Posts Tagged ‘ xbox ’

Minecraft 360 Reviews: Halloween Texture Pack

This week 4J Studios has release their newest texture pack for the Xbox version of Minecraft. In the spirit of this time of year, this pack is suitably themed for Halloween. Before I dig into this texture pack, I want to say that the Halloween theme is free, but only available till November 3rd! So I encourage everyone to go out and download it regardless of if you think you’d like it or not. However, if you require more than “free for a limited time” to convince you (or you’re actually interested in reading this) then keep scrolling down.

Truth be told, I’m not really a fan of Halloween. That’s not to say I don’t like it, only that I don’t really get excited for it. While dressing up in costumes for one night a year is kinda fun, the whole spooky/death aspect of the holiday just really takes much of the fun out of it. Pirates? Cool. Power Rangers? Why not? Slave Leia? Yes, ma’am! Man in an over-sized demon mask with far too much detail and holding an all-to-realistic fake head of a murdered woman? No thanks. I don’t care for horror/scare movies; I don’t understand the appeal of taking time out of my life to willingly poop my own pants. I don’t like Witchcraft, and I don’t believe in ghosts or other perceived paranormal occurrences. So Halloween holds very little interest for me outside of a party with friends and a few well-made cocktails.

This is my kind of Halloween!

This is my kind of Halloween!

So with that being said, I can honestly say that I love this texture pack! I think this largely has to do with the world I have already built. Everything has a purplish hue to it with many lines being exaggerated by shadows. This allows stone bricks and other similar blocks to really pop without getting as garish as the Plastic texture pack (review to come later). Every object that is supposed to be related to fire has turned a bright green as if they are the creation of magic and not the laws of physics. Torches, fire, even lava share this same color, bringing a sense of consistency to this world.

My fortress of dark sorcery!

Everywhere you look there is a small detail that brings a fun and playfully spooky feel to the world. The world is filled with an orange haze by day and a slight purple fog by night. Stone blocks contain the imprint of skulls. Flowers are small, carnivorous creatures. Glowstone Lamps create silhouettes of black cats. Minecart rails are built on broken bones. Every tool and weapon has a splash of green goo as if they were used to slay some unholy creature. Every armor set is based on a costume with the coveted Diamond Armor represented by the every fearful clown. Even the sun and the moon bear the visage of a sharp-toothed beast watching over you. Did I mention the purple rain? The list goes on. Despite my dislike of the subject matter, this texture pack is done in such a fun way that I can’t help but love it. Perhaps if my world was built in another fashion I wouldn’t have as good feelings towards it, but with my current design it fits wonderfully.

TRANSLATION

Now what about the all-important issue of translation? Or more simply put, how well do these textures work with an already built world? Almost all the blocks remain the same, only with a new coat of flair. So for most builds and designs everything should be just fine. HOWEVER! If you like to use colored wool in your designs, whether for carpeting, pixel portraits, or colorful building design, you may find yourself in some trouble. Similar to the Mass Effect textures (again review to come), many of the colored wool blocks receive total overhauls. The pink wool has been replaced by a red eye peaking out of jungle wood planks. The turquoise and dark blue blocks turn into castle window panes. Oddly enough, the grey wool now becomes black wool while black wool becomes a glowing face emerging from a pine tree. These are all really great additions to make a completely ghoulish world, however they will likely end up ruining many gamers’ use of colored wool. Likewise, building a world starting with the Halloween textures will lead to possible complications if you go back to vanilla textures as all of the sudden you’ll have random pieces of wool placed in buildings or trees.

Colored Wool in Halloween…

…and in Vanilla.

VERDICT

So should you download this pack? Well, since it’s absolutely free and will no longer be available after November 3rd there isn’t any reason to not download it! If you don’t have a heavy use of colored wool in your world, then translation problems should be very little. Overall the textures bring a pretty cool twist to a game many of us have been playing for over a year now; even to passive Halloween participants like myself. Props to 4J for their most creative textures thus far!

Enjoy some of the pictures below, but if you want to see more, check out the rest of them (as well as vanilla screen caps of my world in progress) in my Photobucket album.

