Tactical advantage

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So …. It’s been a few weeks now with the and it’s become a regular addition to my bag.

And recently it’s been spending a lot of time in the company of ‘Unit 13’

‘Unit 13’ is a tactical shooter, on a handheld, and more importantly .. it’s actually pretty good.

 

The set-up is pretty standard fair, you’re the new recruit of the squad in question. Your “initiation” is the tutorial for the controls and that’s pretty much it, off you go to take out the baddies …

In a switch to most shooters you get to play all the members of the team, each with their own speciality and successful missions allow you to level up the person in question and unlock goodies for the team.

Unlike most shooters it’s not kill count that counts here, yes in most cases taking out the terrorists is the idea (notice I said most cases there .. ) but this just adds to your score, and progressing swiftly and efficiently boosts the score multipler, and thusly your score. This is the end game, place as high as you can on the scoreboards …

To that end what of the missions, well you’ve got a selection of stealth, direct action, elite and the hellish deadline …. that final one is my personal nemesis, you get a set time to accomplish the tasks set out, so in most cases the stealthy approach will see you failing the mission.

Complete a mission an you’ll get a star rating based on several criteria, get 3 stars or above and you’ll unlock the dynamic mission where objectives are thrown at you on the fly.

Earn enough stars and you’ll unlock the HVT missions (HVT = High Value Target) which sees you hunting down a specific terrorist leader type hiding in the areas the missions are set in. These can take some doing so prepare to dig in for the long haul 😉

There’s a co-op multiplay option available so you and a buddy (or a random stranger) can take on the enemy, but there’s no competative one … possibly a massive omission and deal breaker for many BUT for me it doesn’t detract from the experience.

 

The controls are tight and responsive and that 2nd analogue stick/nub really makes the difference. The touch screen is used to access maps, reload weapons and interact with items where necessary, but these are also mapped to physical buttons too. Personally I found the touch screen made perfect sense for these as it was just a quick thumb move to reload etc. but each to their own 🙂

Generally it’s not the most emersive of games but as a portable, on the go, tactical shooter experience I’m really very impressed and urge you to at least try the demo that’s available before dismissing this title completely ….

 

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A Very Modern War

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Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year you’ll have heard of a small game that was released this month called

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Well along with several million other people I once again succumbed to the lure of the technological battlefield created by the bods over at Infinity Ward, heck I even took the day off work to properly savour the experience, and what an experience it is !

The game has been split into 3 sections this time, Campaign for the single player, Multiplayer which is pretty self-explanatory and finally the new member to the party Spec-Ops which is a series of missions that you can either play on your own or in co-op with a friend.

Before I dive into the gameplay let’s get the obvious out of the way … graphically this game is stunning, doesn’t matter if you’re looking at it on a 28” unit or a 60” monster. It’s crisp and detailed in all the right places from the grips on the weapons to the stubble on the characters chins. The only criticism I’ll give to the visuals is the inclusion of what I’ve nicknamed “the jam filter” whenever you take any damage during the course of your mission. As soon as you start sustaining damage from the enemy you find your screen getting covered in what I suppose is supposed to simulate blood, but to me looks more like someone’s thrown a jar of strawberry jam at me. As I said though that’s only a minor thing.

On to the gameplay itself as after all this is the bread and butter of any game. First off the single player or “Campaign”

The previous Modern Warfare title had a selection of set piece missions bouncing you all around the globe and playing “through the eyes” of several characters and this is no different in that respect, in fact your CO during several portions of the game is one of the characters you were playing in the first game.

Although the set pieces aren’t the longest of things, indeed the entire campaign mode will probably take the average person about 6 hours to complete, they are deep and rich in the experience they provide. They draw you into the action taking place onscreen, whether it’s navigating a perilously thin mountain ledge to assaulting an oil rig you never feel that the pace is wrong or they could have switched it up or down a gear.

In places it does get very frantic and you’re left wondering where on earth you’re taking fire from, but this fits with the situations that you’re dropped into, after all when the chips are down in a real fire fight I don’t think the enemy has a lovely red name tag hovering above their head screaming “I’m over here shoot me !!”

Overall the campaign may be short to run through but it still feels rewarding. The story being laid out through each of the instances is interesting and seeing how it develops in front of you is fantastic. Those who haven’t completed the first game would do well to run through it before this as it does follow on (and the flashbacks during the opening “credits” of the game will remind those who have of some of the better moments in that one) but I’m going to leave it there before I say anything that can be considered a spoiler.

