Hitmas the Second: Modern Warfare Part 1

By Shamus
on Aug 10, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

For the record, we’re not going to do thee whole game. This is a one-off thing. I think it yielded a lot of interesting conversations that dovetail nicely with what we’ve been saying about Spec Ops.


Link (YouTube)
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A Hundred!A Hundred!209229 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

From the Archives:

  1. neon_goggles says:

    Well this was a experience for everyone.

  2. Xanyr says:

    At this point I can’t help but feel massively trolled…

  3. Keredis says:

    I know this is nitpicking about the game, but isn’t the military term “Air Supremacy” rather than “Air Dominance?”

  4. Christopher M. says:

    The sliding scale of interactivity:

    Movie–Rail Shooter–MW-style linear game-*-Deus Ex-style pseudo-linear game–Skyrim-style open-world game–Dungeons and Dragons

    It all depends on whether you’re aiming for Michael Bay or Gary Gygax. And the intellectualism of a given user fits in quite well with this – the more “mainstream,” “brain-off-now” football watcher wants the movie with things to shoot in it; the more imaginative, hands-on type wants the reactive, open experience.

    Sadly, football-watchers outnumber us by a significant margin any more.

    • Jeff says:

      I have Fallout New Vegas, Battlefield 3 (not yet installed) and Modern Warfare 3 (already beaten and uninstalled).

      It’s less about the player and more about the desired experience.

      When I wanted to play in a movie, I played MW3 and finished the campaign in 1 or 2 sittings. FNV is more long term, and I’m playing it now (though currently I’m letting STO patch). When I feel like playing a movie again, I’ll install Battlefield 3.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I think there’s something to the movie experience. Halflife 2 bored me. They kept stopping my exciting chase scenes to do physics puzzles.

        On the other hand, I like RPGs with puzzles. In fact, I was astonished just how much different the ME series is when you go from fight to fight and skip all the on-ship interactions -and I don’t really like it (I only did it to justify a character who gets most everybody killed heading into ME3).

        Sometimes I want the RPG experience. Other times, I want to play the movie. Usually I don’t want either experience to mix with the others (though some of the more cinematic drops in ME3 may test that rule).

    • JPH says:

      This post would have been much better without the condescension.

      Intellectualism has nothing to do with the equation. There are plenty of intelligent, brilliant people who have the most fun playing linear platformers or shooters. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Agreed.I love bringing in half life whenever someone says that linearity is mindless,because half life is linear as hell.

        Also,d&d is not a good example of openness.Its probably the most formulaic rpg system Ive played.And from what I heard about 4th edition,its even less open than previous ones.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Spot him D&D. For open-ended playing, pencil and paper RPGs will also have the most freedom because the only limit is the GM’s imagination and reflexes.

          • psivamp says:

            (On D&D) Which means that YMMV depending on your group and DM’s imaginations. If you have an unimaginative DM, he might railroad you because he can’t think on his feet.
            On the other hand, with an imaginative and lenient DM you can do crazy stuff like kill people with earth-crafting spells. Actually, did that with my earth domain cleric back in 3.5 and the wizard followed suit. We knocked out around 60 attacks in a single turn while the monk got incapped and the melee types took out one guy. The other enemies surrendered because most of their friends were now buried alive.

            • Paul Spooner says:

              So, we already have movies. We’ve explored that end of the spectrum. I don’t think we’ve gotten very close to the other end though. Ideally (on the sandbox rpg end) you’d have a computer game run by an AI DM where you’re allowed to do literally anything. The question is when someone will design an AI powerful and creative enough to be better at this job than a person. My bet is on “not soon” but I’d be exited to see it happen.

              The thing is, it wouldn’t have to be better than the best GM. Just better than average. Most GMs are not very good at this generalized simulation wrangling, which is why the mainstream paper-pencil RPGs have been moving more and more toward combat and simple mechanics and away from freeform roleplaying. It would certainly be difficult to do, but not impossible. Probably possible on today’s technology.

              • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                The game I want to play -and I don’t know how it can be implemented -would be something like Fallout without a plot, just factions. As you go through the game, your actions can benefit any faction or no faction or just you (I mean this literally, if I clean out the school of the raiders, it can sit empty, or I can sell it to Megaton, or rent it out myself…)

                I’d take it in MMO form, which is why I’m moderately interested in the release of Firefall.

        • Eruanno says:

          I think the problem isn’t linearity itself, but the feeling that you’re just running through a stale corridor and the only way you can interact with the world is by pointing your gun and pulling the trigger. In Call of Duty, it feels like a corridor because you can’t really interact with the world (hell, you’re not allowed to open doors) and when you walk through a house there isn’t much personality to it.

          How a house appears in Call of Duty:
          There’s a house with a bed, a TV, maybe some random unlabelled books in a bookshelf, a fridge… but nothing to show who lived here and why I should give a damn. And then you run through it, find some enemies and POW POW BOOM SPLOSIONS.

          Compare that to when you’re walking through a house in Skyrim but here you can find little notes, hidden caches behind bookshelves with weapons, books or ingredients. Sometimes the skeleton of the person who lived there previously. I believe there is one point when you’re in a cave and you can find a skeleton half-buried in the ground, reaching for his last bottle of beer. (Actually, that might be Fallout. I’m not sure.)

          That kind of stuff makes the world FEEL more lived-in and interesting as compared to just walking from setpiece to setpiece. It gives you opportunity to stop and smell the roses, to slow down the pace occasionally.

          (And yes, I know it isn’t fair to compare these games because they are based on entirely different premises/playstyles, but I would like it if COD just took maybe one or two pointers from here and there.)

      • Christopher M. says:

        I was not intending condescension. I was using intellect because I had no better word for it – someone who wants to engage with and interact with their entertainment rather than be entertained by spectacle.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Having tried to learn to play EA Sports NCAA Footbal, 2010, a game I suspect is best played by avid football fans (lord knows, I haven’t the foggiest idea what anything other than Shotgun and Power I, and some of these teams have scores of formations) I don’t think intellectualism and football fans are the proper correlates.

    • Phantom Hoover says:

      Your hierarchy is rather simplistic; the different between DX and Skyrim’s interactivity is one of scope, not scale. DX makes the narrative and overall progression highly linear, but gives you countless ways to finish a given segment before you’re funnelled through to the next. Skyrim meanwhile lets you go wherever you want and dictate your character’s progression with great freedom, but once you go through the doors to a dungeon you’re in a corridor with enemies and you can either leave or run through the corridor killing things.

      Also, “Sadly, football-watchers outnumber us by a significant margin any more.”? I’m afraid I’m young, so I never got to experience this golden age where everyone sat around in armchairs discussing the finer points of game design. It sounds amazing.

    • Michael says:

      Crysis 2 probably belongs in that missing link area between MW and Deus Ex. A linear progression, with a lot of the MW plot trappings, but more freedom and branching within an area… Just thinkin’…

  5. Ryan says:

    To clarify, Price launches a nuke at the Eastern seaboard so that the EMP blast from the explosion would halt the Russian advance (no handwave is bothered to explain how sending the fighting back to 1944 favors the American defense, which is now getting helicopters rained on it, even though helicopters can totally just land if they lose power). He destroys the ISS in the process, which is symbolic enough of these game’s theme that I don’t think it requires comment.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      My recollection is that autorotating takes a few seconds and it helps to know it’s coming, so I’m inclined to give them a break on that point.

      Sending the war back to 1944 helps the defenders because they aren’t having to helo in their supplies from the other side of the world. And yeah, SYMBOLISM!!!!

      On the tunnel -I never got the impression that the Russians flooded it deliberately. I just figured it was a loose torpedo or sinking ship. No, my complaint is: why on earth are so many ships so close to each other this close to the coast? And also, I don’t think the harbor is deep enough for an aircraft carrier to be sunk to midships and still be sticking out of the water at that angle.

      • Eärlindor says:

        Another thing that bothers me about this whole world war in the Modern Warfare games is that as I understood it, once Price launched the EMP, the Russian’s offense started to recede. Then in MW3 they suddenly have enough troops to launch another war ALL ACROSS THE FRIGGIN’ WORLD!!!

