Thoughts on the COD: WW2 Beta

‘Let’s go backwards to move forwards’- Someone at Activision sometime during development

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Over the past two weekends, the Call Of Duty: WW2 (Just incase you were unsure when the game was set) multiplayer beta has been available to those who pre-ordered the game on PS4 and Xbox One (one weekend only on Xbox). I was fortunate enough to obtain a code through a friend and put a good few hours into the game. Here are my thoughts.

The Maps

We were treated to five (I didn’t play the fifth because it was for the War mode only) maps in the beta. These were Pointe Du Hoc, a series of trenches and buildings set in France; Ardennes Forest, a winter forest map in France (who’d of thought it) ; Gibraltar, a military base in, you guessed it, Gibraltar and Aachen, a bombed German town. These maps varied in quality. For instance, Gibraltar spawns were rather one-sided and hardly switched. So, if you spawned there to begin with, it created an immediate disadvantage. Aachen’s lines of sight are another issue, the range on some of them created some of the slowest games since ghosts for me personally (although Sledgehammer Games have said they are looking at that map specifically). Lots of cover spots on all maps where only the head was visible (the kids call them head-glitches), so perhaps think about removing a few. Generally, the maps force you into tight spaces for close quarters combat so SMGs are the dominant guns to use on three of the four maps (SMGs are good on Aachen, but I’d use a rifle for those longer ranges). Most maps are three lanes with lots of flanking routes so the game does encourage you to move a lot.

The Guns

The guns, all things considered, were actually somewhat balanced. Sniping could be tweaked a smidge by perhaps making it a bit harder to hit Quick Scopes but that’s a minor issue that we can all deal with I think. I predominantly used the SMGs for most of my playtime but the rifles like the STG 44 and the M1 Garand are both useful and the shotguns are incredible at close range. The LMG’s are as you would expect, great at long distance and used by a specific type of player (*suppresses anger*) but due to the nature of both the speed of the game and the map layouts, LMG’s aren’t really viable.

The Scorestreaks

The scorestreaks available in the beta were all very good and usable except the mortar strike which was incredibly poor. The best available was the Glide Bomb (basically the predator missile from the Modern Warfare series) for me, due to its somewhat low score and lethal ability. The Molotov cocktails were, for the lowest streak on the game, surprisingly good if you were accurate with them. I feel the fighter pilot could either have a time boost or a damage boost as at times it felt a little weak to use. The other scorestreaks which included Paratroopers, AI controlled soldiers that were shit week 1 and pretty good week 2; Artillery which was an upgraded version the mortar strike; A Flamethrower; The Recon Plane (UAV) and Care Package.

Divisions and Create-A-Class

Divisions is the new specialist type system within the game. The player selects a ‘division’ from the five choices which are Infantry, Airborne, Mountain, Expeditionary and Armored. Each give you special rewards as you level each division up. For instance, Infantry level 2 allows you to take a third attachment for your weapons and Expeditionary level 2 allows you to take a piece of tactical and lethal equipment. Each division has 5 levels with each having a unique weapon unlocked at level 5 (the level cap was 4 in the beta for each division). The Create-a-Class system has regressed back to an older system. However, perks have changed completely. Instead of being able to select three perks for you character, COD WW2 has the ‘Ordinance’ system. This allows the player to choose one advantage such as being able to shoot while sprinting or reducing the score required for scorestreaks. Weapons are set to a maximum of 2 attachments unless you use the Infantry division as mentioned above. Players may only carry either a lethal or a tactical grenade unless you use the Expeditionary division. I personally don’t have issue with this class system but the ability to pick two types of ordinance would be a good balance for everyone.

Game Modes

The standard game modes like Team Deathmatch and Domination were in the beta, along with Hardpoint, a mosh pit game mode which was the previous three and eventually kill confirmed, and a brand new game mode called War. The premise of war is simple, complete a series of objectives to win the game. These range from pushing the enemy back by capturing a house to building a bridge for the tank to cross, to planting a bomb to destroy the ammo supply, to finally escorting a tank to destroy some anti-aircraft weapons, all while another team is attempting to stop you at each interval. War is a timed game mode and you both attack and defend.  From what I saw this mode was fairly balanced, but I didn’t play it myself.

Connection and Hit Registration

The connection, for me personally, was never an issue. However, that can not be said for everyone with some players claiming to have serious lag issues and bad dedicated server placement (i.e. the player is from the US and are being placed on a European server) . In terms of hit registration, the beta was a little hit and miss (I’m here all week). There were times that every shot went where it should and other times I might as well be shooting marshmallows at the enemy team.

