Tag Archives: Call of Duty 4


Damn, it seems like it has been an eternity since my last update. I guess it has been almost a month already. I guess time flies when you’re not having much fun too.

First and foremost after finishing up with The Ballad of Gay Tony I started playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on my 360. I wanted to go ahead and start playing it right away to capitalize on the massive buzz surrounding its much lauded online multiplayer.

There goes the neighborhood...
“There goes the neighborhood…”

I played my share of Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer and liked it a lot. Modern Warfare 2 is more of the same, only now cranked up to 11. Of course adding more rewards, perks, unlocks, challenges, etc. does tend to change the game quite a bit despite the similarities and I’ve talked to a fair amount of players who prefer COD4’s less insane (and possibly more balanced) multiplayer to that of MW2. Still, MW2’s increased focus on rewards succeeds in achieving an almost MMO level of addictiveness that is hard not to appreciate. In fact I had a hard time convincing myself to play the single player while the multiplayer was there, calling out my name. It isn’t usually the most tactical or cooperative of online military shooter experiences but it is definitely a hell of a lot of fun and has become my go to “kill a few minutes” online game on console.

I did eventually finish up the single player campaign on “hardened” difficulty and unfortunately enjoyed it about as much as I enjoyed Call of Duty 4’s. Most of the observations I made in my write up of COD4 a few months back remain true in its sequel. It’s a highly polished experience but I’m just not a big fan of the whole “get funneled around the map while running and gunning through hordes of enemies” thing and would rather be granted the freedom to use some actual tactics to complete my objectives. I suppose the checkpoints are a little better this time around. There have also been claims that there are now always a finite number of enemies so you can never run into nigh impossible situations facing seemingly infinitely spawning enemies that you often could in previous COD games. While this may be true it is honestly hard to tell as the unpleasant, often controller-smashingly frustrating “meat grinder” sections of old are still alive and well here. If you don’t care about the additional achievement and this frustration doesn’t sound like your idea of fun then do yourself a favor and play it on one of the easier modes and for god’s sake stay the hell away from “veteran” difficulty.

Boom! One of the first of MW2's innumerable huge explosions.
“Boom! One of the first of MW2’s innumerable huge explosions.”

While I’m bitching the plot of this one makes the COD4’s story look like a classic war documentary or something. It’s completely over the top and full of weird plot holes. Games Rader has a pretty funny article about it. I really wonder what happened over at Infinity Ward to make them go from writing stories more or less based on real life WWII events to the bizarre shit they’ve given us in the last two COD games. It doesn’t bother me that much – it’s more amusing than anything. These stories at least give us plenty of opportunity to shoot stuff which I suppose is their primary purpose.

As a complete aside I’ve always liked the way Infinity Ward handles first person cinematics and the perspective in general. The spacewalk scene and the flare popping scene on Whiskey Hotel’s roof both come to mind from MW2. There are others as well. They might not always look accurate but they always look cool and feel fairly immersive. It’s too bad they never actually do anything with it by venturing outside of the usual FPS gameplay conventions.

This mission makes it disturbingly clear that someone at Infinity Ward hates waiting in line at the airport.
“This mission makes it disturbingly clear that someone at Infinity Ward hates waiting in line at the airport.”

Oh, before I move on let me reiterate a piece of advice that has been passed around a lot since it was first announced that Party Chat wouldn’t be supported in some of MW2’s game types. Its usefulness goes far beyond replacing Party chat though and finding it isn’t nearly as intuitive as it might sound.

How to mute everybody, all the time on Xbox Live: Hit your guide button. Scroll to the right to the “Settings” section. Select “Profile”, “Edit Profile”, and then select “Privacy Settings”. Select “Voice and Text” from the menu and change it to “Friends Only”.

This will make it so that you can ONLY hear people on your friends list in chat (and vice versa so you won’t be spamming public chat with weird half conversations.) It’ll also block that ever so pleasant after match hate mail you might get from time to time. It can allegedly have some odd effects in some games but for the most part muting all of the insufferable shitheads that plague Xbox Live is easily worth any negatives I can think up. I just wish it were a tad more accessible so that one could simply toggle it on and off for those moments when you might actually want to work together with your teammates and the like but I guess that might go against the spirit of everyone having voice on Xbox Live. *shrug*

Molgrun the Wary at level 7.
“Molgrun the Wary at level 7.”

