Bad Company 2 Initial Impressions

I play very few genres on the XBOX. I play racing games, I play shooters and I play demos of other genres to remind me why I stick to the genres I do. Before anyone flames me that X is better than Y, understand I liked Operation Flashpoint 2, I liked Modern Warfare 2 and I like Bad Company 2. Out of all three, I like them least-to-most in that order. Flashpoint took the cake for having the most potential and the worst execution. Making me pay for patches is a no-no. Modern Warfare 2 had slick execution and excellent graphics, but the multiplayer was absolutely ruined and they botched the patch. Bad Company 2 seems like the game I wanted to play in the first place.

Usually these choices keep me happy.

Multiplayer is also a huge factor. If the game doesn’t have multiplayer, I’m probably not going to buy it. Reasons are entirely personal but my videogames need a good bit of tread to keep me interested.

Basically it boils down to time. I don’t have a ton of it and if I can’t play a round in 15 minutes or so it’s tough to play. Modern Warfare 2 scratched this itch. The singleplayer was great, the multiplayer was (initially) really good. My gripes about MW2 are numerous and they’ve been retread a ton on the blog. I finally got to the point where I picked it up for 15 minutes and played a few rounds and finally quit again in frustration. Two words: GOLDEN DEAGLE.

EBGames was having one of their power-trade things, so I figured I would dump Left 4 Dead 1 (which I didn’t trade to Amazon) and MW2. I ended up with a used copy of Battlefield Bad Company 2 (with a code in it for the maps, not sure if this is still relevant or not) for $17. Not bad, cheaper than beer, right?

Singleplayer review follows – everyone is reviewing multiplayer but I’m firmly convinced both MW2 and BC2 use singleplayer for training and thus it’s important to finish the campaign on normal just once before going online. In both cases this is true, but I haven’t finished the campaign yet in BC2. Also I’ll throw in Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising comparisons since, to be fair, BC2 has more in common with FP2 than MW2.

Menus – Strange to start a review here? Not really. While MW2 menus had a tendency to take up the entire screen and be well laid out (minus the weird main menu where you “drilled down” into an entirely different set of menus for multi or spec ops) both FP2 and BC2 borrow the “yellow bar” menu system. Don’t worry, it’s entirely usable, but seems a bit strange. In the game, FP2 uses Ghost Recon pie menus, but MW2 and BC2 share the same “bottom bar” menus for gadgets and options and whatnot. Also object interaction in MW2 and FP2 is nonexistent, but in BC2 it’s much closer to Left 4 Dead. If you can interact with something, you are either presented with what button to press (like MW2) or you can use the generic “mark” button (“back” on the controller) to call enemies, vehicles, etc. It’s all done quite nicely. The whole “press this button” or “mark” meme continues through the menus and the game and it flows quite nicely.

Enemy AI – FP2 failed it big time here. The game was entirely scripted, and this is OK, but it was done badly and in a way where if the player didn’t follow “the route”, the events wouldn’t be properly triggered. To make matters funnier, one of the singleplayer maps was terribly broken as a result. MW2 also features AI which is largely scripted. The bad guys always appear at the same places, with the same weapons, and take cover where they need to be. They would rarely break from cover. Even grenades are scripted in the MW2 single player campaign where someone will toss one at a predefined point. The level design is so linear in MW2 that it’s a rail shooter, but it’s so well executed you won’t notice. The AI in BC2 is good. While enemies still have patrol routes, they do make some attempt at maneuvering and they’re reasonably aware of the destruction to the environment. Good examples of this – in the second level if you blow out the wall to a building in the courtyard, enemies shooting from the windows will run away and find a new window. Examples of this being lackluster – if you sufficiently skirt the “engagement area” you can sneak around some obstacles without firing a shot. I’m fairly sure this is intentional as the areas this option presents itself with are usually so filled with bad guys it’s ridiculous. Examples are the lumber yard and the last area of the second map where you can ride a quad to the objective and leave the area onto the “escape truck” without engaging the bad guys.

