursday I became the proud owner of a copy of Halo 3 ODST. Admittedly, a little later than it’s release date but I’d only just finished my run of Batman Arkham Asylum. I was pretty excited about ODST mainly due to the fact that Halo 3 was in my opinion one of the most complete games I’ve ever played. I remember the first time I loaded the disc up and was greeted by the map of the Earth with lights illuminated in every part of the world that the game was being played. It was such a small thing but it truly took my breath away and the game hadn’t even started. So over the course of the next few days I was amazed by Halo 3. It felt as though Bungie had listened to us, the gamers and given us exactly what we wanted: the combat was perfect, difficulty spot-on, set pieces were better than anything before, even the score was beautiful.

Halo 3 ODST was originally conceived as an expansion to Halo 3 titled Halo3: Recon. At some stage during its development the Developers decided to make it into a standalone game and so ODST was born. The campaign takes place at the same time as the events in Halo 2 and the story Pans out in a series of flashbacks. As you start the campaign you are introduced to a cast of Orbital Drop Shock Troopers or ODST’s. You play the part of the Rookie of the team (surprise surprise), and your squad are going to drop into the center of New Mombassa to assist in the fight against the attacking Covenant. You and your team make the drop through space but it is revealed once the opening credits are over that your drop ship crashed leaving you unconscious whilst the rest of the ODST team have carried on with the mission. Thus, the premise of the game is born.

The opening chapter takes place on the streets on New Mombassa at night and involves you traveling from your drop point to a location specified on your VISR (heads up display). Once you’ve found the location you have to search around for a clue as to what happened to your teammates. This part of the game is cleverly played out in a series of flashbacks. At each new location you will find another piece of the overall puzzle and once a clue is found, you then play out the flashback as a different member of the team. These range from a sniper mission/ Scorpion mission/ Banshee mission etc. Whilst traveling about during the night as the Rookie you don’t really encounter many Covenant forces and when you do it can be a right royal pain in the ass because unlike previous games in the franchise, ammunition conservation is a real factor in ODST. The ‘flashbacks’ to the day battles however are much more like the Halo we know and love, big battles involving lots of enemies with stacks of weaponry to take them down with.

It’s not a massive campaign and even on a first run through will only take 7-9 hours. Bearing in mind that a considerable chunk of this time will be taken up hiking from one position to the next, the total time spent in action is more like 5hrs. The other major change is the health system. Because you’re not the Master Chief your health no longer recharges fully after time. As an ODST you have a ‘stamina’ bar (similar to an over shield), and once it is depleted you will start to lose health. Your stamina will recharge once you’ve taken cover but your health can only be recovered by use of health packs scattered around the maps.

I don’t like this system at all. To me it’s like rewinding the clock to a less fluid method of gameplay. I hated the old games where you had to collect health packs to keep going. They worked in Linea 2-D sidescrollers where your character could in no way miss health packs because it had to travel past them but nowadays games have moved on from that. All three of the main Xbox360 franchises (COD/ Gears/ Halo) now use recharging health and it works brilliantly. The maps are now so big that to spend time searching for health packs detracts from what the game is really all about. I know some people have applauded this move for its ‘realism’ but C’mon! I’m playing a game where I’m a marine fighting horde’s of aliens in the middle of Africa! I don’t want realism in a game. For me gaming is all about escapism, realism in gaming is an enemy going down in one following a headshot.

Now don’t get me wrong, the health packs didn’t in any way spoil my enjoyment of ODST and there was plenty of packs lying about (Normal difficulty) for me to get on with, but on a couple of occasions during the night sections I found myself backtracking trying to find a health station (once after accidentally stumbling straight into the path of a Hunter stalking a courtyard).

The storyline is as thin as toilet paper and definitely not on a par with the previous three outings by Bungie, but this is relieved somewhat by the decision to use voice actors from the Sci-Fi series Firefly and subsequent big screen outing, Serenity. Anyway, the bottom line is that I enjoyed the campaign but I definitely won’t be going back to it once I’ve nailed Legendary difficulty.

The new addition to ODST is a game mode called Firefight. In a nutshell, firefight is to Halo 3 ODST what Horde mode is to Gears 2. You start off on a map and have to defeat waves of enemies that progressively get more difficult the longer you stay alive. After every round another Skull is activated, increasing the difficulty further. This is a great game mode and with a team of four players can be a hell of a lot of fun.

Which leads me onto my next gripe. Bungie didn’t include any matchmaking into Firefight mode. This means that to get a four player game of firefight on the go you need to invite from your friends list or list of recent players, if your friends list are playing another game or don’t own ODST then you’re at the mercy of recent players, this can be a massive gamble on if you’ll get a half decent gamer or ten year old kid who’ll play music down his Microphone the whole time. If however, you can find a decent bunch of players you can have an absolute ball.

So that’s the first disc covered, we’re given the campaign (both single player and co-op), and the new mode firefight. Included on the second disc is Halo 3: Mythic. This is the complete set of downloadable multiplayer maps for Halo 3 and what a treat it is. This is bread and butter Halo, fast paced and frantic. All game modes from Halo 3 are included along with the Legendary and Mythic maps. Now once I’d cracked the Halo 3 campaign I spent a lot of time playing online, mainly team slayer but bits and bobs of other modes. I was amazed at how much I sucked at Halo after a year of not playing. Because most casual gamers stopped playing online months ago, what I was faced with was groups of pretty hardcore players whose skill was far greater than mine. Although initially frustrating it didn’t take me too long to get up to scratch. By up to scratch I mean 2 kills per game rather than a clean sheet. This gutted me, not so much the getting killed but the lack of communication with the rest of the team. Because of the Xbox dashboard update that allowed parties of multiple players, nobody was talking at all. I played for four hours on Friday and didn’t hear a peep out of my teammates. The closest thing to conversation I got was around two hours in when I joined a new game and was RickRolled by a guy on the same team as me. Nice.

I’m going to persevere with the Multiplayer because it’s so good (and partly to do with the extra 750 gamerscore points that are up for grabs with the Mythic and Legendary maps) but I can’t help but think that the dashboard update may have harmed people’s online experience somewhat. That was part of the fun of meeting different people on Live and getting new people on your friends list. If everybody now sticks to their own parties and doesn’t chat whilst playing it’s certainly going to affect people who just want to jump into team games and have a laugh with different gamers than their friends list. I’ll keep you posted on how I get on.

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