Battlefield: Hardline Tips and Tactics – Operator

Battlefield HardlineOver the next couple weeks I will be doing a bunch of class based guides. The first batch will be the classes in Battlefield: Hardline, then when I’ve finished up those, we’ll start hitting the Borderlands characters. Now, I already have written overviews for the four base characters in Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel; but since then I’ve looked back at those posts and realized I could do much better – plus there’s two new DLC characters to talk about.

So we’ll start today with the Battlefield: Hardline classes. First up, the Operator – Battlefield: Hardline‘s answer to the classic Battlefield Assault class. The Operator is the medic of Hardline – the default gadget that comes unlocked is the health pack, and the revive gadget is a relatively cheap second choice. Really, that’s pretty much the extent of the Operator from a tactical standpoint. There is a third gadget available specific to the Operator – the Survivalist upgrade, which lets you revive yourself after being hit by a car, or explosives – but the main two would be the health pack and the revive tool. Because the Operator is essentially a medic, it’s a really important role within the context of a squad. I like to think a full squad should have at least 2 Operators, regardless of game mode.

I say that because Operators can keep your squad in the fight – not just health wise, but thanks to the revives they can provide. Having two eases the burden a little bit, without really taking away from the offensive capabilities of the squad. As an Operator, you’ll probably want to play a little more conservative – especially if you’re playing as part of a squad. If you go down, the squad loses its “extra lives,” so it’s important to grab cover and fight smart. Which brings me to weaponry. The Operator is probably the most flexible when it comes to primary weapons of the four classes, being able to select either carbines or assault rifles. These give the Operator a good option at pretty much any range, except for really long ranges. In the beta, I only really used the default carbine – the RO993 – because it was that good. It’s gotten a bit of a nerf since then, but it’s still a really good option – just pace your shots a bit more for anything outside of more than 20 meters. I also use the ACW I got for pre-ordering – it’s very similar in behavior. I like throwing on the SRS 02 for a sight, it’s a green dot sight with plenty of clarity; putting on extended magazines helps with the major downside of the Operator – ammo management; heavy barrel helps with the recoil at range; and the stubby grip helps when you do fire full auto. In general, that’s my set-up for any rifle – carbine, assault or battle – across all the classes. You should absolutely pick a sight that you like though – I just like ones with little zoom for my playstyle.

I very quickly hinted at the major downside of the Operator just above. It’s that the Operator is pretty dependent on the Enforcer for ammo. You don’t spawn with a ton of reserve clips, and all the weapons can burn through ammo very quickly if you aren’t careful. Now, if you’re in a squad with friends – the best way to play Battlefield – that’s really not an issue. You should be coordinating with each other as a squad anyway – and that includes ammo and health pack usage. But hopping a random server can be a bit of a crapshoot – the Enforcer has a bit more flexibility with gadgets as we’ll see – and you might be relying on picking up enemies’ gear. The other huge concern for Operators is heavy vehicles. I touched on this in my Hotwire post. As an Operator you really have no option to fight them – hand grenades do a little bit of damage, but are really tough to hit with, unless it’s stopped. Really, if your an Operator and a heavy vehicle is coming your way, your best bet is get out of there. Grab cover and leave – let the Enforcers and Mechanics deal with it.

The Operator is a really great class for players of any skill level, but I think it’s the easiest for new players to pick up. Your role is pretty easily defined, and easy to execute; you have weapons that behave well at any common range; and it does put you into a team frame of mind. Add in the non-specific gadgets like the gas mask and grappling hook/zipline and you have a lot more flexibility with a medic class than you might expect. The Operator might also be your best pick for a driver – keep the Mechanic in a passenger seat for repairs/combat – and as such, taking the stunt driver might not be a bad idea either. Also keep in mind your reputation boosts. Reputation is the Battlefield: Hardline equivalent to the Upgrade Path. You’re rewarded for playing as a team and playing the objective. As you get reputation, you get buffs that apply for the whole match. Operators have the following choices: at Rep 1, you choose between Extra Magazines or Fast Climb; at Rep 2, pick between Fast Ready or Healing Upgrade; at Rep 3, it’s either Fast Aim or Revive Upgrade and the final Rep is either Fast Reload or Fast Swap. Each point essentially boils down to an offensive upgrade, or a team booster. Pick the one that fits how you play your Operator, and you’ll do fine.