Other Criticisms

The user interface was very clunky and difficult to navigate, having to move screens to see if my friends and I were in a party was an unnecessary inconvenience for. The end game cut-scenes were slow and tedious, also didn’t leave me any time to alter classes. Also, there was no clear way to view challenges which I thought was odd.

Final Word

The COD WW2 Beta was an all round solid showing, despite some teething problems which are easily fixed between now and November 3rd. There is a solid base for a great game and perhaps a ‘revival’ for the Call Of Duty series, which has been on the decline as of late.

Final score 3.8/5

 

 

Are Microtransactions in AAA games really a bad thing?

I’ll be going into hiding after this one.

Microtransactions have become a mainstay in the AAA games industry as of late. Despite major criticism from customers online, they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. Why is that? Why do the get so much Criticism? What could publishers do to reduce criticism? What is the future for them? Are they really as bad as we think?

Quick Note: I see microtransactions in a free to play game as fair game as long as the items available can be obtained without having to buy them. Those games have got to make money too.

Why do Microtransactions get so much criticism?

There are a number of reasons why microtransactions get more flak than Trump in California these days. The most obvious reason being the fact that, after already paying $60 for a game, publishers expect us to fork out more money to unlock any of the cool items in game like skins, camo’s, in-game items, guns, voice over packs and even Flag packs (Really Activision, Really?). The other issue is the ‘game-breaking’ nature of some. Take Fifa as an example, you spend your money on what is essentially a wheel spin to get maybe a half decent player you can either use or sell on the in-game market for coins to buy another player you wanted. Now, you can ‘grind’ to get the coins to buy these players by playing games, but if you did that, the next game would be out by the time you got near the coin amount of the top players on the game (The introduction of FUT Champs went halfway to solving this problem). Despite all of this, isn’t it a little bit stupid that what players you get is essentially a random spin of a wheel? The points to open these packs are’t cheap either. 12,000 of them will set you back a cool £80 (£72 with EA/ Origin Access), and odds are you won’t make that back in terms of coin value or players ‘packed’.

Why are Microtransactions not going anywhere?

The short answer is money. Games like Battlefield and Call Of Duty make far too much money out of them. Activision made over $1 billion dollars last year alone in microtransactions in Call Of Duty, Overwatch and World Of Warcraft. From a business standpoint, you’d be stupid not to implement them in your games. Now, I am using Activision as the scapegoat here, purely because as a COD player for many years, it’s easier for me to explain the point I’m trying to make. However, EA, Ubisoft and soon to be Bethesda (it’s paid mods and I won’t hear otherwise Pete Hines) are all guilty for this too. And for the most part, in the publisher’s eyes anyway, these things aren’t affecting the game anyway as most are just cosmetic items (seriously if you put game changing items behind a random paywall with no other way to obtain them then you really are a pile of shit).

How can publishers make the system better?

There is a few things publishers can do to make microtransactions better for there audience as more of a goodwill gesture to customers. Publishers could take a similar approach to Valve’s Counter Strike: Global Offensive, by making in-game items worth real life money. However, if you wanted to avoid that legal minefield, make it an in game fake currency which you can exchange for other items in game that were perhaps more sought after. Another approach is making all other DLC free like Halo 5 and the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront 2 (as previously mentioned in the Call of Duty Conundrum). This method also would keep more players interested as you aren’t splitting them into groups of have and have not. In an ideal world, both systems would be used but if I had to pick one it would be making all other DLC items free.

What’s the future?

Simply put, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Microtransactions make far too much money for any business to sacrifice for the sake of a few complaints. At what level they are integrated depends. I can’t see it going full free to play crappy mobile game but I see perhaps more detailed micro-transactions in future releases. I hope players can still grind and unlock these items without having to buy them.

And Finally…

Are Microtransactions all that bad?

In their current format, yes. But, with a few tweaks to the system and some general goodwill toward the consumer from the publishers, I think microtransactions can and will (s/o to Roman Reigns) be accepted by the majority of players worldwide.

 

 

 

Top 5 games releasing after June 26th I’m looking forward to playing

I promise this was planned and not a last minute decision

Ah yes, anyone who’s anyone in video games blogging/media has done at least one of these (unless they actually have ideas of course). 2017 looks like a good year for video games, so here are 5 games I’m looking forward to this year (or after June 26th at least).

Honourable Mentions:

South Park: The Fractured But Whole, Need For Speed: Payback, The Evil Within 2, Sea of Thieves and Far Cry 5.

5: Call of Duty: World War 2

Now, before some of you roll your eyes so far into the back of your own head you actually see your own brain cells, let me explain. While Call of Duty has been less than good as of late, after seeing gameplay and hearing the general response on social media, I’m excited about Call of Duty again for the first time in a while.

