Xbox Games with Gold – June 2016

Sunset Overdrive Xbox BundleLike they do every month, Microsoft announced the upcoming “free” games available to Xbox Live Gold subscribers. I say “free” because you do need to be paying for the Gold subscription, but the games themselves don’t cost anything extra. The Games with Gold program has been really hit and miss over the last few years that it’s been around. Some months, it’s got a couple really incredible games – in the past Dark Souls, Sunset Overdrive, and Halo 3 have all appeared as “free” titles. Sometimes though the games are maybe a little lower on the totem pole. What I have always really enjoyed about the program is that it has always put a lot of Arcade/Indie titles in the spotlight. I picked up Guacamelee along with a few other titles in the same kinda vein. And that’s certainly the style game I’m looking for with the June games.

The two Xbox One titles are on total opposite sides of the tone spectrum. On one hand, we’ve got Goat Simulator, a game that just has humor and character for days. It’s got no direct plot, just go be a goat and do all kinds of crazy stuff. I’m honestly really looking forward to playing it next month – as interesting a game as I think it is, I was more interested in spending my money on other games. The other side of the spectrum though we have The Crew, a much more serious racing game. This is one of those games that I was pretty excited about pre-launch, but after launch, the impressions I kept seeing seemed that it fell a bit short. I like the concept of being able to race all the way across the U.S. I like the idea of building up a car club – that’s something that we haven’t really seen in a racing game in a few years. Since it’s going to be free, there’s really no downside to picking it up and trying it out.

On the Xbox 360 front we have the usual set-up; a full game and an Arcade title. The full game, X-Com is one that has received tons critical acclaim since it, and recently the sequel, launched. It’s a pretty intense RPG/RTS, featuring permadeath for characters, meaning each mission has some pretty high stakes. I totally see the value in a game like that, but the RTS genre has never been a style game that I’ve liked, and X-Com, for all it’s strengths was never really a game that I was interested in. The Arcade title on the other hand is one that I’m kinda disappointed in myself for never actually picking up. It was a game that I wanted to get, ever since launch, and just never pulled the trigger. Now that Super Meat Boy is going to be free though, I can finally play one of the best pure platformers in recent memory. It’s as old-school as they come – demanding extreme precision and control to navigate the levels. At this point, you probably have at least heard of the game, and now it’s free to pick up.

The Games with Gold program is a really cool thing that Microsoft does – and I know Sony does the same thing. It ensures that no matter what, as long as you have a Gold subscription, you have access to at least four new games, every month. With games being as expensive as they are, having free games each month is a really nice thing. I do wish that maybe they could pick some newer titles sometimes, but that feels a little entitled to me.

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Eclipse Map Impressions

Black Ops 3

The second DLC for Call ofDuty: Black Ops III, Eclipse, came out on Xbox One and PC last week, and I wanted to quickly go over my thoughts on the four new multiplayer maps added in. I’ve played each map a couple times, both in Hardcore and Core modes, and in a couple different game types as well.

Let’s start with what is I think the weakest of the new maps: Knockout. It’s got a really unique visual look, with the traditional Asian architecture, but I think that’s the high point with the map. There are a lot of tight, short hallways, which play into the new weapon meta I’ve been seeing lately of the powerful one-hit weapons like the Marshal and KRM. I did really enjoy it on Domination, mainly because the three points are put in perfect spots – they’re open enough to be attacked from a few directions, making posting up camps to defend trickier. There are a couple longer sightlines, mainly around the center area where weapons like the Sheiva and snipers can work well, and the outer paths also provide some alternate routes to avoid the corner shotgun/SMG party. I think it’s a map that, with some spawn tweaking and playing in an Objective mode can be fun, but isn’t as flexible as some others.

Moving up one spot, we get Spire. Spire is the one I’ve played the least I would say, but I think it’s got a couple really high points. It’s got good mid-range sightlines for longer range engagements, while still having plenty of close range spots for intense action. I know that I complained a lot about that with Knockout, but I think Spire does a better job of balancing the ranges. It’s got great outside lanes for flanking around, there are lots of crossing paths as well for crossfires. I also really like how much cover is on this map – it feels a bit like this map is better played boots-on-ground, not thrust jumping around. You have pillars that you can use for cover, there are plenty of waist-high walls as well. Some of the pathways are a little confusing, especially the ones that lead outside from A and C Dom – it just feels like they should lead to the overlook window to me. It’s another really good Domination map, but one that I think works well on slayer modes as well.