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Yes, the plot conclusion of MW3 is inexcusably bad, even spotting them the logistics necessary to invade the US in the first place.

          Most atrocious, however, is the complete waste of the character of Yuri. His flashback could have explained so much about Makarov’s plans and why the Russians were going along with it. We got nothing. Makarov is apparently a lunatic who started WWIII to watch the world burn, but lacked the character of the Joker.

          • LunaticFringe says:

            At least in the original Modern Warfare the antagonist(his name totally escapes me) had some kind of motivation, he felt that after the end of the Cold War Russia was basically prostituting itself to the West. Makarov has no motivation other then he’s Russian so therefore he’s a bad guy.

          • Merzendi says:

            Iirc, Makarov is supposed to be motivated by the death of Zakhael in MW1, but rather than clandestinely killing everyone involved in killing his mentor, he makes Russia go to war with all the countries that were involved. It’s about vengeance, as (I think Chris?) said in the video. That’s probably the main theme of the series, Zakhael’s vengeance for losing his arm, and later his son, Makarov’s vengeance for losing his mentor and his political sway, Russia’s vengeance for the “No Russian” incident, and finally Price’s vengeance for Soap being killed.
            Not that we really get to see it that much, aside from a one off line in Yuri’s flashback.

            • Pattom says:

              …Wow, I never thought of that. A morality play about vengeance set around a global war could be incredibly affecting. It’s a shame that the development team is more interested in balancing unlocks than their narrative.

      • Jakale says:

        Not having played, I could see flooding for tactics. Prevent supplies or troops from getting moved moderately quickly around the city in a decently protected fashion. Don’t want an enemy to be able to hit and run too easily as subway tunnels might allow. Subway entrances would also provide places to bottleneck, though that could work for either side depending on circumstance. I’m not quite as convinced that the whole system could be flooded on accident, unless I’m lacking info and it’s only this section of tunnel that’s flooded.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          Nothing is ever said one way or the other, but only the one tunnel is ever identified as being flooded, and it’s never said “The Russians flooded it,” it’s only said that it is flooded. For all we know, the hole was made by the Americans.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thanks for reminding me of that scene.Now I have to ask,because Im not familiar with military tech,but arent military computers shielded against emps?Especially the ones in aircrafts.

      • Klay F. says:

        According to Wikipedia, military technology, at least of U.S. design, is actually less resistant to EMP than it was during the Cold War.

        Also, in civilian infrastructure, EMP resistance is non-existant.

        • Jonathan says:

          If you want a scary read, try a book called “Lights Out.”

          True fact: Replacement transformers for key components of our power grid have a 2-year lead time for ordering & manufacturing. If the whole grid is fried at once it’ll be a multi-year project to get the lights (and supply chain including food and medications) back online.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Are we really discussing military strategy of a faction in FPS? When did ANY faction have anything resembling a sane strategy, other than BE AWESOME and SCREW THE PHYSICS.

      I mean every single sudden US invasion scenario is ludicrous, because of one simple fact. In order to wage war in US, you HAVE to HAVE a supply chain across one of the oceans (unless you are Mexico or Canada (one of the things RA2 for all it’s sillines did right was have main RUS force come in from Mexico)), and that is impossible without DESTROYING utterly the US Navy. And however much I’m a Russophile (comes with being a Serb), even if you combined all navies of the world, you would have a big problem stopping the USN in the open waters. If on other hand you could lure them in range of ground based aircraft, you MIGHT have a chance. But still you couldn’t have a day 0 invasion.

      A more ridiculous one was the one in World in Conflict where Russians invaded by hiding in cargo ships. Bonus points for invading Seattle.

      Anyway, TLDR I personally have been conditioned to turn off my ears whenever how invaders got to america is discussed in such games. It’s the same as when I watch a movie that supposedly depicts any kind of warfare, and all sides inevitably use Hollywood tactics, or modern jets bristling with long range missiles engage in dogfights.