Maps – Maps are well thought out for what BC2 will do. They understand you’re here to have fun, so they give you plenty of buildings to blow up and propane cans to kick around. They don’t make it overt where you’re destroying everything in your path (minus missions with airstrikes), and some of the missions require you to explicitly not do this. The overwatch area with the sniper rifle makes it incredibly tempting to simply run in and tap off all the gas cans to level the camp, but I failed the mission doing this. On the other hand, the mission with airstrikes is hilarious since the whole place comes down. MW2 is a rail shooter, and while BC2 suffers from the same bit of scripted bad guys, the AI is strong enough to let you get off course and try new stuff. In MW2, if you were smart enough to get in “the wrong place”, you could pretty much dominate the campaign. The terminal map comes to mind here (the end of “no russian”), where the shield guys are a real PITA, but if you were smart enough to run forward before the spawn event, you could literally walk down the line and knife them all without being hit. FP2 failed it utterly, thankfully it merely serves as example of what not to do. While FP2 had trigger areas and weak AI that relied entirely on scripting, BC2 has none of that.

Vehicles – MW2 fails it utterly. The entire game is a rail shooter so it’s no surprise when you step into a vehicle and its a rail shooter. FP2 had terrible vehicle physics, on par with Battlefield Vietnam. It wasn’t uncommon for vehicles to get stuck and to get stuck under vehicles. Actually running someone over might work, but usually not. Stepping out of vehicles was hilarious because you could fall through the planet. It was crap, all around. BC2 does it right. The vehicles might be over simplified but they work correctly. They don’t get stuck. The game is really good at dismounting you properly, including when you do intentionally stupid stuff like drive a boat at high-speed up the side of a hill to get a better shooting position for the cannon (lumberyard). Also FP2 wouldn’t let mounted soldiers fire, which was stupid as all heck but with the AI being as bad as it was, this didn’t surprise me. BC2 lets mounted soldiers fire. BC2 has vehicle damage, so when you blow out the windshield of a vehicle you can kill the driver, or you can shoot people off the quad bikes.

Blowing Crap Up – FP2 you assumed would let you drive over trees and stuff, it never happened. MW2 had scripted events where things would explode, and it had a strange bullet penetration system where sometimes you could shoot through a wall and sometimes not, even with FMJ equipped. BC2 has its own quirks where sometimes sandbags are indestructible, and sometimes not. However, vehicles seem to take the “correct” amount of damage, and so do walls and whatnot. More importantly you really can bring down trees, which provide additional cover if you’re infantry or obscure vehicles shooting and view. The trees thing is nice, and it never seems to get in the way. On the other hand blowing the crap out of buildings means – as infantry – you better surprise them or you’re  toast after the first few rounds.

Sound – Normally I don’t care about how my games sound so long as there’s music to establish the atmosphere, etc. FP2 sucked for this – everything was loud. MW2 had a good soundtrack and excellent voice acting. Bad Company 2 actually sounds real. I’m putting that in italics because the effect is so profound it’s visceral. I shoot in real life, I’ve played with rockets, I’ve blown up things where “danger close” would have been an ironic joke. Normally guns make generic “gunshot noises” and clips make “reloading noises” and explosions go “boom”. If you choose the proper speaker setup, the sound makes the firefights in Bad Company 2 absolutely intense. The guns make the right noises. Plastic clips (called “bullet tupperware”) make the right noises. Metal clips make the right noises. Linked belts make the right noises. More on the point you can hear the brass hit the floor and roll around (or grenades) or not, and standing outside lets you hear far more than standing inside. Also there’s a deafness model at work – if you empty a clip you won’t hear much of anything. If an explosion goes off near you, you won’t even hear teammates yelling. The aural model is really, really exceptionally well done.

I expect multiplayer to be more of the same. All in all I shouldn’t have bought FP2, it was a disaster. I don’t regret buying MW2, it was fun for what it was but in the end the users ruined it and Infinity Ward couldn’t keep up with Activision messing with them constantly. Battlefield Bad Company 2 is the game I should have bought in the first place, but frankly getting all three games for $20 each time because of trade ins means I don’t feel bad about the experience.