The last two maps definitely impressed me, especially compared with the first set of DLC. First, Rift is a really good stretch map. Yes, it’s got lots of interior rooms where those one-hit power weapons can do well, but it’s also balanced with the pretty long exterior lanes. Each exterior lane also has a long wall-run that can put you right behind the enemy almost immediately off the spawn if they aren’t paying attention. As a run-and-gun flanking kind of player, I love when maps have those kinda sneaky, quick routes on them.I played this one on Safeguard, and while I don’t really love Safeguard in general, I think it worked pretty well. The defense actually can set up and stand a chance should the robot get near the objective. Compared with the first two maps, I think this is one that pretty much every gun in the game works on. Knockout might be too rushed for the slower LMGs and snipers, while Spire just plays too fast for some of the slower killing weapons. This one has spots where any weapon works, and can work really well. I did just damn fine with the Shieva on it working on headshots.

Black Ops 3 Verge

That said, my favorite map though is Verge. Verge is the remake map in this DLC set, this time of a World at War map, which is nice since that’s the only Call of Duty I never played. This is also where everything I said about Knockout feels a little dirty, because those same tight corners and lanes I complained about there are what make Verge my favorite. It’s got two lanes that are right on top of each other it feels like – with the middle lane defined by a really narrow bridge, littered with cover. There are plenty of small, tight corners where those who feel compelled can camp with one-hit kill weapons. But the map honestly just plays too fast to get away with that. The lanes, while they are narrow, are also stretched out – they feel a lot longer than you might initially think; and as such, snipers and LMGs and the Shieva all can do some serious work here. A good shot can really control a whole lane without too much effort – there’s enough cover to move from point to point while avoiding counter sniping. But there are enough side routes around too where flanking is easy enough, and the caves in particular are great for running melee weapons in.

Overall, I really like this set of maps better than the first DLC pack, Awakening. Awakening’s maps I think are overall visually more stimulating, but they all felt like they had one little thing that kept them from standing out, minus Skyjacked. Guardian has some real bad camping issues, facilitated by the map layout; Rise could be great if it was ever came up in the map rotation, and Splash just feels like it’s got too much going on. I actually think even Knockout is better than that first set of maps. Sure, this could just be positive thoughts because this new set literally just came out, but we’ll see. We’re starting to get to the point with Black Ops III where needs to keep up this trend of adding great things to the game to keep the player count high through the summer. This is usually the time where people hit the games they missed from last year, but this year we’ve already got three huge launches this month alone, two of which definitely are competitive FPS games. We’ll see what’s next as we get closer to Infinite Warfare this fall.

Destiny April Update Crucible – Final Thoughts

We’re back finishing up my thoughts on the state of the Crucible in Destiny post the April update. We talked about Subclasses, and the weapon classes. Today I want to talk a bit about the different maps and modes in the Crucible. I also want to quickly talk about the “Rise of Iron” leak that happened at the end of last week.

Destiny Crucible

I don’t have as much to talk about with the different game modes, so I’ll start there. I only really dislike Elimination within the current group of games, only because I’ve never been that big a fan of one-life per round modes. It’s actually a big part of why I don’t play Trials. I’d like to see Trials feature a couple different game types, much like what Bungie has been doing with Iron Banner since Year Two started. I actually think that Rift is probably the most well designed mode within the context of the game. The Lore behind it makes sense within not only the overall world of Destiny but also in the Crucible. I also think that it’s the one mode that really rewards players for playing the objective, while still rewarding players who are more skilled at slaying. Control tries to find that balance, but I think falls just a little short, while Zone Control goes too far and takes the value out of kills and individual performance. If Clash isn’t what you’re into and you want objective modes in a competitive environment, I think Rift is the place to go. The modes that aren’t full teams of six – Skirmish, Salvage and Doubles – each work I think well enough. They are built to be the modes you go into with friends. Solo queue play in them is a lot more difficult to do well, mainly because with smaller team sizes, you need to have better teamwork. I like Salvage, I actually think it would work better though as a six-man mode and no revives. Ultimately though the biggest issue that I think that the modes have is that the Crucible is just begging for a true split between ranked and social play. Maybe that’s something we’ll see in the sequel.

