A Few Truths About Call of Duty

Following up my last post about Call of Duty, here are a few valuable truths that I've learned along the way. Maybe they'll ring true for some of you as well.

1. There is no such thing as strategy

When you first start playing a Call of Duty game, you might be tempted to try to be strategic, or otherwise use your brain. Forget it. Anything clever you may think about doing is immediately nullified by every other asshole on the map running their crazy asses off. Some players have memorized certain patterns based on where enemies are likely to spawn. Others are just like rabid, headless chickens. Either way, the second you start to think in this game, you're getting popped.

2. Stop for more than 3 seconds and you're dead

Related to the item above, most of the time you'll be playing against people running like maniacs. The way the maps are designed, there's almost nowhere you're not vulnerable from behind, so you've got to keep moving. Hold still for more than a couple seconds and you're sure to get shanked. The real downside is that eventually you'll have to resort to adopting their style of gameplay to survive.

3. When given a choice of directions to go, you'll always pick the wrong one

This one never fails. When entering/exiting a building, cave, tunnel, etc and faced with going left or right, more often than not, you're going to make the wrong decision. Check the radar on your mini-map, listen for the direction of gunfire, watch for shadows and check the phase of the moon, but when you walk out that door, you're getting it in the back.

4. If you run up against someone sporting gold-plated guns, get the hell outta there

This is the sign of someone that's played WAY too much of this game. They've Prestiged (hit the level cap and started over), multiple times and earned gold-plated weapons. When you see one or more players using these against you, it's best to just pack it in and join a new game.

5. "Matchmaking" is a myth

Again, related to the above, forget about anything resembling matchmaking. In any normal universe, this would mean that you're put into matches with other players based on everyone's "skill" level. But that's not the way it works. I'm not really sure what kind of algorithm they actually use, but I'm pretty sure my two-year-old could come up with something better. I'm routinely thrust into matches where I'm going up against players at double my XP level.

6. You will be called "bitch" or "fag" at least once per session

Pardon my French on this one, but it's the reality of playing violent multiplayer games against white, 12-year-old gangsta wannabes that have been playing this game for 36 hours straight in their grandma's basement.

7. Knives will always trump bullets

If there's one thing to know about Call of Duty gameplay, it is this. You can unload an entire clip in a guy's face, but if he can get to you with the tip of his knife, you're toast. Nothing is more frustrating that rounding a corner, coming face-to-face with an opponent, and before you can squeeze the trigger, you're taken out by a slash of the knife. To add insult to injury, as you watch the "kill-cam" replay, you see that he barely even made contact. In fact, he probably was facing a totally different direction. Want to get kills? Get really good at knifing. Unfortunately, that's something I never think fast enough to do…until it's too late.

So there you have it. 7 things that piss me off about these games. There are many more I'm sure, but I think the real issue here is how I'm consistently drawn back to something that frustrates the shit out of me day in and day out.

Maybe there's some kind of pill I can take.

I Might Be Done With Call of Duty

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I've been playing first-person shooter games for quite a long time. I remember scoring a copy of Wolfenstein 3D on a 5.25" floppy disk at a local computer store and playing the hell out of it. From there, I went on to Doom, Duke Nukem, Quake and countless variations and rip-offs, such as Heretic.

However, once games started going the way of Unreal Tournament and Quake Arena, I started getting turned off. These games were less about thinking than just running at top speed around memorized maps, fragging noobs with rocket launchers. At one point I also tried getting into Counter-Strike, but was just rubbish at it.

So for a long time, I stayed away from multiplayer shooters and opted for single-player experiences, even with games that had multiplayer modes.

Right around when Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came out, I decided to get into multiplayer matches and ended up getting hooked. I bought every other game that came out: World at War, Modern Warfare 2, and Black Ops. The latter I got on launch day and with maybe one or two exceptions, it hasn't left my Xbox disc tray for about a year. And I've never once played the single-player campaign.