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Good ‘Ol Capitalistic Competition

I remember the day vividly. I had taken the day off so I wouldn’t miss a thing. I woke up earlier than usual so I could travel to the best vantage point for what was about to come. It was June 10, 2013; the first day of E3. I watched every moment from my brother’s 55″ 120hz TV in glorious, uncompressed HD, a computer in front of me to monitor a live blog (while also live blogging myself for BTDT) and my iPhone in my hand with the latest twitter feeds from press on the scene. I was ready to see what developers had been keeping under wraps for the past several years. I was ready to see the next generation of gaming.

Xbox One

Xbox One – via forbes.com

Microsoft kicked off the day with an amazing conference, despite a few technical hiccups, and showcased so many games that I had trouble tracking what was going on. Publisher EA easily took away my award for best conference of the show, showing off the beautiful Garden Warfare shooter, Battlefield 4 multiplayer, Titanfall multiplayer, and announcing a new Mirror’s Edge game and a new Star Wars Battlefront game by DICE (which literally brought a tear to my eye).  Ubisoft went third in a somewhat lackluster conference if only because we saw many amazing projects that we had already seen before. Compared to all the newness of Microsoft’s and EA’s conferences, Ubisoft’s conference lacked much of the same punch, at least it did until Sony took the stage.

Playstation 4

Playstation 4 – via uncrate.com

After all the amazing worlds I had been introduced to throughout the day, the last conference lead by Sony was downright boring. Sony’s big marquee PS4 titles had already been debuted months earlier, making their appearance appreciated, but not surprising. Sony also had to take time out of their show to talk about TV/video streaming offerings and teased projects from Sony’s movie production studios; announcements that have little place at E3 any other year, let alone the year of new consoles. Add in the large amount of time Sony spent on well-known Indie developers (some whose showcased projects had been out for over a year) and you end up with a very unexciting conference. The conspiracy theorist in me would say that Sony made their conference boring on purpose just to give their last few minutes more impact.

After months of silence Sony (and controversy about Microsoft’s new policies) finally threw a sucker-punch at Microsoft: no restrictions on used games. Then a hay-maker followed: no internet check-in required for the console to work. Sony finished with an uppercut to Microsoft’s jaw: a launch price of $399 ($100 less than the Xbox One’s $499 launch price). I have been following the tech industry for quite some time now, so seeing one company compare their products against another is nothing new. However, I have not seen a company so specifically target its competition’s weaknesses in such a brutal, open fashion. Especially when almost every rumor and insider comment about Sony’s policies indicated that they would be following in a similar (if not exact) manner to Microsoft’s. As surprised as I was about what Sony was trying to pull off, I can’t imagine how the suits at Microsoft felt.

Sick burn

This is how Playstation 4 shares games… – via technobuffalo.com

In the two months since, both Sony and Microsoft have been going back and forth with reversals and one-ups. Microsoft has dropped nearly all of the major complaints of the Xbox One save for the Kinect in every box and the $499 price tag. When Microsoft announced a 1000 person limit to the new friends list, Sony came out and said the PS4 limit was 2000. Microsoft announced that their video sharing feature would be locked behind a Gold membership, Sony came out and said that theirs required no such subscription. Back and forth, back and forth.

I’ll be honest, I’m pretty disappointed that Microsoft has had to back track on so many of their policies because of the angry Internet. While I had some reservations about their radical change, I do believe that their plans were the biggest step towards an actual next-generation of games and entertainment than what Sony is offering. However, I’m pretty excited about this sudden need for Microsoft to compete with Sony. With Nintendo all but refusing to compete in a post-iPhone world, Sony is the only company that has the capability to go head-to-head with Microsoft in the gaming space. Again, I think Microsoft were more concerned with competing against Apple and Google than Sony, but I am pretty surprised at how well Sony managed to drag down Microsoft to compete on their level. It’s a rare example today of capitalism at work. In a world of mega-corporations and government-back duopolies, consumers don’t often get to see one of the things that is supposed to make our country great: competition. These past couple months have truly been exciting for the gaming space because of it.