On the PC front I really haven’t been playing much lately. I grabbed a copy of the collector’s edition of Lord of the Rings Online for dirt cheap and decided to check it out after not setting foot into (onto?) Middle Earth since beta. Other than the utterly ridiculous patching system I had to endure I had fun. I still contend that it is an excellent game but it definitely feels “slower” and a little bit less exciting than some of the other post-World of Warcraft MMOs out there. Actually, it very clearly feels to me like a good pre-WoW theme park style MMORPG that they’ve bolted on lots of WoW influenced features to, which I suppose is probably pretty accurate. That said like Turbine’s other current MMORPG offering, Dungeons & Dragons Online, I could easily see myself playing LOTRO if I had a regular, small group who I liked to run instances and the like with. I played my Dwarf Guardian for just 15 or so levels before I felt WoW itself calling me back.

It has been quite a while since I’ve really played WoW besides occasional romps with some low level characters some friends and I play but as I mentioned before I finally purchased the Wrath of the Lich King expansion recently and have now finally decided to start working my main character up to level 80. I’ve only been playing it very sporadically when the urge and/or boredom strikes and it has been working quite well for me so far. The new content is, for the time being, pretty fun (if not more of the same) and no matter how sick I get of it I always find it hard not to appreciate what Blizzard has done with WoW over the years. It still feels like the most complete, most polished, and best bang for your buck MMORPG out there.

Borderlands: not your kid's cartoon violence.
“Borderlands: not your kid’s cartoon violence.”

Speaking of MMORPGs Star Trek Online was a game that I was pretty hyped up for around this time last month but unfortunately due to waiting on some features and fixes I wanted patched in and the horrible stability of the game servers during the first few weeks after launch I really haven’t played much STO since it officially launched last month. I’m sure I’ll get back into it sooner or later but for the time being Cryptic kind of missed the boat on hooking me in.

Finally, back to the Xbox 360 I started playing Borderlands. I’d had my eye on Borderlands since first hearing about it but when it finally came out it just didn’t seem to equal the sum of its parts. Of course, next thing I knew peer reviews started rolling in and people loved it. When I heard how good co-op was in particular I knew I had to grab it to play through.

It is very much a traditional FPS combined with the quest, skill, and loot systems of an MMO. Actually, I’d probably equate the loot system with more loot centric games such as Diablo and its ilk. It sounds kind of disjointed and odd but it actually works well enough. The game definitely has some issues (which I’ll probably expand upon more in a later entry) but the combination of the random loot-a-thon treadmill and the furious combat is fun and very addictive. In fact I think I may need to cut this short and continue the hunt for more purples…

As usual my Xbox 360 screenshots were shamelessly swiped from elsewhere. The LOTRO one is mine though! 😉

Duty Called

As I speculated I would in my last Game Log post I did wind up playing the 360 version of Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare’s single player campaign although the results weren’t quite as great as I was hoping for.

COD4 is an excellent, highly polished game with great production value and developers who obviously know what they want out of the series. I, however, wouldn’t share their views on the direction the Call of Duty series has taken. I generally prefer slower, more tactical games – I preferred some of the more tactical multiplayer additions of United Offense to the original and I prefer playing Hardcore mode on Search & Destroy in COD4’s multiplayer (which I’ve played plenty on PC prior to this playthrough of the campaign) for instance.

That’s not really the issue though. There’s nothing too glaringly offensive about the way your character controls or the abilities you command over him. The fact that I sometimes have to expend half a magazine on an enemy to put him down or that my health somehow gets refilled after nearly dying doesn’t burn me up either. No, my biggest complaints about the game are about how the flow of the missions, including the checkpoint system, were handled.

It seemed like almost every level involved at least one point at which I’d get stuck in a seemingly endless loop of spawning, rushing off towards my objective, and eventually being killed by an overwhelming, infinitely spawning horde of enemies before managing to reach whatever magical location or predetermined time span triggered the next checkpoint. This was highly annoying as I often didn’t feel like I was playing bad, in fact there were times when I stayed alive for a long, long time and killed an unbelievable amount of enemies yet still didn’t make it to the right spot. No, it feels like the game’s attempts at hand-holding were fighting directly against the gaming instincts I’ve developed over many years of playing similar games. I’d much prefer a system where, even if there is a shit ton of them, there’s always a finite amount of enemies in an area. That alone would have gotten me around many of these areas.

Fact: Marines hate walls.
“Fact: Marines hate walls.”

A big part of the problem seems to be that you’re almost always being funneled from one spot to the next and stopping to waste some tangos isn’t necessarily one of your objectives unless you encounter a scripted section where that temporarily becomes the priority. There’s nothing wrong with that, I suppose. It is even fairly realistic. However there definitely were sections during which the game wasn’t clear about what I, as in the player rather than the character, was actually supposed to be doing – particularly whatever it would take to trigger the next checkpoint. Again, this caused some major frustration when it came to the sections where I kept dying due to overwhelming numbers of enemies before discovering the trigger.