Destiny Black Garden

With the maps, there’s actually not a huge amount of issues that I have. There are a couple of maps that I think have specific spots that present little issues, but nothing super major. What I think the biggest problem with the maps is that the playlists seem to go through phases – one day I’ll play a few hours and see maybe five maps, the next day it’ll be still only a handful, but different ones. I don’t know how much of that is just bad RNG, but map voting would be a huge way to help get some more map variety in there. I see Widow’s Court, Black Shield, Pantheon and Cathedral of Dusk way more often than the other maps. It certainly feels like a lot of the vanilla maps are weighted less in the hopper than the more recent maps, and the larger maps – Skyshock, First Light and Bastion – just don’t appear at all any more. There’s something like 20 or so Crucible arenas, and I just think playing the same ten or so is missing out. There’s a lot of room in the Destiny lore too to branch out with the arenas that I really hope Bungie starts to take advantage of. You see it on maps like Rusted Lands, with the leftovers from the Hive invasion of Earth; Bannerfall, where the remnants of that fourth Tower faction can be found after the Faction Wars; and Twilight Gap, the site of one of the more important battles within the Lore of the game. I really want to see more of that in the maps – show that these arenas are places that we’ve reclaimed from the Darkness, show that they do truly live in the same worlds that we visit in PvE activities. And I’d really love to see more variety in size in the maps – I love playing Vertigo because it’s so squished compared to many of the maps. It’s a big part of why I wish the larger maps were still in the rotation – it breaks up the monotony of the same few tactics on every map. Using a hand cannon, shotgun, rocket loadout on First Light was a lot trickier to pull off because of the ranges that you were usually engaging at.The more variety there is, the less tactics and loadouts like that can dominate to the level that they have so far.

Destiny Rise of Iron

Finally, late last week, there was a leak of some pretty killer artwork supposedly showing off the next major addition to Destiny, with the title Rise of Iron. Kotaku has apparently verified the art as legit, which is interesting because there’s a couple details that could be telling. Of course, we have no idea at all if it’s the full expansion that we’re expecting this fall – the early rumors for that were Cabal themed, and this art suggests Earth based content which would mean Fallen/Hive. It could very well be a timed event like Festival of the Lost/Sparrow Racing League was, to help get us through the summer. We have no official word to go on, and honestly probably won’t until E3. The art certainly seems to show off Lord Saladin – our Iron Banner buddy – standing out near the Cosmodrome wall looking pretty damn badass with a giant flaming axe. The axe is interesting because it reminds me of the Hammer of Sol visually, but we haven’t ever seen a super ability change appearance that much. Which brings us to the possibility of a new heavy weapon – perhaps an Exotic to complement the Swords. I have thought for a while that there’s room for some experimentation with the melee slot in the form of new Exotics. Assuming also that it is Lord Saladin, he’s got an interesting piece of gear for a Titan to have on – a full cloak. Cloaks are Hunter class armors – Titans wear marks around our waists. That a Titan, and one who not only plays a big role in-game, but also within the context of the Lore, is wearing a cloak is interesting. I have no idea at all what it could mean, but it definitely looks cool as hell. The last thing to talk about that I’ve seen people talking about is all the wolves in the picture. I’ve seen people speculate that means we’ll have companion pets, or that it’s indicating wild animals will be coming to the worlds we explore. The first I think is a really really long shot – even for the full sequel. We already have a companion character in our Ghost, and character development is something that Bungie really needs to work on for the sequel. The second idea is one that I could absolutely see working our – maybe not with the game as it is right now, but certainly moving forward. What I actually think the wolves are in the artwork is just a metaphor for the rest of the Iron Lords. We know a good amount about a few of them, and they’re all described in Lore as Iron Wolves. I just the artist included the actual wolves as a nod to that bit of Lore. Plus it looks cool as hell.

Destiny – April Update Crucible Subclass Thoughts

DestinyContinuing our thoughts from yesterday, we’re looking at the state of the Crucible after the April update for Destiny. Yesterday we looked at the current state of the weapons in the Crucible, and today let’s talk about the subclasses. Titans and Warlocks have each gotten somewhat comprehensive tweaks since the launch of The Taken King, so we have a little to look at.

We’ll start with Warlocks since they just got the balance tweaks in the April update. Warlocks have always been strong in the Crucible – access to Blink, potentially the strongest melee attacks, and supers that are both duration based and power plays. What the new update really did is just help keep them from being overly strong against the other classes. There’s still a build that I think needs some attention – and in truth, Bungie knows it too, they talked about it on one of the lead up streams to the update. Let’s start with Voidwalker though. Voidwalker in Crucible has always been about burst power – grenades that do strong, quick damage, melees that keep you alive and a super that can wipe out whole teams if placed and timed right. After the update, Voidwalkers role just has been further defined. Instead of really being defined by Nova Bomb – which is still a big part of the class – I think Voidwalker now is more defined by the Energy Drain melee attack. It’s a simple build – focused around using your grenades to trigger Energy Drain, and that recharge, since the update, gets your grenade back in mere seconds. It’s a PvE powerhouse, that manages to retain its utility in the Crucible. Blink is still really strong, the melee range is still on the longer side, and Nova Bomb has always been strong. Overall, Voidwalkers didn’t change a whole lot – just became a little more focused. The patch really focused more on Stormcallers and Sunsingers. Stormcallers had been enjoying a pretty high time heading into April. Using Transcendence with Stormtrance had you Sith Lording around for a really long time. That came back a little bit – it’s still strong, but the duration isn’t nearly where it was. It needed it though, so I’m glad that it happened. The rest of the Subclass is still pretty similar to before – extended melee range, damage chaining with arc abilities, and grenades that are pretty lackluster. In certain game modes, Stormcaller can be the best choice – you can clear control points and roam for follow ups like a champ. Sunsingers are where I think Bungie will be revisiting next patch again. Yes, Flame Shield was reduced in strength, and Fireborn’s Radiance duration was also reduced. But Sunsingers’ real strength in Crucible play has long been a Viking Funeral/Touch of Flame/Firebolt grenade build. You keep damage going, by spamming the grenades with Radiance, and since you get even more grenades while Supered now, if anything the build’s power was increased. It’s an issue, but one that Bungie is aware of and, hopefully, trying to fix. Overall though, Warlocks are still in a really good spot – they’re pretty well balanced across the board, just takes a few games to get used to the jump behavior.

