I hit level 55 in Call of Duty: Black Ops III last night, which is the level cap before entering Prestige Mode. When you reach that level, you get one of the four multiplayer achievements in the game – one is unlocked at level 10, the other two deal with the new Specialist mechanic in Black Ops. That, combined with my ongoing grind for weapon camos, calling cards and Specialist attire got me thinking about those sort of multiplayer achievements – whether they’re actual Xbox Achievements/PlayStation Trophies or in-game items. My stance on multiplayer achievements has always been more or less that they really shouldn’t be on the achievement list. But that idea was basically formed from the achievements that were in Gears of War, Halo 3, and Halo: Reach. Over the last couple years, I’ve softened my stance a little.
With the games that I play the most online right now – Destiny, Halo 5, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III – each has competitive multiplayer achievements. A few years ago, I would have been pissed about that – mainly because I see those achievements always drawing the most attention for boosters and the such. I played the hell out of Halo 3 and I’m still missing a whole slew of the multiplayer achievements because they could only be unlocked in Free for All – which to me just further encouraged boosting. With Halo 5 though, the multiplayer achievements are much more easily unlocked. Win five games of the different game modes, and do the same for each of the original three Warzone maps. In theory that’s really not that many games, should you play well and get your wins quickly. Then you are free to just focus on the in-game commendations and REQ points. With the Warzone achievement, I do think that since you’re at the mercy of the map selector, it can be a bit more frustrating – I had the same issue with Titanfall asking you to win a game of each mode on each map. But those are achievements that, again in theory, are simply unlocked by playing the game over time. That’s kinda the point with shooters these days – the campaign is good for a few play sessions, then it’s the multiplayer that keeps the game installed on your hard drive.
With the two Activision games – Destiny and Call of Duty – the lists are a little different. Destiny does have a couple PvP achievements, and really only one is dependent on player skill and might be tricky (Kill a Warlock, Hunter and Titan in one life). The rest are pretty much just keep playing kind of achievements – which works with Destiny‘s notion of you playing a bunch of different activities every time you log on. And since the bulk of the content is PvE in nature, that’s where the bulk of the achievements are. That one odd achievement is a good example of one that I definitely take issue with. At launch, it was a lot easier to get that one – everyone was still playing around with each class, including alts. I got that achievement when I was leveling my Warlock before my fireteam had actually finished the story – mainly thanks to Nova Bomb being good at covering a wide area. After the meta stabilized though and Titans all but vanished from PvP through most of Year One, that achievement became a hell of a lot harder to unlock. Now it’s probably back to being relatively straightforward with Sunbreakers making Titans relevant again.
Which brings me to Call of Duty. It’s been a series that has always done different things with multiplayer. The first multiplayer specific achievements didn’t appear until the first Black Ops, of which there were two – one to reach level 10 in Combat Training, and one to win five Wager Matches. And for the most part, that’s been pretty much how each game has approached the multiplayer achievements – with ones that are easily unlocked just from playing a whole bunch of games. Where they’ve put a lot of the kind of things that could have been achievements are in the meta-challenges. Stuff like Misery Loves Company, The Loner, and Collateral all would have made fine achievements, but putting them in-game helps reduce the boosting, in theory. For Call of Duty, I think that balance is definitely the best way to go. It lets the developers put in a couple multiplayer achievements to round out the list, but put the real challenges in-game and reward the players with in-game items. With Black Ops III though, that line has been blurred just a little bit. Those two Specialist related achievements aren’t just earned by playing with them a lot – maybe the triple kill one depending on the weapon – but the five medals in one game one definitely seems designed to push players toward a specific playstyle with specific Specialists. I’ve spent this whole Prestige playing as Prophet – mainly because I think Tempest is a great objective defense weapon – and I don’t think I’ve played a single game (even with Overdrive) that I’ve felt like I could have earned five medals based on Glitch. Truth be told, I think Glitch is one of the two weakest abilities in game along with Rejack, mainly because of the challenge associated with Glitch has you getting kills after it. To me, it’s way more attuned to a defensive use – before I was trying to get those last cosmetic items for Prophet, that’s how I used it – to survive fights I was dead in.
Tie that together with the “secret” Dark Matter camo and Gold Hero attire for Specialists, and it’s really not that hard to see why Treyarch is cracking down on boosters pretty early in the game’s life. Instead of Dark Matter being like Diamond was in Black Ops II as a status symbol, my first thought is now trying to figure out if the player is a booster. Now, of course, Diamond had boosters too – they’re part of the system, and that’s why there’s always going to be the need to crack down on them. Putting things that almost encourage boosting into the achievement list is never a good thing, and I think Treyarch toed the line a little this time around. Hopefully Ghosts 2 or whatever we get this year will have a more straightforward list.