Black Ops 2

This post has been quite a while in the making, it is my thoughts on Call of Duty Black Ops 2. I’m a CoD veteran, I love this series. Let’s get in to it.

A little bit of history. My initial exposure to a Treyarch CoD game was World at War. Whilst I loved the campaign, I found the multiplayer hugely frustrating. There were numerous glitches and none of them ever seemed to get patched. It got to a point where I stopped playing the game and waited for the next Infinity Ward CoD, which was Modern Warfare 2. There are only so many times you can get stabbed by a man hiding inside a rock or shot from under the map before you rage quit the game for good. My opinion of Treyarch was low at this point. Fast forward past MW2 and on to the first Black Ops. Amazing game, by far my most favourite Call of Duty title. I loved the campaign; I feel like I am living through an experience in a Treyarch campaign, I feel like I am playing my way through an Infinity Ward campaign. Treyarch make the experience so much more immersive. I loved the multiplayer in Black Ops. The maps were almost all excellent*, I loved the variety of big and small, different scenery, elevation changes that weren’t just ladders and stairs. I loved the playlists; Team Tactical is where it’s at for me and my clan mates, a variety of objective based game modes with small teams. There was a good balance of weapons, with each class being balanced and usable and with there not really being anything to OP (over powered).

So, Black Ops 2.

I have broken this down into a short bit about campaign mode and then a break down of multiplayer. Whilst I think that the game is worth the £30 I paid for the campaign alone, the vast majority of my time is spent in multiplayer. Aside: Zombies is a signature of the Treyarch CoD games, but I won’t be including it in my breakdown because I literally never play it. I hate zombies. It is just not for me and I am incapable of giving a balanced analysis of it.

Campaign
With the exception of the strike force missions I am enjoying the campaign mode. The strike force missions represent a distraction from the main campaign in my opinion, they are awkward to control and not much fun. If I wanted that sort of strategy experience then I would play C&C or something similar. On a more positive note, being able to customise my load out for the campaign is great.

Multiplayer Overview
Treyarch have done some great things with the multiplayer mode. The new scoring system which rewards players who are actively engaging the objective is a brilliant thing. It encourages people to play the objective and that is what the game is all about in my opinion. That being said, I think that in game modes where the objective is to kill, kills should be worth more points, I’m thinking more of FFA (free for all) and TDM (team deathmatch) than KC (kill confirmed).

Maps
The maps are good, but there just isn’t enough variety. Not enough variety of size, not enough variety of landscape, not enough change in elevation (that isn’t stairs and ladders). Where is the snow and the jungle? Where are the hills, the lifts, the cable cars, the garage doors?

Score Streaks
Specialist and support kill streaks have not made it across from MW3, neither have death streaks. No more death streaks, awesome. I will not miss martyrdom, or that nonsense with the C4 for a single second. I am not bothered about the loss of the support kill streaks either, the changes that reward players playing the objective mean that you are not penalised with a lack of kill streak assistance for doing so. The specialist kill streak has been rendered moot by the new load out system, more on that later, but it is not missed either. Devastating kill streaks are harder to get, I have yet to see a single dog, although I have seen a fair few lodestars and warthogs.

Load Out System
The new points based load out system is excellent. It allows you to really tailor classes to different game modes. Full of win, not a single downside. I do wonder if the new load out system means fewer people are carrying rockets and so these things stay up in the air longer though?

Weapons
There is a nice variety of weapons with some in each class that are very much usable as a primary, heck even some of the secondaries make reasonable primaries. I don’t think there is anything that is too OP, Treyarch have been very good at buffing and nerfing weapons to maintain a balance. I think they have been a little hasty with the most recent nerf of the FAL though. For me, I know a weapon is OP when I see everyone using it, even players with low skill levels, at the moment that means the AN94 and the silenced PDW and not the FAL. Quick scoping is not as prevalent in BO2 as it was in MW3, but more so than in BO1. Rapid fire sniper rifles. Just no. Honestly, take these out of the game.

Game Modes
Hardpoint is a nice addition to the game, I find it more enjoyable than Headquarters. I would suggest that the average SPM is a lot lower in TDM than in objective based games, it encourages campy, spawn trapping behaviour. The occasional game of TDM can be fun, but only when mixed in with other objective based game modes, that way it doesn’t hammer your SPM, besides which you are more likely to be playing with #PTFO type players who won’t attempt to pitch a tent in a corner (not a euphemism).

