Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Ops 2 Multiplayer: The Beast I Love to Hate

I'm still playing it. I don't know why sometimes. That's a lie, I sure as hell know why. My stupid pavlovian response to not only seeing XP and Levels pop up on my screen but intermittently getting score streak rewards. But is it really worth it?

The multiplayer of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 is such a rollercoaster of enjoyment. I've never had a game give me such highs and such god-awful lows. I may be bad at the game but never have I had a game not just make me want to shut it off mid-game but also simultaneously depressed at the state of my Kill/Death Ratio. And what a silly thing to obsess over in these objective games. And yet I do. I think we all do.

Despite my frustration, I keep turning it back on thinking, "I'll do better this time". This time, I'll play more passive. This time I'll stick to parts of the map suitable for my gun. This time I know the maps better than before. These play sessions with renewed positivity leave me with limited success but still an undeniable idea in the back of my head that perhaps I'm just not having fun.

But how could that be? Call of Duty has, arguable, the best gunplay mechanics of any FPS ever created. I say that without any sort of sarcasm. From the buttery smooth 60 fps to the wonderful lag compensation...OK, maybe that lag compensation isn't really a plus. Aiming down your sights and shooting feels so good when it works in your favor. The perfection of it's gunplay is why the series has made billions for Activision.

I think the crux of the issue is that Call of Duty still incentivizes the player to work only for himself even with the pro-team incentives put in by Treyarch in this latest release. Going for the objective still does not give you more points for putting yourself in a precarious position than hiding in a corner and shooting people that are trying to accomplish the goal of the game. The risk just isn't worth it when those score streaks are so much easier to obtain when you just view the domination point as a general place to point the barrel of your gun to watch the ducks flock in. Bang, Bang, release the dogs. Alright, maybe that Duck Hunt reference was a little forced but it feels like that's what I'm playing when I'm doing well. In point of fact, you're actually a better benefit to your team by hiding in a corner and getting a kill streak score streak going than capturing a domination point and dying. Objectives, in practical gameplay, seem only to be in the game to funnel players into specific areas to increase the rate at which you can get score streaks.

The speed of the game is inherently so fast that you can't even buy your team time by trying to hold an objective and hoping they will come to help you. You will die nearly instantaneously from a grenade, C4 or bullets. And let's be real here, you're merely playing alongside your supposed teammates. There's not much teamwork tactics to be utilized and yet the majority of the game types are team based. Overall speed and rate of both movement and gunplay as well as your average time alive leads to even less time to be able to strategize or work together with your team for any potential objectives What's the point in trying to strategize with your teammates if you can get dead in about .2 seconds and wind up separated by the spawning system.

Further evidence of this fact can be seen by watching streamer's behavior on Twitch.TV. The best strategy for being at the top of the leaderboard and having a high kill death ratio, which seems to be the bar for success, is apparently going lone wolf all the time. Perhaps even letting all your teammates run into fire to find out where the enemies are hiding.

Often, kills are gotten with the other player having no opportunity to do anything about it. Either coming up behind you or lying in wait around a doorway or using a weapon (shotgun) where you are using an Assault Rifle and physically can't aim down sights as fast as the other guy. That other guy may not even NEED to aim down his sights. The constantly flipping spawns isn't just a necessity due to the claustrophobic maps but actually becomes a mechanic you need to be aware of unless you like getting shot in the back over and over. Even if you are able to flank the enemy you'll have someone coming up behind you in no time if the spawn hasn't changed, so there's really no escaping it.

I'm not sure how one goes about solving these problems from a game design standpoint; I can only see the results. Honestly, I'm not sure you can solve some of my gripes without turning Call of Duty into NOT-Call of Duty. Will I keep playing CODBLOPS2 with my friends: Sure. Despite all my whining, I will still submit myself all these annoyances if only to call in a hovering jet and laugh maniacally as I inflict the same kind of frustration on others that I hate myself.

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