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Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

Treyarch have done it again! The 9th Call of Duty has finally been released and I for one practically wrestled it off the postman the day it was delivered. The question is though, will Call of Duty; Black Ops II live up the standards of not only its’ eight predecessors, but the standards of its rival competitors such as Halo: Combat Evolved and Battlefield 3? I am a self-confessed PlayStation gamer so I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops II for PS3.

To start off I headed straight for ‘Campaign’, and instantly noticed to differences. The graphics have been undeniably improved, far more colourful and crisp, with returning characters looking almost lifelike as they guide you through an immersive and emotional storyline written by David Goyer, the co-director of The Dark Knight.  Unlike previous Call of Duties, the outcome of the new Campaign is determined by personal choices you make along the way, giving the game added realism. However, for those of you who care less about the narrative, and came here purely for epic single-player war play, you will not be disappointed. There are plenty of new missions, and plenty of opportunities to be in control, and, with the added bonus of the impressive new graphics and sound quality, it can definitely cause some ‘edge of your seat’ moments.  The most exciting difference I noticed, which also applies to Multi-Player, is the brand new ‘create-a-class’ layout. You can now choose a weapon plus perks at the start of a mission, according to which map or mood you are in. As I am possibly the worst sniper in the history of Call of Duty, I can now modify a DSR 50 or Ballista to get some much-needed practice in. I am usually a girl that gets my jollies off playing Multi-Player, but I am I became so involved in the energy and depth of the Campaign that I completed it in under two days, much to the disgust of my roommate.

Next I moved onto my old faithful, ‘Multi-Player’. This is a great starting point for newbies and people who are less confident with the game as you can engage in ‘combat training’ playing against enemy bots. There are three modes all designed to allow you to practice with-out the stress and pressure of playing against Call of Duty fanatics who had undoubtedly reached Prestige twice the same day the game was released. ‘Boot camp Mode’ allows you to play against enemy bots in a Team Deathmatch; the main aim of this is to practice your gun control. This is extremely helpful as there are several changes and attachments to the weapons you can now choose, and if you are anything like me and are not naturally good at anything, you will need a few practice attempts before being allowed into the public domain. The ‘Objectives Mode’ allows you to practice the different missions that are available on multi-player. This is always a good idea if you are new to Call of Duty as some of the missions can be confusing and hectic if you don’t have a clue what the objective is, resulting in you getting shot in aggression by your own teammates… Some gamers will be happy that old favourites such as ‘Kill Confirmed’, ‘Capture the Flag’, and ‘Search and Destroy’ are back, with a few new additions such as ‘Hard-Point’. The final mode is ‘Bot Stomp’ similar to ‘Boot Camp’ but no XP is awarded; it also gives you a chance to really brush up your skills before playing online.

Now you are ready to play against real people in the scary online world of multi-player. Even if you are one of the gamers that ‘race to prestige’ don’t forget to check out huge overhaul Treyarch have carried out for your enjoyment. Needless to say the increased quality of graphics and sound has drastically improved the game play, however the creators have gone the extra mile in trying to make the game as realistic as possible by heightening a players awareness, even down to tiny details such as hearing the footfall of your enemy. This has been accused, however, of being ‘unrealistic’ as footsteps and grenade pins are not heard in real warfare, as the sound of gunfire is too loud. However, gamers must remember, that this is just a game. I do have one small issue that I thought would be resolved by now, and that is the fact that all the guns practically sound the same when fired, which, if the creators were going for realism, is a pretty obvious oversight.

The biggest change that practically slaps you in the face as soon as you sign in is the previously mentioned ‘create-a-class’. I personally loved this change, as it allows you to choose a weapon and add modifications and perks adding to a total of 10, according to your personal choice. You can change the perks and attachments depending on your mood, your strengths, weaknesses, and choice of map or objective; it is entirely up to you. For example, on maps such as ‘Overflow’ and ‘Aftermath’ which are very graphically hectic and it is difficult to spot enemy players, you can now attach a target finder to your weapon of choice, allowing for much more precision. I now find myself having a full-blown break down when customising a class, which I am pretty sure, is not healthy.  This new create-a-class will undoubtedly allow players to become highly skilled and achieve kill- streaks that were not possible in the previous Call of Duty.

All in all most of the changes in multi-player are fantastic. The ability to now record or stream your game-play live to the internet has created an influx of wannabe YouTube gamers, and I am constantly in awe when I watch 12 year olds with the weapon ability of an SAS officer. The new maps are, as always, completely up to personal preference; I for one love a few of the new maps and dislike others, but I think that will be true for every Call of Duty that will be released. In terms of ‘replay-ability’, I think it scores pretty highly, as the new objectives, maps and class creation should keep it fresh and fun for a while. There are a few tweaks needed here and there but hopefully Treyarch will have that sorted by the next edition.

Last but by no means least, is everyone’s favourite, ‘Zombies’.  I personally don’t get on with Zombies, not because I’m a girl and it’s too gory or scary, but because I have terrible eyesight and find the graphics too dark so I am constantly getting eaten. However I donned my glasses and dove in for some un-dead action. It was clear to see straight away that the mechanics have been improved here too, with colours and textures definitively enhanced. Revolving around the centrepiece ‘TranZit’, gamers will be happy to hear there are still plenty of hidden Easter eggs waiting to be found in the four maps, as you take on the increasing difficult waves of flesh eaters, allowing you endless hours of gaming without getting bored. Most of the classic perks have been kept on but unlike the last Call of Duty ‘Zombies’, new players receive no new perks, and have to obtain their perks by ‘perma-perk’ challenges, which some players will find difficult. However, without too many spoilers, the new Zombies is a plethora of hidden surprises that could keep any gamer happy for hours on end, unlocking weapons, perks and areas. This edition feels less like an add-on to the game, and still holds its title as one of the gamers’ favourites.