Glitching and Boosting
I am very pleased to report that so far, I have not really been glitch killed by anyone, nor have I found anyone boosting in a game. I think the reporting system that came in in BO1 has helped to reduce this problem as has the genuine care that Treyarch seem to have for the community.

Hopefully, you can see from this post that I am very much enjoying BO2. It is a great game which represents a massive leap forward in the evolution of the series. I do not prescribe to the belief that Infinity Ward brings the innovation and Treyarch bring the polish, Treyarch have brought both things to this game.

Having covered some of the good and the bad, I must now cover the ugly.

Being dropped in to a game where you have a full team on one side and just one or two guys on the other side sucks. I cannot tell you the number of times I have spawned in to a game of domination or demolition where a loss is already guaranteed and the opposing team is just stacking kill streaks on top of each other. If more than x% of the original team quits the match then it should end. Do not spawn me in to a game where the odds are not just against me, but where the result is already firmly decided.

Why does Team Tac have a maximum party size of 1? This is insane. I originally thought (hoped) that this was a bug, but it seems to just be the way it is now. I used to play this mode exclusively with my friends, but now we end up playing domination most of the time. We could just manually select different game modes to get the variety, but we don’t like to try and find a new lobby once we have found one with good/nice players and to which we have a good connection. We leads me on to my final point.

The biggest issue I have with BO2 is something that seems to get worse and worse with every CoD title. Lag, or more accurately lag compensation. There is nothing more annoying than putting an entire clip in to someone and not getting a single hit marker, only for them to then turn around and drop you with a single shot. A quick watch of the kill cam seemingly revealing you standing static, never firing your weapon and instead waiting to be hit like a piñata. With BO2 there seems to be an additional problem if you are host. I think I get host quite a bit, I have a good connection and in this game being host seems to put you at even further disadvantage, although I cannot think of why this would be. The best gun to demonstrate the issue of lag comp with is the KSG. Single slug, pretty much a one shot kill. If you are a good shot and the lag Gods are with you, then you can beast with this weapon, but if the lag is against you then expect to get slaughtered. You can hit people in the centre of the body and not get a hit marker. Don’t believe me, go watch some of WoodysGamertag’s videos. Lag comp is real and it ruins the game. I really hope that in the next iteration of CoD it is turned way down. People with a bad/slow connection can always upgrade, but if your connection is good then there really isn’t much you can do.

* Nuketown was, is and always will be a pointless experience. If this map ever finds it’s way back in to general rotation on any CoD game then I am done with that game. There is only one tactic for playing on Nuketown: be the first to call in kill streaks, use them to spawn trap the other team. Whilst this is true to a certain extent on all maps, you at least have a chance to break the trap, but not on Nuketown.

W:L > K:D

Black Ops 2 looks like being the first Call of Duty game to acknowledge that W:L > K:D and I could not be more excited about it.

Why is this so important?

The points scoring system has been overhauled to better reward the players that #PTFO, i.e. to better reward the players who contribute to their team winning. I believe the idea is to encourage players to behave more like the pros, unselfishly working as a team, communicating and employing tactics. In addition, the levelling up system appears to have been changed to a true skill system, so match making should always pit players against other players of the same skill level, as judged by their W:L record. This is a big shift away from the current XP focused system where average players can grind away for years and reach top prestige, whilst awesome but occasional players make little in roads on the first prestige.

I am all about securing the win and that means #PTFO. I feel like Team Tac was introduced to allow players like me to play together, but unfortunately there are two other types of player who seem drawn to this game mode. Firstly, you have the self proclaimed Slayers, these are the guys who are only interested in K:D, they will gladly ignore the objective entirely and take great pride in amassing massive numbers of kills whilst their team mates carry them to victory. They kid themselves that their efforts are helping the team, but unless you are slaying like a really angry lady Godzilla with P.M.S who just stubbed her toe on a Tokyo sky scraper then you’re not helping. Cap a flag, defend a bomb site, pick up some tags. The second type of player is far worse, they are the Slayers inferior cousins, Slayer-lite. They provide the same percentage of your RDA of #PTFO but without any of the killing.