So naturally, I've been excited to get my hands on Modern Warfare 3. I'd seen the trailers and teasers but would've still bought it sight-unseen. I pre-ordered it from Amazon, so it showed up at the house on launch day. That night, I played for maybe 3 hours, which is more time than I rarely get to game in a single sitting.

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Almost immediately, something felt...wrong. Right off the bat, it was obvious no attempt had been made to fix matchmaking, if there even existed a matchmaking component to begin with. My first match, I was thrown into a lobby with level-30 players, who had obviously bought the game at midnight and been playing it non-stop.

It shouldn't be surprising that the typical opponent still just runs his ass off like a crazy person around the map in memorized patterns. But in MW3, it seems even worse than ever before. Again, I can't quite put my finger on why this seems so pronounced in this incarnation, but at least a few times I truly wanted to throw the controller, or at the very least, take the disc out and put it away for a long time.

Another annoyance is that the money-based upgrade system from Black Ops was not carried over. At first it seemed strange in Black Ops, but it ultimately meant that you could buy what you wanted, in the order you wanted it. Sure, you had to wait for some things to be unlocked at certain XP levels, but it seemed like a good system. Now, in MW3, they're back to the old "level up" system, where you have to keep moving up the XP ladder to get the next best weapon or perk. So it was frustrating to immediately get into games where opponents had "bouncing betty" mines and personal radars already, and I'd be hours away from having the points to even counteract them. And so far, I've gotten my ass shot off a lot by guys camping with those stupid personal radars (blatantly ripped off from the movie Aliens, by the way).

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And speaking of leveling, you even level up weapons now. Where in Black Ops, you could fairly quickly buy a red-dot sight for a gun, in MW3, you have to level up that gun enough to unlock it. Again, I think the money system in Black Ops is superior, in that you can focus on collecting enough cash to get the attachment you really want.

Oh, and did I mention "quickscoping" was back? Yeah, that too.

If you're a quickscoper, I fucking hate you.

Modern Warfare 3 does have a few unique multiplayer modes, like "Kill Confirmed", where you collect dog tags from fallen enemies, giving your team extra points. And there's the usual stuff like Domination and Headquarters, which I never really got into because they're magnets for camping snipers. I was also hopeful that add-ons like the Call of Duty Elite service and Facebook integration would add some new, interesting aspect. But so far, I've yet to see much integration at all. And the Elite app is a completely separate app you can't access within the main game.

I've been lamenting this to people for a few days, and recently talked to a co-worker (a hard-core COD player) that was telling me he'd opted to go with Battlefield 3 instead of buying MW3. The more he described it, the more I started to think I should give it a try. It definitely sounds like it's slower paced, and is less rewarding to the run-and-gun, quick-draw players.

I'm going to give MW3 a little more time, but I can't help but think I'll be making a switch very soon.

Puzzle Crack

Puzzle QuestI'm such a sheep it's not even funny. For what seemed like weeks I'd been hearing about this game on the Nintendo DS called Puzzle Quest. It had been covered extensively on Penny Arcade and the Totally Rad Show. On the surface, it seems kinda lame: a cross between Bejewelled and an RPG. It seemed to be two things least likely to make a good game.

But finally I caved and bought it with my birthday money, and holy frickin' crap, this game is so addictive. Even when I bought it, I was still skeptical. But my first sitting was 2-3 hours. It sucks you in.

The general gist is that you go from quest to quest and fight different warriors and creatures as you "level up" and gain weapons, skills, etc. But each "battle" is essentially a game of Bejewelled, whee you have to match three or more like-colored gems in order to gain mana. Now normally, I avoid any game with 'mana' like the plague, but this one is different. Getting more of it gives you access to new spells that have different effects on the board. And the further you get, you won't be able to beat opponents without using spells liberally.

It's available now for DS and PSP and is supposed to be coming out for Xbox Live Arcade, although I've yet to see a date for it. If you consider yourself a casual gamer, and have any of these systems, I highly recommend picking this up.