Good Bye Halo 2

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vanlandw and I play our final rounds of Halo 2 together

Today, I played my final few rounds of Halo 2 online. I seriously cannot believe they are canning XBL support for all Xbox games. It looks like Bungie knew some people would be coming back for a last round so they flooded the “Did You Know?” tips with amusing little snippets.

On the flip side, I honestly don’t think that I’ll miss it. We played several matches, only won two. And, I played just abysmally. I sealed the night by receiving an ass kicking in Big Team Battle. Yup, that pretty much sums up my entire Halo 2 experience.

Check out the miserable abomination that was my Halo 2 career

Worldwide D&D Game Day – Player Handbook 3

Format: D&D WPN
Location: Whitecap Comics (get directions)
Date: 3/20/2010 (11:30am – 7pm)
Cost: FREE

As per vanlandw’s request I am posting the details of this event. Jason and I are planning on going. We’ll probably get there after I roll out of bed and shower. Wes will probably claim to be exhausted from his fun run and not show up.

I should also note that something called “Weekend in the Realms” will be going on as well, and I have no idea what that is. I suspect it is what they call their weekly RPGA event, however I do not know if they will be running a module, or a my realms adventure.

Anyone who is interested is encountered to come. the Game Day adventure will run 1-2 hours, and you shouldn’t need to bring anything if you’re new. Players will be provided with PHB3 pregenerated characters (I assumed level 1 characters made with DDI character builder will also be valid). No experience is required, but you might want to pick up a set of dice if for no other reason that its cool to have a d4.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) [VETERAN]

This is a follow up to my earlier Call of Duty 4 post, and a response to valandw’s first, and second rant about the game.

Overview

As I mentioned in my MW2 post, I started playing these games on veteran because vanlandw has started the trend. Somehow, he powered through COD4 on veteran on his first play through. And, he considers it the paramount of his gaming career. Obviously, I thought that he was being a little melodramatic so I played through MW2 on veteran on my first play through. MW2 certainly sucked on veteran, but it was not a life altering event. So, I was prepared to give vanlandw a rough time about it. But, I figured first I had better play Call of Duty 4 on veteran.

This did give me the opportunity to discover that COD4 is a much better game than MW2 in numerous ways. The story makes much more sense, the kinds of activities you participate are plausible (no snowmobile races with enemies, etc…), and it just feels more realistic…to a point. There are a few major flaws in COD4 that utterly destroy the experience, I’ll try to outline those now.

Elite Dogs of Utter Death and Destruction

Frequently throughout the game you will encounter dogs in the game. They are as annoying as all hell. When a dog attacks you, nothing else matters. You can get shot while grenades explode around you like fireworks. The only thing that matters is that this dog is going to rip your throat out, and it is nearly impossible to stop it. Once the dog “quick time” event starts, you have to hit melee when the button pops up on the screen. You give about 1/10 of a second to react. So, effectively you need to anticipate when the prompt will come up so you can already be pushing the button. If you hit it to soon, you die. If you hit it too late you die. If you do not hit it at all, you die. Luckily, the fixed this in MW2, so it is actually possible to hist the button in time.

Hey Captain, Look, its Raining…Grenades

The United States spends more on defense than the rest of the G8, and they do not equip their soldiers with infinite grenades. So, where the fuck are these people that live in the ghetto getting all their grenades? It is wretched when you find yourself in a situation where you are trying to pick off enemies to advance, or are just waiting out a timer and you cannot sit in cover long enough to crouch without being surrounded by grenades. On numerous occasions I stopped to scratch my head in an area without enemies only to see the grenade warning pop up because I was standing still for too long. I know this is suppose to be a game play mechanism to encourage you to advance, and feel the pressure of battle, but they take it to the point of absurdity. To a certain extent this has been fixed in MW2, but the enemies still have enough grenades to make you feel uncomfortable.