Next-Gen Gaming: Titanfall

Titanfall – via polygon.com

I am sad that we will have to wait a few more years before we have truly next-generation gaming experience, but gamers on both sides of the console space (and you PC folks as well) need to realize that this competition between Sony and Microsoft is only something that will give us better experiences. Whether you’re a Sony-drone, an Xbot, or a PC elitist, this is an exciting time for all. Don’t get mad, don’t get depressed. Be happy! It’s been almost a decade since we’ve had an environment like this, so enjoy the change!

Next-Gen Talk: Longer Runways, Better Planes

I really need to hurry up and finish up this blog series. Not only did I not have these topics out before the PS4 unveiling, but the Xbox successor will be shown off in less than three weeks! Talk about procrastination. Anyways, to continue where I last left off I want to dive into the brand-spankin’ new engines that will be powering our bigger, better worlds and why they’re such a big deal.

UnrealEngine 4, Frostbite 3, CryENGINE 3, Luminous, Fox, Disrupt…These are the names of some of the biggest, newest workhorses that will be powering the worlds of next-gen video games. In addition to being more powerful tools taking advantage of more powerful hardware, these engines will be much smarter than any before them. While they will most certainly bring a new coat of polish to our games, the biggest difference these engines will have will not be seen by most gamers. For the purposes of this blog I will be using UnrealEngine 4 (UE4) for my examples as it is the engine we know most about and I believe it is indicative of how the other engines will work (not in exact execution, but rather in ideal and function).

If you haven’t seen it, I would take the time to watch demo of UE4. No, I’m not talking about the Elemental or Infiltrator pixel-porn videos; I’m talking about the demo of the actual engine and how it works. It’s actually pretty interesting to watch. After a short demonstration of how many particles UE4 can render and how much more dynamic the dynamic lighting is, the video takes the majority of its time to show the back-end of the engine and how artists and programmers will be using it. At its core, UE4 is more about ease of use and automated processes than it is about better lighting filters or texture rendering. Rather than relying solely on hard-coding techniques, UE4 is focused more on sliders and blueprints. The goal is to give artists more power over what they do and free up the hands of programmers to focus more on their individual work.

In another demo, an artist with only a little programming experience shows off the good-looking and functional games he made in only a few days time. It’s a pretty amazing demonstration of what game artists will be able to do without ever interrupting a programmer’s work. That’s not to say that dedicated programmers won’t be needed with these new engines. On the contrary, programmers will simply have more time to fix bugs, improve artificial intelligence routines, and work on overall gameplay mechanics.

Shrinking the Development Budget?

Even though these game engines will allow developers to use their time and money more wisely, I do not believe these engines will make much of a dent in the pockets of Triple-A developers. Sure, devs will be able to use smaller teams for their projects (I believe that the recent layoffs by EA and others are a small indicator of that), but most of the big name devs will simply use the time they save to focus more on bug fixing and post-release content creation. It’s money that is saved only to be spent elsewhere.

However (comma, pause for effect)… Licensed engines such as UE4 and CryENGINE 3 will have a very considerable effect on mid-tier and indie game developers. Studios that don’t have the budget of Call of Duty or the massive team sizes of Ubisoft will benefit from using these engines. With very reasonable licensing options, these engines will give near Triple-A power to these much smaller teams. That last demo showed what one man with a few days can make. What could be possible to a team of five people over the course of six months? Heck, with digital distribution and more equal pricing of online games added to these engines, we may even see a small revival of the dying B-tier game!

Well, there’s always hoping.

Longer Runways, Better Planes

While I cannot tell you exactly how each engine will accomplish these ideals, I can honestly say that I do believe that the greatest impact they will have will be on ease of use and simplicity, rather than simply putting more particles on-screen. Ubisoft has said that their teams are able to do in days what used to take weeks, and the only in-game footage of Bungie’s next game, Destiny, shown to gaming press was a demonstration on how quickly their programmers could build a new, highly-detailed map. So it’s pretty safe to say that time-management is going to be a big deal. But oh how many particles will be on-screen!

These next-generation consoles will be giving developers a much longer runway to work with. As it turns out, developers will be bringing much better planes (not just bigger ones) that can make even better use of that runway. I, for one, am pretty excited about that!