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I’m Probably Trading in Modern Warfare 2

Ugh, what a mess. First Infinity Ward (IW) has it’s management scalped by activision because they didn’t want to actually pay someone for having the best selling game of all time, then two other managers resigned and nine more developers quit. 12 people is piss in the river for all the people who actually worked on it, but my guess is that it’s their top talent since it wouldn’t be worth it for some minor developer to make a stink about resigning.

What we’re left with is one addon pack which got released and was bugged at release, and we’ve got fundamental issues with how the game actually works for multiplayer. Despite the team doing a pretty decent job cracking down on the cheating, there’s still the fundamental problem that some user accounts have things like ranks they shouldn’t, weapons they shouldn’t, and camo they shouldn’t. These are legit accounts running on legit XBOXes which haven’t been modded, they just have extra attributes.

The modded XBOXes continue to see through walls, autoaim, all the perks listed above and modified weapons attributes. Nothing like finding yourself in a map with ice skaing enabled and sentry guns which shoot grenade launcher rounds. While it might be cool if these were codified into some kind of official mod, that’s not how it’s being used.

I’m Fed Up With Modern Warfare 2

The no-dedicated-server thing has let the cheaters run wild. Post patch, you can still do the care package glitch which now requires One Man Army and flashbangs. Otherwise it works as normal. While it slows down the pace of the care packages, it doesn’t really affect the game too much when someone’s doing it because you can’t call in two harriers at once. They’ve got all the time in the world to mess with it.

The other problem is the current “ice skating” craze. You’ll join a game where you can run 100 mph, take no falling damage, and the autoaim area is turned way up so firing a gun always results in a kill. It’s cute the first time it happens. Last night I had to fight to find a game where it didn’t happen.

Finally the killer is that IW’s forums said if the host migration fails, it’s because it was either migrating to a host which was modded or from a host which was modded. Since there’s no indication of who was the host, there’s no way to report them unless the modding is blatent.

Which is the other, final straw. I was on a game yesterday with an invisible teammate. It was hilarious he was on our team, but he got 122 knife kills. Its shit like this which makes the game not much fun. When the matches are honest, they’re great. When the matches are very subtly dishonest, it’s hard to detect. All in all now that I’ve got level 70 and unlocked most of the gun toys on most of the guns, I’ve got enough experience to know when someone has, for example, jacked up the accuracy and damage on the vector.

IW’s magement just got fired and the next patch which was supposed to include a mappack is apparently “on hold” as a result. More like they’re realizing just how entirely fucked they are.

Is Battlefield Bad Company 2 any good? It’s gotten decent reviews, and the last battlefield game I enjoyed was Battlefield Vietnam. I played Operation Flashpoint 2 – BFBC2 looks like its the same game spiritually. The demo on LIVE is a bit of a wash because nothing is explained and people tend to take a vehicle and run off with it – however this has always been a problem with all the Battlefield games.

Anyone trading in MW2 for Bad Company 2?

XBOX 360 Wireless Part Deux

I scored the D-LINK DWL-G730AP for the XBOX 360. This was suggested when researching wifi solutions. Amazon shipped it and it got here the next day. Hows that for service? To make a long story short, I had exactly an hour to set it up yesterday before I was supposed to hop on for work.

How did that go?

For one, I’m running Linux, so I never got to review their quick start CD. The manual, however, is total crap and I ended up downloading the PDF from the website. D-Link tends to be better and consistent across their administration interface, and I had owned one previously before getting a netgear for the XBOX 360’s wired connection. The XBOX 360 shits fat packets, and if your hardware isn’t certified your connection used to completely suck. Nowadays people figured out the trick and the firmwares work, but be aware if your router crashes (and the REV A hardware and firmwares before 2 do for this device) you need a newer device. The old D-Link did this to a T and the Amazon reviews pretty much say nothings improved since 2006. It either works, or not. Thankfully buying it news means you get Rev B, and firmware 2.

