Call of Duty 4 « LimitlessUnits.com

Posts Tagged ‘Call of Duty 4’

|

How to Make Your Shooter Combat Better

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

By: Tony Huynh


I was asked the question, “how could Bioshock’s combat be improved?” I thought about it for a while and I am going to propose some possible fixes for the shortcomings of Bioshock in this area. While this is geared towards Bioshock, it can just as easily apply to other games featuring first or third person combat. Some of these solutions may be drastic and change the tone of the game, but I wanted to put them out on the table to promote discussion. The root of the problem with Bioshock’s combat is the lack of necessary tactical decisions for the player. The aim of this article is to see why this is the case in the areas of weapon, AI, level and system design and present some possible solutions to add a greater variety of necessary tactical decision-making for the player as well as offer other improvements to Bioshock’s combat.

1) Balance weapons and plasmids around a Paper / Rock / Scissor system

A weapon in a Paper / Rock / Scissor system is balanced around the idea that weapons have strengths and weakness and that each weapon plays a defined role during combat. For instance a sniper rifle is strong at long range, but weak at medium and short-range, while a shotgun should be strong at short-range and weak at medium and long-range. If a player enters into a long-range engagement armed with a shotgun, they will be at a gross disadvantage against an opponent with a sniper rifle. The player must then choose whether to close the distance to take away the opponent’s advantage or switch to a different weapon. The weapon’s strengths and weaknesses can be affected by any number of circumstances and not just range. An example is in Halo, ballistic weapons do more damage against flesh targets and energy weapons do more damage against shielded opponents on top of their PRS range-based system. Obviously a balanced PRS system precludes any one weapon that is the best in all situations.

The current state of Bioshock:
In Bioshock, the Paper / Rock / Scissor system is not clearly defined. 99% of the engagements in Bioshock occur at short and medium-range and most of the weapons and plasmids are good at both ranges. Despite Bioshock’s shotgun being only usable at short-range, it does little damage at short-range and the rate of fire is extremely poor making it a non-viable weapon later in the game. While Bioshock presents a lot of options to the player, the player is never enticed to use these other tactics because every encounter can be handled with the Electrobolt stun to gun combo. This combo is one of the safest and most effective ways to dispatch every type of enemy in any situation in the game. There are no weaknesses to this combo as none of the AI are resistant to it and it can hit at both medium-range and short-range.

Another key component of the PRS system is that there are tradeoffs to which weapon the player chooses to carry with them. Even if Bioshock’s weapons followed a PRS design, the player in Bioshock always has access to all the weapons introduced up to that point in the game. This removes an additional layer of tactical decision-making because the player is always carrying the perfect weapon for the situation in their inventory.

Proposed solutions:
1. Define the roles of the weapons and plasmids in Bioshock to fit into a clearly communicated three category closed-loop (PRS) system, whether it is ranges or some other system.

2. If the solution is ranges (short, medium and long) it will be necessary to change level databases to intersperse long range engagements.
a. This is extremely risky because it will affect the atmosphere and feel of the game. The benefit would be that it will add some variety to the combat.

3. Limit the player’s weapon choice down to fewer weapons and plasmids. My suggestion is two of each. By giving the player only two weapons and two plasmids the player will always be weak in at least one of these three categories and they will have to make a choice on which weapons and plasmids to carry.
a. This will have the side-effect of alleviating some of the problems with the clumsy weapon and plasmid selection I mentioned in my last article as the player can now comfortably alternate between two instead of eight selections.

4. There are Gene Banks to swap out genes; how about Weapon Banks to swap out weapons? Create Weapon Banks and place both Gene Banks and Weapon Banks liberally through the levels to allow the player to swap out weapons and plasmids frequently.

2) More Enemy AI Variety
Introducing new enemy AI that have different personalities, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses changes the dynamic of combat and greatly benefits a game’s pacing. When faced with a new AI players must experiment and discover the strengths and weaknesses of the new enemy. The player must then adjust their tactics to deal with the new threat. The new enemy AI offers scenario designers the opportunity to mix in the new enemy type with the already introduced AI thereby creating new variations on old encounters.

The current state of Bioshock:
The wholly inadequate number of enemy variations in Bioshock are all frontloaded into the beginning of the game. By the middle of the title the player’s have been introduced to every enemy type and as a result the rest of the game’s combat pacing suffers.

Proposed solutions:
1. One way to add more variety to the enemies is to arm more Splicers with different Plasmids. Imagine an Electrobolt plasmid using Splicer that was also resistant to Electrobolt attacks, but weak against the Insect Swarm plasmid. Giving specific varieties of Splicers resistances to specific plasmids and weapons would have added depth to the tactics employed by players. This would at the very least force the player to change up the aforementioned Electrobolt to gun combo technique on occasion.

2. Design and create new AI with different personalities, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses and space out their introductions throughout the course of the game.

3) Differentiate AI silhouettes to aid player planning
One of the most effective ways to convey what type of enemy the player is facing is through having drastically different silhouettes between enemies. Silhouettes assist players in being able to tell enemies apart quickly, and in turn formulate a plan on how to tackle a situation more accurately.

The current state of Bioshock:
This is an area that Bioshock does not do well. The Houdini, melee and gun wielding Splicers are all difficult to tell apart at a glance because their silhouettes are so similar. Having unique silhouettes for AI is even more important because of how dark the levels are in Bioshock.

Proposed solutions:
Now that we have a greater variety of enemies that require different tactics to defeat, we need to communicate the variety of enemies to the player quickly and effectively. Gears of War 2 does an excellent job of having easily recognizable enemy silhouettes. Scroll through their enemy list to see what I mean.

A key difference with Bioshock and Gears of War 2 is that the enemies are more human in Bioshock. While this makes the solution a bit more difficult, it is not impossible. An example of widely divergent human silhouettes can be seen Valve’s Team Fortress 2.
Team Fortress 2 Character silhouettes

4) Have pre-fight AI scripting throughout
How a player perceives an AI’s intelligence is determined by what an AI is doing before a battle as much as what they do during the fight. While this does not directly affect giving the player additional tactical choice, pre-fight AI scripting helps make the AI look smarter and this will always assist in making combat more enjoyable.

The current state of Bioshock:
This is an area that Bioshock excels at especially at the beginning of the game. AIs in Bioshock have lives outside of waiting for the player to show up. The Splicers whistle, have conversations with themselves, take their imaginary babies on strolls and even dance with each other. This is one of the best examples of a game with the illusion of a living world. This is not easy to do and requires tremendous development resources, which is why it is not often seen in games. The problem in Bioshock is that pre-fight scripting falls off dramatically in the middle through the end of the game.

