Old Man Plays Call of Duty Black Ops 4
What follows is my perspective as a 49-year-old man of Call Of Duty - Black Ops 4 and why I really wish that they had followed suit and continued some of the ideas from WWII. First off, I have to say that this game wasn't created with me in mind. I know that it's target audience is 13 to 25 and like last 5 or 6 releases I often have found myself to be the "Old Man in the Lobby".
Playing at my age is to a degree a disadvantage. My reflexes aren't what they once were and I still find the analog sticks for aiming a bit of a challenge. I have learned to adapt to playing against much better players, using flacking and strategy to focus on ambushing instead of hitting straight on and gauging where the enemy might be. I've played a lot of war-based games over the years and have always been drawn more to the strategy side of gaming. I mean my favorite board games will always be Axis and Allies and Risk.
So, it's easy to understand that I'm not planning on playing competitively. At best what I'm seeking from COD is a little casual play and the comradery of playing with a Clan and friends. Yes, I do enjoy a little pub-stomping even if I end up on the bottom of the list at the end of the match. For me, it has always been grinding up in the ranks and the rewards that come with it.
My Gaming and COD Background:
Just a little about my gaming history. I've been playing console games since my father brought home what I believe was a Coleco Telstar Ranger around 77 or 78. Though it seemed to lose it luster as soon as someone figured out you could just point the gun at a table lamp and it would score a hit. Still, I spent a number of hours playing in front of that big old Zenith console TV. The thing is that this was the beginning of the arcade revolution and the first real impact the computer affected your average person. From age 8 to 18 I spent a great deal of time in video arcades. The next console we had and really the first to bring arcade level graphics to the home was Colecovision around 82. From there I was more than a little more interested in other things outside of sitting at home and playing video games. So, I took a bit of a break and didn't have another until I bought a Philips CD-i around 93 and then every Playstation since. Also started playing PC and online games around 98. So, I have a long history of wasting time playing games.
I bought the first Call of Duty for PC. I was drawn to it mainly for its historical theme and the idea of playing with historic weapons on real battlefields. Mechanically I found it a little unoriginal and at times boring because it just reminded me of the dullest of all PC games Doom. However, the historical side of it kept me interested. I have played every COD games since then with the three highlights being World at War, BO1, and BO2. Before that between the poor internet and pointless game modes, I really didn't find playing online all that interesting and almost an afterthought. That has changed over the years. One of the biggest changes was the introduction of objective game modes like Domination, Hardpoint, Capture the Flag, etc... made the gameplay a great deal more interesting.
Each time I bought the latest edition, I increasingly found the game turning from the historical shooter and more into a sci-fi titled with the worst being Infinite Warfare. After playing the game for a few days, I returned it and swore to never buy a Call of Duty game again. My biggest hatred was how the game had gone from something based into reality to a superhero game where running on walls and flying through the air seemed more important than a storyline, strategy or reality. The game rewarded button pushing and aftermarket modified controls to the point where it was frustrating and unpleasant play casually. I think the last straw for me was being killed about 10 times in a row by a kid hopping up from behind a building and blindingly quick scoping people.
I was excited to hear about the release of WWII. So much so that I did something I normally don't and pre-ordered it. In fact, I forgot about the order and walked past the box sitting next to my door for two days before picking it up and opening it. After the usual huge update and installation, I was hooked. Now the timing may have had something to do with it. Work often slows down in November and even though I was still a talent buyer at Lefty's compared to the year before, things were slow. Then the fire at the studio left me with a lot of free time. In fact, as I waited for the new studio to open about all I had to do was play COD and boy did I play.
The features and highpoints of the game were the introduction of headquarters, the social interaction and the War Mode. I played a lot of War, the combination of team play with strategy was a huge break from the kill fest that most of the modes had become. It was through my endless play of War that I made contact with Outlaw Cummins and was asked to join Team Societies Misfits, Which is the clan that I belong to and run the website for.
One of the things that they did right with WWII was the rewards system with orders and contracts to earn supply drops. It seemed that you always had a goal to grind for other than rank or weapon upgrades. Another was the headquarter's gun range that allowed you to test and practice with guns and load outs. Yes, the game had flaws and imperfections that often made the menus confusing but overall it tended to draw you back in time and time again.
Black Ops 4
Now to the reason you might be reading this and I'm sorry for taking the long way around the barn but I wanted to make sure that it was clear that I'm a fan of the franchise. Though I would consider myself a casual player, I tend to be on the more side of a serious player and will and have grind for days on past games. With Black Ops 4 though, I rarely seem to be able to grind for more than an hour before I start to lose interest.