I may have myself to blame a bit for playing on “hardened” difficulty as I hear normal and easy are quite a bit easier and won’t usually result in nearly as many of these road bumps. In fact I ran through some of the levels in easy after beating the campaign to grab some minor achievements I missed along the way and was amazed at how much better the levels seemed to flow. That being said I can’t imagine playing through the game on “veteran” difficulty if it is really as hard as I’ve heard.

Ultimately I suspect my preference to the open world style of tactical games has a lot to do with my feelings on Modern Warfare. In games like Operation Flashpoint, Ghost Recon, and the Rainbow Six games, you’re usually thrown into an environment, given an objective, and, to some extent, left to your own devices. Sure there can be scripted moments, but the most important scripting is that of the behavior of your enemies in how they react to whatever actions you might decide to perform. COD4 on the other hand attempts to be an extremely directed experience. There are probably differing reasons for why – from keeping the action and narrative moving at a steady pace to providing a more solid narrative that the player feels more a part of in general. In summary, they’re really different games with different priorities and goals.

All of that said the story was interesting, they did a good job mixing up the scenery for the most part, and the action was decently varied as well. As with most other people I’ve run across my favorite level is the AC-130 mission. It was pretty different and I’ve been intrigued by AC-130s since seeing them fly over my house from time to time as a kid, and besides… who doesn’t like to play god every now and then? I’m still very interested in Modern Warfare 2 and I suspect I’ll even play around in the online modes on Xbox Live a bit but I’m not nearly as hyped to play the campaign as I was before playing this.

Another successful, completely unnoticed assassination.
“Another successful, completely unnoticed assassination.”

Next I hit Assassin’s Creed up. Assassin’s Creed 2? Nope, the first one! I’m one of the seemingly few people who loved the first AC. Sure, it got repetitive – I don’t disagree with the critics there. However, I found the awesome setting, the feeling of being an assassin prowling the city streets looking for my next victim, the bizarre modern day Templar conspiracy plot, and even some of the mechanics to be compelling enough to take me all the way to the end of the game. I just got really into it.

Well, I’ve been hearing nothing but good things about the recently released Assassin’s Creed 2 and that lead me to reminisce a bit about the first game. I remembered that I had almost all of the achievements including most of the harder ones. I ended up pulling up my achievement list to verify that, actually, I only lacked 5 achievements and they were all relatively easy ones to get. Having never before “completed” a retail Xbox 360 game, getting a full 1000 achievement points, I decided to dust off the game and hop back into the Animus.

Although it took me a little while to remember some of the mechanics of the game I quickly remembered why I loved it so much. The engine still holds up brilliantly and stabbing guards in the face with my hidden blade never gets old. After running the rooftops of Acre one more time I’m even more stoked for AC2… and yes, I got my 1000/1000 achievement points!

Eat blue stuff, foul denizens of the deep! width=
“Eat blue stuff, foul denizens of the deep!”

Finally I picked up Runic Game’s much praised Torchlight. Torchlight is a Diablo clone put out by a combination of some of the original Blizzard guys who made the first two Diablo games, along with the guys who made Fate and Mythos. I loved Diablo 1 and 2 and can’t wait for the third game but I’ve had a hard time getting into many of its clones. Not for a lack of trying! My favorite is Titan Quest which I’ve mentioned in past Game Logs and still intend to finish sometime. Torchlight might just take that spot, however.

The game takes the one, extremely big, largely random dungeon and one town approach of Diablo 1 and adds in many of the refinements and additions of Diablo 2 and its successors along with a highly stylized and enjoyable, yet not too taxing (it’ll even run on netbooks!) graphical style similar to games like World of Warcraft and Dungeon Runners and adds in a more refined interface. Sure, there are some bugs here and there but the game feels quite polished, especially for being from a smaller studio and only costing 20 bones.

Crossing a bridge high above... 20 stories below ground?
“Crossing a bridge high above… 20 stories below ground?”

I suppose this says a lot about the guys who make up Runic Games – this Diablo style game is their bread and butter, it is what they’re good at and they’ve definitely proven that they still have what it takes. In fact one of the things that convinced me to get the game was a brilliant interview with Max Schaefer on Idle Thumbs in which he talked about the company and their approach of staying relatively small and attempting to exist in somewhat of a niche, being happy with making enough money to keep them all paid and in business rather than trying to develop the next mega-hit. That niche also allows them to make riskier games – the type of games that made PC gaming so special to many of us old bastards. Yes, they impressed the hell out of me. I’m even considering sending Runic my resume since I’m sure they’ll be doing some major hiring when they get ready to launch the Torchlight MMORPG. 😉

Dropping on to the Lost Planet

Oh shit, it’s game log time and I actually played some things this time!