Community Involvement

Thanks again for choosing to spend your time reading my thoughts. I hope to see ya’ll back again with my next topic: One Game, Every Device. Until then, what is one thing you want most from these next engines? Larger worlds? Better physics? A button that automatically inserts an 80’s movie reference? Post your comments below.

Xbox Announcement: Temper Your Expectations

It’s official, Microsoft is making a new Xbox! I mean, everyone has known this since forever ago, but Microsoft has finally admitted it themselves, which is the key announcement we needed. Earlier today Microsoft put out invitations to many games and tech press outlets to go to Microsoft’s own campus in Redmond, Washington to see the next generation of Xbox. Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked that the last company has admitted their next-gen exploits and am looking forward to the announcement.

 

 

HOWEVER!

 

If you’re going in to this announcement expecting some E3 style bonanza, then you’ll be pretty sad. In fact, if you watch the event expecting more than “some” of the announcement being about video games, I think you’ll be very disappointed. This May event will more in common with an iPhone announcement than an E3 press conference. Sure, there will be games (we’ll probably receive a sizzle reel or even an announcement or two), but Microsoft will be saving most of their gaming announcements for E3 proper. This event will be mostly about the hardware build and the consumer services it will provide. You know, like a tech announcement.

 

Wait, why are you mad? Haven’t you complained about Microsoft’s E3 events being too focused on Kinect games and TV stuff? Well, this is one way Microsoft will be able to reign their E3 events back to a more gaming centric focus than they have been in the past couple years. The May event will allow them to really dive into Kinect functionality, family appeal, and general media hub usage. Microsoft will talk quite a bit about its integration with Windows 8 devices, social networks, and existing cable/satellite/internet providers. This will be an event catering to Microsoft’s larger non-gaming audience without any buzz from other events from Apple, Google, or Samsung or the general hubbub of E3 and the slew of post-E3 events (Comic-Con, PAX, Gamescom, etc.).

Don’t worry. Let Microsoft take the time to get this out of their system. The more about Kinect they talk about in May, the less we’ll have to hear about it at E3. And really, the turnaround is pretty quick. It’s less than three weeks between the May event and their Monday press conference for E3. We’ll get a taste for what Xbox will be bringing to the table in May and get a full helping 19 days later. Be patient. Before we know it, it will be June 10 and we’ll be sitting down to watch eight straight hours of unadulterated next-generation goodness to kick off a whole week of announcements. Just don’t be hating when May isn’t as satisfactory as you liked.

 

Thank You!

Once again, thanks for your time. Despite my cautions to not get you hopes up, what are you hoping Microsoft shows off at this event? And please, don’t just say “New IP”. Be specific.

The Xbox 720 Will/Won’t Be Always Online

I’m a pretty lazy blogger. Like, pretty bad. I’ve been sitting on a multi-blog series on next gen consoles since December and I haven’t published a single one. Well, nothing sparks up the flame of motivation like seeing something so ridiculous that you cannot sit by and idly let it go.

I’m sure many of you have heard about the Twitter post heard around the world the resulted in the departure of top Microsoft executive, Adam Orth. His inferred comments about an always-online next generation Xbox fanned a flame of Internet forum vitriol so large that either by force or choice (or as famed game designer Cliff Bleszinski suggests, unfortunate coincidence) he resigned from his position within a week of the post. Since then, multiple rumors have popped up both confirming and denying that the next Xbox will be always online. Yet out of all of that hubbub and shouting, none of that babble is actually spurring this blog together. Sure, I put ideas down and thought out potential posts, but I figured that would just be relegated my long, growing list of unfinished blogs. No, my motivation for this post comes from a member of the GameInformer online community, bunnyking.

Quite clearly one of those behind the “Microsoft is evil” band, bunnyking recently posted up a blog about his feelings on the matter. Now, I don’t mean for this to be a personal attack, but I cannot think of any way that I can describe his post without sounding like it. It is by far one of the most reactionary, ill-thought, derogatory, inflammatory, fan-boyish post I have ever read. Falsely advertised as blog on why the next Xbox will have an Internet requirement, bunnyking’s post is instead an eight-hundred-and-thirty-nine word bash of those who play on an Xbox console. Any claim he may have to being system neutral or of reasonable thinking is completely absent from post. His comments were so ridiculously awful and lacking of substance that I cannot in all good conscious sit here and not offer up some form of rebuttal. So without further ado, I present to you some reasoning on why the next Xbox will not require an Internet connection, and also why it will.

