Archive for September, 2012


I normally don’t do posts like these, but in this case, it needs to be said. If you’re an avid Steam follower, you may have noticed that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is having another free weekend on Steam, where the entire multiplayer component is free to play from now ’til Monday morning. I’m gonna make a public service announcement about this: DO NOT BUY CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 3. At least, not on PC, anyhow. I don’t care if you play it through the free weekend, but do not add it to your Steam collection, your $30 is best spent elsewhere.

I should back up a bit. I’m not one of those pretentious jerkasses who bemoan that “Call of Duty is killing video gaming” while jerking off to the newest pixel art indie game that some person made in a week with the littlest of effort. (Okay, I’ll give an exception: McPixel looks pretty awesome.) In fact, until a few years ago, I was a Call of Duty nut. I owned practically every game in the series. I played the multiplayer a lot — perhaps not as much as the maximum level Prestige 10 level 70 players, but enough to have a blast playing it — and enjoyed the campaigns of each. Hell, I even made this dumb video when Modern Warfare 2 came out, which I sat in a mall GameStop after college classes to get:

Man, I was so excited for this back then.

But when I played Modern Warfare 2, I came to a realization. It wasn’t as great as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was. Treyarch’s World at War was better. The story made no god damn sense. It was more on explosive set pieces. The multiplayer was not very well balanced and prone to bizarre bugs like the “Javelin glitch” — where you could prime a Semtex grenade, cancel it by switching to the javelin, and cause a massive explosion when you died — and even accidentally joining hacked lobbies of 16-player Rust where the only winning outcome was the game-winning Tactical Nuke. Coupled with the heavy balance issues, meant that Infinity Ward didn’t seem to care as much as they did. Then that thing happened in 2010 where about half the team left, and then it all makes sense. That was when I started losing interest in Call of Duty: I didn’t pick up Black Ops until earlier this year, and I still don’t own Modern Warfare 3. After replaying the multiplayer again — this is the third “free weekend” the game has had since launch — I realized why.

I loved Black Ops mechanics on how it handled multiplayer: You had to buy guns with in-game credits, which you’d get for completing objectives, contracts and generally during play. You could customize the ever-loving hell out of everything, from gun skins to your in-game emblem. You could dive to prone. It just feels better. Modern Warfare 3‘s answer to that? “Screw all that, let’s keep what was in Modern Warfare 2 except with MORE RIDICULOUSNESS AND EXPLOSIONS!” Terry Crews would be proud.

While there are a few new things, such as the small skirmish Face-Off mode and Kill Confirmed — grabbing tags off of dead players — it’s the same multiplayer stuff that’s been in past games. This time the maximum level goes from 70 in Modern Warfare 2 to 80, and now has a whopping 20 prestige levels! Wow! There’s new guns, new killstreaks, the whole nine yards. Just what you expect from a Call of Duty multiplayer experience. There’s a big problem, though: Much like Modern Warfare 2 had balance issues, MW3 has those same problems. Wanna kick ass and take names easily? Once you acquire the FMG9 machine pistol in multiplayer, equip it on a loadout. Level it up ’til you unlock the akimbo attachment. Combine it with Steady Aim and you have a bullet-spewing death machine. If you wanna slog further through the experience system, add an MP7 as your primary weapon to further annoy your enemies. Granted, they eventually balanced them… on the 360 and PS3. That’s right, Modern Warfare 3 never got those hotfixes on the PC, meaning these guns are still broken like they were at launch. Not surprising that I saw dozens of players use that.

It gets worse: It uses matchmaking instead of dedicated servers, uses host migration, has no mod or custom map support, and if you wanna play the goofy special modes like Gun Game, you need to go to an unranked server browser to play them, for no XP or rewards whatsoever. Coupled with the awful networking code — when I played this back, it gave my NAT level as “poor” when it’s usually excellent in every other game I’ve played that wasn’t a Call of Duty game — and the abundance of hackers with no way to report them, makes it feel like they phoned this port in.

Compare to the experience I briefly had playing Call of Duty: Black Ops on a different Steam free weekend: Server browser, dedicated servers, no host migration BS, a “report player” feature and all the customization features as its console brethren. Granted, the PC Black Ops felt chuggy compared to MW2/MW3, but my PC is old as dirt anyhow.