I was reminded of this video yesterday.

My clan mate and I were teamed with a single guy playing both sides of a split screen, who insisted in sniping despite not hitting a damn thing. I watched as he let guys run right by him to steal or cap flags. He was only interested in standing off at the edge and sniping to a kill streak, whilst his inactive alter ego not only blocked a genuine player from joining the game, but become easy pickings for the other team to rack up kill streaks.

Slayers are now an endangered species. They can evolve or become extinct.

Play like a TWIT

Playing as a clan makes FPS games so much more enjoyable. If you play CoD and you like Team Tactical then the chances are that at some point the TWIT clan has kicked your ass. ;)

As the name suggests, Team Tactical is all about playing tactically as a team, if you’re all running around like headless chickens, kill streaking, camping, playing split screen even though you’re just one person or doing jumpy spinny shit with a sniper rifle – just don’t be surprised when we chalk up a win. But hey, if you play us and win because your straight up better, we’ll gladly congratulate you… and then proceed to kick your ass in the next round. ;)

Things you need to know about us:

  • We practice quite a lot, by which I mean we play all the time.
  • We know each other really well – we have skill sets and load outs that complement each other.
  • We all have good quality headsets, Turtle Beaches – if you’re stomping around like an elephant then we will hear you.
  • We communicate constantly whilst we are playing, calling out tactics and enemy locations on the fly – we respond to situations super quick.
  • We don’t play cheap.

That last point is very important to us and really the motivation for this post. We don’t use n00btubes or heartbeat sensors unless we pick them up from fallen enemies, we don’t spawn trap, we don’t corner trap, we don’t glitch, we don’t boost and we don’t camp.

Guarding the flag, bombsite or bomb (think S&D) is not camping, that’s called Protecting The Fucking Objective. Ignoring the objective entirely and sitting in a corner racking up kills whilst the rest of your team valiantly tries to PTFO, that’s camping.

Killstreaking is for people who would camp, but have ADHD, running around the map racking up kills and ignoring the objectives. This is particularly evident in game modes like Kill Confirmed, seriously, the number of times I’ve died and seen people just walk away from a whole mess of tags is staggering.

Boosting and glitching are self explanatory. I was genuinely amazed this weekend that despite how easy if is to watch a game back and to report people and have them banned for 5000 days, we still managed to find ourselves in a game where two idiots boosted to an MOAB. Really guys, you didn’t think that having one of you at 25-0 and the other at 0-25 was going to give the game away!

So come on people, put down your RPGs and come play like men, you’ll probably still lose, but at least we’ll respect you. Unless you’re 12 and whine like a little bitch and threaten to “merk us”, in which case we’ll probably just laugh at you.

Don’t hate the iPlayer…

At some point iPlayer disappeared from the XMB on my PS3, I think it happened during the firmware update that made the iPlayer a dedicated app, but I cannot be sure. Since then I have intermittently seen the TV/Video option in the XMB and assumed that the problem had rectified itself, but then the next time I started up it was gone again. Having scoured the internet, it seems lots of people are reporting the same problem. I have seen lots of suggested fixes, mainly based on signing in and out of PSN/Home/Qriocity, but none of these worked for me (I don’t even have Qriocity or Home installed!). I stumbled across a solution completely by accident when trying to do something else, I created an extra user on my PS3, completely stock settings, signed in as the new user, deleted the new user, switched back to my regular user and suddenly the TV/Video option was back. All of this was done on firmware version 3.73.

Good news for goats

When I was younger, I would always look forward to my parents going out and Molly, the nice Irish lady from next door, coming around to babysit. I loved to hear her tell the story of The Billy Goats Gruff. If you have heard this story then you know that Trolls live under bridges in the middle of nowhere, but what I suspect you don’t know is that somebody has erected an exchange in the middle of nowhere and that all of the bridges have ADSL connections and that the Trolls are now spending their time on the internet. (Yes, this is good news if you are a goat).