Destiny Nightstalker

Next up Hunters – the class that I have always associated most with Crucible strength. Hunters are still in pretty much the same place – mainly because Bungie hasn’t taken a full look at the Subclasses yet like the other two. A lot of the same moves that used to work still do. Let’s start with the new Subclass – Nightstalker. While the Nightstalker might be the Hunter’s best PvE subclass, it has the steepest learning curve in Crucible play I think. The Shadowshot is more focused around control, not kills; the melee is actually a ranged slow, and the grenades are all area denial in nature. Once you get used to those little trick though, Nightstalker can be a really effective part of a team in objective games. Nightstalkers also have a pair of really strong exotic armor choices – the Graviton Forfeit and Sealed Ahamhakara Grasps. You really do need to learn Shadestep though to use Nightstalker at its best I think though. Bladedancers have always been super strong in the Crucible – that really hasn’t changed a hell of a lot. Arc Blade, while maybe not as tanky as the old days since there are lots of high impact options for weapons now, is still really powerful at getting kills. Blink is still the best jump for escaping danger; Blink Strike is a powerful, quick melee attack; and Skip Grenades have become one of the stronger pure damage grenades out there. The neutral game isn’t quite as strong – invisibility isn’t as powerful as it might seem, but in the right hands a build focused around that could be alright. Honestly, not a lot has really changed for Bladedancers, just the addition of a great new exotic chest piece in the Tarantella. Gunslingers are in a similar boat – nothing crazy has changed. Golden Gun is still as close to a guaranteed triple kill as any super can get; Throwing Knives give them a ranged melee option that’s surprisingly strong; and Tripmine grenades can litter the arenas. The neutral game is just that – neutral. There’s nothing super strong, just decent enough boosts for the knife and weapon handling. The Symbiote went from being a detriment, to back on that near-top tier. I happen to think that the Young Ahamkara Spine is overall stronger, since you’ll probably have Tripmines more often. Since Hunters haven’t gotten the same attention recently, there really hasn’t been a lot of changes to their place in the Crucible.

Destiny Sunbreaker

 

Titans, on the other hand, have gone through a bunch of changes over the last 6 months. Taken King brought them Sunbreakers, which were admittedly really strong. In December, each Subclass got a balance pass and put Titans into, what is I think, the best spot they’ve been in since launch. Strikers, which have always been my favorite Titan Subclass, are actually not a detriment in PvE now. In Crucible, Fist of Havoc is the best panic super out there, while also providing a perfect counter to supers and control/heavy ammo plays. Strikers have the best overall grenades for Crucible in the game I think – each one does different things and does them perfectly. Storm Fist is still weak – much like all the Titan melees are – but can net a kill or two here and there. Shoulder Charge is phenomenal as a one-shot kill, and the other column of upgrades provides a couple different options. Defenders, while they are the PvE powerhouses, are super fun to play in Crucible once you get over the learning curve. Suppressor grenades are king – they can totally shut down an enemy play. Ward of Dawn, while still a giant “use your Super on me” bubble, can provide a bit of safe haven for ammo grabs and control points. Force Barrier nets you an overshield, which in Crucible is a good thing to have. The neutral game isn’t super strong, but Bastion and Illuminated is a good combo no matter what. Sunbreakers, while not as powerful as they were, are still the best overall Crucible class I think. Hammer of Sol is a great roaming super, with potential for lots of kills. Fusion grenades are good one shot kills. Sunstrike can weaken enemies, or instantly recharge on kills. You can go with a sunspot build for extra damage over time. Cauterize keeps you alive while Hammer of Sol is active. And it’s not a particularly difficult class to learn how to play effectively. If you’re new to Titans, start here, then branch out.