Proposed solutions:
More pre-fight AI scripting is needed during the middle and late stages of the game. If this is not feasible I would suggest spacing out the densely scripted pre-fight AI in the first half and spreading these through the course of the game so that there is not such a lull in the middle to end of the game.

5) Leaders with underling breaking behavior
This is a technique that was pioneered by Total War and brought over to the first person shooter genre by Halo. Whenever a much more difficult to kill Elite in Halo was defeated, the grunts in Elite’s squad would break and scatter. This added depth and tactical choice to target selection in combat.

The current state of Bioshock:
There are no leaders in Bioshock. In fact, the AIs seem to act completely independently from each other.

Proposed solutions:
1. This could be simulated in Bioshock by having the aforementioned plasmid infused Splicers serve in the role of leaders and if they are killed, the other Splicers will break and flee or simply cower and beg for their life.

2. “Wherever possible, we try to make the vocalizations a dialogue between two or more characters, rather than an announcement by one character.” J. Orkin – States & a Plan: The AI of F.E.A.R.
a. By including communication between AI whenever possible, it will make the AI at least have the illusion of working together.

6) Raise the hit points and damage dealt by your AI
This is taken from the 2002 GDC talk The Illusion of Intelligence by Jaime Griesemer and Chris Butcher. Through playtests and surveys conducted by Bungie Studios, they discovered that tougher AI (higher hit points and higher damage dealt) created the illusion that the AI was smarter.

Halo: Combat Evolved AI Test

Combat almost always benefits from the illusion of smarter AI. If the combat is too challenging however, accessibility will suffer. So making the AI tougher can only be pushed up to a point.

The current state of Bioshock:
Through the course of Bioshock the player becomes stronger by accumulating and upgrading health, eve, weapons and plasmids. The result is the enemy AI is tough at the beginning of the game, but gradually became weaker through the course of the game. Bioshock in turn occasionally scaled up the same exact AI in difficulty to accommodate the growth in power of the player. This made for uneven difficulty in the game and by scaling the difficulty of the same AI, Bioshock nullified some of the player’s sense of advancement. Nonetheless, by the end of the game the combination of player familiarity with game mechanics and avatar upgrades made the AI too weak and in turn caused the player to be left with a lowered opinion of the AI and consequently of Bioshock’s combat.

Proposed solution:
1. Create easily recognizable skins for upgraded enemies to communicate to the player that they have been upgraded.
2. Introduce new AI later in the game that is already scaled to the appropriate difficulty level of where they are introduced.
3. Maintain the frequency of player upgrades, but lower their potency.

7) Call in the reinforcements!
The way AIs are introduced can make them appear smart. AI that call for reinforcements when they see the player or if an AI is seemingly the last enemy in a scenario and calls for back up and they arrive make the AI feel intelligent.

“For example, when an A.I. realizes that he is the last surviving member of a squad, he says some variation of ‘I need reinforcements.’ We did not really implement any mechanism for the A.I. to bring in reinforcements, but as the player progresses through the level, he is sure to see more enemy A.I. soon enough.” – J. Orkin – States & a Plan: The AI of F.E.A.R.

F.E.A.R. relies on the player’s assumptions to create the illusion of intelligence, but this could just as easily be scripted in the game.

The current state of Bioshock:
I do not recall any AIs in Bioshock ever calling for back up.

Proposed solution:
Create occasional scripted moments where the player happens on a lone Splicer and she calls for help and additional Splicers come through a door or run downstairs to assist her.

8 ) Make the AI predictable
AIs need to have predictable behaviors so that players can recognize and use their patterns to outsmart them and thereby feel good about themselves.

The current state of Bioshock:
This experience came from my playthrough of the game. I had entered combat with a pistol armed Splicer, but moved away to where he could not see me, but I could observe him. He would move to the last place that he saw me to investigate, once there he would stay in his alerted state and begin a patrol. During his patrol he would stay at a constant speed (good), but would seemingly at random (bad) turn 180 degrees and start walking the opposite direction.

My goal was to sneak up behind him to use my wrench. Because he would randomly turn around 180 degrees my attempts were not always successful. Even if I manage to get to him the Splicer becomes aware of you at around 3 meters and immediately turns around to react disallowing the player the advantage of the first hit with the wrench. Let me outsmart the AI!

Bioshock AI Investigation Behavior
Proposed solution:
Bioshock AI Proposed Investigation Behavior
When an AI loses sight of the player they should move at a constant speed and never turn around 180 degrees. The AI should also not have the ability to see the player behind him (extrasensory perception) when at close range. Keeping AI actions predictable is the goal. Having predictable AI allows the player to recognize behaviors through observation and outsmart the AI.

9) The use of gameplay space and cover to create tactics
I have saved the discussion regarding cover usage and placement until now because it so fundamentally changes the way Bioshock plays and it carries the most risk. This should not be a direction that is taken lightly and without serious consideration and playtesting.

Make cover matter
Cover in shooters can be used to direct the flow of combat as well as promote tactical space analysis and decision-making by the player.

The current state of Bioshock:
Cover in Bioshock is used very little to direct battles and create fronts against enemies, the most effective way to deal with enemies I found was by standing out in the open and strafing left and right while firing.

There is very little half-cover in Bioshock, so crouching behind cover is not an option most of the time.

Proposed solution:
One of the easiest ways to promote the usage of cover for players is to have consequences for them for not doing so.

I took a look at a few other games that are praised for their combat to see what they did. I performed some tests to figure out how long it took three different games to kill the player. Each test was performed by standing the player perfectly still out in the open at medium range (my best guess at 8 meters).

Bioshock
In Bioshock, at the end of Smuggler’s Hideout, it took an average of 15 seconds to die from 3 pistol armed Splicers and 1 Spider Splicer on normal difficulty from a full health bar.

Halo 3
It took an average of 7 seconds to die from the very first engagement in Halo 3 on Heroic difficulty (the recommended difficulty).

Call of Duty 4
In Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare it took an average of 4 seconds for two AI to kill the player when he is standing out in the open on Normal difficulty in the second engagement of Blackout (the first mission in Act 1).

This means that in Halo 3 the player dies more than twice as fast in the very first engagement of the game and in Call of Duty 4 the player dies over three times faster when compared to Bioshock at about the one quarter mark of the game where the player is up against an unusually large number of enemies. Without the immediate threat of death the player is not as willing to seek cover in Bioshock.

Encounter space design
Spaces should be designed to accommodate as many different types of playstyles used by players as possible.

What type of playstyle do you use? Do you like to sit back in cover with your medium and long range weapons and slowly whittle down the enemies? Do you sneak around the side and flank your opponent with close range weapons? Are you Rambo and want to run out in the center with guns blazing? Maybe you just want to use cover to sneak past the enemies and avoid the encounter entirely.