At first, I thought this had to do with burnout and frustration but increasingly I feel it's because the game really just isn't that interesting. Here are some of the reasons and my complaints:
The reward system - Unlike WWII where COD points and Supply Drops were earned from completing orders and contracts, BO4 is flat out based on play. The more you play the more you get and seems to be an afterthought. With a majority of the rewards being stickers, which I guess if you're six, stickers would be great but a majority of the players are not six. WWII had camos, guns variants, uniforms, etc.... While there does seem to be gun variants and some uniform variations, nothing special seems to be available.
No Winner Circle - Emotes have been a part of COD for some time. I way of adding a little more salt to the wound after beating another team. However, with BO4 the winner's circle is completely gone. Not sure why but it isn't there but it makes emotes completely useless.
Maps - Yes the launch saw a number of maps at launch but how many of them were simple rehashed ideas or redressed older maps. Shooting Range, Jungle, Slums, Summit and of course Nuke Town. The thing that is great about old maps is that you can jump in with a complete understanding of the layout. The disadvantage is that everyone else can too. Often I've found that these maps are so worn out and overplayed it is easy for a team to spawn trap and dominate the maps with no challenge. The advantage of new maps and new map layouts is that it is more of an even playing field. I have watched as players camped in the same corners they did years ago or take the same lines. Now since the maps are from older feet on the ground games, there really is no new elements of play. In slums, if you camp and control the middle, you win. In jungle if you control the bridge area and high ground, you win the game. In summit if you control the building, you win the game. In Shooting Range, if you control the trailer, the mechanic shop and the tower, you win the game. The new maps tend to follow the 3-4 lane layout with two levels at best and seem to have more blind corners than ever. There also seems to be head glitch covering every single lane that allows someone to cover, duck to heal and continue running up their kill count.
Hit Markers - The number one complaint we all hear in-game chat is Hit Markers. However, unlike other versions where a kill involved 3 to 4 hits to register as a kill, with BO4 this seems to have increased to 5 to 6. Combine this with the new healing method and advantage to jumping, bullet dodging is completely out of control and making a hip kill near impossible.
Health - Unlike every version of the game, healing involves hitting a button to heal. Add Stim Shot which "Heal instantly and more often while mantling control of your weapon." and you find yourself getting 5 or 7 hit markers and not making a kill even at close range. The main thing that is effected is the rate of fire and one shot kills. If they are beating you at either, you are going to lose a one on one fight.
The Spawns - This seems to be a major issue in objective games like Domination and was really awful at launch. Time and time again when spawn trapped it didn't flip the spawn. More than 20 times I watched kill cams where players were spawning at least twice within the line of fine. A number of times that 2 or 3 of the kills in a bloodthirsty were the same person. Yes, the goal of just about every mode of gameplay is spawn trapping. However, I haven't experienced the level of spawning within gun range as I have in this game since the first COD.
The Specialists' Abilities and Equipment - In WWII an ongoing complaint was requisition perk. It allowed players to get scorestreaks even when they died. Basically, instead of the score resetting, the score continued to add up. It allowed a player to go negative on kills vs deaths and still get a scorestreak. A lot of players felt this was unfair as it allowed lesser skilled players to turn the tide of the match with powerful scorestreaks. The thing is unless it was a high killing map like shipment, it had little or no effect. Now with BO4 everyone gets at least one overpowered hero level scorestreaks per match in the form of specialist abilities and equipment. Including things including Warmachine, microwave barricade, Vision Paulse, Annihilator, Grav Slam, TAK-5, Purifier, Ballistic Shield, K-9 Unit and Tempest. All of which used to require multiple kills without dying, now just stay in the match long enough and you get these overpowered weapons and abilities.
Font - Yes, that's right I'm going to complain about the font. Now I know there are a lot of people that play COD on a monitor with the screen less than 3 feet away but a majority of people are still playing on a large flat screen HD TV. So, the font should be legible at around 6 feet. Not the case here and it isn't the size of the font but the style that they used. Terrible design and something they should have learned the first day of design class. I had the same issue with COD games where if you need the details on any weapon or perk, either have to stand 3 feet or less from the screen or magnify it by hold square and the PS button.
Jumping - This time around it seems that everyone's favorite the drop shot has been removed but the jump feature and it's effectiveness to jump out of the line of fire is equally frustrating as any drop shot. Yes, the power jumps are gone but I will estimate that the jumps in scale are at least 8 feet off the ground and there doesn't seem to be any need for recovery. Meaning if you get caught dead to rights and have a moded control, just jump and watch all those bullets fly right under you. With the number of hits, it will take to kill you, even if they land a few chances are you can get to cover and heal or they will need to reload before they can kill you.