As predicted my next 360 foray was Halo 3: ODST. ODST has pretty much been talked about to death lately on all of the gaming forums, blogs, podcasts, and the like so I won’t go into it too much. I played through it co-op via splitscreen on Heroic difficulty and enjoyed it quite a lot. It’s nice and short but well paced and a lot of fun. If you’re a Halo (particularly Halo 3) fan then this is a must buy despite the lack of the iconic Master Chief. I plan on going back and getting more of the achievements, including going after all of the audio logs, in a subsequent playthrough sometime soon. I also dabbled in the new Firefight mode a couple of times with some friends and, as predicted, enjoyed the hell out of it. There’s just something to be said for working together with friends in just about any game and the Gears of War 2 “Horde” mode template that everyone has been shamelessly copying lately really seems to nail a certain pure aspect of that.

Silenced pistols are the new black.
“Silenced pistols are the new black.”

Next up I decided to play Lost Planet: Extreme Condition on my 360. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it was the ever increasing nip in the air around here as we move into the fall that made me want to jump head first into Lost Planet’s abundant virtual snow banks… or maybe I just dig mechs? Who knows. I remember thinking the game looked cool since well before it was released but until the relatively recent announcement of its upcoming sequel I feel like it has been overshadowed by newer games. I’ve got a couple of friends who really dig the game though and one of them, NetworkShadow, even demoed it for a few of us at his place one day not too long ago. I really got into the idea of trudging through the beautiful snowy environments. The graphics might be fairly dated nowadays but people were blown away by them at launch and they’re just stylized enough to remain easy to appreciate even now.

E.D.N. III has some pest control troubles...
“E.D.N. III has some pest control troubles…”

I managed to beat the game in just a few sittings and although there were some tricky sections (including lots of old school set piece boss battles) I found the game to be fairly easy. In fact a lot of my difficulty came about from trying to collect the achievements for all of the “target mark” collectibles for which I had to replay a few sections, even a few entire levels to complete. The character’s movement and control felt slightly off to me (though admittedly I play relatively few 3rd person action games) but once I got used to the controls it all felt quite smooth and I was generally quite happy with it. I was a little disappointed by the last boss fight which hit on a pet peeve of mine – throwing entirely new game mechanics at you in the last level. I didn’t feel like Lost Planet’s case was as gross as a lot of other game’s and I once I got a good feel for it I could more or less tell what they were going for. Still, it was fairly annoying and I ended up having to replay it like 15 times before I finally managed to beat it.

Lost Planet is also one of those newer Capcom games that seems to heap on a large amount of Western influence for some mysterious reason I don’t suppose I care enough to speculate too much about – something about increased international sales or a bold new direction or something, I don’t know. Indeed the game reminds me a lot, the setting, graphics, control, and the core gameplay, of a lot of Western 3rd person shooters, however there is an unmistakable Japanese feel to the entire game. I’m not just talking about the often silly extended cutscenes but the game itself often feels like somewhat of a 3D take on an oldschool side scrolling shooter like Contra or something. It’s hard to explain but I’m sure some of you who have played it know where I’m coming from. Regarding those cutscenes though, I’ve got to say that not playing many Japanese games, particularly the cutscene heavy JRPG genre, I do find an occasional dip into the cesspools of insane Japanese cutscenes to be pretty refreshing.

What's better than mowing down aliens with a minigun? Mowing down aliens with two miniguns!
“What’s better than mowing down aliens with a minigun? Mowing down aliens with two miniguns!”

Next up for the 360 is Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. An interesting note, and one I remember mentioning once or twice on the old podcast, is that I’ve had Call of Duty 4 since right around the time it was first released. I had the PC version and only really bought it to play multiplayer with friends however. As a result I never even started up the single player campaign and somewhere in the back of my mind I had always figured I’d probably enjoy it more on the Xbox 360 and that the achievements wouldn’t hurt either. So, here I am, nearing the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and I’ve finally tracked down a decently priced used copy of the game for 360. I can’t wait! I’ve heard so much about the campaign and, who knows, I might even give multiplayer on Xbox Live a try while I’m at it since it’s such a blast.

On a non-console related note I also continue to play Half-life 2 from time to time – I’m about to start Episode 2 and wrap the game up. I’ll talk more about Half-life 2 in a separate post when I finally get around to finishing it.