Anyone who knows me well is aware that I thought Modern Warfare 2 was a steaming pile of shit. Not that it was the worst game that I ever played, but I expected a lot more from a game with such a rabid fanbase. Still, despite my morals and my promise to never purchase another Call of Duty game again, I found myself in line at the midnight release of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Why, you ask, would I be at such an event?
I was damn excited for this game, that's why. Did it live up to my high expectations? Hit the jump.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360[reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC)
Release date: November 9, 2010
Fundamentally, Call of Duty: Black Ops is Call of Duty. However, developer Treyarch has finally left behind the battlefields of World War II and taken a much different approach. Rather then playing as a muscle man Marine, the player is dropped into the shoes of Alex Mason, a CIA man in the Cold War era. Because of this, the game does have a distinctly different feel, both online and off. Black Ops has done a solid job of leaving behind the typical Call of Duty "army" feel, replacing it with tasks that feel more mission-based, behind the scenes operations. It's a nice feeling.
Despite the change in skin, the game does still control like a Call of Duty game. Literally nothing has changed about the control scheme in this one, so if you didn't like it in Modern Warfare 2, don't expect to be wowed here.
The campaign does have an issue that should be adressed by any review. Ten years after the first fundamentally similar Call of Duty game, the AI is still stupid. I mean retarded stupid. Turning away from hostiles, trying to shotgun you from a mile away and just general idiocy plague both friendly and hostile AI in this game. It's not damaging to the experience, but I'm certainly wondering why this hasn't been at least slightly remedied after almost ten years and a handful of development teams having their hands on the code.
However, the campaign itself does almost everything right. Grenade spam from World at War is gone, and the story is alot more inspired then that of either Modern Warfare 2 or World at War. The environments are beautiful and detailed, and the weapon variety is fantastic. Certainly a thumbs-up from me.
Now on to the important part of the review, which is of course the multiplayer portion of the game. Jim Sterling, our very own reviews editor, infamously hates the horribly broken multiplayer on PC, which was surprising to me, because I in fact quite enjoyed the multiplayer of Black Ops on 360.
Level design is solid here, with at least ten maps being enjoyable, balanced experiences. However, it must be noted that rushing is still the name of the game here, with more reserved players getting a very short end of a very long stick, I being one them. I have already logged 17+ hours into the multiplayer portion of the game, and am outranked by some of my friends with 12, mostly in part to my reservation. I am a nervous, twitchy player who likes to take down his enemies by letting them come to him, and that play style has been almost destroyed by Black Ops. If you are not a camper or a rusher, prepare to adjust your play style.
I also have to note that "Nuketown" is an awful atrocity of a map. Anyone who played "Rust" in Modern Warfare 2 and hated every minute of it, prepare to throw your controller. Treyarch evidently thought that this tiny little bastard child was fit to be a map for Demolition, Search & Destory, and Team Deathmatch, and they were very, very wrong. 12 people on this tiny map is way too much, and most games become a spawn-kill fest before too long. It's awful.
Weapons are fairly balanced in the game, but Assault Rifles still seem to pack the most punch, at least for me. The word is still out on the AK47, unlocked at Level 38, so we'll have to see. Submachine guns are also fairly solid rush weapons, with the AK74u taking a definitive victory as the best. Shotguns are now primary weapons, meaning no man will ever camp with a sniper rifle and a SPAS-12 again (unless of course they pick one of them up, in which case it's fair game).
Sniping seems to be fairly despised by the general population, due to the absence of "Quick-Scoping", which is a great tragedy to everyone. Now when I snipe, I don't have to hear "WOW HARDSCOPZ U ARE THE SUXXORZ" through the mic, which is very dissapointing. Shame on you Treyarch.
In regards to the infamous lag and connection issues Mr. Sterling had, and is possibly still having. They are there. The connection ability is not as tight as it was in Modern Warfare 2, which was generally pretty good at finding a match quickly. My friends and I have had a couple instances where we couldn't find a match, or had to wait lengthy periods of time to get into one. These problems, again, aren't game destroying, but they are there.
CoD points are very cool, by the way. Very cool. Though I am dissapointed that every attachment is unlocked to purchase, right from the start. I loved having to complete challenges to unlock them in Modern Warfare 2, so alot of fun was removed by making them all available from the start.
My final point is to touch on the "Nazi Zombies" gametype, making it's return from World at War. I haven't played a ton of it, but from what I can tell, it's very well polished, and loads of fun. You and up to three friends can play over Xbox Live or PSN, and it IS the best way to do it. The zombies can get overwhelming at times, so it's good to have a lot of help.
Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops is what you would expect from a Call of Duty game; a fun, fast-paced FPS. The variety and customization is still there, but so is the frusturation, the "WTF" moments, and the camping. Damn the camping straight to hell.
The campaign is a solid, albeit short experience, the multiplayer is back better then ever with the inclusion of the "CoD Points" system, and "Zombies" is still loads of fun for you and your friends.
If the campaign was a little longer, and the multiplayer a tiny-bit more refined, I could give this game a perfect score. Unfortunately, as it's not, I can't say it is anything more then great, and recommended for FPS-lovers with a lot of patience.
Score: 8.5 -- Great(8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
Most of you following the news on Dtoid today have seen the complaints made by UNICO, a group defending people of Italian origin, against Mafia II, an upcoming third-person shooter developed by 2K Czech. UNICO claims that Mafia II is purporting a negative stereotype of Italian-American immigrants on the young generation.
Despite the fact that Mafia II's story is totally based in fact, and many immigrants lived in such severe poverty that they turned to organized crime in order to survive, an act which while not "good" per se, is understandable for someone unable to provide for themselves in any other fashion, UNICO states that this is tearing apart the dignity and respectability of hard-working Italian immigrants.
What I find interesting about this is UNICO's apparent disregard for other forms of media, at least in the statement they made today. Italian based organized crime has been documented in popular literature and film for half a century, and sometimes in more demeaning way then (to my understanding) 2K Czech's Mafia II.
So why the hate?
Some of you who follow games in development must also know of an interesting little title called "Six Days in Fallujah", a game about soliders in Iraq, more specifically the Second Battle of Fallujah or "Operation Phantom Fury".
When the game was announced, it was done so with a hesitant applause from some gamers, who feared touching on a modern day subject, and a touchy one at that, would cause unwanted hatred to be directed at our favourite hobby. I on the other hand was ecstatic. A game such as "Six Days" would establish gaming as both a form of artistic expression and as a legitimate form of media.
But of course, the nay-sayers said took their shots.
Reg Keys, the father of a slain Iraq War veteran, had this to say:
"Considering the enormous loss of life in the Iraq War, glorifying it in a video game demonstrates very poor judgement and bad taste... These horrific events should be confined to the annals of history, not trivialized and rendered for thrill-seekers to play out.
It's entirely possible that Muslim families will buy the game, and for them it may prove particularly harrowing. Even worse, it could end up in the hands of a fanatical young Muslim and incite him to consider some form of retaliation or retribution."
Two key points must be made here. One, by making a statement such as this one, Mr. Keys is writing off the enormous loss of life in the Second World War. According to Mr. Keys, at least by reading this statement, he cares not for 80,000,000+ people who lost their lives in World War II, either because he only truly cares for the life of his son, or because time has taken it's toll, and has desensitized us to the horrors that took place in Europe 60 years ago.
Two, Mr. Keys is ignoring films such as Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker", a movie that is solely based on the events of Iraq War.
This is where my point is to be made.
As an avid gamer, I am sick and tired of the Jack Thompson's of the world ripping on MY favourite form of media. I truly believe that video games are just as legitimate of a platform for storytelling as film or literature, and I think that pressuring or otherwise forcing a company to shut down production of a game just to avoid a PR meltdown is censorship, and violates every human being's right to free speech.
It enrages me that people have this bias towards games for whatever reason, with most of them never having picked up a controller for more then five minutes. It's completely unfair that pornography is legal and allowed to exist in almost all forms, and is accepted by most as just a facet of society, but video games depicting a real life event in an artistic manner are thrown to the dogs.
These people need to know that their biases are unfairly representing games, and are condemning an art form and a platform for storytelling. If you think this way, pick up a controller, try to see things our way. Don't play a game like Gears of War, play a game like Flower, or Limbo, or if it ever sees the light of day, Six Days in Fallujah, and tell me there's no way it could be art.
Shove your bias up your ass. If you don't like gamers, ignore us, like we ignore crappy overrated films like The Hurt Locker, and leave us alone.
Yes you heard me correctly. I am an addict, not to drugs or alcohol, but to achievements.
I suppose this story begins almost three years ago. My cousin and I had been doing some landscaping work around my uncle's new house, for the sweet price of $10/hour. We had worked a lot, and I had made enough money to buy myself a not-so-shiny brand new Xbox 360.
When I purchased the beast and brought it home, I was completely unaware of the experience I was about to have. With Saint's Row and Def Jam under my arm, I hooked up my new muse and turned it on. I was greeted with the friendly rev of an airplane engine, and a dashboard. In the top left corner, sat my new username, games, and "gamerscore".
At the time I neglected the word. I was too excited and brash to look into the guts of the system, I just wanted to play some games. In went Saint's Row. But just ten minutes in, my session was interrupted by a little sound, and a notification. I had just unlocked my first achievement. I have been a full-fledged addict ever since.
