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.

Left 4 Dead (2008)

Left 4 Dead is a better game than I expected. Shortly after it originally came out, I co-op’d the first stage of the first campaign. The game had a heavy feel of the Flood from Halo. And, quick frankly, the flood stages in Halo are always the worst, so I got a sour first impression.

Now, a year later I have finally got an opportunity to play the game in earnest. And, I have to say it was pretty fun. Wes and I started playing yesterday. And, we got off to a bit of a rough start. The rooftop of the first campaign was particularly brutal. I don’t even know how many times we replayed that rooftop.

Eventually one of Wes’ friends, Ryan, came on, and after several more attempts we were successful…sort of. Wes got himself killed, and Ryan sacrificed himself so I could get to the copper. Good times.

My brother joined in for the next area, Dead Air. And, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the game is amazing with four people. We had a great moments, particularly when Wes was off the comm. It was a part where we needed to turn on a van to break down a barricade. This triggered a huge horde flood. The three of us on the comm coordinated into a closet so we handled the flood without incident. Wes however, was left out and the open. The zombies picked his bones clean in seconds.

Today we finished up the other two areas. And, I think I actually liked them a bit more than the ones we played yesterday. However, they were rather similar. I liked how they were a bit more open. The hospital and the airport consist of primarily enclosed areas. Vanberge joined in the carnage so we were able to get another four player slaughterfest going. Highlights included Jason and Wes going toe to toe with a tank and getting obliterated.

Since I am not sure when Left 4 Dead 2 is going to come from Amazon, I think that I am going to purchase the DLC to check out the other areas.

Based on the past two days of game play, I am going to give the game a 2 (above average) on the undecim rating scale.

Mercenaries 2 (2008)

EA recently announced that it was closing Pandemic studio. I wish they would not have, because this action resulted in hours of torture for me.

Initially, I thought this was a bad idea because I always remember them as the creators of Star Wars: Battlefront II, which is a fantastic game. I still go back and play it from time to time. Unfortunately, the reality of their close was probably a boon to gamers everywhere.

Vanlandw doomed us to a play through of Mercenaries 2. In what started as a one man show of support for Pandemic against EA, he pledged to play Mercenaries 2. Since I already had an unopened copy of the game I volunteered to play with him. This was a poor decision.

I am not exactly sure why I expected Mercenaries 2 to be a good game. Because, I never actually finished the first one. Sure, I purchased the first Mercenaries game, and played it or a while, but the gameplay was pretty lame, and it was buggy. The combination of buggy, and screwy difficulty curve made it a very frustrating experience.

The game itself was not exactly horrible, but there were some mechanisms that made the game a bear to play.

Games like this are really unrealistic. Thus, I expect a lot of arcade style of play where you can just blow through things and have a good time. Unfortunately, the developers decided to enforce some arbitrary realism into the game.

Limited ammo is probably the most annoying of these issues. It seems like whenever you get a halfway decent weapon you run out of ammo and are forced to use whatever crap weapon the computer is using. No fun there. And, much needed explosive weapons were always in short supply. I think I spent about 60% of the game carrying around an empty RPG. However, this is not nearly as frustrating as the vehicles.

Gamers are used to having access to unlimited, or near unlimited ammo in vehicles. Its just kind of defacto standard. Pandemic decided that it would make the game more fun if you could blow through all the ammo in your vehicle in ten seconds. I am not exaggerating. You spend a fortune to get this vehicles dropped, and before you know it they are basically worthless. But, it is not like it mattered anyway, since the vehicles explode so easily.

Speaking of which, there is a mission in this game that may have to go on the list of all time worst missions in video games. “Doom Patrol,” puts you in the driver’s seat of, “Cacharro de Muerte,” otherwise known as the piece of shit. This is a car / monster truck with the ability to have some kind of booster jump. In this mission, you are forced to go through a brutal obstacle course in a typical race fashion, where you have limited time to progress to the next checkpoint.