Hurray, another Choke Point

Frequently in the game you find yourself funnelled into a hellish littler area where you are forced to fight endless waves of enemies unless you advance. Advancement is usually forced down a linear path with spare cover (which does not matter because if you stop behind cover you’ll get naded). Most of the time these choke points are only really difficult because of the poor game testing this game received on the veteran difficulty. And, there is perhaps the mother of all choke points on the stage, “No Fighting in the War Room.” Vanlandw mentioned it in his post, and I experienced it myself. I cannot think of another section of a game that takes two minutes to get through, but it took me countless tries over three hours and two days to get past it. If you want the video below, the section in question is at 4:36. However, I think most of the videos up for this were actually played on hardcore, rather than veteran because I encountered quite a few more enemies in this section. And, to help illustrate this I whipped up a quick graphic to show how bat shit crazy it is.

Another section that was really annoying is the ferris wheel section of One Shot, One Kill. After attempting repeatedly to play this legitly, and just getting naded to pieces I broke down and hid in one of the ticket booths. If you want to know how to do that, here is a video that demonstrates someone pulling it off. Keep in mind that it requires luck, if someone throws a nade in there you are pretty much toast, and when you leave it is a crap shot whether or not you die instantly. Persistence in the key.

The other really annoying area is a shining example of poor testing. The final section of the stage, “Heat,” gives you air strikes, and very little hope of getting to the LZ. On veteran it feels impossible, but it is amazing what a little information will do for you. Check out the video starting at 0:44. Basically all you need to do is follow the timing, and path of this guy and you should be in good shape. You can actually get through the stage without using a single air strike (I did).

For the most part these kind of things are gone from MW2. Sure there are choke points, but there is nothing remotely close to these three travesties.

These situations are extremely frustrated because you can stand their and just watch your team mates shoot at nothing in particular, while waiting for you to pave the way to salvation, which brings me to my next point.

Who Do You Think You Are, Soldier!?

You have team mates in the game, but they are just for show. Basically the only useful thing that your team mates do is let you know when you have advanced past a choke point because they magically teleport up as if they helped you the whole way. Frequently they will just stand out in the open and get totally obliterated, but it doesn’t matter because they are invincible, just like real soldiers. Sometimes they will go out of their way to step in front of you and draw friendly fire. The game rewards you by giving you the game over screen.

The stupid soldier issue is kind of fixed in MW2. You can shoot them forever without repercussion, and they move around a little bit better. But, it is still very much the same.

Conclusion

I could go on for hours, but those are my biggest gripes about the game. And, I whole heartily agree with vanlandw in warning everyone not to play this game on veteran. If you do, you’d be doing it for bragging rights, but not because you could receive in the slightest amount of enjoyment from it.

In conclusion, COD4 is in theory better than MW2, but some show stopping bugs, and balancing issues make it nearly impossible on its highest difficulty. While I ranked this game a 0 based on my first play through (I believe on hardcore), I have to give this game a -5 on veteran.

Parting Thoughts

Despite all this, I think vanlandw did overrate, if only slightly to the difficulty of the game. I receive an equal, if not greater level of frustration on my play through of Ninja Gaidan on the original Xbox.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)

This post is mainly to pick up the slack for vanlandw who wanted an outlet to share his thoughts on the game without being obligated to write an entire post about the game. So, he has called upon me to write a rant about it so he can just comment on it. Granted, I haven’t played the game since it first came out, but I do sort of remember what it was like, so here goes:

Modern Warfare was one of the first “realistic” war games that I have been excited about in quite some time. I originally picked up the game because I was glad that someone find made a game that was not World War II, and it was well reviewed. And, yes, before I get any comments about the Tom Clancy games, I am aware that many of them are set in the near future, but they suck, so its basically like they do not exist.

There is one important thing to note about this game; it does not have co-op. Many people feel the strength of the game is its online multiplayer. However, I found it to be quite lackluster. I suppose I have been spoiled by games with more diversity, like Halo. MW consists primarily of death matches, which are not very fun. A lot of people have told me its so good because it has “realistic” weapons, and other such BS. If I wanted to fire realistic guns, I would fire real guns.

Other people feel the campaign is the highlight of the game. And, while it is not bad, it is nothing to write home about. The story they came up with is very formulaic, and is not better than anything you’d expect to see in a summer popcorn flick.