Why It Won’t

As many people are aware, the broadband Internet penetration in the United States (and most of the rest of the world) is not very great. Sure, more people are getting connected to the Web every day, but many do not have access to fast, reliable broadband speeds. Only about thirty percent of American’s are subscribed to broadband Internet, making a potential market for an always-online console much smaller than one that doesn’t need to be connected. Take away additional consumers who have access to said broadband, but do not want to have a device that becomes a brick when their ISP has a hiccup, and your potential audience has become much smaller. Microsoft would have less of a market to sell to.

And then there’s…well…that’s about it. I’ve been trying for several days to come up with other reasons why Microsoft won’t require an Internet connection, but for every reason I could think of why Microsoft won’t I found a counter on why they would that made more sense for Microsoft, developers, content providers, and a wider audience of consumers. The only legitimate reason why Microsoft won’t is simply that they will narrow their potential gaming audience, and as much as I hope that this is a good enough reason for an always-online console to not be launching this fall, I believe the “why it will” makes more sense for Microsoft, their partners, and their non-gaming customers.

Why It Will

 

I’m going to go ahead and split this second section into two sections. Sectionception!

Ignoring The Internet

No, I’m not saying that Microsoft doesn’t care about its customers. I’m saying that Microsoft cares more about its shareholders than the people who use their products. There is nothing Microsoft HAS to do for you the consumer beyond what is Federally mandated. Since video games are one of the most extreme examples of first-world privileges and nowhere near being an unalienable right, Microsoft has absolute jack (aka, zero, not some whiskey/vodka cocktail) reasons to listen to the outcry of a vocal minority on the Internet. Now, without customers Microsoft cannot make money for their investors/stock holders, so of course they have to be friendly to consumers and offer them something they want. I’m simply saying that Microsoft (and just about every single corporation known to man) will only make a truly consumer friendly decision if it will pay their investors at some point. If there’s no money to be made, or it’s too expensive to be considered a charity effort, then Microsoft won’t do it.

Let’s not forget, Microsoft has already made decisions like this. Back when Microsoft first launched Xbox Live in 2002, they made it a requirement to have a broadband connection just to enjoy their service. If you’re old enough to remember back then, broadband Internet was not a readily available service to consumers. In fact, if you take the numbers everyone has been spewing around for those without broadband or reliable Internet, you’ll find that the Internet situation has vastly improved since then. So really, it’s less of a risk for Microsoft to require an internet connection for their new console now than it was for them to require broadband just to access a peripheral feature ten years ago.

Besides, what’s Microsoft’s incentive to listen to the Internet? If you look at the top twenty best-selling games on the Xbox 360 you’ll find that fifteen of them are online-centric games. These games are built almost entirely around their online components; either by cooperative or competitive multiplayer modes. I can’t imagine that the number of players who buy Call of Duty for only the campaign make up more than 5% of its sales. Of the remaining five games, only 3 did not ship with any form of multiplayer; two of which are Kinect games. Bethesda’s Skyrim is the only Triple-A game to make the top twenty list without any form of multiplayer. So if the majority of Xbox owners only ever play games that are practically useless without the Internet, why is it such an unbelievable concept that it would now become a requirement?

You can even take it a step further. Look at all the hubbub over the recent online-only games Diablo III and SimCity. Despite all the outrage over the seemingly unnecessary Internet connection, both sold record numbers for their respective franchises. People have asked Microsoft, “Haven’t you learned anything from the Diablo III or SimCity?” I would say yes. Microsoft (and many other companies) have learned that despite having an always online requirement (and even a rocky launch), gamers are willing to buy your games by the pallet load. Why should Microsoft (or really any company for that matter) listen to the Internet when ignoring them has been so lucrative?

