Friday, September 30, 2011

Battlefield 3 beta and the ups and downs... and downs... and downs...

Shooters…. I love them.

Every November is like an early Christmas when Call of Duty drops but 2011 has been hyped as the year of three… Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, and Battlefield 3. One has lived up to the hype. One we’ll find out in November.

And for me, one has fallen well short.

I was excited to get my game on in the Battlefield 3 open beta yesterday. I knew I would struggle with control differences and the game might have issues (it’s a beta for Pete’s sake) but entered the fray with an open mind. You see, I’m not a DICE fan for multi-player. They delivered great campaigns in Bad Company 1-2 but their MP… well… it sucked. I disliked it so much I passed on Medal of Honor completely because it looked like a reskinned Bad Company MP experience.

Battlefield 3 has been hyped to be so much more.

At E3 2011 it had a wow factor… but I kept reminding anyone who would listen, “This is on a top-of-the line PC… show me what it looks like on a console.” Since that spectacular debut, EA has hyped Frostbite 2.0, dedicated servers, and game play that will blow other shooters away… and emphasizing they will have a beta (all snide digs at the king of the shooter hill, COD).

They might have done a better job tempering expectations.

Yes, it’s a beta but there are so many issues… some very central to the experience. The graphics at 30fps are subpar… I’m not talking about glitches… but the look. It’s just not what I was expecting and almost looks worse than BC2, especially with the way, overhyped Frostbite 2.0 engine. It sure doesn’t play as terribly destructible. The servers are dedicated… dedicated to having issues. Animations are hit and miss… grenade toss is terrible but the knife animation is cool. The sound is no different from Bad Company 1… solid but nothing new. Class systems are no fun… and while I knew this was the case… one side’s weapons are good and the other not. It’s a struggle to know visually when you are hit. And on, and on, and on…

… but…

… DICE got ROF selection right. The problem is you can’t use it. The single shot setting with the AR is useless because of how many hits it takes to get a kill. This segues nicely to…

… the way people play it. Snipers galore... spawn camping (love getting knifed as I wink into being)… hell, the spawn system in general is horrid. I love having an option to either spawn and run 500 miles to the action or spawn right in the middle of it and die… happy medium maybe? Players lone wolfing it everywhere in a team based game, has anyone ever heard of a mic? Funny thing… these are all complaints folks have about COD. It doesn’t really bug me here but for a game that portends to not be COD… sure feels like it.

There are good things beyond ROF… ribbons are cool… I like the XP system but I’m mixed on the weapon leveling mechanic.  I can’t tell what I have to do to unlock an attachment… and I can’t choose what to unlock. It seems like every good thing has 5 negatives, though.

And we haven’t even seen vehicles yet.

Not a fan of vehicles… not because they are overpowering… but because of how they aren’t used in the game (that and I suck at using them). Players just screw around with them too much… to the detriment of the experience. Besides, I’m playing a “shooter”… I’ll play Forza if I want to drive (which I don’t, I love shooters remember).

Battlefield 3 may turn out to be many things…

… Call of Duty killer will not be one of them.

Modern Warfare 3, it’s your turn to not disappoint.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Price of Progression...

All companies seek to grow their brand, to bring in new blood, while offering their existing base something new, a reason to come back. Video games are no different -- especially Call of Duty.

But at what price progression?

Sherman set the wayback machine to 2006 (sadly, some will not get this reference, so, click here and learn) where I found myself just getting on XBOX live for the first time. I had COD 2 but the title I most looked forward to playing was Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter. I dug it. It had a nice mix of tactics and cool guns. Although I tried to get the hang of COD 2 MP... I kept getting owned (I really hate the word pwned... writer's prerogative). Later that November came Rainbow Six Vegas. Wow. I loved it and reached the max level. I was hooked playing MP shooters but I didn't bother with COD 3.

Little did I know, the love would grow.

For a second time, we return to the wayback machine (I know you get this now) where Sherman has it set for August 2007. A few of my friends were in a beta for a new shooter they thought was really good... better than GRAW good. That shooter was COD 4. I got into the beta and was blown away. The pace... the guns... the killstreaks... ranking up. It was awesome.

I snapped up the game once it was released and played it for more than 40 days. There was a learning curve... especially in hardcore modes. You were punished for errors... choppers were not easy to take out... the guns all behaved differently and made you adapt to them. If you were new... it showed. You earned XP by kills and assists. That's it.

I was now a COD addict.

This addiction followed into World At War, Modern Warfare 2, and the current Black Ops where my game time now stands upwards of 100 days (damn). Each of those games to varying degrees was not n00b friendly (another word I hate but I'll go with it here) and gave vets what they craved yet still managed to grow the player base to staggering levels. Additions were made to let the casual or new player have a chance at higher killstreaks in Care Packages (I'm going to assume you are familiar with it, if not Google it) or Death Streaks for dying too much.

That brings us to the pending Modern Warfare 3 (no more need for the wayback machine). Like it's predecessors, MW3 looks to grow the player base even further but I ask again...

... at what price progression?

You now get XP for seemingly logging in... there is also a way to get "killstreaks" without getting a killstreak. You just have to get kills. I can't forget to mention the myriad new ways for you to show up as a little red dot for all the Pac-man starved greenies (that don't even get the Pac-man reference... silly kids) because, heaven forbid, they can't function without knowing exactly where to sprint 100% of the time. Four years ago there were 3 killstreaks... now there are more than 20 options... so much for "gun on gun gameplay".

I'm looking forward to MW3... more for having a new COD to play versus the game itself. It should still be fun.... and I'll still be better at it than the greenie (I would hope 100 days played gives me some insight into how to play) but MW3 is trying it's damnedest to level the playing field.

That's the price of progression.