“Building a successful course then becomes a matter of understanding these different demographics and designing with each of them in mind.” – What SimGolf Can Teach You about Designing the Perfect Level by Alex J. Champandard

The current state of Bioshock:
While I am not saying that all the encounters in Bioshock did not allow for different playstyles, in fact some of them did this quite well, but there were far too many coverless corridors populated with enemies where the player’s options were limited to simply strafe and fire.

Proposed solutions:
The key to accommodating a wide range of playstyles is making sure that there is “interconnectivity” in the combat spaces.

“It’s very important to make spaces that highlight the strengths of your AI. A battle in a corridor doesn’t involve much strategy so there are no intelligent things for the AI to do. An interconnected space allows the AI to flank the Player, making them seem more intelligent. It also allows the Player to flank the AI, giving him a chance to watch them react to his tactics. One weakness of an interconnected space, however, is that it tends to be chaotic. So we also needed to establish a Killing Zone, an open area between two positions with good cover. Flanking is still possible in an environment with a killing zone, but the battle is much more directed. The killing zone also allows multiple enemies to fight at once without it degenerating into chaos.” – The Illusion of Intelligence by Jaime Griesemer and Chris Butcher

This is a combat space in Fracture that I worked on.
Fracture Tony Huynh Encounter Design

I attempted to design the space to accommodate different playstyles.
• Note the cover placement to create battle lines and the killing zone to keep the battle orderly.
• The sniping spot is for those that want to sit back with a long ranged weapon like the sniper rifle.
• Battle line 1 is to allow the option of medium ranged weapons.
• Note the flanking routes to allow for the player to flank the enemies and the AI to flank the player.
• I did not accommodate a way to avoid the encounter entirely, but in hindsight maybe I should have or at least have given it some more thought.

Cover placement is very important in providing opportunities for players to tackle encounters the way that they want to. Having a mix of battles take place in open areas as well as tight confined spaces and corridors will add variety to the gameplay to keep the player from becoming bored.

10) Use large-scale cinematic scripted events in combat
Large-scale cinematic scripted events like explosions, buildings toppling and helicopters crashing add excitement and help to break up the monotony of combat. Few games do large scale scripted events in combat as well as Call of Duty 4. The real trick is to make sure that players see these events.

The current state of Bioshock:
While there are certain big moments that happen in Bioshock, the Airliner cabin crashing through the walkway tube comes to mind, there are not any that happen mid-combat.

Proposed solutions:
1. Place enemies defending the hallway where the airline cabin comes crashing through. Have them get killed by the airline cabin collision.
2. Come up with and implement additional cinematic scripted moments that occur in combat.

11) Death for a player should not be meaningless
Combat does not work without the fear of consequences. When death is meaningless, the need for the player to use tactics is diminished. Conversely if death is too harsh, players will never want to experiment with anything but tried and true methods. A balance needs to be struck.

The current state of Bioshock:
The current implementation of Vita-chambers removes any need for tactics as dying is meaningless. Each time you die, you instantly respawn nearby with half health and the enemies do not recover any health. A tactic I abused a few times is to pull a Big Daddy close to a Vita-chamber and rush him with my wrench. When I died I simply respawned and repeated my tactics with the wrench until he was dead. I have heard a lot of people complain about the Vita-chambers, but there is a trade off here. The experience may have felt cheapened for the player, but this makes it so every player can see the end of Bioshock which is very valuable.

Proposed solutions:
I know I suggested a compromise to have injured enemies regain a modest amount of health if a vita-chamber is used in my last article, but if the goal is to promote tactical combat I would go so far as to recommend removing Vita-chambers entirely and rely on a system of checkpoints. There are certainly tradeoffs here and this negatively affects accessibility of the game so this needs careful consideration before implementation.

12) Healing
The question of how the player is healed becomes much more important with the removal of Vita-Chambers from the game. Here are the pros and cons of the very common Recharging health and Bioshock’s Persistent health systems as I see it.

Recharging health
Pros
• Promotes the use of cover (as it is the only place to regain health during combat.)
• It is easier for designers to tune difficulty for individual engagements because they will always know the player will have a certain amount of health before each encounter.
• It is easier to create a consistent difficulty curve for the game because each encounter can be tuned to be more difficult in relation to the last without worrying about how much health the player currently has.

Cons
• If there are permanent health upgrades they are exponentially more powerful.
• Players do not have to search for health packs.

Persistent health (Bioshock’s health system)
Pros
• The player must worry about every hit, because all damage is permanent.
• Players must search for health packs.

Cons
• Careful attention needs to be paid to a player that gets stuck in a low health situation right before a tough encounter.
• Cover can sometimes be ignored because players can stand in the open and regain health with a press of a button.

Neutral
• Designers can ensure a proper amount of health for the player by placing health pickups preceding an encounter.

Proposed solutions:
Having listed out the pros and cons of the two systems as I see it, I do not know which system I prefer. The main issues of contention are the exponential power increase of health upgrades for the recharging health system and the difficulty of balancing each encounter for the player in the persistent health model. If I had to choose between the two, I would go with the persistent health system because it promotes the player searching for powerups.

The system I propose is a hybrid bucketed health system where the player has a number of buckets of health. Each bucket replenishes itself as long as it is not completely depleted. The bucketed health system maintains the need to have the player search for health and simultaneously encourages cover usage during combat to replenish health. Permanent health upgrades could come in the form of additional buckets of health.

Conclusion
This article is meant to offer suggestions to enhance the tactical decision-making of the player in Bioshock’s combat. Many of proposed solutions have large tradeoffs and affect the game negatively outside of combat. Since the goal was to improve combat and spawn discussion points, I largely ignored these problems. To read a less combat-oriented and more balanced list of suggestions at improving Bioshock read my last article, Bioshock: The Most Important Game of the Generation.

See my other related articles:
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time
Best MMA Fights & Genki Sudo: Real Life Video Game Character

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Video Games | No Comments »

What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer?

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Xbox Cover Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare PS3 Cover Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare PC Cover


Sorry for the delay in posting this article. It ballooned into a much more in depth game design critique than I had originally planned. I hope you enjoy it.

Despite the fact that Call of Duty 4 has been out for well over a year and has a clear sequel in Call of Duty: World at War, over one hundred thousand players continue to log in every evening on Xbox Live. If you think Infinity Ward must be doing something right, you would be correct. Read my other article about what they are doing right also if you are interested I wrote up my campaign playthrough notes in a previous post. However this article is not about what Call of Duty 4 has done right, it is about what Call of Duty 4 does wrong.

The Bad
At the start the player’s options are very limited and new players are thrown right into the fray against rank 55 opponents to be endlessly slaughtered. Which brings me to what I consider to be the biggest flaw to the multiplayer design.