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Battlefield 3

With the launch of Battlefield 4 imminent it seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect on what made the older brother so fun to hang around with. I first tried playing Battlefield 3 when it was back in the public beta stage; and I found it more frustrating than trying to eat custard with a fork. Despite this insta-judgement I persevered and quickly fell in love with its meaty sounding weapons and stunning graphics.  I guess I should also mention I found shooting other players fun as well.  Perhaps what made the game for me was how refreshing the game play was. Going back to the frustration I felt earlier, I gradually realized that nothing had rivaled Call of Duty for so long that I almost instinctively started running around, bunny hopping and hip firing until, in a sitting on the toilet epiphany kind of moment, I realized this was not Call of Duty and my whole style of play was completely misjudged.  Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy that franchise, but I am tired of the quick scoping and the constant disbelief that comes with it.  Perhaps I am getting old and ‘mature’ but I do prefer Battlefield 3‘s wine and cheese tasting to Call of Duty‘s Big Mac.

Of course I do not mean this literally (I still love you Big Mac’s!) but the game play feels much faster paced and furious without the need for perks or kill streaks. If you are sniped then instead of feeling teeth grinding, neighbour intimidating resentment, you feel impressed more than anything else since these snipers have to take into account bullet drop and distance.  The best word I can think of to describe my style of play is patient. Battlefield 3 teaches you to crouch or crawl your way to the nearest rock, fence or burning wreck to flank that one irritating machine gunner suppressing your team mates rather than run straight at them.  It teaches you this by the quick deaths, the suppression system and slow health regeneration without a med kit. The suppression system, more than anything, taught me to slow down and actually think about how to engage a target. If you are being fired at, which will be most of the time, the screen will go out of focus and if you return fire the shots will become increasingly inaccurate as you become more and more suppressed. Eventually of course you will start taking hits and die or find cover and the suppression will break. You quickly learn that good players will be able to suppress and kill you within seconds.

These good players will also be team players if you are lucky enough to have joined the right match. Most of the time you will be the unluckiest person in the world at that point. However, the emphasis on team play relies heavily on the different classes. Each class will have a unique set of weapons and lovely gadgets to tinker with and these classes are: Assault/Medic, Engineer, Heavy Machine gunner and Sniper. Working together, these different classes would form a formidable unit.  The Assault class can throw down med packs that quickly heal nearby soldiers and also revive teammates. The engineer can crack out a handy repair tool or-something which will have you in stitches for hours- go head to head with other players with an EOD robot depending on how helpful or aggressive players wish to be. The machine gunner can provide (you guessed it) heavy firepower or an ammo box to feed hungry guns. Finally, the Sniper can plant a radio beacon that can act as a mobile spawn point. While I do enjoy the class based system, unless you play with a small group of friends or some sort of clan, it can become tiresome after the medic in your squad simply ignores your dying corpse and decides to take on a tank with pistol for the hundredth time in a game, or the machine gunner chooses to not lay down ammo.

I choke back bitter feelings towards this anonymous player who, during a game repeatedly ignored the whole squads plea for ammo and who I personally blame for the loss of the game. Despite my bitter sentiment, the multiplayer is extraordinary in terms of quality and variety. The maps are vast, varied and interesting and become even more so depending on what type of game mode you wish to play. I could happily play them over and over until I keeled over. In some maps such as Tehran Highway or Seine Crossing, you have city environments. Others such as Bandar desert or Nebandan Flats are vast expanses peppered with small outposts perfects for long-range combat.

Either way you will need transport to get you from place to place and there is no better feeling than a group of you jumping out of a hovering transport chopper with all guns blazing to capture an objective.  The vehicles are just as varied as the maps and you will see plenty of vehicles storming across the maps. In a similar fashion to the weapon upgrades, vehicle upgrades can be unlocked by killing the enemy team, which will in turn improve the vehicle combat effectiveness. My personal favorite combination on a tank for example is to have a proximity scan to detect nearby infantry, infrared smoke to avoid lock-on from enemy missiles and a guided shell for extra firepower.

The campaign is where Battlefield 3 slips over and breaks itself into clichéd shrapnel of terrorists and an invasion of a middle eastern country where you destroy all and sunder while chasing said terrorist.  I would only play the campaign if I was really stuck for anything else to play or my Internet was down. It is visually impressive and the AI makes it a tough challenge but it is painfully obvious that the developers were more focused on designing the multiplayer aspect. And for that I am actually grateful.  I am somewhat surprised that the Co-op aspect was not expanded upon since it was a nice alternative to both the multiplayer and the campaign, even if after over 10 attempts at the finale I still couldn’t knife the big bad terrorist properly.

Battlefield 3, like its aging predecessors, is a true multiplayer game. It gives you a vast array of interesting weapons and vehicles to play with then hands you the vast maps to drive, fly and run around on.  What makes this game so appealing is its ability to make you appreciate every shot you fire. Whether it is a machine gun or a TV missile from a helicopter, every shot counts; and believe me you will feel incredibly smug with yourself when you kill someone with a TV missile. What is also special about Battlefield 3 is also its name. The game is exactly what is: a huge 64 player (on PC only. HA!) battlefield with small scale, large scale skirmish. The next time you play Battlefield 3 get to some place where you won’t get shot and just watch over the map. When you spend five minutes watching jets scream across the maps or two tank armies clash as AA fire streaks through the sky then you will understand why I will always love this game.


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