While you are navigation the course you are confronted with all kinds of obstacles that threaten to flip over your vehicle. If you do land upside down, or on your side you are screwed. You have to blow up the car and start the mission over. However, this issue in itself, while frustrating isn’t really a deal breaker. So, to make it even more obsurd the developers decided they would going to through in some enemy troops to shoot are you. Again, quite annoying but not that big of a deal. The total bullshit comes at about nine minutes into this ten minute mission. Some jerk decided to put a tank in the middle of a hair pin turn. If you mess it up you die. Vanlandw and I spent at least an hour attempting this mission over and over again. I still get made just thinking about it.

Beyond those major issues, there are a lot of little things that just add up to irritation.

  • Having the female constantly repeat the same damn thing to you
  • Repetitive missions
  • Brutally long travel times
  • Sluggish/clumsy vehicle controls
  • Sluggish aiming sensitivity combined with overly aggressive sensitivity acceleration.

And the list goes on and on.

Having considered all these issues, I still have to give the developers props for putting in full co-op for the game. Granted, it is glitchy, and we did experience a couple of hiccups, it worked for the most part. And, for that simple pleasure the game was endurable to the end. More studios should get on the co-op train, I’m looking at you infinity ward. Seriously, pulling out full campaign co-op for that bastardized special ops crap in the game? You should be ashamed.

Upon due consideration, I am going this game a 0 (average) on my Undecim scale. The reason I rated the game so high was because of the full campaign co-op, and the fact that the game came out on my birthday.

Halo 3: ODST

Let me begin this by stating, this game has an awful title. The original working title “Recon” was considerably better. Just throwing together a bunch of random letters is not particularly helpful. I can understand if they did not want it to be confused with Halo Reach, which is supposed to come out some time next year. However, they could have just as easily gone with something simple, like “Shock” or “Trooper,” but whatever I guess.

Last week I managed to procure this game. Sadly, I had to put it on a credit card since I am too broke at the moment to be able to pay for it in cash. Hurray for interest. Sadly, since my purchase was delayed, I missed a marathon session with vanberge, and vanlandw (who wussed out and played on Heroic). Luckily, vanlandw was up for a second play through so I was able to obliterate the campaign on legendary with him and my brother, Jason. Good times.

The game itself is basically halo 3, but a little suckier. There is HUD system that obscures a lot of screen, and sucks on split screen. Additionally, they decided to put health back in to the game. So, it effectively works a lot like the original halo, where you have a “shield” and health. I have to say that the past two games have made me a bit soft, because it sucks to have to find health packs again. There are a few quirks in the system as well, for example, if you pick up a turret it makes you run faster, whoops.

When we started there were some serious lag issues. For the first couple of levels the game was lagging so much it was barely playable. However, during this time vanlandw was experiencing smooth game play, so I assume my degraded performance was due to caching data to the hard drive or something. Anyhow, after a few levels everything started working smoothly.

The campaign was pretty fun, not as good as Halo 3, but better than Halo 2. I hate the flashback aspect of it it though. And, the story is not particularly interesting, especially if you listen to the audio clips. The whole “save the girl” storyline…give me a break. The campaign was effectively short though, as the three of us were able to beat it on legendary in under five hours. And, there are not really any tough choke points like there are in Halo 3.

Firefight kind of sucks. It is not fun to solo, period. And, while you can play with friends, there is no matchmaking so if none of your friends on online you’re by yourself. Also, the skull handling is pretty annoying. I would really like to have more control over it. I tend to prefer things that are set so you know specifically what is required of you. This constantly changing the terms of battle only deters from the experience. Even if all they had was a way to “buy” disabling of a skull with points kind of like you do in Cal of Duty: World at War in Zombie mode.

Most of the achievements in the game are pretty easy to get, in fact you get about half of them just by playing through the campaign. However, there are some tough ones, particularly the vidmaster challenges. I am not sure about the fightfight achievements. I haven’t been able to get four people together to play it, and so far the best I’ve done with a group is 120,000, and that took quite a while to get.

I am not exactly sure why, but I think the game designers took a page out of the Gears of War book with the way things are setup. The level designs are much more muted than what I’m used to in Halo. And the “visor mode” just washes things out worse.

Basically, I’d say the game was fun, but not great. I would recommend it to every Halo fan. However, I think that most casual gamers would not get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I’m giving the game a 3 on my undecim rating system.