Saturday, October 23, 2010

The New "It" Thing: Console Multiplayer- An Old Note

I posted this as a note as a means to incite discussion during the summer of 2009. It was a success. Although the games mentioned in here have all since been sequel-ized, the topic is still pertinent and interesting. See if you agree with my stance...

IGN recently posted an article about how Halo 3 is currently the most-played game on XBox Live on a day-to-day basis.
Now, in addition to this, Halo 3, Modern Warfare, and World at War have been vying for dominance each since their release. Both Gears of War games have had a significant presence online as well.
The purpose of this note is for you to voice your preference in online-shooter genre.

I am working on my fourth prestige in Call of Duty World at War, I played Gears of War 2 online nearly exclusively for the first five months of it's release. I have hundreds of online EXP in Halo 3 as well as shameful quantities of time in Halo 2 over the years.

Now, as a veteran of all three of the most popular franchises on XBox Live, I personally find that Halo 3 delivers the most satisfying and rewarding experience. Here is a list, in no particular order, of why I arrive at this conclusion.

1: Skill-based victory. I find that Halo 3 most rewards its skilled players and encourages people to improve their tactics with time and experience. This includes factors like...
Skill in accuracy- actually hitting your target. While every shooting game of COURSE emphasizes accuracy, Halo 3 puts the most emphasis on it. Call of Duty lets people get away with "spray & pray" tactics **cough**MP40**cough** which means someone can essentially run into a room with the trigger pulled, aim in the general direction of a foe, and get a kill or two or three. Also, shotgun battles are way too emphasized in Gears of War. A shotgun battle basically involves two people shooting a shotgun and dive-rolling laterally. It takes a lot of emphasis away from using the tactics brought forth by the rest of the weapons in that game.
I find that Halo 3, kill-for-kill, most rewards being able to aim at your target and pull off a clean kill, regardless of the weapon.
Tactics- not running out into the map and getting double-teamed time-and-time again, and similarly, working with your team double-teaming your opponents. I have found that Gears of War most rewards players who work together, so I must give Gears the title for being best co-operative experience in competitive, online gameplay. Working as a pair in Call of Duty often enough leads to a double kill, because whoever finds one of you likely found both of you. Halo 3 falls right in the middle of the two, because working together definitely is advantageous, but not quite as potent as it is in Gears of War. Also, depending on the use of grenades, rockets and other explosives, you and a friend may very well meet your demise simultaneously, but this also gives a player the capacity to score double kills :-)

2: Cohesion among teammates. I have to admit that working together is equally satisfying in Gears of War as it is in Halo. Both games feature gameplay that rewards thoughtful collaboration. The excitement of securing power-weapons and controlling sections of the map with brute force and planning is successful because of the communication amongst the team. That is to say that communication makes a game more exciting. While rolling around a map two-at-a-time is directly more efficient in Gears of War, communication and general teamwork are key in both of them.
I find that working together in Call of Duty is restricted because of the frantic pace of the game; more specifically the low hit-to-kill ratio (2-4 shots to kill) and the ability to start the game with any class the player desires.

3: Incentive to play. Call of Duty blows the other two franchises away with the leveling-up and prestiging option, as well as the new weapon you acquire as you climb the ranks. Halo 3 gives us new armors and keeps our EXP (basically, one's win record) on public display. Playing online in Gears of War recently implemented a level-up system with capacity to DE-LEVEL (yes, just like Halo 2!!), but honestly it's just too late for me to care.

4: Objective games. Gears of War, in my opinion, has the most enjoyable objective-based game modes. Submission, Annex, Guardian and King of the Hill all offer unique and (mostly) enjoyable games. Running a close second is Halo 3 with Assault, Capture the Flag, team Oddball, and a plethora of other run-of-the-mill (but effective nonetheless) game modes.
Call of Duty drops the ball with producing enjoyable objective-based games. While it finally entices us you use our otherwise dormant special grenades, it's just not as enjoyable as doing hit-and-runs and pick-ups in Warthogs and controlling the Annex point in Gears of War. From the albeit brainless Headquarters to the tactical War, many Call of Duty games turn into a skilled, collaborative team running out the clock for the sake of killing your team as many times as possible. Search and Destroy is a unique offering, though.

5: Incentive to play together. This is different from "Cohesion among teammates." While "Cohesion" deals with working together in a game with your team, this refers to your incentive to pair up with people in the first place, be they from the game you just played or from your friends list.
While I prefer to partner up every time I go online, I most prefer to play with people on Halo. The fact that the power weapons carry a TON of momentum and working together is so effective makes me want to make sure that I'm not working with a bunch of tards.
In the same vein, in Halo and Gears of War, you're playing to WIN. COMPETITION is the keyword in Halo and Gears of War. Call of Duty has WINNING riding in the backseat, with "Leveling Up" in the driver's seat and "Completing Challenges" riding shotgun. As cool as it is to have a leveling system, it's affecting online play almost as negatively as the first Gears of War's online-only weapon-based achievements (100 kills with each weapon), and it takes the competitive edge away from the game. The drive to win is almost absent, and no one really cares as long as they personally had a decent performance. Match bonuses aren't nearly different enough between winning and losing to entice someone to care about actually winning a match.

6: Consistency. Halo 3 has the most balanced weapon set. Are some overpowering? Yes, but you have to be good to use them all the same. Except the rocket launcher, but that's the point of a weapon that only has 2 or 4 shots every time it spawns in. Halo 3 has me screaming "That's BULLSHIT!!" into my headset mic a lot less than the other two do.
Call of Duty features a weapon, unlocked at level 10 (out of 65) called the MP40. It is the most powerful and versatile weapon in the game, and it's also broken as hell. Equally effective at 200 yards as it is at 2 yards, and with more ammo in a clip than most of the guns in the "Heavy Machine Gun" class (not counting the double clip option) the MP40 is arguably the only gun you need for the rest of the game.
In both Gears of War games, everyone starts with a shotgun. While the capacity to be slowed while running about the level if you're under fire is present in the second one, it doesn't to much to balance the issue of players relying on dive-rolling and open-sight shooting to win the day. The fact that this is arguably the most effective method of combat is indicative of some serious balance issues.

Now, on a side note, many people cite Call of Duty's "realism" as the reason they prefer it. While I certainly don't care who prefers one game or another, I need to address the fallacy in calling Call of Duty a realistic game.
The only standout realistic thing in the game is the fact that you can shoot someone two or three times and they die. This is offset by the fact that no one is ever wounded (i.e. impaired aiming and/or movement), and that you are back at 100% 5-8 seconds after you get out of harm's way.
Also arguing against realism is the accuracy of a gun. I can hit someone across the map with a light armament, like the Thompson submachine gun the same way I can with a 30-caliber rifle: just by aiming down the sights. While this is understandable and expected of the semi-automatic and bolt-action rifles of the game because of their power, it shouldn't be happening with the lighter guns. Especially pistols.
Bullets fall, just like every other free-moving body. Falling is not taken into account in Call of Duty.
Guns kick - A LOT. Have you every actually fired one? Shooting the M1 Garand or Gewehr 43 four times in a second's timespan and having the shots land all within a few in-game inches from each other is nonsense. It is equally nonsensical when letting a hail of fire rip from one of the game's many machine guns and having your sights move just a few degrees from their starting point. Nonsense. Unrealism.
Now am I saying the game's not fun? Of course not! There's a reason I'm going through the 65 levels for my fifth's ton of fun to play. It's just not realistic.

Now if you just skipped all my nerdgasming, I prefer to play Halo 3 online instead of Call of Duty or Gears of War. How about you?

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