Call of Duty 4 Does Not Do Enough to Protect New Users
The first few sessions of multiplayer gaming for a new player are the most important and a game should go out of its way to ease these new players in and provide them with the best experience possible. By allowing new players to acclimate slowly, the game does not alienate new players and can keep its player base higher for longer. New players in Call of Duty 4 are punished. As mentioned earlier, brand new players are matched against experienced players from the start. In Call of Duty 4, experienced players not only have better map knowledge and mechanic knowledge (handicaps common to new players in other shooter games), but they also have better weapons and perk options. The results are ugly.

My experience with first-person-shooters is extensive and I consider myself much better than the average shooter player. The first few matches I entered I was killed endlessly by the much more experienced and better equipped players and had horrific kill to death ratios. I would be running along and instantly die from airstrikes and helicopters and have no clue how to prevent them or what was happening. It was a very frustrating experience. It is a good thing that I had the perseverance to continue to keep playing and took the necessary lumps to finally have success and fun with the game. Not everybody is as willing to continue playing despite constantly dying and having a frustrating experience. Call of Duty: World at War partially solves this problem by having game playlists that are only open to players of rank 1 through 10. This keeps the rank 11 – 55 players from destroying new players over and over and ruining their experience.

M16 is not for n00bs
New players are given the choice of five distinct weapon choices at the start. At the top of the menu of choices is the M16. The problem with this is that since the M16 is at the top of the menu and is highlighted by the cursor when the selection screen appears on the console versions, it is the gun that most beginners will select and use first. The M16 is not a beginner friendly weapon. The M16 has a three-round burst shot that has a low rate of fire that requires successive trigger pulls to fire. This all adds up to a weapon that has an unfamiliar mechanic and requires precision to use effectively. This makes the M16 a terrible weapon for a new player to begin with and one that very few will find success without extensive practice. Fortunately there is an easy fix for this problem. The MP5 is a fully-automatic weapon that shoots out 800 rounds per minute. The MP5 is better suited towards new players as they can hold down the trigger to fire and the massive number of rounds fired mitigates the need for pinpoint accuracy. The fix is to replace the positioning on the menus of the M16 and the MP5 respectively.

Some of the Maps are Not Beginner Friendly
To be beginner friendly a map should have easily recognizable landmarks to orient players so that they do not become lost. One of my favorite maps of all time is Zanzibar in Halo 2. That map has a giant windmill in the center that makes it very easy for players to use as a landmark. Another benefit to having easily distinguishable landmarks is that it aids in effective teamwork and communication. A level designer can facilitate this by creating distinctive environment geometry that will allow players to communicate their opponent’s locations to each other effectively. Using Halo 2’s Zanzibar map as an example: “There’s a guy on top of the Windmill!” Everybody on the team will instantly know where that is because the environment geometry is so distinctive. Most of the maps in Call of Duty 4 do this very effectively. Crash is another example of map with the downed helicopter serving as an effective landmark. The maps in Call of Duty 4 that do not do a great job are Backlot, Crossfire and District. While these maps do have subtle recognizable differences to orient you, these subtleties are lost on new players. The first few times I played on these maps I could not tell where I was and become lost on a number of occasions. The labyrinthine streets all look very similar and there is nothing obvious to orient new players.

Call of Duty 4’s Slippery Slope
Once a team starts losing in Call of Duty 4 it is extremely difficult to come back to win. There are fewer comebacks and more lopsided victories in Call of Duty 4 than in any other first-person-shooter that I have ever played. The reason for this is the respawning system, rewards for kill streaks and territorial control.

The Respawning System
The respawn system in Call of Duty 4 is one of the most complained about systems by the Call of Duty community because players are often killed immediately upon respawning. So how does this system work and why is it failing?

C_Stick of the Gamespot forums theorizes that the respawn system “waits for an enemy airstrike, or puts you in an open area under an enemy chopper, or in the middle of two enemy run-and-gunners, or right where you get sniped if you take three steps in any direction.” That may not be far from the truth.

From studying respawning patterns in the game, my best guess at how the respawn system works in Call of Duty 4 is that it respawns players near a teammate furthest from the enemy. This seems like a logical system in theory, but in practice it does not work. As players die and are respawned next to each other they have a tendency to get increasingly clumped together. The situation gets worse when the teams that are dying are surrounded by the enemy and are forced back and contained by the other team into small pieces of territory. This can be seen on any of Call of Duty 4’s maps, but it tends to happen most often around the airplane hangars in Countdown and various corners of the Backlot map.

Containment generally happens in areas that have islands of cover (a space with lots of cover, but surrounded with open no-man’s land) or corners of maps because teams can be pinned down in these areas and it is difficult to leave without exposing yourself to enemy fire.

This is disastrous to contained teams because when clumped together their firing lanes are limited and they become much more susceptible to area of effect attacks like grenades and airstrikes. This leads to waves of people dying over and over just as they spawn in and games that become lopsided and out of reach quickly. The only way to end this negative feedback loop is to have a player escape from the enclosed enemy lines to start the team respawning elsewhere. So how do we fix this? There are two problems here, the first problem is map design and the second is the respawn algorithm itself. I will address map design first.

Map Design
Map designers need to pay attention to map flow. Map flow is what paths players generally take through a map defined by firing lanes, available paths through the level and cover placement. Maps should always have multiple (at least 2, but more is preferable) protected routes from any place on the map. Careful attention needs to always be paid to map corner boundaries because these areas are restricted by the edges of the map. There should be no islands of cover that are hard to leave without dying. These islands typically force players to linger in these places because they cannot leave without exposing themselves and the longer players stay in these islands the more likely teammates will begin to spawn next to them and be trapped in the same situation.

[Countdown Example]

Call of Duty 4 - Countdown Map topdown overhead

The above image shows the locations on Call of Duty 4’s Countdown map where teams are often isolated and become bunched up.

Call of Duty 4: Countdown Map No Man's Land

Notice that there are no viable exits from the hangar that do not expose the players to enemy fire. Also note, the amount of space that the no man’s land takes up in front of the hangars.

Call of Duty 4: Countdown Map cut door

For this particular example, I would recommend cutting entry holes through the hangars at both ends and placing additional cover at these entrances to allow for better map flow.