I can’t vouch if the console versions of Modern Warfare 3 are any better, but if it’s any indication, it’s probably the same stuff as it is here. In fact, it feels like Modern Warfare 2 with more stuff. It’s more than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, it’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 Plus! (Hooray for obscure game show references.)

Expect something less full of bile in the coming days.

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As I sit here in a Seattle hotel room, day one of PAX Prime 2012 has ended and day two will start pretty soon. While I met some people, got some swag to shove into my suitcase, and got to enjoy a few panels like the PAX Game Show Night, there was another video game event happening around the same time. Square Enix decided to celebrate Final Fantasy‘s 25th anniversary with a small event about a block or two away away from the Washington State Trade and Convention Center, which is the central PAX Hub. Unlike PAX which required a badge, attendance was free in this one. So I met with a few local Washington friends and high-tailed it to the event at the ACT Theatre.

Disclaimer: My experience with Final Fantasy is pretty much little to nil. Platformers and first-person shooters have always been my jam, so my JRPG experience is pretty limited to about a few games, which include Chrono TriggerKingdom Hearts and a few Pokemon games. I did play part of Final Fantasy VI on an emulator ten years ago, but I don’t think that counts. Despite my inexperience with the famous Square franchise, I had to go check it out.

First of all, the event was in a tiny room that’s used for small private concerts or something, as it was packed the whole time we were there. It was a celebration of Final Fantasy alright, as all the mainline titles were playable on the main stage. None of the Final Fantasy spinoff games were there, just the main 13 games plus Final Fantasy XIII-2 which came out recently. Sorry, Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles fans. All six of you.

The other gimmick was that each of the games were squared off into a small space that resembled a living room from the era, complete with CRT TVs everywhere. Now, you’re probably asking, “Wait, we didn’t officially get Final Fantasy II, III and V until they came out much later!” Well, I’m gonna blow your mind: They were playable. They were the original versions released for the Famicom and Super Famicom respectively. This was an absolute treat, in spite of the small venue. Here’s a picture of FFII just to prove it.

At one point some of the TVs glitched out and some of the older NES and Famicom games weren’t completely working, resulting in my friend to yell to “Blow the cartridge!” Even in 2012 that’s still suggested as a way to fix busted NES games. Alas, FFII, III and V were in their original Japanese, so I didn’t attempt playing them. I’m surprised they didn’t contact the guy who was selling the Final Fantasy II US Prototype recently, that would’ve been an interesting item at the show.

While this was going on, we had music blared by a couple of DJs while we roaming around looking at the PS1 and PS2 era Final Fantasy games. This DJ sucked, mainly because he was just some dude blaring dubstep and Pac-Man techno remixes (Wrong publisher, buddy!). Honestly me and others would’ve preferred to just hear a sampling of the many tunes throughout the series, but there probably would’ve been a massive well of tears once Aria di Mezzo Carattere came on, so I guess I’ll settle with the awful dubstep instead. Thankfully those who would rather hear the game had headphones available to put on in every station, which probably makes the experience all the better.

Also featured there was a tech demo for the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV. While I’m skeptical of its statement of being “real time footage”  — this is Square-Enix after all, king of FMVs — It looked pretty nice and I hope we get to see it in an upcoming game in the near future. One other observation: Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 were played on Xbox 360s as opposed to the PlayStation 3, which is weird considering Square-Enix’s heritage.

The last things at the tiny event were little table games like “Moogle Hop” and Cactuar Ring Toss. Alas, the line to get into them was too long and probably not worth it for the prizes. After that, we high-tailed it out of there, with my friends grabbing a 25th Anniversary poster designed by original Final Fantasy character designer Yoshitaka Amano featuring all the main characters drawn. Most of them look pretty effeminate but it’s better than Tetsuya “belts, zippers and Gackt lookalikes everywhere” Nomura, so it’s a nice touch. The same design was also on all the cards advertising the event, so I’m not saddened that I didn’t get the poster. Besides, it probably would’ve gone in the same place my Kevin Butler PlayStation Move poster and my GFW Radio poster are: Rolled up in my bedroom, waiting to be sold or thrown away.

I will say that despite the tiny-ass venue, Square Enix did a fine job with this event. For diehard Final Fantasy players, it was likely a treat to play Final Fantasy III on an actual Famicom rather than emulators or the DS port, and there was stuff for the average congoer anyhow. Maybe I need to pick up one of these games and start playing them already, I’ve had enough time to get them…

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