This has been an interesting week for the new “big three” of online shooters. All three – Destiny, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection – either have already gotten, or will get today, a pretty substantial patch. Destiny’s dropped early on in the week – this is the first in a series of planned patches to prepare for the first Expansion, “The Dark Below” on December 9. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare got an update yesterday that addressed a number of multiplayer specific issues, which is at least the second patch that is based around connection issues online in as many weeks. Finally, the Halo: The Master Chief Collection is getting a pretty loaded patch at some point this afternoon. The patch notes – which I was just harping on the other day – were released this morning in advance of the actual install of the patch. Based on what they released, this patch should really make playing it online an actual option now.
With all the patches, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a look at each game’s current status online. Let’s start with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – it’s only been out for three weeks, but has already gotten a number of patches. Typically with Call of Duty games, the patches address weapon balance issues as well as spawn location fixes, to go along with map exploits. But because of a rather rocky launch, these first few weeks have been filled with patches to improve the connectivity of the game. Admittedly, since Halo released, I have been playing more of that, but I did dive back in to some Call of Duty yesterday – and I can say that the game definitely plays much smoother than it did even last week. I think now the game is finally to a stable enough point where Sledgehammer Games can start looking at those other issues – the weapons I think definitely need a bit of a re-balance, as do the spawns. I had a game last night on Greenband where I spawned directly below an enemy – twice – in a Hardcore TDM game. I had similar spawns on Instinct as well. You can’t have that for long, or the online game suffers as a whole. I have faith in Sledgehammer, based around how well they’ve handled these first three weeks, that they’ll get things under control.
As for Destiny, the patches at this point tend to have less to do with connection issues, and more to do with in-game tweaks and additions. Bungie can have patches focused around this now, thanks to the game’s launching two full months ago. They’ve used their time with the game well – the connections are stable, a lot of the exploits have been addressed, and for the most part, the game is about as complete as they can get it. This most recent patch accomplished a few things – primarily, it laid the framework for the upcoming DLC, “The Dark Below.” New geometry was placed, both in story missions to prevent leaving the world, as well as in Crucible maps to fix some exploits. Other additions were small, but I think they add a lot – there’s now a preview for shaders, as well as emblems, the customization vendor now sells more shaders, and players can hold up to 10 total bounties now, which is a little touch, but really helps. The other big Destiny item for this week is the return of the Iron Banner. Much was made of the fact that the Iron Banner wasn’t quite what they had said it would be – Bungie took that to heart, and went back to the drawing board. They’ve come back with a set-up that actually takes stats into account to a larger extent; five ranks of reputation to go through, and gear that is actually worth building up to get; as well as a new buff that makes it easier for players to get rep later in the week. It’s a step in the right direction for these timed events; I’m more curious to see how they approach the story based ones though.
Finally, we get to Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Oh boy, where to begin – the fact that matchmaking has basically been unplayable since launch? Or that even in private lobbies, playing Custom Games (which are always fun in Halo, even 13 years later) is a major chore? I could start with the UI issues involving the Roster not showing my friends as playing the game, even when I know for a fact they are. There are plenty of issues to deal with – so many that it worries me about how they may even impact Halo 5: Guardians. Luckily, 343 Industries acted pretty quickly, putting a server side patch up last week that they say helped; and at the same time coming up with a pretty substantial patch for this week. Today, that bigger patch drops – and man, those patch notes are pretty encouraging. From the looks of things, this patch is pretty much totally focused around getting matchmaking to work, keeping parties together during and after games, and making the UI functional for joining friends. There are a couple of other little things in the patch like fixing the player cards and emblems from resetting after games, as well as some achievement tweaks, but in general, this is a patch that is based around getting the game working online as fast as possible. If it works, we could start seeing more playlist hoppers open, along with the competitive series starting. If not, than I really think 343 is in trouble – the Holiday buying season is here, and if their game isn’t working, people will pass it up for other games this Holiday.