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.

Think inside the box

Okay, so I guess I start with what the boxes are, well they are all Nike AF1 boxes. I like trainers [a lot] and so I always have an abundance of boxes lying around. They’re not lying around, they are actually neatly stacked in size and age order in the corner of my room. As I said, the boxes contain my happy thoughts. I think in pictures and my brain is like a massive PVR, looking through the stuff in these boxes allows me to tune out reality and jump right back to the moments in which the thoughts were recorded. I’m sure that anyone else looking through the boxes would wonder what half of the stuff is, but I assure you that I know exactly what each thing is and where it is from. I’m not sure if my interest in cataloging stuff is an aspie thing, I think that lots of people make memory boxes, but I’ve been told that it’s a little bit weird, so I don’t know? I didn’t plan on making any of these boxes, I just started accumulating stuff and eventually I had so much that boxes were required.

The oldest of the four boxes is my Florida box (the most ancient item is from 1988), I’ve been to Florida a number of times since I was a child. I love it there. It is my happy place. Even when things were really tough at home, the couple of weeks spent in the warmth, shopping, going to theme parks, relaxing where none of the stresses of home could touch me, well it was just perfect. If I ever run away from home and take my passport with me, you need only look for me at the entrance to It’s a Small World. If I don’t take my passport then there are only two places I would be and, I’m sorry, my brain went on a bit of a tangent there, but I thought I’d leave it in for authenticity. Anyway, I started collecting things from my trips to Florida as a way of feeling like I was there even when I wasn’t. The boxes/memories and my monthly supply of Gatorade (imported) help to keep me sane.

The three other boxes are all much more recent. One of the boxes contains memories associated with my TWIT family, my bros and my sister who I met on twitter. I don’t get to see them anywhere near enough and so again, I guess the boxes help me to feel closer to them. I somehow managed to combine two of my favourite things this year, the TWITs and Florida, that totally warranted a separate box. The final box is my Lil’ Feet box, she’s tried to explain that she thinks it’s a bit weird that she has a box all to herself, but I don’t think she understands that I would totally freak if I mixed up stuff that didn’t belong together. One day I’m going to take her to Florida and then she will have stuff in one of the other boxes. (Lil’ Feet, we can argue about the Florida thing another time, just leave me in happy ignorance for the moment :) )

If I’ve learned anything from all of my trips to Disney, it’s that in order to fly you need a happy thought. These boxes contain my happy thoughts.

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.

This is Cornwall

November was a busy month, the highlight of which was attending my bro Wayne’s wedding. The drive down to Cornwall was fun, my bro SMX is hilarious, we talked about some truly random things and solved several of the worlds problems during the 10 hours we spent in the Millennium Falcon. Only problem is we forgot how we solved them because we were distracted by the ridiculous names of the places in Cornwall that we drove past. As fun as the weekend was (carrot cake and Gatorade ftw!), it was also quite scary. New place, new people (everybody was lovely, but new is still scary), new food… and the small task of performing a bible reading at the wedding. I was so proud when Wayne and Em asked me to do it, really chuffed that they trusted me, but scared shitless all the same. I practiced for ages! Day of the wedding and inside the church I was attempting to hide my nerves by joking with SMX, “Imagine if I have to stand behind that massive gold eagle thing! Hahaha!”, a few minutes later I *was* standing behind that massive gold eagle thing. I know I didn’t look up once during the reading, I was just attempting to get the words out, eye contact at that point would have rendered me mute. But hey, I did it and I was pleased with myself. I wish my bro and his beautiful wife eternal happiness. Wayne has the coolest wife ever, she’s letting his bros join them for the end of the honeymoon. Technically, we are her bros now too (haha, I hope she reads that). Still, what could be better than sharing my favourite place in the world with some of my favourite people. The only thing that could make it more perfect would be if my sis Hev was able to come too. I have promised myself that one day we will all ride “It’s a small world” together.

Go hard or go home

Oh man. What a couple of weeks. Bat. Shit. Crazy.

Last weekend my bro SMX came to stay (sup’ negro!). I learned several things:
1. He mumbles in his sleep.
2. Split screen CoD is harder than it looks.
3. I should have a pass code on my iPhone.
4. The number of hot girls walking past my window increased when he was in my room*.