I like the Operator a lot – it was the class I played by far the most in the Beta. Since launch though I have started playing the Enforcer more, for reasons we’ll get into later. That said though, the Operator is really fun class, you can easily get a very high score playing well as a support guy. Just remember to keep dropping those health packs.

Halo Week 2014 – Halo 4

Halo 4 CoverRounding out the four full games in the Master Chief Collection, let’s now look at 2012’s Halo 4. Since it’s the most recent game in the series, I think it’s probably the most familiar with fans. While I wasn’t super pleased that 343 decided to tell a new story with Master Chief – I would have liked them to use the universe to create something new – the game was still a real fun entry in the franchise. The multiplayer took a lot of the new features that Halo: Reach had introduced, in particular customized loadouts and armor abilities. The new maps had a good mix of arena sized competitive maps, along with a couple bigger maps that took advantage of classic Halo vehicle action.

In terms of the tactics for Halo 4, I thought that it did a good job of striking a balance with classic Halo strafing and shooting, as well as using the new abilities to add in new options for movement. Find an armor ability that you feel comfortable with, and learn how to really use it effectively in combat. The Hardlight shield can be great to throw an enemy off his game for a second; Jetpack gives you access to some verticality that might not be there otherwise; Active Camo is always a great choice for stealth, and Promethean Vision is another really solid option to see your enemies through the walls. In general, your primary weapons don’t matter a whole lot – the DMR and BR are both really solid options, and the Carbine or Light Rifle also work quite well; I wouldn’t recommend the automatic weapons, unless it’s a specific game mode.

Maps in Halo 4 run the gamut from really strong, to rather unbalanced. I think in general the smaller maps are better, but there are a couple big ones that work well. In particular, Ragnarok – the updated version of Valhalla. Since Valhalla was already a very strong symmetrical map, adding in the Mantis didn’t terribly change the map. It does place a little more emphasis on getting heavy weapons, or boarding the enemies vehicles. Just like in Valhalla – DMR, BR and Snipers all do very well still, but again, the Scattershot and Shotgun both still have uses within the caves and bases. Timing your ordinance drops also can play an important role in changing the tide of a match, assuming you’re playing a match that has them.

Halo 4 Adrift

One of the better small maps that I really liked playing was Adrift. It’s a symmetrical map, based around a central, multi-level room. It’s good for team games, CTF in particular is a very fun game, as is Oddball. Controlling the man cannons is important though, as in those objective games, those cannons can play a huge role in a successful score. Weapons like the Shotgun and Scattershot can really dominate, as can the Energy Sword, found at the top of the center pillar. There are still sightlines that longer range weapons excel at, especially along the outter walkways. Callouts can be a little complicated though, since the map doesn’t have lots of differentiating features.

Halo 4 Abandon

One last map to look at, I want to talk about Abandon. It’s an asymmetrical map that’s more on the small side. It’s good for team games, even with the asymmetric nature of it, but shines in multi-team games. Oddball is great on it, since the map is small enough that it is pretty difficult to camp. In general, combat tends to focus around control of the central tower, which can be difficult to lock down, as there’s multiple ways into every level of the tower. Explosives are good to keep on hand, since they can help clear out the top floor. Heavy weapons are good to keep control of too, so keep an eye on Ordinance drops.

Halo Week 2014 – Halo 2

Halo 2No post yesterday – I was running around and waiting for the Master Chief Collection to install, which took forever. But what it did allow me was the ability to look back at Halo 2 a bit more. I’ll admit, Halo 2 is probably the one game in the series that my memory is most fuzzy with. I played a ton online, but because I was freshman in high school the year it came out, there was a lot more LAN parties going on, and my group preferred Halo: Combat Evolved way more. So leading up to the Master Chief Collection I was happy to look back at some of the Halo 2 maps and mechanics. Like I did with Halo, let’s look at some of the better maps in the game, along with a couple tactics you should be aware of for Halo 2 matchmaking.

