What We Know About BO2 Multiplayer (so far) And How I Feel About It (Pt 1)

This week marked the passing of Gamescom. Where E3 is the largest industry event in video games (and pretty much kicks off the upcoming gaming season), Gamescom is the largest gaming event, period. Over 270,000 gamers flooded the streets of Colon, Germany to get their hands on the working models of games announced at E3 and anything else that wasn’t covered at the event. Gamescom also marked the first time the public would see the all the upcoming changes (and similarities) that gaming studio, Treyarch, has made to the Call of Duty series in the upcoming Black Ops 2. After 4 days of events to show off what the next CoD title will bring to the multiplayer space, we can look forward to some of these changes and updates:

Create-A-Class

What It Is:

First introduced to the CoD legacy in CoD4, the Create-A-Class system has largely been untouched. The system in BO2 hasn’t changed much in its form and function, but it will be introducing a brand new way for players to truly customize a class that fits their playstyle. Instead of requiring a player to always have a side-arm weapon or 3 perks to their loadout, BO2 will instead give the player 10 points that they can use to pick and choose what they want to run with and leave out what they don’t need. The new 10-Point system gives each weapon, perk, and equipment a 1 point value, letting the play mix and match what they want. Don’t want a side-arm? Use that point to give yourself a second attachment for your main weapon. The 10-Point system will also carry a list of “Wild-Cards” the player can use (at 1 point a piece) to really get nit-picky with their loadout. Grab the card that allows a third attachment for your gun, or get two Tier-1 perks. Heck, run around with nothing but a pistol and 6 perks! Developers from Treyarch said they got the idea from an old card game.

What I Think:

I like that this is an attempt to give the player more control over their class. I’m definitely excited to see how well this is implemented. However, I can definitely see this as a limiting factor on how you set up your loadout. Being such a drastic change from the traditional system may require some getting used to, and it may even force some players to change how they play as they may not be able to rely on having so many tools and gadgets on their body at one time. Overall I think this is good, but I’m definitely reserved when I say it.

Killstreaks

What It Is:

Also introduced in CoD4 was the Killstreaks system. After a certain number of kills, without dying, the player was awarded Killstreaks bonus. Originally capped at three Killstreaks (UAV at 3 kills, Air Strike at 5 kills, and Attack Helicopter at 7 kills) the system has exploded with options for players to choose what awards they receive in their streak. The system got somewhat of an overhaul in Modern Warfare 3, which divided Killstreaks into two categories: Assault (awards were all offensively based and reset after players death), and Support (awards were more aimed at helping your fellow teammates but did not reset after the player’s death). They also added a third streak system that allowed the player to unlock extra perks after every two kills and eventually unlocked every perk for the player. MW3 also added the ability to earn points toward your Killstreaks by destroying enemy Killstreaks equipment and completing objectives.

BO2 will be taking notes from MW3 by making its Killstreaks system aimed at objective based play, but ultimately goes back to the series original systems.

Like previous iterations of the Killstreaks system, the Killstreaks in BO2 will reset themselves upon the player’s death. But like how MW3’s system was designed to encourage players to do more than kill, the player is awarded points towards their streak by completing objectives, defending objectives, and destroying enemy Killstreaks. Players can even earn additional points by getting double kills and even get points for enemies that are killed during the life of the player’s UAV. However, BO2 does not appear to be keeping the “class” streak systems. So to counteract the player’s score resetting upon death, points awarded by non-killing means are often two to three times worth the points awarded by killing. The streaks are still customizable with a large list for the player to choose from.

Deathstreaks, awards players gained from dying a certain number of times in row without getting a kill, will not be making a return in BO2.