This does nothing for the UI.

The UI is junk, frankly. To start with it depends on a swith on the bottom to configure it as a client (what you need for the XBOX), a router (with only one uplink port, lol) or a firewall. The last mode is next to useless, but if you’re looking to add wifi connectivity to a switch or router, it might scratch your itch. The problem is that the firewall settings are godawful. This doesn’t become a problem if you’re not using it as an AP. On the other hand, the other settings are godawful too and it’s not hard to see why there’s a totally seperate UI on the disk.

Configuration is the standard D-Link blue and white UI. The problems start with that switch. The UI changes from the position of the switch, but the modes are all roughly the same and bits and pieces either appear and disappear based on that switches positon. Sometimes this makes no sense at all. Trying to configure the device for a bridge lets me set the LAN side to DHCP. This makes sense, right? We want the XBOX to get a new IP when we plug it in, right? No. This means the LAN side of the bridge is DHCP, which means that it’s no longer 192.168.0.30 and now expects to have it’s IP assigned. Since the XBOX, or your laptop isn’t a DHCP server, this makes no sense at all in bridge mode. Similarly the gateway should be unconfigured (0.0.0.0) and the DNS server too. Since this device cannot be a DNS server (or relay) I’m not even sure why they put those features in there. Also completely weird is the SSID search –  you must find your router using the wizard and select it with the radio-button. You also need to specify a channel and it can’t figure out the authentication on it’s own. Why? No idea. The Netgear stuff can cloak the SSID and hop channels to avoid interference, but not using this device.

The final insult was that – for configuration – you need a static IP. After configuration, you need a dynamic IP. This is probably something gracefully handled by the install disc, but it’s not mentioned anywhere in the manual. I spent most of my time second guessing the config. Finally I fired up the DHCP client and bound it to the eth0 device which already had a static IP configuration and it magically worked. However, you’re not told (or prompted) to switch your settings once the device is configured. If you’re wondering, the gateway is set to the IP of the LAN side, but DNS needs to be another server. Your IP address is dynamically assigned and the device actually treats the whole process as full NAT, which is exactly what needs to happen to host XBOX games.

I’ve thrown these things under the bus pretty badly, but to be honest, once it’s configured you don’t have to worry about it. I played Modern Warfare 2 last night with no hiccups, and also watched a few Netflix. I saw no issues with either, and Netflix gives me the “five bars of signal”. If you can put up with the terrible UI once, it’s worth the money compared to the same crap from Microsoft. It has the bonus of being usuable for any device with an ethernet port, so in this way it’s superior. Friends and hunting buddies who want to get online with their computers now can just use this business card sized device instead of me having to run cable. If I had to reconfigure it many times, I probably would suggest passing on it.

Modern Warfare 2 Patches

It was the Right Thing to do in buying Modern Warfare 2. You get real good at a loadout and then the game changes it up. Either something unlocked (a game mode, an attachment, etc) or the game gives you something in terms of perks or ranks.

The sad part is there’s some semi-annoying glitches out there. The original was the javelin missile glitch where a player could hit themselves with the missile and walk around with the unspawned missile attached to them. If you kill this player you get blown up. While it does nothing for their K/D ratio, it was really annoying to have someone suicide bomb your defense. They patched this with the last update, and it’s now hilarious to spectate someone trying to do it. The other patch fixes the care package – it no longer kills you if it falls on you and can’t be used as a bridge anymore.

The newest problem pissing me off is the Public Private Match. You choose a game mode, you go to enter with friends and you end up sucked into someone elses game mode where it’s totally different. Also it’s FFA rules despite being a “team game” and you gain XP killing teammates. The upside is when you’re sucked in, you can choose “END MATCH” and kick everyone out which I find hilarious since it’s fairly tempramental to start these things. If you select END MATCH and you’re on the winning team, you gain a ton of XP. If you’re on the losing team, you still gain some XP, but either way you’ve gotten the XP playing for all of two seconds.