Tactics between Halo and Halo 2 didn’t change a whole lot, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. First off, the Magnum has been rendered almost useless – it was the best weapon in the original, in Halo 2 it’s got a very limited use. That use however, ties into perhaps the biggest change in the sequel – dual wielding weapons. Smaller weapons can now be dual wielded, allowing for some pretty funky combos. In doing so though, Bungie back in the day had nerfed a few weapons – in particular the Magnum and Needler. Both are really only effective now while dual wielding. Beyond dual wielding, you also need to really familiarize yourself with the (at the time) new Battle Rifle. Just like in Halo you need to get good at hitting you head shots with the precision weapons – the BR is just the Halo 2 version. Finally, one of the biggest things that I really remembered from Halo 2 is the sweep sniping. Essentially, it amounts to utilizing the auto-aim with the Sniper Rifle to get easy headshots. It’s hard to explain, but mess around in some custom matches with a friend and you’ll quickly get the hang of it – where to pull the trigger in your sweep is the hardest part.

Halo 2 Lockout

As for some standout Halo 2 maps, the best examples are the smaller, arena style maps I think. There are a couple really huge maps in Halo 2 – Headlong, Waterworks, Backwash, and Terminal all are really great Big Team maps, but for 4V4 or even 6V6 they’re a little too big. When we look at the arena size maps though, that’s where the best ones are. Let’s start with arguably the best map in the series – Lockout. There’s something just so perfect about the map layout and flow that makes this map such a popular one for competitive play. Balanced, but not symmetrical; clear sightlines, but still with close quarters; full of multiple routes to take, including different vertical levels – it’s really just a clinic on how to design a great arena map. It works on pretty much any game mode – but the classic for me has always been SWAT. Playing that game mode on Lockout is a huge part of what made me good with the BR.

Another standout map to play is Midship. It’s another smaller, arena map, that works with just about any mode. It’s more symmetrical than Lockout is, so callouts and map flow are a little different. There are still clear sightlines, so precision weapons skills still play an important role. It’s also one of the maps to feature the Energy Sword, which as a power weapon, can really flip a match around. Keep your eyes on the weapons’ spawns, make a team push for the power weapons, and you’ll have no trouble.

Halo 2 Turf

One of the maps that I think doesn’t get the same press as the others – for example, both Lockout and Midship have both been remade for later games – is Turf. Whether that’s because it was a DLC map, coming with the Killtacular pack, or just because it’s not quite as well suited for pro games I’m not sure; but I still think it’s one of the better Halo 2 maps. It’s fantastic for one-sided objective games – assault and one-flag are both lots of fun; and it’s actually one of the better infections maps too. There are tons of alternate routes to take for flanking, and since it’s an asymmetric map, there really isn’t a “base” to hold down. It’s also one of the few small maps that features a vehicle – and actually works. There’s a Warthog that spawns – while it’s not a foolproof tactic, it is good for a couple kills for sure.

There are plenty of other classic maps – Ascension, Sanctuary, Foundation, Zanzibar – I could go on all day. The best part of the Master Chief Collection is that they’re all right there at your fingertips, unlocked at the start, and you can play them however you want. Hop in custom games, learn or relearn the maps and relive just how awesome Halo 2 was. Then realize there is so much more in the Collection to keep you busy forever.

Halo Week 2014 – Halo: Combat Evolved

Halo Master Chief CollectionWith the Master Chief Collection launching tomorrow for the Xbox One, I thought I would go over the four individual games included in the game. I’m going to be focusing primarily on the multiplayer side of things, mainly because there’s a lot to talk about. Story-wise, the greatness of the games is well documented – the successes of the franchise largely is responsible, at least I think, for keeping the Xbox afloat early on. The multiplayer side of the games kept them in disc trays for a lot longer. That said, let’s start diving into the game that got it started, Halo: Combat Evolved.

Way back in 2001, there were still some questions if a First Person Shooter could really excel on home consoles. GoldenEye 007 showed it on a much smaller scale – it was really Halo that proved you can have a real solid, competitive experience on consoles – there’s a reason that MLG ran with Halo for years. Over the years, the franchise has become a generational game – it’s been going strong for 13 years after all. Because of that, there’s a strong chance that there are players out there who never got the chance to play the original with their friends, system linking their Xboxes and playing multiplayer for hours. So I thought I’d run through a couple of the better maps from the game, as well as some of the tactics that used to be commonplace in Halo that have kind of phased out of the game a bit.