Gaming And Beyond

This console generation is going to be very different from the last one. Really, it’s going to be different from every generation before it. Everyone in the industry is saying that the PS4 and Xbox 720 will be virtually identical in terms of power and architecture. The PS4 will probably have an edge over the 720 with its GDDR5 setup since I doubt Microsoft will match them there. However, the PS3 was more powerful than the 360 but you could only tell in first-party titles and most third-party titles were worse on the PS3 than the 360. Granted, that had a lot to due with the PS3’s Cell processor and partitioned RAM, but it still goes to pointing out that more power does not mean it will play better games. Power won’t be the decider, and exclusive games aren’t going to be the decider either. Despite Sony’s large catalogue of first-party titles, their total combined sales only ever match the total sales of Microsoft’s much fewer exclusives. A single Microsoft exclusive will outsell half of Sony’s games in a given year. Frankly, the only reason why the PS3 is finally outselling the 360 is because of the Japanese market. Either way, after seven years both consoles are neck-and-neck in terms of numbers. So if power, exclusive games, and architecture design are not going to be the big differentiator this generation, what is? Well, nothing gaming related!

This next-generation is going to be about moving beyond gaming. BEYOND gaming, not AWAY from gaming. Gaming will still be the foundation of these systems, but gaming will become a small part of everything these systems will be capable of. Even the ever stubborn Nintendo realized this to some extent by including universal remote technology in the WiiU. Both the PS4 and next Xbox will be adding in features to make their systems do more than simply play a video game. Music, movies, communication, and social media all contribute to these systems turning from dedicated video game consoles into multi-faceted entertainment boxes. From every rumor we can gather, Microsoft is poised to take the largest dive into that “everything” pool.

Microsoft will be working with every possible content provider that it can to work out deals and agreements to bring their content onto the next Xbox or to use the console as a direct interface into the providers’ infrastructure. Cable and satellite networks and internet based providers such as Netflix and Hulu will receive a level of integration with the next Xbox that will overshadow what we currently have on any other device. That integration will only come if Microsoft can guarantee the safety and profitability of the content provided by these companies. An always-online console would be one such way to fulfill that guarantee. It could give Microsoft a better tool to make modding a console more difficult (though probably not impossible to) as well as finding and bricking said consoles thereby reducing the likelihood of content being pirated. If Microsoft can guarantee that every system will have an internet connection, they could charge more for advertisements in that small square in the bottom right corner of the dashboard. More revenue from advertisements mean more money for Microsoft to throw at content providers, which in turn encourages more providers to show their content, which in turn attracts more consumers to a growing ecosystem, which in turn generates more ad revenue, which in turn makes its way into content providers, which in turn… You see where I’m going.

Now before you go on some long rant about the evils of advertising, let me say that the only way we will ever be able to move the entertainment industry to an a la carte method of consumption is through advertising. Want to only subscribe to HBO? Well, ads on your Xbox dashboard might be one way for that to be possible. “Why can’t I just pay $15 a month like Netflix for HBO?” Well, that’s because HBO has such high overhead production costs that every HBO subscriber could pay $30 a month and HBO would still lose money. HBO only exists because its productions are subsidized by the ad revenue of cable and satellite network companies. If paying a subscription to Xbox Live and having a small ad in the corner of my screen allowed me to subscribe to HBO without needed a huge cable bill, my purchase of an always-online Xbox would be justified. I think many consumers would agree.

As for the benefits to gamers? Well, I can’t really think of any. That’s not to say there won’t be, only that I lack the imagination to come up with something substantial. The only think I can think of is that the next Xbox will make Internet a feature rather than a peripheral. What developers can do with a system they know will always be online is anyone’s guess, but it’s something to think on.

What I Think Will Happen

I would not be surprised if Microsoft did unveil a system that required the Internet to work, however I do not think that is what Microsoft will actually do. I do think that you will be able to play Fallout 4 by yourself on the next Xbox without being connected in. However, 99% of all of all the other things the system will be able to do will require a connection. Video games will only be a portion of what the Xbox will do and will likely be the only thing that won’t require the Internet. However (there’s a lot of these) I would also see it likely that if you bought one of the reduced price, subscription models or a system that was bundled in with your cable company that those particular SKUs would require an always on connection. You would be buying a system well below the price Microsoft itself subsidizes at, so they will be wanted to ensure you make up that money through digital purchases and ad placements.