The Lag - Now not only was the speed of the game reduced at launch I have noticed in just about every lobby at least one opponent that is fazing across the screen. Like a ghost with no physical form the bullets seem to just pass through them. I have noticed this a great deal more in this version than the last 4 releases and keep in mind that I'm running on average 60 to 80 MBS up and down. Either this is a huge problem with matching players with similar bandwidths, hacking, COD's servers or a Blackout is just simply using all the bandwidth.
Grenades - I'm kind of on the fence with this one but it seems odd for a COD game not to have them as standard. I think it only seems to encourage camping and head glitching. Yes, you can equip flash bangs and all that but you have to choose either a specialist or give up another advantage. It has made grenades a much lesser part of the game and can lead to slower gameplay and the advance to stagnate when the three or four lanes are blocked and camped.
Flinching - After watching a number of kill cams and maybe I'm wrong on this but there doesn't seem to be any flinching or effect when a player gets a hit marker. Of course, it reduces their health and the screen gets bloody but it doesn't seem to effect movement or aim at all. It used to slow the person down and shift their aim slightly. Now it changes nothing. Combined with instant heal without effecting aim, turning on an opponent is much easier even if they caught you flat-footed from the back.
Now I really wasn't interested in yet another battle royal. I mean don't we really already have Team Death Match and isn't Blackout or most of the battle royal games just Team Death Match on a bigger map with more teams and players? That aside I have to say that the feel and look of Blackout is incredible. The issues that I have with the game mechanics are in some ways more present in Blackout. Personally, I don't like the concept of not being able to have a set loadout. Yes, I understand that that is part of the "charm" of battle royal but with the font almost completely unreadable, I found myself unsure what I was picking up or the guns I was using at all. At least once, I thought that I had an assault rifle only to fire it and realize that it was a sniper rifle. Once again it would be nice to have something like say a gun range or a campaign to may be to try out weapons and get familiar with what they look and feel like.
The thing that seems odd to me is that they decided to keep the blackout score completely different from the career ranking. With zombies, I understand because for the most part you are killing AI Bots but with Blackout that isn't the case. My best guess is that they didn't want to listen to people complain about Blackout deaths destroying their precious Kill Death Ratio. If that's the case, all I can say is, "Dumb." At any rate, it is one of the reasons that I have found myself going straight to multi-player and avoiding Blackout like the Zombies.
Look, Feel and Game Play:
The look of the game is much more bright and shiny to the point of a cartoon. I'm guessing to appeal to the children, unlike WWII that was much more flat and realistic. The pace is much faster than WWII with about the same feel as BO1 or maybe 2. I can't help but stress that realism is not what this game is going for. It is a mixture of sci-fi, superhero fantasies and gimmicks for the win. Yes, this is boots on the ground and the characters are in human form but that's where the reality ends. This game encourages jumping, hooping, and sliding into the heart of battle. What's the old joke, "What's a hero? A hero is someone too stupid to know their actions are going to cause their death." You have to play this game like you have an endless amount of lives because you do.
As an older player, the key to not totally sucking currently is flaking through clear zones or holding back and letting them come to me. Like all forms of Call of Duty the goal is to bloke the lanes to the point where the other team is spawn trapped. With the problem with spawns not flipping it is, even more, the case with this game. I tend to run Torque for a couple of reasons. The first being that no one seems to pick him and instead go for the more hero specialist and the second is that I like to use the barricade and barbwire to block off lanes.
Am I going to continue to play BO4? Yes, but I have a feeling, not at the level I have played other versions and I find for shorter periods as I have in the past. The game doesn't seem to reward my playing style at all. Instead, appealing to those that want to be sliding, jumping run and gun slayers, hard scooping campers and no aiming quick scoopers. I understand this is how competitive players play and for some time that has been the driving force behind the development of the game.
The thing is that if I can disrupt anyone with these playing styles, I find it enjoyable. Nothing is more satisfying than forcing some wannabe comp player to have to get out of their comfort zone and think about how to play instead of just using their learned pattern of button pushing.
The question is what will the next one be? Will it be historical or more sci-fi. I hope more historical but I have a feeling that it will be more gimmicky fiction. They claim that they have worn out WWII but I have to point out how little has been covered in the Asian Theater of the war since the first COD World at War which was over 10 years ago when most of their audience was playing lego games on their Gameboy. There is also the Korean conflict and Viet Namm which they have only blazed over in the past claiming that BO1 covered the Veit Namm era and that Korea was too soon after WWII. I mean if they really want to just make this stuff up which is what they have been doing since Modern Warfare, why not an alternative history with Rusia against the US?
Yes, they can improve the game. Fix the spawns, decrease the hits need for kills, use a readable font, reducing the bullet dodging, and increase the effect of hit markers. Are they going to do that? No, because this is the direction that they have been taking the game for years. The fact is that WWII was far from a perfect game but it was a whole lot more inventive, grind worthy and fun than BO4.