Halo CE

First up, let’s talk tactics – a big part of recent Halo multiplayer has been using armor abilities and jumping in combat. Well, way back in the day, there were no such things as armor abilities, so toss them out. The other big change is with jumping – in the original Halo jumping was a great way to lose a firefight. Your jump height is higher in that game than later ones, meaning you were hanging up there, unable to adjust direction quickly longer. What you’re really going to need to learn is how to strafe, and toss in some crouches. Strafing is easily the most important skill you’ll need in Halo multiplayer – and really it extends across the whole franchise. The other thing that long-time fans will know about is the differences in the weapons from the original to now. The bigger ones being the Shotgun and Pistol, along with the Plasma weapons. The Shotgun in Halo has changed over the course, becoming a more close range destroyer – it’s fantastic at holding a hallway down. In the original Halo, the Shotgun was so much more than that. The range on the original Shotgun is much longer than you might expect – making it a much more versatile weapon. It’s a power weapon that needs to be controlled, just like the sniper and rockets – learn it, and The Plasma weapons, which really I’m talking more about the Plasma Rifle and the Ghost’s Plasma cannons, in the original Halo game had an added slowdown effect with them. It really shows up while you’re trying to rotate around – basically dropping your sensitivity a bunch. Finally, the Pistol in Halo is probably the best all around weapon in the game. It’s a three shot kill, assuming you get head shots. It’s got a scope for precision aiming, it’s got a good fire rate, and the recoil is totally manageable. Switch out the Assault Rifle for a different gun, keep the Pistol and you’ll dominate.

Blood Gulch

Next up, let’s talk about a few of the maps that I think you’ll really see a lot of online from the first game’s selection. First, the map that’s probably become the most recognizable map in the whole series, Blood Gulch. It’s a box canyon, that’s symmetrical – perfect for bigger games of CTF. You’ll see Warthogs, Scorpions and Ghosts flying all about the map – especially since Halo didn’t have destructible vehicles. A good sniper can really hold down an offensive attack, and having a good driver can flip the tide of the battle. Learn the sight lines from the caves, where you head is visible from and where it isn’t; know when to use the teleporters, and what to expect when you pop out from one. Also, be prepared for sore players if you manage to pick up the power weapons they want – this is a notorious map for poor sportmanship, especially with the Sniper at the start.

Another map I fully expect to see lots of is Chill Out. It’s a total different style map from Blood Gulch; instead of a large open map, you have a smaller, more close range focused map. Shotguns and Pistols are dominant, along with good grenade work. Learn the flow of the map – knowing when to hit the warps to make a big move can really help out if the game is slipping away. Also make sure you keep an eye on the Rockets and Overshield – letting an opponent get those can really make for a bad day. Chill Out is a really great map for CTF – we used to play 10 caps, Shotguns only, with no shields and unlimited grenades – and it was always coming down to 9-9. Tense games are always fun games – playing it online is going to be a blast.

Another big map that will probably show up plenty, especially in the big team objective hoppers, is Sidewinder. Another map we always used to play at LAN parties, Sidewinder is one of the biggest maps in the series. You’ll need good drivers and gunners to mount a successful offensive, or a really good stealth guy. Using the Active Camo in the mountain tunnel was always my preferred option for infiltrating the enemy base – and using the divider to hop in a waiting Warthog with the Flag. It’s a map that is perfect for one sided objective games, with tons of different options to get around the map. Sniping is really important, but again – keep an eye on the Rockets, since a good Rocket can clear out the sniper nest, as well as the bottom floor. Keep an eye on players that might stick their Warthog into their base – the sightlines aren’t great with it, but as it’s indestructible, it can really muck up an attack.