As much as I missed SMX when he went back, at least he was available online. My other bro Wayne is about to drop off the map for an entire month. That’s like 30 sleeps. I can only imagine how many thousands of trophies he will be uploading to PSN when he gets back online. 79 days until Cornwall, 115 days until Christmas, 131 days until Florida. Bring on the winter! I know it’s kinda sad, but every time I open my wardrobe I look at my hoodies and think it won’t be long until I can wear them again. Yep, it’s sad, but true.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for various reasons, and yeah, it got me down a bit, but even if I’m not smiling, it doesn’t mean I’m not happy. If I’m struggling to understand something then I might not be smiling, but I’m learning. I live for the thrill of the chase, it’s what I spend all day doing! As I’ve said before, when things get hard you can either give up or go harder and faster. When the music stops playing in my head, then it’s time to worry, but as long as I’m cruising through life to the accompaniment of my own soundtrack then everything is fine. Sometimes the most difficult things can be the most exciting, even if they terrify the shit outta me. Not planes though, they aren’t exciting, just scary. And moomins, they’re some scary shit too!

Haha! Later gators!

* I genuinely thought you were asking the name of the cat and not the girl.

Jedis drink milk #SMXFact

My last post ended up being almost a Dear Diary kind of deal, but that’s okay with me. I started this blog to chronicle my journey “to infinity and beyond” and that applies just as much to my personal life as it does to my professional one. And no, this post isn’t going to make much sense to most of my readership, but it will to the people that matter.

I don’t think I’ve actually gone to sleep before midnight a single day this week. I know, this is very unusual for me, but I guess when you’re having fun you don’t notice you’re tired. And I am having fun. I don’t enjoy change, but I know that it is necessary for me to push myself to try new things, to do things that make me feel uncomfortable, especially if the prize at the other end is… pretty awesome. Sometimes I want the ground to open up and swallow me, but pushing past that point makes me ROAR!

I was reminded this week just why I am so hard on myself: because it is so easy to settle, to find a neat little rut and stay there forever. I don’t think Obi Wan will ever realise how I grateful I am that he showed me the way of the Force. Thanks dude.

I can’t believe how much I’m missing my bro SMX. It wasn’t until he went away that I realised how much time we spend communicating (bro, we talk every day). Don’t get me wrong, the stand in SMX is doing an amazing job and my other bro has had more evenings off than usual, but it’s not the same. Sup’ Negro! When you get back I want you to FaceTime me immediately so we can shoot the breeze and marvel at the amazing power of milk. :)

Maybe I _am_ mad. ;)

The week that was.

Wow what a week. This isn’t a particularly well thought out post, more a collection of thoughts for me to come back to in the future, but you’ll have to forgive me as I haven’t had more than about six hours sleep since Thursday.

So much stuff has happened. Not all of it good, but all of it exciting and new. Yep, that’s right, I’m doing stuff that’s exciting… and new. I’m trying not to mess things up, but as lot of it is new to me, I’m learning as I go along.

I know I can always be 100% honest with my friends without fear of reprisal. Just when I’m expecting to be told to stop being daft, they encourage me to keep finding my way in life. This week they really came through for me when I needed them. They know stuff that I haven’t shared with any other living creature – not even Beaver ;D. My poor iPhone has taken a real beating this week too, but I guess that’s what happens when you refresh your tweets ten times a second. Free advice: a watched phone never bleeps.

I was totally honoured this week to be asked to speak at my friends wedding, I don’t think they even realised how much it meant to me that they would ask and I know they’ll love it when I lay down Corinthians over SMX beat boxing. I’m kidding guys… or am I! 125 days until Cornwall, 161 days until Christmas and 177 days until Florida. I’m super nervous and super excited.

I’ve spent the week with Gold Cobra on repeat (seventy spins in a week) and wearing my red Yankees cap. As my bro so aptly pointed out, I’m stuck in the 90s. Actually said cap has disintegrated so I’ve got to get a new one.

I’ve spent the week being a proper a grown up and a little kid at the same time, but I’ve traveled this emotional roller coaster of a week Bizkit style: headphones, red hat, baggy jeans and middle fingers up.

