Thursday, December 10, 2009

Somewhat Modern Warfare 2

A lot has been said about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. I mean a lot. And most of it comes from editors required to spit out an opinion, or from people whose game-playing experiences are (surprise!) pretty much only their experiences and no one else's. This (as is usually the case) means that a large demographic of people are listening to a very small demographic of people in order to formulate an opinion on a playing experience they have yet to...well, experience. Allow me to thus add fuel to the fire in one way or another, and give my sweeping opinion on the MW2 scene.

Is the game good? You bet. There, now that that's out of the way I can move on. Oh, you want me to elaborate? Fine...

If you played Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, then you pretty much completely understand everything that there is to understand about MW2. MW2 takes all of the ideas that were initially established in CoD4, expands upon them, elaborates them, makes them prettier, and then gives them back to you for $60 more of your money. Is that worth it to you? I wouldn't say it was worth it to me, but my 48+ hours of playtime so far would beg to differ.

The graphics are better, which is a given. The multiplayer has more game modes and options, which is a given. There are more guns, which is a given. And the single player is way more out there with oodles more "offensive" material, which, again, is a given. This game is the definition of a sequel. It stays within its predefined skeletal structure, but adds a lot more meat to those bones. So, now that we have managed to cover exactly what all other reviews have covered within two paragraphs (ha!), let's move on to where everyone's panties are in bunches. Bunches in people's crotches. Uncomfortable bunches.


Anyways, the multiplayer. If you've played the Xbox 360 version of this game, ignore everything I'm about to type, because your multiplayer experience is the same as Halo 3, CoD4, and probably a zillion other 360 multiplayer shooters out there. You pay your $50/yr for decent multiplayer service, and that's what you get.

But us PC players who like to play their shooters the real way (read: keyboard and mouse) kind of really have the shit end of the stick a little bit. But here's the thing...for about a week before buying this game I read...and read...and read about all the problems this game has with multiplayer. Forum posts, reddit comments, editorials, you name it, all blasting the multiplayer for the PC. Saying that it's ruining PC gaming...that this is just the start. That after Activision sees the revenue from this game on the PC, they'll understand that PC gamers just don't give two shits about their online experiences anymore, and games will now be just as "broken." Yet I bought it anyway like everyone else.

But is it really that broken? In a word: no.

Now, now. Don't get me wrong, I think that the system they have implemented is full of problems, and those problems are fairly consistent. But no where near the nightmare that everyone was lead to believe (or at least the one that I was lead to believe). Here's where the problem started: no dedicated servers. Infinity Ward (the developers) decided that, for some reason, PCs should now become Xbox 360's and no longer give you a list of servers to choose from. Thus they implemented a system that chooses a host at the start of every game, and that host (a player IN that game) then becomes essentially a temporary server for that game (and maybe the next, and the next). That might sound okay in theory, but if for some reason the game chooses that one guy on the planet that still uses fucking dial up, or that other dude playing in the most north eastern tip of the US, or that little kid who's trying to play this game on his mom's 5-year-old Dell Inspiron desktop, everyone is pretty much screwed.

Dedicated servers were/are a benefit because they have excellent internet connections. They are localized, too, to an extent. So if you're on the east coast, there's a good chance you can find a dedicated server that's on the east coast, too, and you've got yourself some smooth sailing ahead. Or, if you're playing with friends across the country, you can all find a server that's in-between everyone, and everyone can have decent connections. It was simple to navigate, and a system that's been around for a very long time. And if you all found a server you liked, you could just add it to a list of favorites, and sleep easy knowing that when you woke up at 2 in the afternoon to start your next 14-hour long gaming session you had a safe, happy place to go.

Also, dedicated servers have admins. Admins can ban people...people who cheat, or, as I like to call them, people who like to fuck cacti for pleasure. These cacti fuckers are always a problem in games...but if you played on a decent dedicated server with a decent community, there was a good chance there'd always be an admin in the server to ban these people.

But alas, all of this is gone in MW2. So, in theory, you would expect games to be slower than the slowest shit on the roughest ground that's as flat a paraplegic's ass. You'd also expect everyone to be fucking cacti because on the internet, everyone is a total, total asshole. But you know what? That isn't true.

The game's hit detection (when the game determines you hit someone with your bullet/knife and where) is local, meaning on your computer. So, unless the game connection is terrible, things are pretty smooth. I've played a good deal of games with easily over 140 ping and been fine. How often are game connections really, really bad? Not often. In those 48+ hours I've spent with the game online, I'd probably say a really shitty connection has happened maybe 20-30 times. That's less than 2% of the time. I can live with that.

If the game's host leaves, the game picks a new one. This means the game pauses for at most 20 seconds (though usually around 10), and then goes right back to where it was. I haven't seen a problem with this yet, though I'm positive that problems can easily come to fruition (someone leaves, the game picks a new host, that person leaves, game picks a new host that has a shitty computer, etc.).

But the cactus fuckers are legitimately the most irritating and prevalent annoyance. There are hackers...lots of them. And because of this, everyone showing any amount of skill raises suspicion. You're almost guaranteed to come across either a wall-hacker (someone using a hack to allow them to see through walls, and thus enemy positions) or an aim botter (someone using a hack that automatically aims--and sometimes fires--their gun at enemies' heads) at least once per play session. And because there are no admins, these people often do not get banned. I say "often" because technically the game uses Steam's "VAC" system to weed out hackers...but how reliable VAC is and how soon after a detected hack it bans an account is unknown. I'd say it isn't too great a system.

What does this all boil down to, then? Well, the game is great...the multiplayer is fun to play, but there are problems surrounding that experience. Is the game as broken as everyone has been complaining? No. It just isn't. Infinity Ward's match making system allows for quick-starting games that you can easily set up with friends, assuring full games every time paired with a good variety of gameplay modes (most of which were already there in CoD4, but whatever). That really isn't a bad thing. Want to play Headquarters Pro? You'll be in a game in server hunting required. Not that "server hunting" was any bit of a difficult process to begin with, but...a positive is still a positive.

Besides, if you want to play the new CoD on a PC, you don't have much of a choice, do you? I bought the game because I have friends to play with, and I like to have fun with cool people (you do want to be cool, too, don't you?). If you're all by yourself, then maybe this game isn't for you. Or maybe you should look into fucking a cactus.

I do think that this is ultimately a step in the wrong direction for PC games, though. If I wanted to play a console game, I'd buy a console game. This game feels the same (it even has the same price), but with a different control scheme. Infinity Ward, it seems, was lazy. They could have easily implemented the same server system in CoD4, but also allowed the quickplay party system that's in the game now, if they wanted to. It wouldn't have been difficult, especially considering that it's fairly obvious that they just imported a dumbed-down version of Xbox Live's matchmaking system to the PC. This new system is geared to dickhead hackers and frustrating lag issues that honestly shouldn't be there--whether or not they're really prevalent isn't the issue...they should not be there in the first place.

So, that's what I think. And yeah, it's just another opinion to add to the heaping pile of them that already exists, but I think it's been long enough and I've played the game enough to have formulated what I've written...maybe moreso than some of those day-1 reviews. Oh, and even in games where there are multiple cacti-fuckers, I still usually win. So, either the people using the hacks suck (which is why they are using them), or it doesn't really matter that much. I'm going with both.

Till next time.