Respawn Algorithm
A suggestion for the respawn algorithm could be to have a player occasionally respawn furthest away from the enemy regardless of whether an ally is close or not. This suggestion is not without its own tradeoffs in that players may complain that they are spawned way off from the action and alone. Another possible solution could be a player chosen respawn system similar to Battlefield: Bad Company. Whatever the ultimate solution, this should be at the top of the priority list of must fix items for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Kills Streaks
In Call of Duty 4 players are rewarded for kill streaks. The player is given a UAV reconnaissance that reveals the location of all enemies on the mini-map for their entire team at three kills, three large area of effect bombs dropped from an airstrike at five kills and a support helicopter that comes equipped with a very damaging machine gun at seven kills. While the positive feedback given from the UAV, airstrike and helicopter rewards the player that achieves a kill streak, it makes it very difficult for the opposing team to come back. The kill streak mechanic rewards players and teams that are already winning and gives them an even greater advantage. This is like giving a team that scores in basketball possession of the ball again so they can score again. The argument can be made that a member of the losing team can have a five and seven kill streak and bring a helicopter in to help their team make a come back, but the losing team is less likely to be able to do this considering the winning team’s control over any non-covered territory with their previous airstrike and helicopter and the aforementioned respawn killing issue. I am not saying that the losing team cannot achieve the same, only that it is harder for them and that this mechanic can make teams that are already winning by a slight margin completely out of reach.

What is the best way to fix this problem? I have a few suggestions that involve slightly lowering the advantage given by the kill streak rewards and making the rewards harder to achieve. Here is a rundown of the rewards and suggested modifications.

UAV Reconnaissance
This is powerful, but it is mostly ok in its current form. It might be useful for the development team to explore with a smaller localized reconnaissance effect for it, centered on the person who triggered it. I say explore because there are a number of risks involved with this change that would be impossible to foretell without rigorous play testing. Foremost would be how to communicate (UI elements) what the size of the reconnaissance effect is to players.

Airstrike
The airstrike itself is bad. It is very frustrating to be killed via airstrike. You are given little to no warning and then you are dead. Not to mention the huge framerate hits (on the Xbox 360 version) when it occurs. The current implementation of the airstrike does not enhance gameplay. Thinking about gameplay as a “series of interesting choices” what are your choices as a player being airstriked? There are no choices, because you instantly die without warning. The only gameplay choices happen before the airstrike. The player has is to prevent the opposing team from ever achieving a five kill streak (not like you are not trying already) or fight entirely from under covered buildings on the off-chance that an airstrike might happen.

As the player who calls in the airstrike, there is a risk element in that you must bring up a map that covers the entire screen in order to call it in leaving the player unaware of their surroundings. This gives the airstrike a slight risk versus reward to its use and this risk element should be preserved in any change that is made.

My suggestion is to change the airstrike to a laser designated airstrike that must be equipped, aimed and fired. This would be a similar mechanic to the airstrikes during the Heat level in the single-player campaign of Call of Duty 4. This would also limit airstrikes to within line of sight of the player and prevent airstrikes from ignoring battlelines and gut enemy positions. To address the framerate issues, limit the airstrike to a single bomb so that the framerate hit is not as prolonged. Lastly, there should be a voice over warning for the airstrike and a slight delay before the airstrike occurs. With the warning the player would at least get a chance to run to cover to avoid the airstrike instead of just randomly dying.

Helicopter Support
The Helicopter is pretty close to where it should be. My suggestions are for just a few minor changes. Raise the kill streak necessary for the helicopter support up to eight from seven. With airstrike kills counting towards achieving the seven kill streak necessary for the helicopter, the helicopter is very easy to get. My second suggestion is to have the helicopter give 10 experience points for killing it. This small reward will prompt more people to shoot at it instead of ignoring the helicopter and allowing it to roam around picking them off and eventually flying away. My third suggestion is to make the RPG a HARD counter for the helicopter. Currently the RPG does not kill the helicopter outright. It requires a RPG attack and a little more. I would propose that the RPG should kill the helicopter in one hit. Let’s look at the RPG as a weapon.

Call of Duty 4 - RPG silhouette

This is why they should do an extra hundred damage on a direct hit and kill the helicopter outright.

While I am on the topic of what to have in the sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, I had a few more quick suggestions.

As a caveat, my suggestions may change as I put in more time with the game and discover more of Call of Duty 4’s intricacies. This is only a snapshot in time.

Conclusion
The bottom line is if you can get past Call of Duty 4 multiplayer’s initial frustrations, it becomes very addictive and fun. If, like me, you are one of those willing to pay the steep price of entry, there is a lot about Call of Duty 4’s multiplayer that will keep you coming back for more.

See my other related articles:
What’s Good About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Campaign Playthrough Notes
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Video Games | No Comments »

What’s Good About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer?

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Cover Picutre



I have been spending what little free time I have with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare’s multiplayer. I recently reached level 55 out of a possible 55 and decided to gather my notes together into a post.


The Good
The combat in Call of Duty 4 is a cross between run-and-gun and tactical with stronger leanings toward the tactical. CoD4 is a polished, mostly-balanced and skill-based FPS experience.

Persistent character
While Call of Duty 4 is not the first shooter game to have persistent characters, Rainbow Six comes to mind; it executes it better than any shooter game that has come before it. The persistent character can rank up through experience gained through kills and meeting any of dozens of challenges. The challenges encompass everything from getting a certain number of kills with a weapon to humiliation tactics like killing an opponent and then picking up and using their weapon to kill the same opponent again. Constant level based rewards are a proven mechanic and it is used to great effect here. The system is simple and the choices are important, yet limited. The choices include which primary and secondary gun to equip, one attachment for the primary gun and lastly there are three slots of perks to choose from. New options are opened up as you level. The player is given 5 slots to create custom classes with and during a game you can choose between any of them to play with. The persistent character keeps players coming back and playing to unlock the next perk or gun. These unlocks also keep the game fresh as new options are dolled out at regular interval for players to experiment with.

Perks
By gaining levels players unlock new weapons and perks, which offer additional options to customize their character. Perks range from extra damage on weapons to having a final opportunity to pull out a pistol in a last ditch effort to kill your enemy before dying. Perks are a great way to customize your character and since only three can be equipped, players must weigh their choices carefully. Each perk is designed to only fit in one of three slots. A perk like Juggernaut (greater health) is a tier 2 perk and will only fit in perk slot #2. Stopping Power (greater weapon damage) is also a tier 2 perk and will only fit in slot #2. This was intentional and designed so that the player cannot have both Stopping Power and Juggernaut perks on the same class. The player must decide which they would prefer and only take one.


Here are some balancing suggestions for CoD4’s perks.
Frag Grenade x3
I really hate no skill random grenade spam kills. Lowering the primary grenade number down to 2 from 3 would go a long way in resolving this issue.

Add Call of Duty: World at War’s Toss back perk
Tossing back grenades maybe new and important COD4’s single-player campaign, but it is almost always suicide in multiplayer. The Toss Back perk in CoD: World at War resets the fuse timer on grenades and would be a great addition to CoD4.

