Monday, October 29, 2012
Make a Choice: Halo 4 or Black Ops 2
The epitome of first world problems. There are too many good games coming out in too short span of time and I don't have time to play all of them. Furthermore, with two of them being multiplayer focused shooters I'm not sure I want to play both simultaneously I've already made my peace with the fact that Assassins Creed 3 will have to wait but trying to get to a point where at least my close friends think I'm mediocre at a FPS requires dedicating yourself to one game. How is one to choose?
Even with Treyarch moving the Black Ops franchise into a more near-future sci-fi time frame there's still a clear distinction between the games in terms of aesthetic. But does that even matter?
343 Studios has made this decision even harder by making Halo 4's multiplayer experience a heck of a lot more like Call of Duty. You now unlock perks, weapons, and customizations. XP is popping up giving me that wonderful Pavlovian response just for playing the game. Black Ops does this for me as well and Call of Duty in general has been doing it for years. Now that both games contain deep progression mechanics, it makes the decision all that more difficult. Which game makes me feel better for shooting people in the head?
Perhaps the more important part of the game comparison is the multiplayer modes. Traditionally Halo has the far more unique game modes. Game types, like Oddball, are not something you see in most FPS games. In Halo 4 they are taking it a step further with the addition the Spartan Ops campaign which 343 hopes will keep players coming back for a long time. In contrast, CoD goes to the other end of the spectrum with the fan favorite Zombie game mode. Perhaps the most important consideration in choosing which game to play with your friends is which game is actually going to operate correctly. The netcode in the last Treyarch CoD game left a lot to be desired, with the party system being sketchy at best. Whereas, Halo 4 will have Bungie's stellar netcode as a base to improve upon. Also worthy of note is the seemingly snails pace that Call of Duty games historically have for releasing patches and fixes. Whether it be netcode issues or imbalanced weapon/perk combinations, players have had to wait months to get a consistently solid and fun experience. I stopped play Black Ops 1 after a few months and at the time I still couldn't consistently get into a game without the game dropping some of my friends from the party. It was an infuriating issue that I would have should never have shipped with the game.
For me personally, the last Black Ops campaign was something I never finished. That Vietnam level with the infinite respawning enemies just left a bad taste in my mouth after the 15th death so I never picked it up again. Meanwhile, the Halo: Reach campaign was perhaps one of the better campaigns in the franchise; certainly better than ODSTs. While the story of Black Ops may have had some interesting conspiracy theories, the gameplay just didn't seem to hold up.
The two games also clearly differ in moment to moment gameplay design. Halo has much slower pace that allows them to get away with their 30fps nonsense. Halo has always been a more second by second strategy game than reaction time based twitch shooter like Call of Duty. There's nothing wrong with being a twitch shooter, it all depends on your tastes. In the end I think we all know they're both going to great games in their own ways. Making this decision is like making the decisions between chocolate and vanilla. Both great in their own ways. Sometimes it just depends on your mood.