Thursday, May 31, 2012

Multiplayer Madness: Mas Effect 3, Call of Duty, Black Ops, and Gears of War 3

Spoiler Alert! ME3 discussion ahead (but no ending stuff yet)

Mass Effect 3 at 22 hours in plus several hours of multi-player time has left me with some head-scratching issues. I'm looking forward to getting to the end and finally seeing what all the brou-haha is about because right now this game is excellent, delivering some deep closure and interesting tales about the many personalities surrounding Commander Thera Shepard (my femshep), from finding out her only potential love interest Jacob was involved with another woman and she missed the boat to seeing the tragic fate of Mordin Solis and good old Thane. Very sad Thane, lemme tell ya.

At this point in the game I've learned about poor Thane and Mordin, reunited briefly with Jacob, seen an inspiring tale on Jack, gotten Kaiden back, Garrus of course, Miranda (bitch), and am now on the Quarian quests with Tali. I am getting all sorts of closure, and my storyline is distinct to my pre-ME3 choices, especially with interesting bits like the fact that in my storyline poor Kasumi died fighting the Collectors, and Ashley bought it back in ME1. I am wondering what sort of content a person experiences in ME3 if they did not survive with the bulk of their crew intact through ME2....I only lost Kasumi (because it just didn't feel right not to lose someone) but if someone had lost several characters.....even key characters such as Tali and Garrus....hmmm. That would be a shorter game, I imagine.

But a key element I've heard about the complaints on the ending are that there's no wrap-up or closure. I don't know (yet) what these people are talking about, having tried to avoid spoilers compliments of the bizarre outraged fans who are so vocal about the "ending." So I have to assume that it must go south toward the end or something. We shall see. Honestly, I'm expecting to get to the end and see a really "bad" ending in the sense that something horrible happens.....but remember, I absolutely LOVED how my poor character had to sacrifice herself at the end of Dragon Age: Origins. I am not someone who decries tragedy. Now, if the tragedy was senseless (like a bad horror movie) I could imagine some outrage. We'll see, I guess. Shouldn't be too much longer.

Anyway, I've started to finally "get" the multi-player approach in ME3 even though I think 10 wave rounds is ridiculously time consuming for online matches, and it means I can only engage in such when Marcus is occupied with mom or napping/asleep because you can't pause a MP event without dying and irritating your allies. Also, their "pack rewards" you can buy with in game curency or microsoft gold are kind of fun, like card boosters. But you get so much XP and gold for a single successful 10-wave mission spending real money to buy them seems silly.

So far the ME3 multiplayer is lacking a few key elements that I am happy to note the Call of Duty and Black Ops franchises have gotten right: specifically offering a form of single-player which works. I've really enjoyed Black Ops for the better part of a year and a half now because I can sit down and play a mode with bots in the "practice mode" that feels almost like the real thing (except the bots often act more normal, like "in game" characters instead of teenagers and man-children hopped up on cheetos and po rocks....except for the occasional odd moment when they get stuck on terrain or something. The bots, not the teens and man-children, I mean!)

Call of Duty 2 introduced Covert Ops missions which while fun were just vignettes of what we already had in the single player experience. Call of Duty 3, however, introduced a survival mode and much better black ops (are they black ops? Covert ops? hmm memory faulty) which are actually fun to play and often go beyond aping what we played in the single player campaign (which remains as delusionally fun a mess as always).

The survival mode, however, is a lot of fun either solo or co-op. The solo mode is a "survive continuing waves of attackers" that I think stops after 10, but don't quote me on that because I can't remember if I lived through wave ten last time or died on it. But it's got all the cool level up mechanics and perks, and as you advance it even lets you "buy" or hire special ops teams of bots to come to your aid.....neat features. It's something that feels kind "meh" the first couple times, but then it starts to steamroll, perks start unlocking, new maps start to unlock, and pretty soon its just as compelling as the practice mode in Black Ops, with the added perk that dropping the game when baby wakes up doesn't have to instill rage in any living allies.

All of these games, though, are still not quite as cool as Epic's Gears of War 3. I'm on break from GoW3 because I frankly played a lot of it....and it's not something I can play with Marcus awake either, as its one of the few games he doesn't like; he clearly gets agitated at the noises from the game, no surprise there; in contrast, he all but passes out to the smooth space music of Mass Effect. So GoW3 is definitely a "when baby is asleep and dad has time" game for me. But Epic knows how to make these games, including an excellent range of multi-player events you can populate with bots, and bots can even fill out incomplete regular matches. It's also a much better third-person shooter game than Mass Effect 3, which is a game that likes to kill you frequently with akward sticky terrain that your avatar will try to seek cover from when you didn't want to, or which won't let you take cover when you want it. And of course the cheap deaths of enemies coming from an unseen angle. This is why the ME3 multiplayer is best with people (since it doesn't have a bot option)...if you solo, death is always, inevitably, right behind you. I haven't made it past wave one yet, even with upgrades and perks, in a "one player private match." it's just easier to do MP with people. Plus, I learned ages ago that you mute everyone in-game on Xbox Live, period. It makes for a much more satisfying experience, as I am sure anyone with XBLA and a gold subscription has learned.

Anyway, just rambling for fun. My son is #1 in terms of attention and focus these days, and his daily growth, his endless curiosity, his sudden mobility and his complete adoration of mom and dad is absolutely fascinating to behold and utterly endearing......but it's nice to still have a "strategy" to scratching the computer gaming itch, which is still a good outlet for daily work stress! My nightly raptr and Steam statistics tend to skew along the lines of 0-1 hour a night, an occasional rare 2 hour night, and then suddenly once every two or three weeks Mom is kind enough to wrangle the boy for a few hours and you'll see an 8-10 hour spike (which is what Monday was all about, thus why I am stoked about so much ME3 progress at last).



  1. Also, new gamer parents rejoice, for children do eventually develop a normal schedule! Marcus is now off to bed and asleep by about 8:30 each night (though sometimes he crashes earlier, and on occasion he'll be fussy to much later, but 8:30 is the benchmark). This has the decided advantage for Dad of turning 8:31 to whenever I crash as "woohoo game time!" So there is gamer life after kids, at least for now.

  2. Also, since I posted this a couple other bits: I'm at 29 hours in ME3 now (on a roll) and game still going strong. And in Modern Warfare 3, apparently there is no end in sight to the waves. Maybe they go to 50 or something? I guess I could wiki it. Either way its ridiculously fun once you've leveled up a bit and survival mode remains challenging without being too frustrating. I hope they revamp (and I heard they have) Zombie mode in Black Ops 2 to work in a similar or better fashion. Actually, I've heard Black Ops 2 may even have story-driven zombie mode content (objective based zombie levels ala L4D I guess). This would be a good thing if it happens.