Sean has a few new XBox 360 game reviews on his site. Although he constantly argues that he’s not much of a reviewer, they sure smack of “review” to me, in that they’re well-written, insightful observations. So if you are interested in gaming or in picking up a 360, they’re required reading as he has a nice conversational style that gives good insight into whether or not you’d like blasting through these games.
One of the points he makes – particularly aimed at the first person shooter genre – is that for the most part, online play is no fun for guys like us who enjoy playing the games as they were designed to be played. That is, following the rules and actually engaging in some brand of “sportsmanship”. Game designers deck the online components of these games with various match types: most notably Deathmatch, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag or some variation. While straight out Deathmatch is as it implies, King of the Hill, Capture the Flag and other objective-based game types are designed for teamwork. There’s a palpable feeling of satisfaction when one finds themselves in those game types, allied with like-minded people who want to work together to accomplish a goal. Unfortunately, that feeling is fleeting as cyberspace is dotted with a rogue’s gallery of cheaters who just want to get their gun on and blast through the matches like whirling dervishes, ripping their teammates and the rules asunder as they bowl over everyone in their path under the cover of anonymity. The only thing that gives ’em away is the same generic “awwww dang” twang that every online avatar (besides me and my boys) seems to speak with. Did I miss something? Last I checked, we hadn’t shipped electricity South of the Mason Dixon line. How is it that every trailer trash mofo has wi-fi?
While PC gamers have dealt with this pox for a decade, Sean and I have only recently encountered the issue in the past few years, playing on Microsoft’s X-Box Live Network. X-Box Live is a great venue for online playing, easily trumping anything the PC has to offer. The interface is clean and easy, you can connect to a game in a matter of seconds and everyone has the same voice chat functionality. While the online PC gaming setup is very cumbersome (no unified voice chat feature, having to locate and hand out lengthy IP strings), they have remedied some of the problems we run into through applications like Punkbuster (which automatically boots modders and cheaters) and setting up dedicated servers for people that want to play these games pure. The grass is always greener, I guess…
What XBL needs is the ability to truly filter out the singing sophomores (those pre-teens that feel the need to warble Lose Yourself at the top of their lungs through an entire match), the spawn-killing n00b haters (who use words like pwned (read ‘owned’) to make themselves look kewl, and the racist bastards that like to use the anonymity of online play to label me a Insert Epiteph Here (if you’re gonna’ blast my heritage get it right beyotch, I’m a Canucklehead). They need to create a separate channel for people to sign into that is heavily moderated and allows for people who want to play together – to strategize – to really role play within these games. The online shooters have the ability to allow for some great strategic war plans – with a squad figuring out the right plan of attack and then executing it – with people stopping and waiting for their fellow man to perform some action that allows the others to proceed towards the objective – to revel in the love of a plan that comes together. Instead, we get every man for himself. We get guys jumping in Warthogs and splattering their fellow teammates and then jumping out and teabagging every last one of us, while we watch the countdown tick down in futility (meanwhile across the map, Alpha Team absconds with our flag for the nth straight time).
Part of the reason Sean and I are so high on getting others (with broadband connections) to grab the 360 is so we can form our own squad, and at the very least, realize this dream of real teamwork through the creation of our own squad of digital war buddies. I’m sick of hanging with strangers who are patting me on the back one moment and slapping me upside the head with a plasma sword the next.
As for Sean’s comments on Perfect Dark Zero – it was a decent game that suffered the unfortunate position of being the 360 launch title. Because it was a sci-fi shooter published by Microsoft, everyone expected Halo 3. That’s a big weight to shoulder. Taken on its own, its a decent enough shooter that kills some time, but doesn’t necessarily tattoo itself upon my psyche. The interesting thing is, this seems to be Perfect Dark’s lot in life, as the original N64 title was Rare’s highly anticipated follow-up to Goldeneye. Once again, that original couldn’t match up to the hype of Goldeneye (clearly the best movie based game of all time).
One thing about shooters, if they don’t tell a decent story, they really lose me. I know it’s supposed to be about the twitch action, but I find that gets monotonous if I don’t care about why I’m blasting away a billion Covenant.
Think about this, for all those fanboys that crowed on and on about Halo 2’s abrupt ending, was it due to the fact that they wanted another level to blast through or were they pissed to be left hanging. That game delivered its fair share of levels (and challenge if you started on Heroic like I did). I think everyone was so steamed because they wanted to know what happens next. That’s half the reason I get chills in watching that cool, new Halo 3 teaser.
If I want mindless twitch shooting, I’ll fire up Geometry Wars.