What I Think:

I love the idea of awarding players more points for doing objective-based actions like planting/disarming bombs or destroying an enemy helicopter, but I am a little concerned about going back to the reset-score-on-death mechanic for streaks. MW3’s take on the system and allowing players who are more team-oriented to help despite a low K/D was a refreshing experience. While it did contribute to me having the lowest K/D in any CoD title to date, it opened up my options for play. Domination and Demolition modes are finally enjoyable for me to play. These objective-based modes have always classically played by two different types of gamers: those who play to win the mode, and those who play to camp the objectives to rake in high Killstreaks rewards. The modes basically encouraged players to not play the objective because all that would end you up with was a low K/D and feeding the enemy players free experience points and Killstreaks rewards. The Support Pointstreak system introduced in MW3 helped mitigate that problem by awarding players with points towards their own Killstreaks awards but did not reset them upon the player’s death. While the Support Killstreaks aren’t as damaging as the traditional Killstreaks awards, they allowed players who captured points or planted bombs to actually contribute to the fight by giving them UAV Jammers and EMP Blast awards to mess with the enemy team’s effectiveness. For once players could actually help their team despite their lack of Rambo skills.

With the Treyarch apparently dropping the Support Pointstreak awards, objective-based modes sound a lot like they did in the previous four iterations of CoD: pointless without much fun to be had. I understand Treyarch is trying to solve the loss of Support by making objectives worth more than kills, but what good does it get you getting three points for capturing an objective if you die from the enemy’s grenade as soon as you earn them? I appreciate Treyarch for trying to change things up, but this is one decision I wish they would rethink. As it is I’ll probably once again be relegated to Team Deathmatch modes only.

 

NEXT: Perks and Progression

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E3 Excitement

It’s Saturday. In less than two days time, video game journalists and industry members will be gathered in LA to kick off the largest convention for video games: Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). Over 40,000 people will attend the event with just about every major game developer and publisher showing off something they’ll be releasing in the future. E3 is not the first gaming convention of the year, but it’s definitely the one that kicks off the upcoming year of gaming. Once E3 is over, the industry buildup to holiday and spring releases jumps into overdrive and we can finally start looking toward a foreseeable future, rather than a hopeful guessing game of what’s coming out and when. Needless to say, E3 is an exciting event.

This year is going to be a wildcard of sorts, though. While there are many titles we know of finally showing some real gameplay footage and discussion of confirmed game mechanics, I don’t think we’ll see much in the way of surprise titles being shown off. My reasoning? Well, next-gen consoles are coming, but not this year. We’ve already seen an unusually long life-span from this current generation of hardware than we have before. The Xbox 360 hits 7 years old this October, and both the PS3 and Wii will be turning 6. Traditionally, most consoles have had 4-5 year cycles, which all three major platforms have already passed and are looking to push at least one more year. Now Nintendo is looking to release the Wii U (successor to the Wii) later this year and capping the Wii at 6 years. However, seeing as the Wii is operating on tech that is 5+ years older than anything the 360 and PS3 use, that’s actually a REALLY long time for that console. Nintendo plans to “re-unveil” the Wii U this year after its lackluster debut at last year’s E3. We’ll be seeing some unannounced titles to launch alongside the Wii U, but everyone will be looking to more at what Nintendo plans to DO with the Wii U and not so much at what’s shipping with it. So we’ll be looking more at the other two console makers to give us some surprises.

Microsoft and Sony haven’t shown anything concerning their next-gen consoles, but what we have heard leaves their press conferences with the ability to either wow us…or bore us. Inside sources point to Microsoft planning to launch their new console THIS YEAR, but ended up backing off for unstated reasons. So Microsoft has a console that is far enough in development to ship, but decided against it. That means I can say with 99.99% confidence that we’ll see a new Xbox next year. Sony hasn’t said anything about the PS4 or whatever they’re going to call it, but they have stated that they will not let Microsoft have the one year lead on them like the 360 had on the PS3. So again, I’m pretty sure we’ll be seeing a new PlayStation console next year. Which means that this should be the last E3 that is solely devoted to this generation of consoles.

Now, why would that make this E3 boring? Don’t get me wrong, this E3 will be plenty exciting. There are numerous big-name titles that are to be shown off that I’m greatly interested in as well as updates to Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii U’s online services. But most of these announcements will be expected and many more will be predictable. The games shown will be epic, but most are sequels to known titles and every one of them will be limited in what they can do by 8 year old hardware.