I have created new Xbox Live accounts as to have a "perfect" achievement list, devoid of any "gay" games or games in the dreaded "double-digit category" (below 100 gamerscore). This venture has cost me time and money, but still, the satisfaction gained was worth it. I crave these little notifications like nothing else in my video gaming sessions. I am an addict.
Now don't get me wrong, I am addicted to the rush of getting achievements, but at the same time, I am not crazy. You will never find me playing Hannah Montana or Avatar for the easy completion. I only play games I know I am going to enjoy, and all that nonsense. But all the same, I love getting achievements.
Three years, two systems and a lot of gaming time later, I am still collecting achievements. My gamerscore is far from impressive, (all those accounts together would probably put it over 20,000 though), and nobody truly cares, but still, I am an addict, and addicts need their fix.
Why am I addicted though? What makes me want these virtual points?
Truth be told, I couldn't tell you.
People always ask me why I care about collecting achievements, and the best answer I can give them is this: You care about leveling up in Call of Duty, I care about boosting a virtual points bank. Same difference. Nobody cares about your rank, nobody cares about my gamerscore, but us. That's all that matters.
Truth be told, my answer sucks. It isn't a legitimate answer, it really doesn't answer the question of why I'm obsessed with having a great gamerscore, but it's truly the best I have. Do I think some achievements are badly executed? Sure do. (Looking at you Elsa). But all the same, I really am tired of being ragged on for my choice of entertainment (i.e. achievement hunting), while the pastimes of others are left alone.
Another common question I'm asked is "What are the merits of achievements? What do you get out of them?"
This question is slightly shocking to me, looking back on how this hobby of ours was started. Arcades would sap of us of our money as we tried to beat the high score on Donkey Kong, remember? Wait, just a bunch of pointless numbers!
Yes, gamerscore is a virtual number, which makes it unimportant in the real world, BUT, gaming was BUILT on stupid, useless virtual numbers that meant nothing in the real world. In fact, gaming is my escape from the real world, which makes achievements a very accessible, fun to use feature for me.
So to recap, is my hobby stupid? Sure thing. Am I an addict? Why yes I am. But I don't need any achievement hunters anonymous meetings, or therapy.
I am an achievement addict, and I like it that way.
* * * * *
NOTE: I have no ill will against Elsa. Don't start that shit.
NOTE 2: I know I should be putting more time and effort into these C-Blogs, especially if I want to become a popular writer around here, but frankly, I'm too busy collecting virtual testosterone to give a shit. Score 1 for the education system.
Elsa, if you're reading this, I hate you. Not in the, I actually hate you way, but in the "damn I've had this blog typed up since June 3rd and have been too much of a major pussy to post it, and then you posted a blog with a similar topic, that will be better recieved and much more well written then mine" kind of way. No hard feelings.
This isn't going to be the most interesting post you'll ever read, to be sure, but it's one that comes from my heart. I don't know many of of you here very well, and my first couple of blogs were nothing more then a shallow attempt at dry humour for cheap laughs.
Regardless, here is my pointless life story, and how it relates to gaming.
It started when I was 12. I was having behaviour issues at school, and the principal sent me to a therapist. Mind you, I had no interest in seeing this therapist, and my mother certainly had no interest in bringing me, but it was the only way to avoid expulsion, so I did it. (This principal, PS, was actually, seriously torturing me and my friend using all the power at her disposal to do so, both our parents have considered charges, but we've all moved on.)
This therapist, in her infinite wisdom, analyzed me and deduced I had a mild form of depression. My mom couldn't believe it, I was a happy, smart kid, and in her eyes, there was no way I could be a depressive. Unfortunately for both of us, a doctor's visit confirmed our fears. I did in fact have the condition. He said he didn't want to put me on pills until I was older.
Let's take a time-out quickly though. When I say depression, I don't mean attention whore, "oh look at me FML" Facebook status depression. I mean, near suicidal, punching holes in walls until my knuckles bleed depression, and it has happened before.
Skip ahead to today. I'm living well, I've been dating a beautiful girl for 5 months, and my life seems to be turning in the right direction. But still, the condition pokes it's head into my life at the stupidest moments. And for what my girlfriend can't handle, I have an alternate solution. Video games.
When I have a rough day at school, instead of pounding the drywall, I turn on my Xbox. Shitty grade on a test? Instead of sitting alone in silence, thinking about what a total fuck up I am, I play some Battlefield. It's safe to say that video games have, in their own way, effectively saved my life on a number of occasions, where stupid thoughts were running through my mind.