At the beginning of the year I was reading some posts on Joystiq about the best PS3 games of 2009, I thoroughly enjoyed the posts because I felt they reflected the opinions of the authors and not of any sponsors that the website may have (which is why I stopped reading gaming magazines). In one of the posts it was suggested that Killzone 2 was a disappointment, Kevin Kelly didn’t say it was a terrible game, just not the game that most people were expecting, a sentiment that I agreed with completely but that sparked a huge debate riot in the comments section. A subsequent post on the same theme listed KZ2 in its “good” list and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 in it’s disappointment list. I disagreed with both of these choices, but could see that it was just someone with a slightly different taste in games expressing their opinion, however the comments list was once again the victim of marauding trolls flaming anyone that dared to dislike KZ2. I tweeted about how unreadable the comments sections were and was surprised to receive a response from one of the news writers at Joystiq, acknowledging that there were some “unfortunate remarks” but suggesting that I should “take the good with the bad”. I can see what he meant, after all I applaud the people calling for a new version of Time Splitters, accept many of the criticisms of MW2 and can see that some of the pro-KZ2 crowd were expressing genuine opinions, I just feel that the human : troll ratio was incorrectly balanced.

Then this post popped up on Engadget explaining how Windows 7’s market share had already “surpassed all OS X versions that are being tracked”, here the flame baiting started in the frickin’ article. (Kudos to the first commentor on this post though who succinctly captured my feelings when he added “Yeah, no sh!t, and the sky is blue. Is this really news?”).

Flame baiting/trolling is not big and it isn’t clever and tends to suggest that you have failed to develop the skills necessary to a) have a proper, rational debate and b) realise when someone holds a differing opinion and to respect it and move on and hence the rest of us are more likely to ignore you than engage you in a pointless debate.

I would like to finish this post by mentioning another Joystiq post on the game M.A.G. which caused me to start watching this series of videos on YouTube. I downloaded (eventually) the beta for this game and my experiences were exactly the same as the guy in the video so I genuinely lolled at it. I know a lot of people are going to rush out and buy this game and will love it in every way (and that’s fine), but give me MW2 or a miniature flaming ninja monkey with a chaingun any day!

PS3 DLNA

Sup peeps, sorry for the stop-start nature to my blogging, please know that this is not due to a lack of inspiration but a complete lack of time… so without further a do.

A little while ago, a friend of mine was asking about the ReadyNAS experience, he was considering purchasing such a device himself and seemed particularly interested in DLNA support to the stage where he was considering purchasing a DLNA enabled TV. At that time I had not attempted to use the ReadyNAS in this way since I had no way to consume the data, but fast forward past the death of my Time Capsule and I had ripped all of the plaster board off of the wall in my room in my attempt to trace an old unused phone cable through to the main phone socket. I was going to steal the hole in the wall to cable up my bedroom, but the cable I was tracing disappeared down the side of the boiler and I still do not know where it goes, but luckily Yum Yum (one of my cats) found a worm separate old unused cable and so I used this hole instead. Now my PS3 is cabled to the network and so I have enabled the media server connection and it is legend… wait for it… dary. I get full and easy access to all of the music and video on my ReadyNAS and it is all delivered via my PS3 to my TV. Anything I torrent is automatically added to the correct folder ready for me to watch. Moral of the story: don’t buy a DLNA TV, get a PS3 instead… unless you already got one… oops.

What is next generation?

“Next generation” is a term that is used extensively in the world of video gaming, but I’m sick of hearing about it. Technology is always evolving, always moving forwards and what’s cutting edge today is a Sega Saturn tomorrow (zing!). I just don’t believe that the endless pursuit of better graphics: a few more FPS, a slightly higher resolution, is what the majority of gamers are after (hit me up with a comment if you think I’m wrong). Thinking about it, that whole “endless” thing sounds like a great way to sell consoles though (call me a cynic)