Bomb Squad
Remove this perk entirely and add its functionality in with the Sonic Boom Perk.


Weapons
In a first-person-shooter the gun is effectively your character and modern guns with all their moving parts and high tech nature simply feel and sound more powerful than their World War II equivalents. This is a big reason to why I like CoD4 over CoD:WaW. WaW’s weapon’s feel weak in comparison and it is just weird to see red dot sights and silencers on WWII weapons. The weapons of Call of Duty 4 are incredibly lethal and are surprisingly well balanced. There are a few anomalies in their balance, but in general the team at Infinity Ward have done a fantastic job. The weapons can be customized through the choice of one attachment selected from such selections as a silencer, a red dot sight or an ACOG scope. These are unlocked through achieving a certain number of kills with the specific weapons. Further, players can choose the paint scheme on their weapons (new paint schemes are unlocked after a certain number of headshot kills on opponents are reached). There are just enough options and slots to customize that the player feels unique, but not so many that it becomes inaccessible and clumsy.

These are the weapons that I currently like using.
Skorpion
I really like the Skorpion machine pistol. It has drawbacks like a small 20 round clip that will often have you reloading and having to switch out to the secondary to finish off multiple opponents, but the lack of recoil and its 50 damage per round up close is insane. I also like it because so few people use the Skopion so that makes me feel special.

P90
I like using the P90 with the silencer. The iron sights on the gun do not block your vision very much so the gains from the red dot sight are minimal. The gun has a 50 round clip with low recoil and I have found that it is ideal for ninjaing around levels.

MP5 / AK – 74
Both of these guns have good damage at the short to medium range distances. The two are so similar in stats that the two guns are nearly redundant. The AK – 74 has slightly greater consistent upwards recoil, but this can be compensated for. The MP5 has less recoil, but the recoil is more erratic.

M16
The M16 in the hands of a good player is really out of control. I almost never equip my class with this because it is such a popular gun that I can generally find this weapon laying around the map and when I do I always pick it up to replace my secondary weapon.

M40
I generally equip this sniper rifle with the ACOG. For some strange reason the damage is increased with this attachment from 70 to 75 damage. Use stopping power for very reliable one shot kills.

On a side note, the grenade launcher (n00b tube) is really annoyingly effective. Since I do not use it, I might be biased in saying the damage needs to be toned down on it.

Modes
I will not go into too many specifics in each of the modes, but if you want to wrack up kills to complete your gun challenges use free-for-all mode.
Mercenary Team Deathmatch is probably my favorite mode and the one I play the most often. While it is team oriented there are no set teams allowed to play together. This means that all the players are playing solo and teams are shuffled around after each round. This lets me get in a few team-based games without running into organized clans. There should really be more modes other than team death match that use mercenary rules. I understand that this may shard the user base, but for a person like me who just wants to hop on for a few games it would be a great option to have.


Come back tomorrow for a much more interesting article on what I think is bad about Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare multiplayer. I will cover such topics as:
1. Call of Duty 4 does not do enough to protect new users.
2. M16 is not for n00bs
3. Call of Duty 4’s Slippery Slope balance
4. The flawed respawn system
5. Kill Streaks

Update
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode? has been posted up. Click here to go to it.

See my other related articles:
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Campaign Playthrough Notes
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Video Games | No Comments »

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Campaign Playthrough Notes

Friday, February 6th, 2009

I know this game is not a recent release, but it just happens to be what I have been playing a lot of lately. So I decided to dig up my hand written notes and type them up and in the process organize them a bit better. I structured the notes off of the levels this time around. Hopefully it will be easier to follow. As always there will be spoilers, so stop reading if you have not played through the game.


F.N.G. (Fucking New Guy)
F.N.G. is the tutorial level of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. You play as Soap MacTavish, a member of the British S.A.S. The tutorial is very good at teaching you the necessary basics to play the game in a mostly non-contrived manner. The only exception is the tutorial on melee, which involved using your knife to slash a watermelon. The developers seriously couldn’t hang a target dummy on a post somewhere for the player to learn to melee attack?

One of the first elements of the tutorial happens when the player is looking down a gun range and an audio cue to “look up” plays. Whichever way the thumbstick is moved by the player determines whether you were an inverted player or not. That is if you looked up by pressing up on the controller the game automatically sets your controls to non-inverted and if you pressed down on the stick to look up the game sets it to inverted. I have always like this mechanic in shooters as it ensures players have the correct controls before the action gets started.

Once all the basics have been learned, the tutorial then has the player practice by stringing all the skills together in a competitive timed training course that simulates the layout of the next level. The player is encouraged to repeat the training course to beat their previous times. Repeated playthroughs really familiarizes the player with Call of Duty 4’s controls and shooting mechanics.

F.N.G. is a very fun and effective tutorial. The only thing that struck me was that the dark confined rooms of this introductory level really do not do the rest of Call of Duty 4’s beautiful graphics and environments justice. The first level of any game is the most important and the setting is not the most ideal choice to introduce an audience to your game. Thankfully, the gameplay in F.N.G. carries players through.

Crew Expendable
After completing the tutorial level the player and his team begin a mission to infiltrate a cargo ship on the high seas. The S.A.S. team arrives by way of helicopter and fast ropes onto the deck of the ship, mirroring the tutorial’s training course. The crew of the ship is caught unawares and the first few crewmen are taken care of quickly by your team whether you participate or not. Several of the highlights of this level are the AI that seemingly have lives instead of waiting around for the player to kill them. One of the ship’s crew is drunkenly wandering the ships hallway with a bottle in his hand and two others are sleeping in their bunks. You almost feel bad for killing them, but the level is called Crew Expendable for a reason. More games need to do this, having AI that are going about their lives before the player arrives creates the illusion of a living world.

The mission is punctuated early on with a nice scripted event of your friendly helicopter laying into the enemy crew, who have an elevated position over you, with gunfire.

I also really like the gating mechanism used where the friendly AI “stack up” at the door before they open the “gate” to allow you to proceed to the next area. The animations look very realistic and the stacking up really shows them off in a good light. The rest of the mission proceeds with combat, which leads up to a harrowing escape from the sinking ship. This was exciting as you watched the ship sway from side to side and water pouring in, but it was also frustrating as there are several wrong turns that can be taken resulting in a fail condition and a reload back to the last checkpoint.

Crew Expendable is a good mission, my largest problem with it is where it is placed in the game. It is the first real mission experienced by the player and I could not think of a worst level to start new players in than Crew Expendable. The constantly rocking and swaying ship is disorienting and the crosshairs on your gun are affected by this, making the shooting frustrating. This level would have been better placed somewhere in the middle of the game, where its unique setting could have served as a breather for the visual fatigue caused by the constant urban street fighting and similar color pallets that marked the middle portion of the game.

