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What Makes a Good Multiplayer Experience

After some frustrating nights playing BF3, Chris and I decided to give another try to an old favorite, Halo Reach.  I’m not sure the Gentlemen ever gave that game a proper chance.  For most of us back in the day, Halo was our gateway drug into the wonders on console gaming.  I still remember playing Halo: Combat Evolved at Dave’s apartment in Brighton 10 years ago, being blown away, and buying my own Xbox within the next week.  Over the years, the various iterations of Halo have brought the Gentlemen together as friends and helped us waste many an hour day. 

After a couple of hours playing Big Team, Chris and I were surprised how quickly our skills came back to us, and found ourselves in the top half of the ranks most of the time.  We were also frustrated by a number of features present in BF3 that we missed in Halo.  Which game has a better online experience?


Ability to play with your friends: To me, this is a critical feature.  I don’t enjoy playing online by myself.  No social aspect, nobody works as a team, and I already know every filthy word in the book, so I don’t get any pleasure hearing them from prepubescents.  When I’m playing with my friends, the teamwork is invigorating, and the social aspect is enjoyable.  As a dad of an 18 month old, I don’t get out as much as I used to, so being able to connect with other guys my age is a lot of fun.  There are 4 Gentlemen, and we have an extended group of Drs. and Fattys we enjoy playing with, and quite often there are 6 or 8 of us playing together. 

However, I enjoy playing WITH my friends and not against them.  This is very easy in Halo Reach.  We all join a room together, matchmaking pairs us with like-minded individuals, and we’re off - my friends and I in the same match and on the same team.  My biggest frustration with BF3 is the time it takes to get in the same match on the same team - squads are limited to 4 players, it’s hard to find a server with room, and even on the off chance we all get in the same match, we are inevitably broken up into the two teams.

EDGE: Halo Reach


Matchmaking: In BF3, once the game has spent the requisite 10 minutes loading up, getting into a match is relatively quick.  The servers are ongoing, one game follows another.  In Halo, you have to wait for a room to fill before it gets going, which can take longer.  However, in Halo, you always start with a fresh game - you’re never dropped into the middle of an ass-kicking.  Halo claims to limit matchmaking based on opponents of roughly equivalent skill.  There’s no such effort in BF3, as many of my match results prove out.

EDGE: Halo Reach


Gametypes: With BF3, there are 3 gametypes, all of which are 12x12: DM, Conquest, and Rush, plus the crappy co-op (the variations on Conquest and Rush don’t count).  With Halo Reach, you have Slayer, CTF, Oddball, King of the Hill, Headhunter, Stockpile, Firefight, etc.  You also have the ability to choose the team size, ranging from 2x2 to Big Team Battle, 12 vs. 12.  This is a big plus - if you have 6 guys in your party, you can choose a 6x6 gametype and not get stuck with any strangers.  AND you have the ability to vote for the gametype and map - Chris and I forgot how much we enjoyed that.

EDGE: Halo Reach


Quitters: In BF3, you can quit anytime during a game and BF3 will often replace the quitting player with another so the server doesn’t become too unbalanced.  In Halo, quitters aren’t replaced until the next game.   This can be great if you’re on the team with more players, and quite obviously frustrating in the reverse. When Halo games are over, you can get right out- which is fantastic if you had a bad game and need a change of scenery.  With BF3, there is an interminable wait after the game for loadout screens, stat review, a 30 second countdown, the loading of the next map, and THEN you can quit.  There’s no option to leave the server before that. Who thought THAT was a good idea?

EDGE: Halo Reach


Stats: The Gentlemen love stats.  Both games have excellent ways of tracking your stats and progression.  Halo gets the edge due to the ability to review game footage.  What’s better than sending your buddy a clip of him betraying you?

EDGE: Halo Reach


Latency: BF3 works on dedicated servers.  Halo, to the best of my knowledge has always been hosted on the player’s console.  We’ve always had lag issues with Halo, almost never with BF3.