One last map to talk about is probably my favorite in the game – Hang ‘Em High. Despite being an interior map, it’s actually really large. It’s a symmetrical, square map, with lots of vertical sightlines and flanking routes. It plays really well with larger party sizes, and it’s got a good balance of combat options. Shotguns can kick some ass, snipers can lock down a spawn, a good flanker can get around behind (especially using the Active Camo) and there’s also Rockets that can really cause some havoc. One of my favorite games to play is Rockets CTF, we usually played to 5 – the flag physics in the first game really made for some crazy moments. A Rocket kill from across the map can not only save the score, but thanks to the explosion, the flag could really end up just about anywhere. It’s a hectic game mode, but far from the best on Hang ‘Em High – that would be Pistols only. It’ll get your skills with the gun up quick, and you’ll almost always have a close match.

One last point I want to make – if you’re picking up the Master Chief Collection and you haven’t played the first game, you really need to spend some time with it. The story is phenomenal, with one of the best final levels I’ve played. There’s really only one weak multiplayer map, with tons of potential game variants to come up with awesome games to play.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Exo Survival Tips

Advanced Warfare CoverOne of the pillars of each Call of Duty game, at least over the last couple entries in the franchise, has been a strong co-op mode. The Treyarch games have had the Zombies mode, Call of Duty: Ghosts had Extinction, and Advanced Warfare has added the Exo-Survival mode. While Advanced Warfare seems to draw a lot from the Treyarch games, this co-op mode is much more reminiscent of the Survival mode from Modern Warfare 3. There are a few differences, not just the obvious ones that stem from the upgrades that are the draw of Advanced Warfare. Notably, you select an Exo Class – Light, Heavy or Specialist – which dictates what weapons and scorestreaks you can use.

The Exo-Survival mode, as I mentioned, is pretty similar to the Survival mode in Modern Warfare – mainly due to the fact that each game is played on the multiplayer maps. You play on the same maps, and deal with ever increasing in difficulty waves of enemies. At certain points, the waves content might switch up; you could be tasked with holding down a Hardpoint, or with picking up intel off of dead enemies. That is a different format than how it went in Modern Warfare 3, which was much more of a standard hoard mode. It also feels similar to the second co-op mode in Ghosts, Safeguard, which was also a round based hoard mode. Instead of having a set end point like Safeguard though, Exo-Survival doesn’t have a set end point, instead asking players to survive as long as possible.

Call of Duty Advanced Warfare Exo Survival

While it is possible to load up Exo-Survival to play it solo – that what I did to get a bit of a feel for it – it’s really a little too much to expect to play it to the highest levels solo. Part of that comes from the fact that it’s built as a co-op experience; it’s intended to be played with friends, so of course it’s difficult for a solo player. The other part comes from the way that classes are set up. You select an Exo-Class, which dictates which weapons you can use. There’s no crossover, so if you like playing the Heavy Exo for the added armor, but want to use an SMG, you’re out of luck. You can switch classes at any point – finding the Exo-Suit spot where you can also put in upgrades. That Exo-Suit you pick also dictates which scorestreaks you can call in, as well as which movement abilities you have access to. That’s why I think it’s really important to bring in a group of players, to mix up not only the scorestreaks but also the weapons you have available.

As for how I would approach it – I think you really don’t need to have a Specialist class out there. They have access to the Remote Turret initially – which takes them out of the action while they’re using the turret. And their primary is a shotgun – the Tac 19 for the first few waves until the next ones unlock. As a huge fan of shotguns in video games, I have to say that the Tac 19, which I was excited to try since it’s a directed energy shotgun, just doesn’t quite measure up. The rate of fire is slow and the range is real short, with a long reload time as well. With a full four man party, you might be able to cover those shortcomings, but I think in general you’re better off with mixing together Exo Light and Exo Heavy. You’ll have just about every range covered, good scorestreaks to help, and a good mix of mobility. You need to work together to get through the higher levels, calling out the movement of the more dangerous enemies, and make sure to use your upgrade points in between rounds to bulk up, and you’ll have a good time with Exo-Survival. It’s a nice little diversion from Campaign and Multiplayer, but I will say that I don’t know how much longevity is there. It’s not as deep as Zombies or Extinction; but with the Zombies teased last weekend, we might have something more in the future coming to help that out.

Diving into the Crucible in Destiny

DestinyNow that I’ve finished up the story for Destiny I’ve started playing a bit of the PvP in the Crucible. I’m really doing this for a couple reasons. First, I want to make sure that I get my hands on everything that Destiny has to offer. Second, there are a number of achievements tied into the Crucible. Finally, playing the Crucible is a great way to get high level gear. Just playing for a couple hours last night I was able to get a better helmet, chest piece and shotgun (all Blue) while one of my buddies got an Exotic LMG (Thunderlord).