4: Assassin’s Creed: Origins

The two-year break that the series took seems to have paid off, as the new combat system, RPG elements and intrigue around the general location and setting has got me back on the hype train for Assassin’s Creed (I was never really off the hype train but at least this game actually looks good and not Assassin’s Creed 2.5).

3: Middle Earth: Shadow of War

Monolith’s second go around in the Lord of The Rings universe looks to build on the what made the first game a smash hit with fans and critics alike. With the developments to the nemesis system and the new story, I very much look forward to taking on Sauron’s army once again.

2: Super Mario: Odyssey

Psychotic cap aside, this game looks brilliant. The movement mechanics, the varying worlds an even the story make this new game very interesting. Mario has been a staple of Nintendo’s consoles longer than I have been alive and this new addition to the franchise looks excellent.

1: Wolfenstein: The New Colossus

This game deserves all the hype it gets, with the first one being the diamond in the pile of shit that was games in 2014. I expect it to be more of the same, excellent story and mechanics with characters people can be invested in. Also, who doesn’t love shooting Nazi’s in the face? (In video games of course, don’t actually shoot someone in their face, despite their backwards political nonsense).

All in all, it looks like whatever your tastes are when it comes to video games, it seems to be another good year. And yes, I’m aware 3 of my top 5 all release on the same day.

The Call of Duty Conundrum

COD’s not dead

Ah, Call of Duty, that totally non-divisive franchise that everyone loves and agrees on how it should progress as the games go on. Activision’s smash hit series, which is one of the biggest selling franchises of all time has had troubled times as of late. Or, at least troubled times for one of the biggest game series of all time. With Activision having to ship Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered with latest game Infinite Warfare to even persuade players to buy the game, its clear that there are problems that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Here are some of the problems I think the series has and how I think they can be fixed.

The first problem with Call of Duty has been temporarily solved at least, and that’s the setting. While not seeming that big of a deal to an outsider looking in, the recent time period settings for the past few games have been a serious issue for the community. Most fans seem to think that the future setting has been a step away from what made the game great in the first place and I’m inclined to agree (although my issues go a little deeper).

Solution: Well, with the next one being set in WW2, this isn’t as big a problem as it was. However, modern or previous combat settings for the foreseeable future please.

Classic maps will forever be remembered by long time fans. Whether it is Crash, Terminal, Nuketown, Firing Range or even Dome, there’s a reason these maps get remastered every few years. And if I’m honest, none of the maps on the last few games have been anywhere near as memorable as these ones. Activision is pushing that the next game goes back to the roots of what made COD great, so having maps that are both classic in feel and function is vital for the series going forward.

Solution: Look at what made those maps fundamentally great and place that in your chosen setting. Also, the COD community has to simmer its expectations, every COD has awful maps (Stonehaven we’re looking at you). You could just cheat and re-skin the classic maps, the community would complain but at least the maps would be good.

Gunplay is vital to the success any Call of Duty. If the guns don’t feel satisfying to use and have some impact, then payers tend to be less interested in the game. Then there’s the issue of weapon balance, and it usually goes one of two ways. They either patch or hotfix too often, or not at all. Every COD game has a weapon that’s overused to death, and when that’s patched another one comes along.

Solution: Developers need to find a middle ground to keep the game interesting, and preferably make other guns better instead of making the better guns worse, as the game doesn’t lose any of its fun factor.

Micro-transactions are a funny one, because they’re awful, anti-consumerist nonsense that we as a community seem to be letting Activision get away with. But, on the other hand, they make Activision incredible amounts of money, so they’d be stupid not to continually put them in each release. After all, games might be a medium of entertainment for us, but it’s also a business for Activision.

Solution: EA are approaching DLC in AAA shooter, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, in the way I feel is going to be the best compromise for both players and publishers. While the game will contain micro-transactions, all extra Maps, guns, vehicles etc. will be free. Also, the paid map pack method splits and fractures the player base. So, I think as a goodwill gesture to customers more than anything, Activision should copy EA’s method. In an ideal world, both games wouldn’t have micro-transactions but they are unfortunately here to stay.

YouTube is a wonderful thing. It has united communities in a way nobody thought to be possible. The COD community is no exception, even having its own Sub-communities. However, the feeling of finding that new gun and telling your mates about was part of the fun back in the day. Admittedly, this is an entirely personal gripe, but a gripe nonetheless. So, guys, cool it with the best class setups in the game videos please? (I am aware I can avoid these videos and this problem is solved, but I’m privileged and have an obligation to complain about stuff that is entirely avoidable).

Solution: Stop watching these videos.