The Coup
The Coup begins with a pair of men dragging you into a car. You have control over the camera, but are unable to move. The .50 caliber round hanging from the car’s rearview mirror made me chuckle. You are then driven through the streets of a Middle Eastern city and along the way are presented with scripted gun battles, executions and even a man running from a dog. There are also caged chickens lining the streets. I wonder why these art assets were not used elsewhere in the campaign. I would have loved to have had a firefight with some caged chickens running and flapping around. You arrive at your final destination and are then promptly executed by Khaled Al-Asad. Only in the next cinema is it made clear that you were seeing the world through the eyes of the now dead president of that country.

With as many gun battles as are happening along the path of the car and general chaos, I would have thought a high profile target like a presidential hostage would have a larger escort than a driver and one armed passenger. The Coup serves as a player camera controlled cinema that introduces the player to one of the game’s antagonists, Al-Asad. While this is enjoyable, it is offbeat and I was surprised at how front-loaded Call of Duty 4 is with unique experiences. It is not until Blackout, the fourth mission, that the player really dives into what I consider classic Call of Duty gameplay.

Blackout
What I mean when I call Blackout classic Call of Duty gameplay is that it is sustained combat over solid ground with some nice scripted moments and multiple objectives strung together. There are a good mix of objectives and mechanics introduced, including planting claymores, sniping, rappelling, shooting through walls and using the grenade launcher. All the teaching is done while playing and nothing is forced. The swamp where you are inserted is beautiful looking. A really awesome moment was when the Russian loyalists standup and remove their perfect camouflage from the tall grass right in front of you.

Blackout also makes good use of the Call of Duty staple of having AI waiting to show the player the way to go. While I loved Half-Life 2, I got frustratingly lost on multiple occasions. Valve could learn a thing or two from Infinity Ward on techniques to lead your player through the level.

Charlie Don’t Surf
You now switch perspective away from Soap to Sergeant Paul Jackson to take on Charlie Don’t Surf. You arrive into the level via a lengthy helicopter ride with the requisite insurgents firing upon you with RPGs.

What is interesting is that the AI have leans and blind firing animations. It did not sit right with me that I, as the player, was limited in this regard.

As soon as you fast rope down you see some marines cordon off the operation area with razor wire. This struck me as very realistic and smart to both prevent the target’s escape as well as a counter-attack by insurgents on the marines. This made the mission feel that much more realistic.

The Bog
This mission begins with your team going through enemy lines to meet up and defend a stranded Abrams tank. This level also introduced the Javelin missile weapon. During my playthrough of the level I could not find the Javelin. The VO kept calling out “get the Javelin”, but I had a hard time locating it. The CO kept screaming the same two non-descript VO lines about the Javelin and it got annoying after a while. The VO lines could have called out the location of the Javelin better “it is in the courtyard” or something to that effect.

The behavior of the Javelin was very interesting. As soon as a lock was achieved the javelin would fire upwards into the sky and unerringly strike its target. It is too bad that this weapon did not make it into the multiplayer in some form.

Air support helicopters blowing up the building and taking out the enemies was a good way to end the level on a high-note.

Hunted
For Hunted, the player is put back in the shoes of Soap. Your chopper is shot down and you must evade detection by the enemy helicopter.

At one point you had to go under the bridge to avoid the helicopter flying by overhead. That to me was the most memorable event of the level.

Death from Above
In Death From Above, you take over the guns of an AC-130. Using the AC-130’s arsenal, you must fly escort for your friendlies on the ground. The gameplay of this level and the top-down camera really started to remind me of a god game or Real-Time-Strategy game. You wiped out the enemies while your friends gained territory and traveled through the map.

The disinterested voice of the spotter calling out targets was awesome. To have that type of power in your hands and snuffing out the enemy felt great.

Death From Above really helped with the pacing and was a much-needed breather from the last four ground missions.

War Pig
War Pig switches your perspective back to Jackson. The mission is to escort the Abrams tank back to the highway.

One of the best openings of a gated area in the game happens in this level when the Abrams runs over a car that previously blocked the player’s path.

In addition there was a really nice moment when friendly marines move a dumpster forward to advance on the enemy behind cover. I was really impressed by this and the only negative is that I would have liked to see this mechanic used more throughout the rest of the game. Unfortunately this was not the case.

Infinity Ward accurately recreated the scene of ground troops cheering when close air support comes to the rescue as can be seen on this video.

Another memorable scene was when the Abrams tank shoots through the wall to take out the Russian made tank.

Shock and Awe
Shock and Awe is a mix of rail shooting out of a chopper and some on-foot street battles through a Middle Eastern city. There is a large statue reminiscent of Saddam Hussein that just begs to be shot at during one of the rail shooting segments and if shot, it falls in a satisfying way. It is always nice to be rewarded for shooting stuff.

Another scripted event of a Cobra crashing happens when you are locked into the chopper’s turret that conveniently forces you to witness the scene. First-person-shooters have to rely on these types of techniques to ensure player’s cameras are pointed in the correct direction for an in-game scripted sequence.

The plot twist that occurs in this level is that Al-Asad sets off a nuke and blows up the city. I thought for sure Sergeant Jackson was going to live through it with only a few scratches to show for it, but I was in disbelief the moment he died. That makes for two player controlled characters dead and we’re only halfway through the game.

All Ghillied Up & One Shot One Kill
I am going to group these two flashback levels together because they are a continuation of each other. These two levels were by far my favorite missions of the game. Chernobyl is a really good setting and a great excuse to have a city without civilians around.

Having a friendly AI lead the player through the level was a brilliant way to avoid the general frustrations and problems of a stealth mission placed in a more run and gun game like Call of Duty 4. The friendly AI gives constant feedback and instruction and shows you the best path through the mission. Following the friendly AI and narrowly avoiding detection by the dozens of enemies on patrol was exhilarating. The vignette of crawling underneath the truck as the overwhelming number of enemies walked all around you was one of my favorite moments in all of gaming.

While I cannot remember this happening anywhere else in the rest of the game, there was a moment as you escape after having blown off Zakheav’s arm with a .50 cal, where just before you enter into a hallway enemy shadows cross in front of the light ahead alerting you of their presence. This is a simple forewarning mechanic that few games take advantage of.

The helicopter turning sideways and crashing towards you blades first and injuring your fellow sniper was visually impressive and exciting.

For the rest of the level your injured friendly AI is unable to walk and must be carried. While carrying your friend you are unable to fire, but you can drop him down in tactically advantageous positions where he will become what is essentially a turret. The sheer variety of gameplay and water cooler moments made these missions stand out from the rest of CoD 4’s excellent levels.