With that in mind I thought I’d share a bit of what I’ve learned playing the PvP over the last couple days. All I’ve really played so far has been Control, Destiny’s take on Domination. I’ve played on all but three of the maps that are on the Xbox One version, a few more than others. I’ll go over a few overall tactics first, then talk about any map specific stuff at the end. The most important tactic is communication though – play with friends and make sure you are talking about where the enemy is.

Destiny Invective Shotgun

In general, most of the maps have plenty of tight corridors that make close combat pretty prevalent. To that extent, I would bring either a fusion rifle or shotgun as your Special Weapon, but the shotguns are a clear better option. Fusion rifles are a bit more versatile but they have a very easy to identify weakness. Fusion rifles require a second to charge before firing – in some cases that’s not an issue, but in a lot of the tight corridors, that second can be too long. That’s where shotguns shine – they don’t require a charge at all, which gives them a quicker damage output. Couple that with their high damage levels, and a surprising range, and you have a very solid Special Weapon option. There are some cases for sure on the larger maps where a sniper is a better choice, but on those maps I would say it’s more player preference.

Warlock Nova Bomb

It really shouldn’t be a big surprise, but a well timed Super can totally swing the flow of the game. In Control, it’s super important to always two points controlled by your team, that way you get the point boost for kills, plus the actual objective points. To that end, using your Super at the right time can usually guarantee a capture or prevent an enemy capture. Even the Hunter’s Supers, which aren’t area of effect attacks, but more individual attacks, can still clear out rooms, provided they use them well. The Sunsinger and Defender subclasses are built more for defense/buffing, so they aren’t quite as effective at clearing out rooms, but can totally be used in an offensive way with the right upgrades. We came up against a Warlock using the Sunsinger that had it built for damage reduction and shield strength – it’s impressive just how much stronger that made him.

There’s a reason you have three grenades and three upgrades for your melee ability. It gives you flexibility in the arena. Make sure that you are always using them when they’re available. Some grenades are great for quick kills – the Firebolt grenade, Skip grenade and Scatter grenade are all good examples there. Others are made for impacting how people move around – Vortex, Solar, Pulse and Swarm grenades all make it so players can’t sit in one spot. Others are built for traps – Tripmine and Lightning grenades are designed for that. I was using the Lightning last night, and found that almost everyone underestimated how long it would pulse out the Lightning, and as a result I got a ton of kills with it that I might not have otherwise.

Some map specific tips now to keep in mind.

Destiny First Light
First Light is a big map set on the moon – the most important thing to remember is that the Cabal Interceptor spawns in after a couple minutes. It’s not as powerful as it was in the Beta, but it still can do some serious damage – it’s important to either control it, or take it out quickly. Heavy ammo can help with that, as can snipers that pick off the pilot.

Twilight Gap is a really small, close quarters map that is all about using close range tactics. Shotguns and melee/grenade abilities are important here. The B control point is relatively well protected, but at the same time is very open to grenades and supers, so you have to make sure you are always aware going in to B.

Firebase Delphi on Mars is another relatively small map, with a lot of corridors that run on top of each other. Again, B is a pretty well protected point, but has three ways into it, meaning you need to be ready for an attack from anywhere. Grenades, shotguns, supers and melees help take the point over, as well as using the multiple points in for pincer attacks.

Shores of Time on Venus is another map that was in the Beta – it hasn’t really changed at all from then, just a few tweaks to the spawn logic. There are a lot of good mid-range sightlines, using a scout rifle or other accurate primary can help keep enemies away from your points, but be aware that each point is easily attacked with grenades and supers from different directions.

Going in, the Crucible can be pretty overwhelming – there’s a lot going on in Destiny that makes its way over into the PvP. Remembering that you can switch your build on the fly, as well as adjusting a few tactics away from the PvE side can make it much easier to do well. I would say that Destiny in general is a PvE game, but the Crucible actually works very well and can be a lot of fun – there’s nothing quite like seeing a legendary or exotic pop at the end of a round.