Edge: BF3 


Gameplay: I realize one game is futuristic, the other realistic, so it’s hard to compare them.  Returning to Halo, Chris and I realize we missed the ability to spot opponents, the ability to easily see your squadmates vs. the random teammates, and the ability to sprint.  Even if you have the sprint perk loaded up in Halo, you can sprint all of 4 seconds.  Aren’t you supposed to be a super solider?  I also prefer the rewards system in BF3 – you get points for spotting, providing health/ammo, assists, healing tanks, etc.

Edge: BF3


Maintenance: It's clear the good folks at Bungie care about their online experience.  They take user feedback and tweak playlists continuously.  They ban those who cheat.  I don't see any of that from the BF3 folks.  BFBC2 had a fundamental bug - the screen at the end of the game that announced the winner was often wrong.  When I had started playing, the game had been out over a year, yet this simple but annoying issue persisted.  Fair or not, the inablity to fix that fundamental bug made me feel like the developers didn't give a fuck.

Regarding the cheating, I don't think I've seen any of that with BF3.  No flying tanks, no standbys.  Kudos to the BF3 developers for limiting these loopholes. 

Edge:   Halo Reach


Overall: For all the reasons stated under Gameplay, I enjoy playing BF3 more – plus it looks amazing.  However, the online experience has been infinitely frustrating.  

Halo 2 came out in 2004.  This game set the standard for ease of Xbox live play, and Bungie has improved upon this experience in subsequent iterations.  It’s astounding to me that the rest of the Xbox live community is still catching up. 

 Both are fantastic games, but for now I’m going to be playing Halo.   



Left 4 Dead Fan Film Is So Much More

Take nine minutes and thirteen seconds to watch this awesome fan film of Left 4 Dead. Sure, I'll watch almost anything with zombies, but promise me you'll hang in there until 5:30 or so. Trust me.

As bitterkenny said, "So epic."


The Two Links Every Battlefield 3 Player Should Bookmark

Sample Assault Rifle Data from

The game that seriously has its hooks into me (still) is Battlefield 3. Although playing with friends is perhaps the most frustrating experience possible on the XBOX 360, the team-based gameplay is unsurpassed for first person shooters. So if you're like me and still loving the game, you need to visit these two websites.

Battlefield 3 Stats (from something called the "P-Stats Network") gives you all of your game stats and reports for all platforms. It will tell you your overall total stats as well as the stats for each weapon, vehicle, equipment and just about every other drill-down metric you could think of. If you want to level up guns, classes or want to maximize the most experience points so you can increase your rank, you really should pay attention to your game data on Battlefield 3 Stats.

The other website Battlefield 3 players need to look at is On this site you can find out all of the details of every weapon in the game to almost scientific precision. There are charts for damage, accuracy, time-to-kill, attachments, specializations, equipment and unlocks. Not all of the weapons in the game are created equally, and with you can really investigate why. The people who run this site have done some serious heavy lifting to benefit all serious Battlefield 3 players and it's totally worth looking at.

You can check them out at:

Battlefield 3 Stats -


Video Games at CES 2012: The Giant Underwhelm

CES 2012 - the Consumer Electronics Showcase - has come and gone. And while the show is now (for the most part) not about new product announcements or big news anymore, I was still very interested to see what video game related stuff there might be. I wasn't expecting Microsoft to announce the next generation gaming console or for Sony to announce some major innovation with the PS3, but I was hoping for something more than what was being shown. Anything related to console gaming seemed like an afterthought, and the only cool thing I saw gaming-wise had to do with Apple's iOS (iPhones, iPod Touch and iPads). Which isn't really surprising I suppose.

On the Microsoft show floor there was an XBOX section (pictured above) with a couple of product marketers and ten games being shown off. There was also a few Kinect booths showing off some Kinect stuff, but it really wasn't anything that you couldn't experience by going to your local Best Buy and trying out Kinect or a first person shooter there. Many of the games (if not all of them) have been out for a while now, and while I suppose Gears of War 3 or Batman Arkham City does show off the best of what the 360 can do, it would have been (and was) much more impressive in 2009.