Heat
In Heat you are back in the perspective of Soap MacTavish. The mission starts with waves of enemies attacking your position and you and your team must organize a fighting withdraw. Having to fall back as a game objective is difficult to pull off, but the developers did it well. The more memorable moments in this level were the use of a downed helicopter’s turret to fend off waves of enemies and having to fight your way through the defenses of waves of insurgents as you raced against a four minute clock down the hill to your extraction point.

Sins of the Father
In this mission you ambush Zakheav’s son. The ambush fails and Zakheav’s son manages to flee the scene on foot. You and your team give chase.

The easiest (laziest) way to make a chase and how a lot of games default is to have a cut scene just as the player rounds the corner to show the person that is being chased leaving to the next area just out reach. Cut scenes break up the flow of the level and I hate having control wrested away from me. Thankfully Infinity Ward does not take the easy route. When I think about designing a chase in a first-person-shooter without the use of cutscenes the two solutions that immediately come to mind are (1) make the Zakheav’s son invulnerable or (2) fail the player if they kill the target. The developers opt for the later, making this a capture mission. While the level is well executed, the chase ends up masking what is just more urban combat.

Ultimatum
In Ultimatum you and your squad must find and free SSgt Griggs and kill the power to the ICBM launch facility.

This level brings back the too long missing “enemy AIs with lives outside of waiting for the player to show up” with an enemy AI sitting in a chair with his back to you and his legs propped up on a table.

When you find Griggs, he is tied to a flimsy wooden chair with his gun placed not 2 feet away from him. I found that to be a little too convenient. Having a member of your squad toss him a pistol to get him rearmed would have been a lot more realistic.

The destructible cars in the level were really good looking when they were destroyed. The wheels would fall off and roll around and they would be cool to look at. The problem with them are that they are the equivalent of explosive barrels and should not be used as cover under any circumstance until they are in their destroyed state. This went against my natural tendencies.

Also frustrating in this level is watching your friendly AI take cover right behind red exploding barrels and the aforementioned cars and promptly dying. It really made the otherwise mostly smart AI look bad.

All In
All In is more standard shooting gameplay. Here you must breach the defenses of and get inside the ICBM launch facility.

Upon reaching the facility you must wait for your squad to create an entrance with electric handsaws. It seemed like a missed opportunity, while the guys are cutting the vent to not have to have to defend them from enemies. Instead it is just a matter of waiting until they cut through.

This marks the fourth mission in a row with standard combat and the pacing starts to really suffer as a result. Another AC-130 mission or moving the Crew Expendable mission into this spot would have been ideal to inject some variety into this portion of the game.

No Fighting in the War Room
In No Fighting in the War Room the player must navigate air ducts and tight corridors to reach the control room and abort the nukes.

The level felt very cramped and there were no opportunities to flank the enemy. The only option was to barrel head on ahead through waves of enemy soldiers.

I also got a progression-stopping bug on this level in the PC version where Captain Price would sit at the door waving for me to enter the room even through I was already in the room. I had to restart the level in order bypass the bug. The gameplay was very similar to the last four missions in that it was your garden variety Call of Duty 4 combat, only this time with tighter corridors and ICBM base interior art.

Game Over
Game Over is a rail shooter on the back of a jeep escaping from the ICBM facility. You are equipped with an M4, which is annoying because of how often you have to reload. A light machine gun would have been a much better choice of armament.

Partway through you are also given a RPG in which to shoot down the enemy helicopter with. I could never hit the damn chopper despite three playthroughs. Since there is an achievement for this I will keep trying until I get it. Infinity Ward did a great job developing the player’s antagonism toward Zakheav through the story and the depictions of his despicable actions. As a result finally killing Zakheav was incredibly satisfying.

Credits
Instead of having a video of the AC-130 in action, it would have been nice to let the player actually play the AC-130 while the credits rolled. Although I do not know if there is some crazy patent that prevents this, similar to Namco’s silly patent of playing mini-games during loading screens.

If you are interested in further reading about Gameplay Patents, I would suggest reading Ernest Adams’ The Designer’s Notebook: Damn All Gameplay Patents!

The rap song at the end is comical and it reminded me of the Iraq War documentary Gunner Palace. The documentary’s soundtrack was almost entirely composed of rap songs and poetry performed by the soldiers of the 2/3 Field Artillery.

Bonus Mission: Mile High Club
I missed this mission entirely on my first playthrough of the game on the Xbox 360 as I usually turn off games instead of watching the credits (a bad habit I know). It was not until I played through the campaign again on the PC and left it running that I found out that there was a bonus mission.

The Mile High Club consists of a mission where you must race to the clock to save a VIP aboard an in-flight passenger airline. The amount of time to complete the mission varies depending on the difficulty chosen.

There is a moment during this mission where the airplane is breached with a giant hole. It would have been awesome to see all the oxygen masks in the plane fall down when this breach occurs. The luggage and other dynamic objects being pulled through the cavity was cool though.

As I attempted to beat this final mission on Veteran, it made me realize that I really miss the multiplayer camera switch that happens after a death to show me how I died each time that I did. I have spent several hours already attempting to beat this level on Veteran and I am very close to achieving it. This achievement is popularly considered one of the toughest achievements to get on the Xbox 360. If you feel like tackling a challenge, as a guide writer called it, “created by Satan himself” I would recommend trying your hand at it. I’ll let you know when I finally do get it. It is only a matter of time now.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is one of my favorite games in recent years. It is certainly one of the games I have devoted the most time to. While some of my comments may sound nitpicky (they probably are), the game as a whole is a masterpiece. Despite the single-player campaign falling on the short side, it was an incredible experience. I have been steadily climbing levels in the Multiplayer. Despite being out well over a year now and having a direct sequel in Call of Duty: World at War, Call of Duty 4 still draws 100,000 people nightly over Xbox Live. That speaks to how good the Multiplayer portion of the game is. Expect a write up on the Multiplayer portion of Call of Duty 4 as well as a direct comparison between Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Treyarch’s Call of Duty: World at War shortly.

See my other related articles:
What’s Bad About Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Multiplayer Mode?
Call of Duty: World at War Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Become a Video Game Designer: Everything You Need to Know Part 1
Roger Ebert is Right: Games are Not High Art…Yet
Top 5 Greatest Moments in Competitive Gaming (eSports)
What Video Games Taught Me About Life
Low Skill Cap and Luck (RNG) in World of Warcraft PVP
Best Games of All Time by Genre Part 1
10 Greatest Video Game Designers Part 1
Dead Space Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
Gears of War 2 Through the Eyes of a Game Designer
8 of the Most Underrated or Overlooked Video Games of All Time


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Video Games | No Comments »

|