I recently purchased Far Cry 2, which had been billed as the first truly next gen game on the PS3 and whilst it is true that the graphics are breath taking (the African landscapes look stunning, especially when viewed in hi-def), it is not the whole story. For those of you not aware of the concept of the game, you play a bloke trying to track down some guy in the middle of a lawless part of Africa, where all communication is done with diamonds and bullets and where you must traverse all of the afore mentioned African territory completing missions in a Grand Theft Auto style setup. Sounds good doesn’t it? The problem is that you spend all of your time trying to get to the next mission, just to be set upon by the groups of low AI enemies that seem to sit around every corner – you can’t out run them, fighting them will leave you with no health and no ammo and taking an alternative route requires the patience of a saint. Assuming that you get to your mission, you are supposed to be able to tackle it in what ever style you want, but I promise you that you won’t be able to employ any Solid Snake stealth tactics – there is only one way, all guns blazing. If you run out of ammo, then toss your gun and pick up the one dropped by the guy you just, er… dropped, brilliant, except the same gun that he was just happily firing at you, will jam as soon as you try to use it. You can turn and run for cover, but expect to be struck down by your malaria, oh, didn’t I mention that you have malaria too and will be frequently struck down unless you treat it with pills that you can only get by completing missions – my bad. I think I’ve made my point.

Conversely, I still sometimes feel the need to get out my Sega Megadrive and Mega Bomberman and can lose entire days in a four player tournament with friends; the graphics aren’t rendered in high definition, or even in 3D, but I have never once noticed it, nor have I ever questioned the different colour kangaroos (you need to have played it) that you can get. If anyone knows how the dancing kangaroo works then please let me know!

I’m not buying the online functionality of the big three consoles as being next gen either, since this has been available over LAN/WAN to PC gamers for years. I will also be so brazen as to dismiss the Wii-mote, Wii-fit, Six Axis controller, etc, etc too, as they aren’t particularly ground breaking either – all of this technological progress so that you can run on the spot, or play virtual screwball-scramble?!? There is no reason why this sort of controller could not have been introduced long ago, in fact, it was – the dance mat and light gun existed way before any of this other stuff. Notice that I didn’t include the Wii itself, or indeed any of it’s games, in my list; I have nothing against the little console and applaud Nintendo for making games that people want to play, that people that normally wouldn’t be interested in computer games want to play, but I suppose it’s what they are good at. As a non-Wii owner I would particularly like to be able to play Mario Kart and Super Mario Galaxy and I guess that LittleBIGPlanet is the PS3s attempt at a title that is accesible to a wider range of gamers than the normal demographic addresses (having not played it, I’ll reserve my judgement).

What I want are games that are original, fun, interesting and challenging, good graphics are a brilliant bonus, but they can’t carry a game. My message to the games developers would be this, don’t just trot out a tarted up version of your prized title each year and think that it is good enough, nor should you look at what the other guy is doing and just do that. I saw an interview with the guys responsible for the new Tomb Raider game, they were trying to claim that they had come up with all of these new and innovative ways of controlling Lara (I’ve completed the first four TR games, so think I can use her first name), but I’m pretty sure that most of them were in Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Likewise, this years edition of PES is good, but not great and not as enjoyable as FIFA.

My point is this, wherever the fun is, that’s where you’ll find me* and as for “next gen”, don’t belive the hype.

*Currently that means hunting down random strangers on CoD5. Shoot first, ask questions later.

Post tune: N-Dubz Feat. Baker, Love For My Slum, Uncle B.

What does the ‘V’ in DVI stand for?

I got a couple of PS3s the other day and after one day of Pro Evo 2008, my Uncle cracked and decided he wanted one too.

Lets fast forward to him phoning to explain that he could only get sound, or picture from the PS3 (even after following the instructions that the nice folk at COMET had given him – argh)! I established that he was using an HDMI to DVI converter for the picture (I did not know he had got a TV with DVI instead of HDMI, I would have stopped him) and the standard AV cables for sound. I realised that this meant picture on one channel and sound on another, something that said folk at COMET had failed to appreciate.

The proposed solutions:

  1. Use the standard scart connectors and forget about ever experiencing any HD goodness – couldn’t do it. He couldn’t even see the players on PES2008 in SD.
  2. Optical cable for sound – TV did not support this.
  3. Composite HD connection – TV did not support this.
  4. New TV – Too expensive.
  5. Special HDMI to DVI and sound connector – far too expensive.
  6. Route sound through HiFi – hasn’t got one, too expensive to purchase.
  7. Route sound through Surround Sound System – hasn’t got one, too expensive to purchase.

I finally snapped and got a “Y-splitter” cable to pipe the AV sound outputs into the DVI sound input. Fingers crossed, eh, because otherwise my Uncle will be playing the special “Silent Movie” version of PES2008.