When the time came for the pills, I rejected them, and I always will. That shit fucks you up way worse then the way you were when you started. Sometimes I use more "herbal" ways of dealing with my problem, and they work like a charm aswell. But for what medicine and my girl can't solve, there's always an alternate solution. I way to be alone, but not really alone, all at the same time.
We've all established I'm an idiot. This is pure, uncontested fact. This personality is as such that it sneaks into ever facet of my life, even my favourite hobby, video gaming.
Nonetheless, here's the newest "bad game" I'm really stoked about!
Ah, yes. I first stumbled upon a little game called Alpha Protocol in an issue of the Official PlayStation Magazine a long time ago. The games premise, along with the little details Obsidian gave us, excited me. Is it because I'm a Canadian teenager brainwashed to hate Muslim extremist arms smuggling terrorists? Maybe. Nonetheless I was excited.
As the game progressed into development and was further and further delayed, people became hesitant. Many a 360 fanboy whined about how "Obsidian was copying Mass Effect 2 OMG", and the game became a topic of hate. Graphics were criticized, the idea was criticized, and I was criticized for my excitement.
Fact is, I'm still excited. Shitty reviews or not, I'll probably make this my first real foray, other then a short stint with Borderlands, into the RPG market. It looks sweet, so sue me.
Just look at it! We play a super spy dude, who has to fight evil guys, and save the world! Sure it's been over done again and again, but the RPG elements and "choice" make this a little different. I'm hoping that our "choices" somehow actually affect the game in some way, though they probably won't.
What really grinds my gears about all this is the fact that nobody is giving the game a chance, and instantly writing it off, despite not ever playing the game. It makes me realize that gamers, as a whole, are complete idiots, (which is probably why I fit in so well), and spoiled at that.
We get to play quality games. Alot. Quality games made by quality developers that we all know and love. Bungie has it's own culture. Everyone loves Infinity Ward, God rest their souls. And yet, a new, interesting idea is presented by a developer with a not so incredible past, and it sucks. Despite the fact nobody has actually played the damn game.
And yet, it will always continue. Games that say "Call of Duty", "Halo" and "Guitar Hero" on the front will continue to thrive, despite nothing new or creative being added to the genre, while little "fun" games like Alpha Protocol will fail commercially, and probably at the review desk too.
The 2009 Spike VGA's have come and gone, and I'm here to provide you with a thorough account of my highs and lows from the show. Enjoy!
Teh Star Warsz?!!!
Yes. This is THE win. I love anything with Star Wars on it, so a new "Force Unleashed" definitely tickles my fancy. The first "TFU" was an awesome idea, but was seen by some as too flawed to be considered awesome. I liked it, and I can't wait to see what they do with this.
Arkham 2 Reveal!
After finishing "Arkham Asylum", my original thought was I didn't want a sequel to be released. Unfortunately, Rocksteady Studios is just too much of a tease to hold me back. I need more Arkham.
GoW III as most anticipated makes me a :) man.
I love this series. This is my most anticipated game of 2010, and I'm glad to see I'm not alone.
Am I the only one who actually enjoyed True Crime: New York City? Sure, the game was flawed, but it was what video games are supposed to be. FUN. Remember fun? Playing Super Mario on your NES fun? Where the hell did that run off too?
I'm excited for this.
Uncharted Winning GOTY.
I called Call of Duty. I truly did. I had a hunch, and I've never been happier to myself be wrong. Uncharted 2 is fantastic, and a better overall package then MW2 (don't shoot me for saying it), and therefore, deserves the honor, especially after Naughty Dog was screwed all night. (Best dev in the business. I will ro sham bo anyone who wants to contest that point.)
Megan Fox winning. Anything.
I will begin by saying, I hate Megan Fox. She looks too stupid to be attractive, and she's a bimbo. Not only that, the game she apparently did so well in, sucked balls. I sense a little riggage.
Green Day: Rock Band. And I like Green Day.
I'm sorry Green Day, I really, really am, but I pretty much, at this point, hate most things beginning with Guitar Hero or ending with Rock Band. Maybe I'll shell out the $60 for your game. But I probably won't.
Mike Tyson trying to act with those poor kids from Jersey Shore.
Okay, wow. That was potentially the worst display of acting I've seen in a very long time. Jack Black's bit, funny. Probably because it was done by a professional actor, not a washed up, over powered ex-Punchout character. Poor Jersey Shore kids. Even though they're almost as annoying, they just wanted to get paid.
Okay, well that's it. The highs, and the lows, from Spike's VGA's. I haven't covered them all, but I think the biggest points have been given their rightful journalistic limelight. I for one, am extremely pumped about what's to come in the new year.
Oh, and why in the hell, was the guy in The Bravery playing that guitar like a violin? WTF?