Random conversations I’ve had this week: the different noises made by bees, birds, flies and fish; New Era ball caps and fitted hat sizing; video hoe therapy; working in a pharmacy and selling people condoms (the secret is not to make eye contact).

Anyway, I leave you with this footage of my bro’s 21st birthday. I’ve missed ya bud. Tuesday night is game night!

#WWWYKI

Post tune: Mann, Buzzin

TWIT for life

I feel like I owe Jason Bradbury a massive thank you. I have just had the most amazing weekend and it really is all thanks to him.

I joined twitter in September 2008. I knew some other people who had joined and thought I should grab myself a decent username in case I decided to start using the service, but I really didn’t take it any further than that. Around this same time I started reading Jase’s blog on his newly relaunched website (coinciding with the release of his first novel) and at some point after that he started tweeting and added a link to his twitter feed from his website. I discovered the link to Jase’s twitter feed one Friday lunch time and remembering the account I had created for myself decided to log in and take a closer look. I was amazed to see that Jason was exchanging messages with normal people and confused by the strange #ff that accompanied so many of the messages that were flying back and forth. I quickly discovered that #ff was short for follow friday and that this meant that people were recommending other people to follow. I was quite taken a back by this, after all, my previous experiences with social media were fairly limited and the tools I had used had a nasty habit of sustaining relationships that I would happily have left behind, but here was a tool with the power to connect me to new and exciting people. I followed three people on that day, Jason Bradbury, Becky Kingston and Wayne Thompson, at the time the thing that stuck in my mind was that Jase followed me back, if I had only known what was to come!

Over the next few weeks I began to check twitter more and more regularly, following more and more people, although tending to read far more than I posted, I couldn’t believe that anybody who didn’t know me would be interested in reading my thoughts. I began to follow one of my favourite wrestlers, Chris Jericho, and was enjoying reading the tweets that Chris was retweeting, they were like Chuckisms, but Jericho themed. I tried to think of something funny to tweet in the hope that Chris might retweet it and then I nailed it “@IAmJericho Chris Jericho future endeavoured Vince McMahon”. If you don’t know much about wrestling then you will just have to trust me that I nailed it. Chris did retweet my message and I was ecstatic… and then a strange thing happened, other people started retweeting it… and following me. For several days after my original tweet I received RTs and new followers. This gave me a new confidence to start conversing with people rather than just consuming the tweets of others. One of the people that I began talking to was Wayne, he seemed to be kind of like me, we talked about PlayStation games and the Gadget Show (some things never change bro ;) and Wayne added me on PSN.

Tweeting along to the Gadget Show has become something of a ritual for me and I thoroughly recommend it, I’ve met so many cool people in this way including a badger from outer space!

 

 

One day I was playing MW2 when Wayne invited me to join his party. I did and we had a few good games, I wasn’t as good as he was (some things never change bro ;), but I had fun. A few weeks later I was online again and Wayne invited me to join his party again, I did and was slightly surprised by the two other people also in the party, veedubhev and supermarioex. Wayne introduced us and explained to the others that I didn’t have a mic. We had some great games and exchanged some banter (I tended to be on the receiving end due to the lack of a mic) and this became such a regular occurrence that they invited me to join their TWIT clan and pushed me both to get a mic and to follow the rest of the clan. The rest is history, if it wasn’t for the fact that we all live so far apart, we would be inseparable, but modern technology means that we are all only a tweet/text/email away and can normally be found shoulder to shoulder, slaughtering the competition on CoD Black Ops.

This weekend was the first weekend that we were all in the same place at the same time. It was awesome. I spent the weekend with SMX, Wayne and his lovely fiance, we went to Gadget Show Live 2011 at the NEC on Friday (where we met up with a bunch of our other twitter friends) and traveled down to meet up with Hev and her beautiful daughter on the Saturday. So you see, it is all thanks to Jason and The Gadget Show that I met my three best friends and that is why I owe him a massive thank you. Thank you Jase, see you at the NEC in 2012!

Shameless plug: Jason Bradbury’s third novel is available now from all good book retailers. ;)