Play styles are a big thing in COD, and while I can’t tell you how to play. If you get your kicks out of finding a dark corner and not moving, power to you. But, I will call you obscene names you probably aren’t in the heat of the moment and discuss imaginary encounters with your mother.

Solution: Camping will always be in COD, it always has, it’s about making the game in the favour of more mobile players. Campers already have an advantage and at its core, Call of Duty is an arcade shooter, so start moving you fools!

Considering everything, Call of Duty isn’t in a terrible state, but things could be a lot better and if changes aren’t made soon, the series could follow Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater to the Activision graveyard.

 

 

 

Thoughts On Sony’s 2017 E3 Press Conference

Year of Dreams 2.5

Sony has been dominating both the console market and E3 press events since the launch of the PS4 back in 2013. This year, with the bar set a decent, but beatable height, can Sony dominate yet again?

In what seemingly has become tradition at these press events, Sony let the games ‘sell themselves’ by having very little developer or publisher discussion on stage and just focusing on gameplay or trailers. Beginning with Naughty Dog’s Uncharted The Lost Legacy, a standalone adventure game which focuses on series characters Nadine and Chloe. A trailer showed more detail of the widely anticipated story at this point. The game will release on August 22nd on PS4 exclusively.

My Thoughts: I missed the original Uncharted Series, so this doesn’t really peak my interest, but fans of the beloved franchise will love it and based on the reputation of Naughty Dog, I expect it to be good.

While on the subject of DLC, Sony gave us a first look at smash hit, Horizon: Zero Dawn’s DLC, The Frozen Wilds. Aloy returns in search of more answers and it appears to focus on a mountain that appears to be crumbling. The DLC will launch later this year at some point.

My Thoughts: More Horizon is good.

We got another extended look at Days Gone, this time showing off the stealth elements within the game and a tiny peak into the narrative. No release date was confirmed but it is suspected to be out sometime this year.

My Thoughts: Zombie games generally don’t interest me, but this one has me intrigued. I don’t want to see anymore gameplay however, after two E3s with extended looks, Sony have shown enough. With Regards to the release date, my best guess would be late November or early December 2017.

We then got a couple of unexpected surprises in the form of Monster Hunter and a Shadow of the Colossus HD remake. Both games are set to launch in 2018 at some point. Also, Marvel vs. Capcom infinite got a brand new trailer and release date of September 19th, with a playable demo launching immediately.

My Thoughts: Monster Hunter looked cool and Shadow of the Colossus is perhaps a bigger deal than people are making out. And Marvel vs. Capcom looks interesting, if you are into fighting games.

Call Of Duty made its annual appearance this year (I’ll write about Call Of Duty as a series in another post) and revealed the multiplayer for this years iteration, which is going back in time to World War Two, a smart move if nothing else for Activision to make.

My Thoughts: Looks good, but it looks good every year so I’m not getting my hopes up (You won’t get me this time Activision). It’s a nice move for fans to go back after the future setting went down like raw chicken at a dinner party. No doubt it’ll have microtransactions though.

PS VR got a big mention at this years show, with several games announced, including Skyrim, a game that simply won’t die; Star Child, a sci-fi sidescroller; The Inpatient, a prequel to Until Dawn set in an asylum; Monster of the Deep, a Final Fantasy 15 fishing VR experience; Bravo Team, a co-op shooter by the developers of Until Dawn and Moss, a puzzle adventure game akin to Zelda.

My Thoughts: Seems VR is slowly becoming a valid gaming platform and not just a tech gimmick for people who wear trousers a little too tight for their own good. Skyrim, The Inpatient, Bravo Team and Moss all look great and really show VR’s strengths.

Announced earlier in the year by Bungie, some exclusive Destiny 2 content was show. This included a strike called Lake of Shadows, a PvP map called Retribution, exclusive armour and an exclusive exotic Sniper called the Borealis.

My Thoughts: It seems these are only timed exclusives, so this isn’t that big of a deal, so fans can rest easier knowing that they’ll get this content eventually.

We ended the show with three games that were previously announced, starting with God of War. Another trailer was shown, as we see Kratos, dad and worlds angriest Bowie tribute act take his son to a new location to fight more gods it would seem. God of War launches in early 2018 on the PS4. Then, a trailer was shown for Detroit: Become Human. Showing off more of the varied choices system within the game and more story information. Closing the show was Insomniac’s Spiderman game, which we saw extended gameplay of, and a look at one of the villains in-game. Spiderman will release sometime in 2018.

My Thoughts: All three games looked incredible, and I’d say because of pure intrigue, Detroit takes my game of the conference award (a prestigious one I know) but all three of these games are must buy in my honest opinion.

Overall, Sony definitely had the strongest conference of E3 so far, but definitely not as strong as previous years.