Ultimately, I think the Subclasses are all pretty well set. Warlocks and Hunters still are clearly stronger in Crucible, but the gap isn’t nearly as big as it used to be. Destiny doesn’t really do a great job of differentiating between the three classes – they all feel very similar – which makes it easy to hop between them. That means Crucible doesn’t have to be only played with one class.

Destiny Crucible – Has It Changed Post-Update?

DestinyOver the last couple weeks I’ve been playing more PvP in Destiny than I have since probably the launch of the game. On all three of my characters, chasing the good drops from Shaxx and still leveling my factions up. I’ve written here a couple times about the “meta” that lives in the Crucible, but since the April update (The Taken Spring) I haven’t gone too in-depth about how the Crucible is shaping up. Today, I’ll give it a closer look.

Before we get into the real meat, I’ll say this about the Crucible – over the last couple weeks, this has been the most fun I’ve had playing Crucible since the launch of the game across the board. I’ve seen a lot of posts on the Subreddit talking a lot about Skill Based Match Making/”sweaty” games in the Crucible. I personally think that’s a totally silly argument – PvP is supposed to be competitive, that’s the whole point. What I think people are arguing for is a separate place to play less competitive games – a social playlist – which I do think has merit, it just is too late to add in to the game at this point. You can have fun in the “sweaty” nature of the games – just take a step back, and focus less on the negatives. Find a moment or two in each game that gets you excited – maybe it’s a clutch quick-scope, or a pivotal play with your super ability. When you stop worrying about your wins/losses and K/D in each game, and focus more on the actual gameplay I think you will not only have more fun, but also get better naturally over time.

When we talk about the Crucible, most of the conversation revolves around the weapon balance, and rightly so. While the Guardians we play are characterized by their abilities, the primary way we interact with the worlds in the game is through our weapons. That’s why it’s both super important to get the weapons feeling right, but also incredibly difficult to nail down. I’ve always been a big believer in thumbskill trumping any weapon limitations – if you get your thumbs under you, any weapon can work, and work well. With that said, Destiny has always struggled to find a level playing ground since there are lots of moving parts. However, right now in the Crucible is probably the best all around that it’s been in a very long time, at least from a primary weapon standpoint. All four weapon classes work, and can net you plenty of kills, provided you use them within their ranges/roles. No more cross-map shooting with hand cannons, and the same goes for scout rifles at point blank range. Exotic weapons aren’t as important in PvE anymore, but in the Crucible, they still can be deadly choices – but they aren’t the only choice like Thorn/Suros/Mythoclast used to be.

Destiny MIDA Multi Tool

Let’s talk a little more about primary weapons before we move along. If there is one weapon that’s close to that Thorn/Suros/Mythoclast level it has to be the MIDA Multi Tool. It’s definitely the most popular weapon that I’ve seen out there, but I think it does have a little stepper learning curve than the other weapons did. It’s a scout rifle, so figuring out the pacing on the fire rate and dealing with the close range limitations of the weapon can take a little time. But when you pair it with the exotic perk – greatly increased agility – and it can be a super difficult weapon to fight against. I think the only real reason you don’t see it to the same level you used to with Thorn is because of that learning curve. That said, my new favorite build uses my MIDA on a full agility Bladedancer running Radiant Dance Machines – you can walk just about as fast as sprint, and that extended to strafing. It’s stupid fast. Beyond MIDA, there are actually plenty of different primary weapons you can use to do really well. Doctrine of Passing – which does require Trials to earn – is still capable of putting out insane damage at close ranges, but auto rifles are finally starting to come back. The Iron Banner Haakon’s Hatchet is really solid, as is Shadow Price and Grim Citizen III, along with pretty much any exotic. Hand cannons are all about in the same spot – Hawkmoon stands out a bit more, and Last Word came back to the pack a good amount. I’ve actually been really liking my Devil You Know and even The First Curse for the weekly hand cannon bounty. Scout rifles are pretty similar to hand cannons – all very similar in behavior, which opens up the possibilities; and we already talked about MIDA, although Tlaloc is a solid choice for Warlocks as well. Pulse rifles are still really strong – they have been the best overall class since The Taken King launched I think. Hawksaw and the Suros PDX still can dominate with the right roll, and the new Final Duty from Variks is in that same kind of spot. I still think that Red Death is the best overall weapon, not just in Crucible play, but in the entire game, but I think I’m a little in the minority on that one these days. Outside of the hyper-competitive arenas of Trials, I think this is the first time in a very long time where just about any primary works awesome. Trials is a little different, but I’ve never liked Trials thanks to the Elimination game type.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

