Call of Duty: AW – Part 2

Call of Duty AW has been out for a little while now, long enough that the first couple of patches have dropped and I have prestiged. Time for my initial impressions.

I feel I have to touch on the single player mode, even if somewhat briefly. I know a lot of people skip the campaign altogether and I have always thought this was a shame as it is 50% of what you are paying for and always delivers an enjoyable experience (even when the MP offering has been horrible). This year is no exception. I am not that far in, but the story is compelling and the gameplay is solid.

My multiplayer experience is best summarised as follows: I’m having fun. For that I salute you, Sledgehammer. If this game had been like Ghosts then I would have probably not bought a COD game for a good long while.

The slightly longer summary is: I’m having fun and the bullshit level is currently tolerable.

The games plays fast and I like this. It may be a little too fast, but I think it is just going to take some getting used to.

The weapon class balance feels about right; the initial imbalances have been addressed to a degree. The weapon balance within classes is okay now, there are viable options in each class and lobbies are no longer packed exclusively with people using BALs.

So far, sniping seems to be Black Ops 1 style. Until MP is built on an entirely different engine, the quirks which allow quick scoping to happen will remain and all the developers can do is try and make it harder. I think they have the balance about right. Sniping is useful, but not all conquering.

Talking of engine quirks, the bullets that go round corners and busted camera angles are still real. It’s bullshit, but it’s not getting fixed anytime soon and with experience, you can use it to your advantage.

Exo abilities are pointless, as are ‘nades. I don’t use them, I don’t need them, I would rather spend the loadout points on perks and attachments.

I was initially running two primaries, MW2 style, now I have my classes stacked with perks and attachments and only use a secondary with my sniper.

Campers: they will always play the game and I will never understand why. How can it be fun to sit in a corner, go negative and lose the game?

Glitchers: as long as the glitches get patched in good time and the report function exists, then the cheaters are not much of a problem to me. Sledgehammer have done a good job here.

Spawns: revenge spawns have and will always suck, in objective game modes the enemies spawn to close to the objective – it’s almost impossible to hold an objective down and there is no time to reload even.

Maps: the maps seem pretty good. Only one stands out as being a bit derpy, I forget it’s name, but it’s the one with the ruined temples.

Cheap shit: the only thing in this category is the System Hack, which is probably the most shitty streak ever, especially stacked with double time and run by an entire enemy team. Please Sledgehammer, nerf it good. On the plus side though, no proximity mines, no dogs, no overly powerful killstreaks, people are not dropping nukes (DNA bombs in this iteration), nobody is using n00btubes. Most battles are gun on gun.

The scoring system rewards people PTFO and the streaks are score streaks, rather than kill streaks.

I think Sledgehammer have done a really good job with this game and they should be proud of what they have accomplished. Looking back at my previous post (I deliberately didn’t read it before writing this), Sledgehammer have ticked most of my boxes.

Aside: I am amused and somewhat fed up with YouTubers complaining about the skill based matchmaking system. Complaining about being a casual gamer, stuck in lobbies full of try hards, makes no sense. Your approach dictates if you are a casual gamer, not your competitors. What you actually mean is that you dislike not being able to lobby surf until you find a lobby full of n00bs to stomp and look good in. Cry me a river.

Call of Duty: AW – Part 1

August will see the MP reveal for Call of Duty Advanced Warfare. I thought I would try and capture my thoughts on the franchise in general, as well as the next iteration specifically, before the hype train hits full speed. My intention is to follow up with another post in November when the game has just come out, to provide my initial feedback and then a further post sometime later to see how valid my initial feedback was.

I dislike Ghosts. A lot. I sometimes still jump on for a few games, but that is about as much as I can take before I get bored and frustrated. I have put in far fewer hours on this game than I have any other CoD title. Everything about the game encourages slow, campy game play and this is simply not conducive to having a good time. The maps are terrible, the killstreaks suck (the dog does not suck, but is way OP). This game can be summarised in two words: IED and Stonehaven. On the flip side of that, Infinity Ward have, in Ghosts, made the most technically sound CoD game I have ever played. Lag comp is minimal, hit detection is excellent and I glitching is minimal to the point of being insignificant.

Function over features
I do not want to see a stack of new features unless the problems with the existing features have all been addressed.

Emphasis on PTFO and not K:D
If the game mode is not FFA or TDM then do not publish the kills and deaths in the scoreboard. Publish caps, defends and score. Players should gain score based on PTFO; kills performed whilst attacking of defending the objective should be scored more highly than regular kills. In FFA and TDM the objective is to kill, so in these modes kills can be rewarded with more score. This should help to avoid streakless games of TDM from BO2.

Simple game mode choices
FFA and TDM available in regular and hardcore. Some fun modes in a separate playlist: gun game, OITC, infected, stick and stones, etc. Team tactical: TDM, Dom, Demolition, CTF and hardpoint, all with teams no larger than five or six.

A variety of sensibly sized and not too intricate maps
Ghosts is boring in part because the maps are too large and too intricate. MW2 and BO1 probably had the best mix of maps that suited all game modes. These games also offered a good mixture of backdrop; snow, jungle, urban, grassland. Stonehaven and nuketown are simply horrible to play. Check the objectives in a line or a triangle, put three paths between them.

Working spawn system
The spawn systems seem to have got progressively worse in terms of spawning you in front of an enemy. In Ghosts I have genuinely been spawned facing away from, and in the cross-hairs of, an opponent.

Avoid features that highlight flaws in the engine
CoD suffers from issues with camera angles that mean sometimes you can be killed by someone you cannot see (despite looking right at them), but who can see your whole body. MW3 suffered from horrendous lag compensation issues that exacerbated this flaw. Ghosts brought the lean feature to console for the first time and actively encouraged people to abuse this flaw. I am particularly worried with how the exo suit in AW will work with knife lunges and strafing.

A properly balanced game
All perks should be counterable. Weapons should have different characteristics that make them more/less suitable for different styles of play and situations.

No nuke/M.O.A.B/KEM or similar
These killstreaks encourage camping and boosting and not PTFO. If something like this is included, it should at least not instantly end the game.

No quick scoping
A. Sniping was perfect in BO1; competitive and useful in the right situations. Sniping was terrible in BO2; a sniper rifle should not be the weapon of choice for CQC.

No OP equipment, especially if it is unmanned
The IED from Ghosts is cheap. It is low (no) skill. It encourages camping. The grenade launcher remains OP from MW2; speculative use, multikill achieving grenade launchers are again low skill. C4 has been OP in a few games, but probably reached the height of its powers in BO2; I have no problem with C4 as long as it cannot be replaced with scavenger and cannot be thrown like a Frisbee. Tactical insertions are not missed, they should not come back.

No death streaks and no second chances
If someone gets dropped, they die. The end.

No lethal support streaks
Support streaks should only be things that can help your team, not things that directly harm enemies. UAVs, ammo, vests, all fine.

The ability to turn off the music in the menus
Okay so I know this last one is just me, but I hate the music in these games and IW always prevent you from turning it off. Why?

Hopefully, November brings a fun game to play. One thing is for certain, the FPS landscape has never been so competitive. If SH slip up, then I think people will start seriously looking elsewhere.

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.

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).

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?

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.