SIDE NOTE: Did you know that the Xbox 360 and PS3 both only have 512 megabytes of memory? Nowadays you can’t find a cheap laptop that doesn’t have AT LEAST 2 gigabytes of memory (that’s 4x the amount of memory for those who don’t do tech-math). With most gaming PC rigs running 8 gigabytes of memory or more, that leaves console games way back in the dust. I really am excited about what games are coming out, but I’m craving more. Bigger environments, more enemies, smarter enemies, more persistence…there’s so much more games can be doing that don’t involve the “brighter-brights and whiter whites” improvements of graphics cards.

Unless Sony and Microsoft lied to us all (which isn’t unlikely), we won’t be seeing or hearing anything about next-gen consoles. No next-gen consoles means no next-gen games, which means more of the same. I’m ready for something a little different, even if it is just Call of Duty with a brand-new engine, or playing BF3 at 60 frames-per-second.

Overall, I’m totally stoked to see what developers and publishers are pushing our way, and I’m not going to let the lack of new consoles ruin the shine of E3. I’m just really hoping Microsoft and Sony lied to us…for once.

In Defense Of: 60 Frames Per Second

Last year, EA was pushing to take over the console shooter market with their latest installment to the Battlefield franchise. In Battlefield 3 (BF3), they showcased their brand-spankin’ new Frostbite 2.0 graphics engine. Truly, it was (and still is) a phenomenal advancement in next-gen gaming engines. In retaliation to EA’s shiny new toy, Infinity Ward (IW) touted Call of Duty’s (CoD) ability to run at 60 frames-per-second (fps) on consoles; twice as much as the normal 30 fps BF3 and most other games run at. Now, I’m an active CoD fan and at the time I could care less about the Battlefield series (for reasons I’ll discuss at a later date), but this claim by IW seemed very much like an, “Oh Yeah? Well…” remark. Seriously, all you can come back with is 60 fps? You do realize that the human eye can’t distinguish between 30fps and 60fps, right? Why do you think movies traditionally run around 24fps? This seemed like a desperate attempt to try and keep CoD as a legitimate franchise despite having a very aged engine.

Well, your eye can’t process information faster than 30fps, but your thumbs can. The human body’s nervous system receives and processes information at several hundred times faster than your eyes; there’s almost literally no limit to how fast you system works. Why should that make a difference? Because games that run at 30fps only process controller input information 30 times a second, and games that run at 60 fps process controller input at 60 times a second. This means that your hands can tell the difference between 30 and 60 fps even though your eyes can’t.

I learned of this actually not too long ago, so I decided I needed to test it out myself to see if it holds true. On one gaming outing with my brother-in-law I put both our tvs together and put Battlefield 3 in one and Modern Warfare 3 (MW3) in the other, and set the aim sensitivity in each game as close to the same as possible. I normally play with a Kontrol Freek FPS Freek stick extender to allow greater precision aiming but still use a normal 360 controller. I then went back and forth in both games with several different weapon types doing various drills of target acquisition at close, medium, and long distances, ducking in and out of cover and strafing stationary and moving targets. I did very little actual shooting as MW3’s and BF3’s actual gunplay mechanics are vastly different with BF3 favoring actual recoil and aim drift while MW3 simply sticks to bullet spread. This was simply to determine how well I could acquire and maintain a target with the aiming reticle. At close ranges, I didn’t really feel much of a difference. MW3 seemed more responsive than BF3, but only just. At medium ranges and farther, however, MW3 truly performed better than BF3. I was able to acquire and keep on targets (no matter who was moving) far easier than BF3, and getting on top of long range targets was much faster. MW3 really did feel more responsive than BF3, and I bet it has to do with the 60fps.

Now before someone starts a CoD/BF flame war, know this: I have put more than four times the amount of time on BF3 as I have MW3, and I love both titles. This is merely to point out that IW’s claim to 60fps is not a half-assed attempt to seem relevant, but a serious claim on the performance and tightness of their controls. Having tested this out for myself, I REALLY cannot wait for next-gen hardware to arrive that will allow more titles to run at 60 frames-per-second.