When we move to special and heavy weapons though, that’s where that balance starts to break down a little bit. This is where you’ll see a lot of the same weapons over and over in each game. Fusion rifles, while certainly better since the April update, are still rare sights, and I think there’s really only one that I would say has the potential to be powerful – Plan C; that fast charging, relatively strong impact kind of fusion rifle. But shotguns and snipers are still the kings – and the same names are still leading the charge. Conspiracy Theory, Party Crasher, Thousand Yard Stare, LDR, Longbow – weapons that should be very familiar to anyone at this point. With the shotguns, it’s the same problem that Felwinter’s presented in Year One – the high impact, long range, low rate of fire weapons are by far better PvP options. There’s really only one exception to that, and it’s an exotic – Invective. You’re still chasing the same basic ideas – range boosts, reload speed boosts, impact if can get it – that you were in Year One. As a result, this is where I think the balance breaks down and you find players all using the same loadouts. Snipers have a little more variety, but only in names. The Thousand Yard Stare, LDR 5001 and Longbow Synthesis are all basically the same archetype weapons. Impact is on the higher side, rate of fire is right in the middle, and they can all roll with the perks you want. Reload speed boosts, good scopes, and target acquisition all help make that weapon slot feel samey. Exotic snipers all but have disappeared – I was shocked to see a Hereafter yesterday in a match. Building  off of that idea, I can’t remember the last time I used a sidearm in the Crucible, or saw one for that matter. If there’s only one thing that the next weapon pass looks at, I really hope that it’s the special weapon economy. Special ammo has been up and down, but the weapons all haven’t really changed in basically a year now.

Heavy weapons are also in a similar spot – and really have been since the early days of Destiny. Rockets are the head of the class – by a large margin. Even with the ammo changes, reducing the number of rockets you can hold, they’re still the best choice for a heavy. You have easy potential for multi-kills, and the damage is instant. I may prefer using a machine gun, but I have to pull back after grabbing ammo while the rockets start flying around. Swords are…interesting to use. Potentially a really powerful option – especially on smaller maps, but you do have to get up close. A lot like with the specials, you’re still looking for the same talents as always. Rockets still need tripod, grenades and horseshoes, tracking, and as much velocity and blast radius as you can get. There’s a reason Truth is still the best PvP rocket in the game. Lord Saladin did bring a damn good second option with Tormod’s Bellows with a god roll, but it’s no longer for sale. Machine guns still need to have that mid rate of fire and above average impact to really stand a chance – they can get lots of kills, but you need to survive past the rocketfest. Any boots with ammo boosts, and gauntlets with reload speed boosts help a lot here – the guns themselves aren’t quite as dependent on perks actually. Look for stability, range and reload perks. Basically chase the Raid machine gun, and you’ll be set. Swords are all set with their perks, so there’s no real variety there. Instead you want to get as much ammo as you can, then just learn to time your attacks. It’s a lot like the machine guns – survive the initial crossfire rockets, get to the choke points, use the block ability and you’ll be chopping down enemies for sure.

There’s a lot still to talk about – we’ll talk subclasses tomorrow and the different modes themselves Wednesday – but weapon wise, the Crucible is in a really solid spot. There’s still work to do of course, but for the first time in a while, I actually find myself wanting to play Crucible again. Bungie just needs to keep an eye on the data and keep making changes that need to happen. I would like to see them come a little more frequently, but we’ll see moving forward.

Weekend Recap – Overwatch Beta, Battlefield 1, and Black Ops Black Market

Over this past weekend, we were graced with a good selection of gaming goodness to enjoy. I thought I’d talk a little bit about the two games with new polish that I played over the weekend along with my early thoughts on the Battlefield 1 announcement. We’re still a month out from E3, but we’re already getting some big bits of news.

Black Ops 3

Let’s start with the quick hitter – Black Ops III put out a hotfix going into the weekend that added in a new feature to the Black Market. Treyarch put out Contracts – eventually they’ll be daily and weekly features, but for now there’s just a featured Contract. Complete it – win 75 games – and you earn a weapon bribe for the Black Market along with 10 free rare supply drops. On top of that, Season Pass holders were gifted that same prize upon logging on this weekend. I was super lucky with my packages, netting the HG-40, Brass Knuckles and MVP baseball bat, but I know that there were lots of people who only got the one guaranteed weapon. What I really like with this new patch is it looks like Treyarch/Activision have heard the arguments from the broader community about supply drops. It’s early on with the new elements of the Black Market, but if this is a way for Treyarch to reward players with rare supply drops or even gear bribes for completing the Contracts it is bound to up the level of engagement with the Black Market. It’s a positive sign from a publisher that tends to not back down on secondary purchases like the CoD Points are. If it’s an early signal that Activision is going to be a little more flexible omoving forward, that is a great sign for their other big games – Destiny, Infinite Warfare and soon Overwatch. We just have to hope that it is the start of something.

