on November 10, 2009
I've gotta echo many of the reviews here. Infinity Ward really dropped the ball here. I only wish I had come on here earlier today before I dropped $60 on this package. When there's a big hype for a game, you sort of expect the game not to live up to expectations, but this time around, it was almost as if the the developers purposed to fall far short.
Single player is pretty nice. The graphics and soundtrack are really top-of-the-line.
But 98% of the game time people look for in Call of Duty is the multi-player. The multiplayer game itself is just as stellar as past iterations of the series. IW again set the bar high on this. To summarize some of the changes, each class now has several new options. First is your primary weapon, as per usual. Second is your secondary weapon. This can be machine pistols of various sorts, handguns, shotguns, or launchers. I love this change, as it rearranges some of the old choices into means that make more sense. (Primary among these is that I no longer have to choose shotgun as my primary weapon!)
Now also, instead of grenades, you can opt for other equipment, such as throwing knives. An interesting twist, though I'm not sure how much I'll use these other options. One upside that I've noticed so far, however, is there are far few random grenades being bandied about.
Finally, there's the new perk system, which is a great improvement over the old system, as good as it was. There are new perks, tweaks to old perks, and some of the old perks are removed. In addition, the perk categories have all been rearranged in a more balanced manner. For example, 'Sleight of Hand' is now a blue perk, instead of a red one.
Additionally, there is the 'death streak' perk. The old overpowered perks (e.g., martyr) have been moved to this category. These perks are activated if you hit a certain death streak, in order to give you a slight advantage and get you a kill or two. So if Last Stand is your death streak perk, if you die four times in a row without getting a kill, the perk will be active for you until you get a kill. This nicely keeps some of those perks around, while keeping the game balanced, fun, and un-annoying.
Finally, you get to choose your own kill streak bonuses. Rather than the default UAV, Airstrike, Helo of COD4, there are a dozen or so bonuses that you can unlock and activate. If you don't like UAV, you can replace it with another similarly powered bonus, such as the new radar jammer. And the new kill streak bonuses are really fun to play with. Most are more interactive than the fire-and-forget bonuses of COD4.
Now the bad news...
Infinity Ward has completely stripped the multiplayer game of the usual client/server paradigm. Basically, what this means is you pick the game mode you want to play (e.g., Team Deathmatch) and you'll be automatched into a room with up to 18 players. Two obvious downsides to this: you don't get to pick which room you join, nor will you ever play more populated games, like 16-on-16 or larger. Clans are all but dead now. And you can forget about having a 'regular' server where can always join up with familiar players. Additionally, even the most minor tweaks that you could make on dedicated servers (e.g., disabling unpopular maps or hosting a single map 24/7) are not available.
Yes, I should mention that you can form up a team before the automatch, to ensure that you and your friends are in the same room, but this is no substitute. For one, it requires a great deal more effort to invite all your friends to the same team each time. But it also requires being actual 'friends' with someone, such that they would accept an invitation. My experience with online play of the COD series, was that I would have a large number of players who I would know, who would know me, who I'd see from time to time on certain servers, and who I know I'd always get a good game with. But this new game has been completely divested of this community feel.
The fact that these things have changed are enough to turn me off. But they have widespread effects on the multiplayer experience, as well. Because of the mandatory smaller room sizes, the game becomes more of a game of cat and mouse, where the person who can sneak around off the radar and knife people becomes the dominant player. Sorry, but that's not why I play COD. Because there's not a critical mass of players on the map, it's nearly impossible to monitor all the approaches and flanks. And gone are the days when there was a definite 'front line', so that you didn't have to check your rear every 2 seconds.
I never considered myself someone who valued dedicated servers. For example, I was never one who played mods all that much, if ever. But having actually played the new matching system, I must say, I greatly prefer the client/server system. I understand what the 'whining' is all about, even if I disagree with the whining itself.
All in all, the multiplayer aspect has great potential. I love all of the changes they've made to the multiplayer game: the new class customizations are really an improvement upon previous iterations. But until Infinity Ward fixes these problematic aspects of the PC online multi-player experience, I'll probably go back to playing other FPS games. I just don't find 9-on-9 games all that exciting. It's too bad that I paid $60 for this...