 Congratulations!

You made it to the end of my much longer than anticipated blog post. Trust me, I tried my best to pare down this writing and I still didn’t include numerous thoughts and arguments. So thank you for taking such a long time out of your day to reach the bottom. This took me several days to write up; not because I’m a slow writer, but because I’m a lazy one. Hopefully putting this out will finally spur me up to finish the half-dozen other blogs on next-gen that I have in production.

Almost Everything We Know About Black Ops 2: Single player

The next title in the Call of Duty mega-franchise is barely a week away. In preparation for the launch, I thought I’d bring together all the important bits of information about the game into three blogs to cover the three major aspects of Black Ops 2: Single player, Multi-player, and Zombies.

 

SINGLE PLAYER

I’m not really going to go over the story much. Most of the game takes place in 2025 with about a third taking place in the 1980s. There’s a bad guy who takes control of America’s drone armies in an effort to turn a cold war (between China and America over Rare Earth Elements) hot. There are lots of explosions, at least one building will fall down, and you’ll fly (and fall out of) a jet. ‘Nuff said.

I want to talk more about what Treyarch is doing differently within the single player, not just what new, globe-trotting adventure you’ll take part in.

 

CUSTOM LOADOUTS

For the first time in the CoD franchise (you’ll hear this phrase a lot), players will be able to select their loadout prior to entering a mission. Not only do players now have a choice in what they bring along with them in their missions, but they can also complete challenges within each mission just like in multi-player. Certain challenges can only be completed using certain weapons or equipment, and completing challenges further unlocks more weapons, attachments, and equipment for you to play with. So not only do you now have more control over how you play out a level, but you’re given more reasons to revisit the campaign for more than achievement hunting.

 

STRIKE FORCE

Strike Force is another first in the series and aims to help diminish the sense of linearity of the series. After every few missions in the campaign you’ll be given a Strike Force mission to complete. You’re dropped into a semi-open/sandbox world and given a number of objectives to complete. You’re given a number of troops, drones, and other assets to complete your objectives, which you can use one of two ways. You can assume a sort of “commander” top-down mode where you can command your units similar to an RTS-style game. You can also choose to jump into any of your units and control them like you normally do during the campaign. If the unit you inhabit gets killed then you can choose to jump back into another unit or resume the commander role. If you do not complete every objective before your assets run out (a.k.a. everyone got killed) then the mission is failed. Rather than take you to a “load checkpoint” screen the game carries on and the campaign is in some way shape or form affected by your failure. Which brings me to…

 

PLAYER CHOICE

Call of Duty is chock-full of moments where you’re manning a turret, sniping from a building, or assaulting a beach, but what if you didn’t have to do that? At several points throughout your adventures you’ll be given a choice as to how you want to approach a certain objective. The most commonly used example is choosing to stay up on a freeway overpass and conduct over-watch via a shoot-through-walls sniper rifle, or you can rappel down to the streets to “locate, close with, and destroy the enemy by fire and maneuver, and to repel the enemies assault with fire and close combat”…for all my 03’s out there.

You will also be making choices throughout the campaign that will contribute to your ending. Both your success (and failure) in Strike Force missions and other choices made during the campaign will determine which ending you get. That’s right, you now have multiple endings. I would bet that you’ll probably have a choice at the end to side with the bad guy.

 

So those are the big changes we have to look forward to in Black Ops 2’s single player. What are you excited for most about the upcoming blockbuster?

 

 

ALSO CHECK OUT:

Multiplayer

Zombies

Almost Everything We Know About Black Ops 2: Multiplayer

The next title in the Call of Duty mega-franchise is barely a week away. In preparation for the launch, I thought I’d bring together all the important bits of information about the game into three blogs to cover the three major aspects of Black Ops 2: Single player, Multi-player, and Zombies.

I’ve already talked about the bulk of changes coming to Black Ops 2 multiplayer and gave my thoughts on them, but since then we’ve gotten more information about what we can expect on November 12.