The other quick thing I want to talk about is the Overwatch beta. I played a good handful of games with a few different heroes and I have to say, I think it’s a very fun game. It is drawing comparisons to Battleborn, mainly because they both are dropping close to each other and both are hero shooters; but I actually think the two games are really different. Battleborn is a lot closer to a MOBA, both in terms of game modes and the way the heroes have to level up each match. Overwatch is a lot closer to a game like Team Fortress. It’s an arena shooter, just each hero has their own powers and roles. Widowmaker is a lot of fun if you just want to focus on killing the enemy team, Bastion is basically a built in Play of the Game hero, Mei is awesome for crowd control and power plays and Zenyatta is a really great hybrid support hero. Overwatch wasn’t really on my radar aside from a couple stream clips I had seen going into the Beta, but coming out it’s a game I could definitely see picking up.

Finally, let’s talk about that Battlefield announcement. Not even a full week removed from the Call of Duty announcement, EA and DICE came out swinging and reignited the military FPS wars. Sort of. I’ve never seen the two franchises as direct competition – they appeal to two different markets. That said, I think there’s a lot to be excited about with Battlefield 1. This is the first time that a major Triple A shooter has gone back to the First World War. I’m really looking forward to the opportunities that the setting presents, especially in terms of set pieces in the campaign. The multiplayer side still has a couple questions that I think need answering – it’s going to have to be a slower pace across the board, and Battlefield  has always been relatively slow paced outside of time to kill. The games are long, and with technology that’s older than any game we’ve played yet, the weapons/vehicles are going to be a tricky thing to nail. I have three hang-ups going in though – two directly relate to the game, the third is more about the developers/fanbase. As sson as the Call of Duty trailer dropped, there were a number of DICE developers casting shade on the looks of the trailer, saying it looked like a ten-year old game. Firstly, saying that is utterly ridiculous – ten years ago we were playing Oblivion and the first Gears of War, which looked nowhere even close to that good. Secondly, at least from that trailer, we got wehat really looked like gameplay. The Battlefield 1 trailer was all pre-rendered footage. Just because it says “game-engine footage” doesn’t mean that it’s showing actual gameplay footage. DICE pulled the same thing with Battlefront – which definitely doesn’t look like that first trailer did in-game. So maybe cool the jets a little on that, especially when your trailer looks a lot less polished than the Infinite Warfare trailer. The other issues I have are more directly related to the game. Firstly, that name is dreadful. Battlefield 1 – but it’s actually the fifth main series game. I get that the “1” is in reference to the WW1 setting, but take a page out of your own playbook – call it “Battlefield 1918” or something along those lines. That not only draws the focus to the setting, but also acts as a throwback to the first Battlefield game. Secondly, DICE really hasn’t proved to me that they can do a campaign at the highest level consistently. Bad Company is usually put out there as the example of the franchise doing it well – but that was almost ten years ago! And it’s the only one – Hardline wasn’t terrible, but it sure wasn’t on the level of some of the other FPS campaigns. So the campaign is a question mark that I have, but one that I really hope DICE answers. I have a feeling E3 will be plenty exciting this year.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare – (Re)Fresher Part Two

Call of Duty: Modern WarfareContinuing where we left off yesterday, today we’ll look at the maps that were featured in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. This is all to get ready for this fall’s remastered version of the game that will be bundled with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. We know that we’re getting ten maps with the remake – that means six maps are being left behind from the initial release. Instead of trying to guess which those six  will be, because there are a couple that I think are potential cuts, I’ll just run through the full list quickly. The standout maps I’ll talk a little more about, while the lower tier maps we’ll hit quick.

First on the list is Ambush. It’s a fairly large map, great for long-range encounters and sniping. It’s not actually symmetrical, but it’s pretty close, to the point where I don’t that one side has a huge advantage. It works in Domination, Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and if the remake has newer modes, Kill Confirmed. I think it’s a pretty safe bet to appear, it’s one of those fan favorite maps on the original disc. I definitely think this one of the best maps to help get your long-range combat skills better. Grab a M40A3 or G3 and watch the side roads. Next up is Backlot, which is one of the few maps that we know is in the Remake. Unlike a lot of modern maps in FPS games, this one is all about the center location. There’s one – technically – three story house right in the middle of the map that is really important to control. It’s got great sightlines on the other two major landmarks – the destroyed building and the construction site – which means a good shot can helps control the flow of a game. I like playing it on Team Deathmatch the most, since it tends to revolve around those landmarks instead of trading spawn sides. Next let’s look at Bloc. Bloc is one of those maps that I think gets overlooked when we talk about great Call of Duty maps. I love this map – it’s everything I like in a shooter map. It’s balanced – basically symmetrical, with two blocks of apartments on either side. Sure, some games will descend into firefights from building to building, but playing the flanker role can be a huge amount of fun. This was always one of the few maps that I felt comfortable using the shotguns on without being at a disadvantage. If you can get into the apartments and other close range situations, those weapons can really make a power play.