At Sony it was much of the same (shown below), with only five games on display for the PS3 and not much else. It definitely feels like the current generation of consoles are at the end of their product cycle, and while Sony's public statements contradict that (at least for the PS3) it's hard to get excited about the future of the current generation of consoles.

The one cool gaming related thing I saw this year at CES (cool enough at least to stop and talk to the exhibitor about) was the iCade Mobile from Ion Audio. It's a simple game controller for an iPhone or iPod Touch that works with up to 100 games currently (though more will be added). It kind of turns your iPod Touch into the form factor of PSP, and for kids who play a lot of games on their (or their parents) iOS device I can see how it might be fun to have. Check out my post about it at Modern Day Dad.

If CES 2012 is any indication, it looks like video gamers are going to have to be content with their current consoles and devices for the time being. Then again, Microsoft is kind of being cagey about their future announcements and could (in theory) make a big splash at E3 in June, which would turn a bleak future in to something pretty exciting. Here's hoping that happens.


COD: Modern Warfare 3 Is Fun, But It's No Battlefield 3

With all of the discussion yesterday about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 versus Battlefield 3, I felt obligated to put the new game (MW3) in the XBOX and give it a chance. As expected there were some good and bad things, and while I continue to believe they are both great games, in many ways they are very different games. And it's within those differences that you can decide your own preference.

There were a lot of fun things about playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, even in the first couple hours of playing the multiplayer. Matchmaking was easy and painless, and even though I was playing on the first night the game was released I had absolutely no problem getting into a game with friends. There was some lag for some players and the game did freeze on me once when it tried to put me into a multiplayer game, but it's hard for me to determine if that was an issue with my XBOX, my connection or the game itself.

The action is quick and fast, and like MW2 and Black Ops the games are quick and intense. I played mostly Team Deathmatch and a variant called "Confirmed Kill" and it was really fun. There's nothing new really to the game play itself and it feels like every other Call of Duty game I've played before. There are some good tweaks to the way you level up your players and get new guns and weapon add-ons, and after about two hours of playing I was able to get from level one to level seventeen with all the perks, kill streak bonuses and unlocked guns that entailed.

But where Battlefield 3 is clearly on the leading edge of first person shooters - especially on a console - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is a game entrenched in what has come before. In many ways the game feels very much like Call of Duty: Black Ops with just a few tweaks to make it better. Tweaks that only a real fan of the franchise will only be able to appreciate.

After playing days of Battlefield 3, I found the first screen of MW3 to be almost jarring to look at. Comparatively the game is very "cartoony" and has none of the polish that Battlefield 3 does. Even the animation of running (both your own character and the other players on the map) seems like bad motion capture. I know I shouldn't care that much as long as the gameplay is good, but Battlefield 3 has brought me to a new level of expectation that Modern Warfare 3 is not living up to.

The gameplay itself is very "run and gun" compared to Battlefield 3, and while I expect there are legions of players who prefer this style, for me it gets boring after a while. There is virtually no teamwork in playing MW3 (at least, not that I saw last night) and the game does nothing to engender that kind of teamwork. You can't "spot" enemies for other teammates to take out, and the point system gives almost no incentive for team play (20 measly points for bringing an enemy to almost the brink of death before your teammate steals the kill is almost insulting).

But they are both great games, and what it comes down to is personal preference. Personally, I enjoy a longer form objective game with a team full of friends all working towards a single goal. I enjoy the larger maps that promote this kind of game, and I enjoy the twist that vehicles and destructive environments add to a multiplayer first person shooter.

But if you just want to jump into a game quickly, run around, shoot other players and rack up new guns and points, then Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is definitely the game for you. And trust me, you are going to have fun.

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