So, thus far I have established that the game is pretty average across the board. Which, is true, but there is one particularly irritating aspect of the game that I found to be quite frustrating (a common theme in the Call of Duty games I have forgotten about), choke points that you are forced to push through. I like to be able to element all the enemies in an area, and then progress. This methodology works pretty well in most video games, and keeps you from getting killed. Unfortunately, there are certain areas in MW where enemies continue to respawn endlessly, so you could never effectively clear out an area. Thus, you are forced to do a rush that will frequently result in your death if you are playing on one of the higher difficulty levels. But, this one really the only thing in the game that really bothered me.

Ultimately, I decided that the game had been considerably overrated. And, while it is a solid enough game for me not to feel ashamed to have it in my collection, it is far from the pinnacle. Thus, due to the lack of replayability, and general averageness of the title, I am going to give it a 0 on the undecim scale.

P.S. I need to get a proof reader.

Borderlands (2009)

Sometimes you do not need original ideas. All you need to do is collect the idea of other and improve upon. I figure that must be Gearbox’s motto. Many reviews talk about the possible combination of weapons, how the game is like a first person diablo, etc… All these comparisons are so relevant, because they literally took the game mechanics from other games.

Luckily, they pretty much only took the good parts of games, and in some cased the addictive aspects. And, for the most part is all first together well for one important reason: the game built for co-op from the ground up.

The single player game play is pretty lack luster. It isn’t really difficult, and it is a bit tedious. But, add a few friends and what was previously mundane becomes amazing. This is not only because because its more fun to play a game with friends, the game also does a good job scaling up based on how many people are playing. Not only do you face more enemies, you encounter tougher, and more varied enemies.

There are a few other improvements on the typical FPS game style. Many FPS now have some version of an incapacitated mode, particularly co-op games. In these games you go down, and have to wait for an ally to come over and heal/revive you. Well, Borderlands added a new twist called “Second Wind.” Basically, if you are incapacitated, and you get a kill you regain a little health and mobility. It works quite well, and I would like to see it in more games.

Unfortunately, there are some glaring issues with the game that would have been unforgivable in a single player game, but are mostly forgiven due to the fun of co-op:

Poor AI. Running out into the open and engaging in a firefight with some one that is behind cover is never a good strategy.

Lack of boss battles. The trailers for the game mostly featured two of the three big boss battles in the game. And while there are other lesser bosses in the game, for around 30 hours of game play, I would have liked to have seen a few more epic boss battles. At least they let you go back and fight Skagzilla again, which is always fun.

Traveling sucks. Even though you can sprint endlessly, and you get a vehicle after a little while, you spend a lot of time in the first third or so of the game walking around. Part of this is due to the quest system. Seriously, humanity has colonized another planet, had physics defining force fields, wrist communicators, and you have to get and turn in quests in person? Lame.

And, while you do get a vehicle that helps cut down on travel time, there are some serious issues with it. The biggest may be that you only get one vehicle, and it can only hold two players. Seems a little weird in a game geared towards four players. The other big issue is the weird damage system it employs. You can ram into enemies and instantly kill them. On the flip side, you can be killed instantly by enemy vehicles, which is really frickin frustrating in some areas in the game.

Some of the missions tend to get a bit repetitive. While you do not do a lot of “get ingredients for soup” missions that are so prevalent in World of Warcraft, you do spent a lot of time doing the same kind of activities. For the most part, most of the missions basically require you to go somewhere and kill something.

Level caps, seriously, wtf? I view level caps as a built in deterrent of continued play. Borderlands has a built in cap of 50. This basically allows you to max out an entire specialization branch in your skill tree (which isn’t a good idea). I was able to easily get to level 50 without even coming close to finishing a second play through. And, when I hit 50, I turned off the game and haven’t played since. By this time, I had already done all the quests on the first play through, and earn all of the achievements.

The first DLC has been release for the game, but it doesn’t increase the cap, and doesn’t really offer anything for me. Sure there is a new area, but I cannot advance my character by playing it, so I haven’t come up with a good reason to play it.

The second DLC has been rumored to contain at least two additional skill points as quest rewards, so that could work as a defacto level increase without actually increasing the cap. And, it looks like it will add some more arenas into the game. And, since the arenas were one of my favorite parts of the game, I may pick up this DLC and skip the first.

So, based on my experience with the game, I am going to give it a split rating, first based on the single player mode, 0 (average), and second, for the online co-op, 3 (cult classic) on the undecim scale.