The next map on the list is Bog, which is another one that I think is all but a guarantee to appear in the Remake. It’s a pretty open map, not a huge amount of cover so timing your runs is pretty important. Sniping is really great on this one – as is running with Frag X3 if you know the angles. Domination is good, Search is potentially very frustrating with those grenades, but the map works across the board. Next up is Countdown, another one I could see being included. This is one of the bigger maps in the game, and has some pretty crazy sightlines. It’s got  lots of long lines, but it’s dotted with cover so setting up to snipe can be tricky. Domination is lots of fun, with pretty intense games. Expect spawns to flip a lot with this one, and air support to be more effective than usual. Next on the list is Crash, which is one we know is coming forward. At this point you should probably already know all about Crash. I think it’s the perfect Call of Duty map for that Modern Warfare style combat. Long lanes, tight corners, interior combat and plenty of alternate routes make it a tough map to predict how games flow. I still think it’s Infinity Ward’s best map they’ve ever made, and I’m super excited to revisit an old friend. Next on the list is Crossfire, another one we know is coming forward. Crossfire was another map that I always really enjoyed. It’s essentially a giant “S” shape, with the outer edges made up of buildings you can move through. Snipers can lock down the center lane, as well as potentially make some buildings dangerous to go in. If you do manage to close the range down, fighting building to building is always tense and fun. This is another one I’m really looking forward to playing.

Moving on down the list, we have District next. I think it’s one that might be left behind – it’s not a bad map, but it doesn’t really stand out in any way. It also had a pretty bad glitch where there was a building that had no collision so you could shoot through it. There’s the market too, where the combat tends to funnel toward, but it’s nothing standout. Next upon the list is Downpour. Downpour is set on a rainy rural farm, and it’s not exactly a huge map, but it’s a good size. It’s asymmetrical, so it’s important to try and grab the high ground.As much as I like this map, I could easily see it being left behind. On the other hand, the next map – Overgrown – is probably pretty likely to show up. Overgrown is a huge map – set on a massive farm with a pretty good size main farm house, a two level barn and a filed with hay bales.  It’s a great sniper map, and if you’re a good flanker it can be a perfect map for it. You definitely need to pay attention to the alternate routes that this map is full of. Same goes for the next map – Pipeline. It’s apparently a favorite since it showed up in Advanced Warfare, just tweaked a little for that game’s mechanics. It’s another big one, but sniping is tricky since there are plenty of interior routes to take to get closer to the snipers. I think there’s a good chance it’ll show up, and if it does, get ready to pick out enemies from farther away and then close on them.

Moving on down the list, we get to Shipment. This is probably the smallest map in the series, and it’s another fan favorite. It’s a great Free-For-All map, and just about any match on this map is total chaos. It’s full of tight corners, medium range sight lines and plenty of angles to toss grenades on. I really doubt this one won’t show up – it’s too damn popular to not. Hopefully it shows up in more playlists though. With only a few more maps to go, let’s talk about Showdown. It’s another simple map – it’s a big rectangle/courtyard with a couple levels to it. Lots of mid-range combat, a couple good ambush places, and it’s a great map for Helicopter support. I’m on the fence with this one – I could definitely see it moving forward, but at the same time, I could easily see them leaving it behind. It’s just not overly special. Next up is Strike, another really popular map. This one is tough for me to call. I had a lot more fun with the map when they put it in Modern Warfare 2. It’s not a bad map, it’s got a good mix of interior and road combat and I think plenty of different loadouts work well. Our second-to-last map to look at is Vacant. Another that showed up in the sequel, Vacant is a great close range map. There’s lots of tight corners, combined with a couple mid-range hallways. It’s the other map that I used to like using shotguns on – running through the halls with Juggernaut and RPGs with a shotgun was a lot of fun. I definitely hope that this one comes forward. Our final map is Wet Work – which we saw portions of in the reveal stream, or at least assets that were in Crew Expendable and probably could be used in the map. I definitely see it moving forward, even though it’s not my favorite map. It’s not bad – symmetrical in nature, with longer range combat definitely the more common action. My problem is just that when I first started playing MW, my friends wanted to play Search, and this map in particular had some camping issues. There was also a way to get out of the map and snipe from above the control room. I definitely think this one is coming forward, but I would really rather see something like Bloc show up.

There’s still a lot to learn about Infinite Warfare as well as the Modern Warfare Remaster before this November’s launch. But that just means that there’s plenty of time to talk about one of the best FPS games of the last ten years. If you can, I definitely think you maybe hopping on the old game isn’t a bad idea.