Now on to the Spec-Ops … These days it seems that the buzzword amongst game developers is “co-op”, most of the big name titles that hit the shelves contain a co-op mode of some description. For Modern Warfare 2 this takes the form of some of the areas/instances from the campaign being laid out before you in several levels (Alpha,Bravo,Charlie,Delta and Echo).

In each of the sections you’ll find missions to be performed to certain parameters, for example within a set time, so that you can earn stars and unlock more of the levels. Unlike other co-op modes if you don’t fancy being sociable you can actually play through these challenges on your own, but I’d recommend buddying up with a friend so you’ve got someone watching your back. This is a pleasant addition to the Modern Warfare experience and is great for those that find the competitive and sometimes bewildering multiplayer a bit much for them. There’s plenty of variety in the missions offered and there’s a certain amount of replay in that it’ll have you coming back trying to get those harder stars.

But most of you out there are only after this for one thing and one thing only, which is a shame because the other 2 modes shouldn’t be ignored and if you do you’re doing a disservice to Infinity Ward, that thing is the Multiplayer …

This is where the previous game seemed to step up to the plate and utter a challenge that few FPS’s have been able to match since. With it’s range of perks, kill streak rewards and the design of the maps it fast became the multiplayer game of choice for a very large number of console warriors. And this second incarnation picks up that baton and carries on at the same pace set by the first one.

When you set foot into the multiplayer arena for the first time you’ll be greeted by a vast array of options and kit load outs that are greyed out and inaccessible, this is pretty much the same as the first game but with a few tweeks here and there. Most of the game modes themselves are actually included in this too, and this is where the multiplayer has hooked me, the challenges.

For each weapon,perk and kill streak there are challenges. Each completed challenge unlocks something, be it an add-on for your favourite weapon or an added bonus to a perk and all of it counts towards your ever advancing rank in the online world. It reminds me of a crude form of RPG, you’re asked to perform certain tasks and then rewarded with weapons and possibly a level boost to your “character”. Eventually you find yourself looking through the challenges thinking “just one more match and I can unlock that feature or weapon attachment” instead of “who’s got the highest kill ratio” which is still there in the leaderboard section for those that care. The shear number of things to unlock in this fashion is mind-numbing and will have completionists locked away for a long time trying to work their way through it all.

My main gripe with the multiplayer (and it was a gripe I had with the first one as well) is the matchmaking.

In both games they’re supposed to offer matchmaking so you’re always playing with people of the same skill level, well so far in my experience it appears to be a random pot luck affair. Now that may sound like nothing but when you’re a level 3 player being thrown into a death match with a bunch of level 20+ people with all the gear unlocks and perks to go with it it can be a very death heavy and un-enjoyable experience but hopefully their matchmaking will improve as time goes on.

I can see this becoming “the” multiplayer FPS of choice for the vast majority of the gaming world (until the decide to make a Modern Warfare 3 that is …) for a very very long time.

All in all was it worthy of the hype that it received, I think yes. It’s a solid game in both presentation and content and it’ll stand the test of time … but before I draw a line under this and head back to the battlefields I feel I have to touch on something, and that’s a certain mission section involving an airport that was thrust into the limelight by the news people and various groups.

This is mildly spoiler-ish in content so if you haven’t played it and are planning to play the single player campaign then I suggest you head off and do so now …… are they all gone ? Good … on for the rest of us it is.

This particular mission has you taking the role of a deep-cover operative who’s infiltrated a terrorist cell and been ordered to “do whatever it takes” to maintain your cover. Cue the start of your mission, you find yourself in the airport in question with several dubious looking people all armed to the teeth, and with a word from the lead man they all open fire on the innocent people going about their business. At this point it should be noted that you don’t have to play this section of the game if you don’t want to and also that this title carries an 18 certificate  so no worrying about what kids would think, they shouldn’t be playing this in the first place !!

Slowly and methodically your crew walks through the airport terminal dispatching all in front of them be they innocent civilians or police trying to stop you, it’s your choice whether you open fire with your weapon in the terminal itself. You don’t have to, you’ll still make it outside to be confronted by the usual armed resistance trying to stop your escape, but it’s the section before this that people are objecting too. From the context of the story, I don’t see any difference between this and any of several movies that share the same theme, for those that have said that it can be used to train people for this sort of atrocity exactly what are you on ?

There are far more damaging things out there in the world than a videogame …. yes it’s an intense and to some harrowing section of the game but it’s an adult game with adult themes that hopefully adults can deal with in an adult manner, do you see what I’m getting at here ? 

Rant over ….

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a fantastic package, if you haven’t bought it yet you should. You won’t be disappointed with it …