Bullet of the Month
It would be one of those boring random nights during the week. I would come back to my room from my classes, maybe make frozen mac and cheese dinner (I’m a college kid, give me a break) and pop in a video game to relax. Often times, one of my roommates would come wandering out of their corner of the apartment with something along the lines of “Yo duuddeee! Let’s play some Madden (or NHL) dawg!” Usually I like to take them up on their offers because they think that they can beat me the games. After another 5-1 victory by the Providence Bruins over the Vancouver Canucks (yes, you read that correctly), they would go back to their rooms to do things that I would probably not care to find out.
It’s at this time I like to put in the reason I did sit my ass in front of the TV in the first place. To play my favorite shooter over Xbox Live.
There is a strange phenomenon with Xbox Live that I like to call “Flavor of the month”. Whenever a new shooter comes out, everyone buys it up, everyone throws their headsets on, everyone learns the game, everyone talks shit to everyone else, everyone gets good at the game, most everyone throws that game away when the new shooter comes out on the first Tuesday of the next month. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Few shooters stand the test of time, which is my biggest issue with the online shooter community as it currently stands. I long for the days of Battlefield 2 and Counterstrike where players continuously played them over and over again. Think about it this way. Battlefield 2 came out in 2005. If Battlefield 3 was never announced as it was this year, I would have been perfectly okay with it. I could play Battlefield 2 until my kids are asking me what the hell a Nintendo 64 is (to which they will receive a stern ass kicking for that question, I promise you).
Part of the blame goes on the console shooter and the lack of community. Battlefield 2 was a PC shooter and could be consistently kept fresh with user modifications and full game-play adjustments. Console shooters don’t have that ability. In fact, when it comes to console shooters, the “community” is defined loosely as the group of 13 year old kids who shout N-bombs, tea-bag your corpse, and complain when they don’t get their daily fill of chocolate milk. In PC shooters, people saved their favorite servers where the same “handles” (yeah, old-school word there) such as “loves2poon” and “pirate_ninja_sniper” played all the time. In console shooters, you get matchmaking which is where you play with 7 new random people every-time. Yay community building!
You can also blame the yearly development cycle. It’s been the bane of Call of Duty which has suddenly become the hot shooter of Xbox Live. Puh-leese. Not to sound like one of those indie rock fans who gets pissed off when their favorite indie band becomes popular and everyone asks if you heard so and so band when you were listening to them in clubs and via free downloads five years ago, but I feel that way with Call of Duty. Were you playing Bolt-Action rifle only games on Pavlov’s house where one bad lean and you lost your head to a sniper in the other house who had a modded mouse? I don’t think so.
(Alas, I feel the same way with the “Bad Company” bastardization of the Battlefield franchise. Motherfuckers, I was storming the beaches of Wake Island and the city of Karkand before you knew the difference between a trigger and a button)
Anyway, that yearly development cycle has made the once proud Call of Duty franchise stale and boring. Everyone cares about perks and customization and earning new guns and it over-complicates the shooter game. I’m all for different types of shooters, I played my share of Counterstrike and Battlefield both completely different shooters, but at some point the game removes the “skill” part of the equation.
Which is why I don’t understand when I pop in Halo: Reach or Gears of War why I am questioned for the games I am playing. “Why aren’t you playing Call of Duty? Call of Duty is so much cooler you can get planes and helicopters and dogs and customize and…blah blah blah”.
Frankly, I could care less about that. What makes Halo and Gears great is while they are fundamentally different style of shooters, they both rely on the same core principals of the shooter. Strategy/map control, skill, and most importantly, fun.
Since Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, I can’t remember a single memorable Call of Duty moment I had besides the time my high-school buddy and I called the dogs in World at War “Rondo” because we thought Rondo would be a bad-ass name for a dog.
For games like Battlefield, Halo, and Gears? I have loads of them. I remember the time in Battlefield when an enemy Blackhawk and APC came storming into my outpost I was defending. After soiling my virtual pants, I fired a rocket at the Blackhawk, bringing it down where it then landed on top of the APC. 6 kills, 1 shot, base successfully defended.
I remember in Halo when my doubles partner and I were down 22-8 on Epitaph in a game to 25. We came back and won 25-24 with 30 seconds left on the clock.
I remember in Gears when I took the sniper of Gridlock only to have the rest of my team die. I quickly sprinted out of the sniper spot and over to the the corner where the hammer-burst spawned. I held out for as long as I could until one of their members snuck up behind me and frag-tagged my ass.
This is why whenever someone tells me “You have to play this shooter” I hold off unless it’s from a development team I trust. When people buy shooters based on the “Flavor of the month” mentality, it usually results in a dead or bad community within a few weeks of release.
It’s why you can be safe with a Halo, Battlefield, or Gears game. For the most part, the communtiy is good, they are easy to learn hard to master, and they will be the most fun you will have with any shooter on the market.
Chris Bentivegna is a junior at George Mason University. He mainly specializes in shooters and sports video games but is open to any great video game. He is the founder and main writer of a Boston Sports blog www.bostonsbettah.com