14 November 2009

Call of Duty and Gaming Links, 14 November 2009

Suggestions for Modern Warfare 3

   Since I finished the single player campaign for Modern Warfare 2, I've been giving some thought to what future iterations of the game should have to improve the overall experience. Gauging difficulty in a game is, well, difficult. The experience is totally subjective. Some parts which frustrate one player another player breezes through.
   The Call of Duty series, like most videogames, has utilized a player-selected difficulty menu. You pick the difficulty level which reflects your skill and desired level of challenge. Alas, this doesn't always work well due to level design. Playing Call of Duty over the years, usually on Recruit difficulty (and let me preemptively cut off any exhortations to "get skilz" with a hearty STFU), there have been some levels which still have been difficult for me to get through. This week, I found myself stuck on the last level of Modern Warfare 2 due to my inability to navigate from point A to point B on the map. It was a sheer skill gap I was unwilling to bridge with multiple retries so I could memorize where the enemy would be along the route, where an RPG would suddenly spatter blood all over your safety goggles, or where a helicopter would strafe your ass into Swiss cheese. It was as if the difficulty were suddenly ratcheted up several notches, something CoD games seem to do always at a point where I'm wounded or running low on both ammo and patience. So, for the last mission, literally a few minutes from the end of the game, I turned the difficulty setting down and moved on to the game's (anti)climax. Instead of a canned difficulty level, the folks at Infinity Ward and Treyarch might want to license the AI Director mechanic from Valve's Left 4 Dead series. It's an AI presence which monitors player performance on a selected difficulty. Depending on whether you're giving or getting an ass-kicking, ammo, weapons, enemies, and health items spawn accordingly.

   One of the criticisms of the entire Call of Duty series is it's repetitiousness, both in level design and in enemy spawns. The enemies always spawn in the same spot. Now, you might say that's actually a feature, since the last few CoD games have featured completing scripted levels for score and/or time, so making the enemies spawn randomly doesn't apply. I say, bollocks to that, at least in the single player campaign. Valve introduced another gameplay innovation in Left 4 Dead: Enemies don't spawn in the same place every time. Play a level another time, and the infected are in different places. Kill the Witch down that hallway the last time? She's somewhere else now. I'd be more likely to replay CoD SP if it featured that level of variety.

   Finally, Call of Duty needs to move away from the "get that [fill in the blank] and destroy the [fill in the blank]" mechanic. For me, frankly, running around to find a bazooka, Panzerfaust, or Stinger while catching bullets in my ass isn't my idea of a good time. And that's especially true if, once I get the item and use it, I wind up having to run the bullet-and-grenade gauntlet again to reload the damn thing. On to the links:
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