WEAPONS

When you now Prestige your weapons will no longer reset themselves. Any progress you’ve made with each weapon (challenges and attachments) will hold over whenever you prestige and reset your progress. Instead, weapons will have their own Prestige system, allowing you to manually reset you weapon’s progress. This means that you can reset your weapons multiple times without going Prestige with your character, and you can also go several Prestige levels without once resetting your weapon’s progress. While Treyarch did not say so, you can bet that certain weapon skins or other customizable options will be locked behind each weapon’s individual prestige level; such as the infamous Gold paint job. One reason why weapons now have their own ranking system is because…

PRESTIGE

…pressing the Prestige button no longer resets your progress! That is…you still return to level one, but you don’t have to lose your challenge and weapon progress just because you press a button. Prestige-ing now gives you several options on how you want to continue your play. Every Prestige level will give you a token you can use to permanently unlock weapons, perks, and equipment so that you can access them no matter what level you are. In addition to those tokens, you’re also given one of three choices: unlock another Create-A-Class custom slot, reset all of the Prestige tokens you’ve spent (so you can re-spend them on other items), or classically reset all of your progress like usual (except weapon progress). At Prestige level 10, everything will be unlocked for the player, which is a big deal since you can’t unlock every weapon, perk, and equipment in a normal playthrough.

TRAINING

The original Black Ops introduced Combat Training, a feature that allowed players to play multiplayer game modes, but substitute real players for AI-run bots. Absent in Modern Warfare 3, Combat Training returns with a few extra features. Combat Training can now contribute to you multiplayer progression, allowing new or less talented players to safely build up their character to level 10 and start multiplayer with custom classes, challenges, and Scorestreaks unlocked from the start. Combat Training that contributes to your progression is split into three major parts: Bootcamp, Objective, and Bot Stomp. Bootcamp is a 6v6 team Deathmatch mode that pairs three human players with three bot players on each team. Objective is unlocked after playing Bootcamp and follows the same human/bot split but includes Domination, Demolition, and Capture the Flag game modes. However Objective will only give the player half of the normally accrued. The last mode is Bot Stomp and it trades the human/bot split in favor of six humans versus six bots. However, Bot Stomp does not reward multiplayer XP and is designed more for practicing gameplay tactics with friends.

MATCHMAKING

There are two major aspects of how you will connect to other players in Black Ops 2: skill level and ping/latency levels. Firstly, your skill as a player will determine the type of players you will be consistently matched against. As you win and lose matches and your K/D slides around, you will be bumped up or down tiers of players with similar skill. So hopefully that should reduce the number of times you will get matched into a group of players who are ridiculously more talented then you, and also preventing you trolls out there from continuously jumping into groups of less talented individuals and lording your K/D over them.

Secondly, you will now be connected to players based on their connection, not by your region. Now, you’ve always been connected to hosts the game thinks you will fit best in, but it has always been restricted to hosts within your reason. This will most likely not be that noticeable to most of us American players, but those in Europe, Asia, and Australia will benefit more because of their more diverse region coding no longer restricting who they connect to.

However, if Treyarch does not fix whatever happened with the lag compensation of MW3 then I doubt these features will really help. The lag compensation was one of the biggest reasons why esports players turned from Call of Duty…

SHOUTCASTING

…and esports is a big target of Treyarch. Included in Black Ops 2 is a shoutcast feature for multiplayer. You can enter a multiplayer game as a spectator and will be given a whole host of options on how to view the game. You can juggle between first- and third-person views of each player, view an overhead map showing the teams, view player scores, or a number of combinations of each. You can also listen in on a team’s conversation and add your own voice commentary as well. You will then be able to stream your view of the match over the interwebs without the use of video capture hardware or software. All of it is built into the game. There is no official word about how it will be done, you can bet a partnership with twitch.tv or justin.tv is in the works. I would also say that the same shoutcast features will be included in the revamped Theater (which allows you to combine multiple edited clips together and new camera options to create insanely long or complex productions), though I was unable to find a direct statement or reveal saying so.

 

So those are the big changes we have to look forward to in Black Ops 2’s multiplayer. What are you excited for most about the upcoming blockbuster?

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