      • Lalaland says:

        THat’s not a given, the ‘death of dogfighting’ and a new era of all BVR kills has been predicted since roughly the 1960s. As seeker heads improve so does EW and countermeasures, most engagements have wound up within visual range even over Irag in 2003 (hardly a good example given the disparity of forces and equipment).

        As an example here’s a quote from a major in USAF who was part of a secret team who flew Russian aircraft against US pilots in the 80s, it’s about a flare dispenser recovered by the CIA.
        “In 1987 we had the AIM-9P, which was designed to reject flares, and when we used US flares against it would ignore them and go straight for the target. We had the Soviet flares – they were dirty, and none of them looked the same – and the AIM-9P said ‘I love that flare’.

        “Why’d that happen? We had designed it to reject American flares. The Soviet flares had different burn time, intensity and separation. The same way, every time we tried to build a SAM simulator, when we got the real thing it wasn’t the same.

        “I use the AIM-9P because it is out of the system and I can talk about it. The same thing happened to a lot of things that are still in the system and that I can’t talk about.
        The rest of the article is here “We didn’t know what 90 percent of the switches did”

        • 4th Dimension says:

          I know you can expect 50% hit chance with missiles at best, but still it takes time to close for gunfights, and that’s where you shower each other with missiles. and films often simply disregard that.

          • Lalaland says:

            Very true most modern military hardware is designed to attack at ranges that make for boring cinema “Tomahawk launched! [2 hours of cheery banter on the bridge later] It’s a direct hit! Woooo!!!” They should just stick to early piston era dogfights they’re way more visually interesting.

  6. AJ_Wings says:

    The thing that I really hate about the recent COD games is the serious lack of downtime in the pacing. I mean sure we have this nice diving sequence but basically 95% of the game is spent in these monotonous, endless shootouts with lots of explosions, screaming, stabbing, gunfire…etc. shooting the same enemy with the same weapons that happen to have a slight variation in terms of function. I think Black Ops is the only video game that actually gave me a headache because of the constant monotonous fighting.

    Mechanically speaking, there is nothing wrong with these games, the cinematic presentation is their strongest asset and I do like some of them (COD 4, COD: World at War) mainly because of how they balanced the pacing. There are a lot of highs and a lot of lows in terms of level of tension. It reminds me of Shamus’ comment on Crysis 2 where if you spend every moment in your game at “THE LAST POSSIBLE MINUTE” it gets old really fast.

    • JPH says:

      I agree completely. Call of Duty 4 was mechanically very well paced. Modern Warfare 3, on the other hand, feels like starring in a Michael Bay movie.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      This carries through to a lot of other elements as well. Most games with music have the music playing constantly (Valve is good at giving the player downtime of silence between musical scores). Most have a uniform level of visual detail, and color intensity (even games with bright colors and contrast are often uniformly bright). This monotony doesn’t just crop up in the story and pacing, it’s a problem common to the poor design of games (and indeed of all human artifacts) in general. Well crafted artifacts are textured and interesting, not uniformly rough or smooth.

    • Eric says:

      I’ve got to agree with you. Modern Warfare was a dumb, stupid game, but it was still fun and had a lot of variety. World at War also wasn’t too bad. But with Modern Warfare 2, it feels like they took the “all action, all the time” approach to heart. It did have a few good levels in there but I found it got monotonous much more quickly and every time I’ve tried to go back I got bored after a few minutes. Haven’t bought one of those games since and I have no intention on doing so.

      Personally I thought the slow-paced special forces, night-time, sniping, etc. kinda thing was a hell of a lot more fun than the constant chaos. If they had a few more open levels and less scripted sequences it could actually become a decent, lightly tactical arcade shooter.

      • Adam says:

        In CoD4, they were good about this. The Marine sections were more traditional CoD, with larger groups of enemies and allies in pitched battle and a more brotherly, war-movie vibe. Like if the invasion of Iraq had been popular enough to make a movie out of. Meanwhile the SAS sections are much darker, focused on infiltration, sabotage, and small-scale engagements, often from stealth. (“All Ghillied Up” is the culmination of this, in the same way “Shock and Awe” is for the Marines.) From that point on the intensity ramps up until we hit the climax and the dichotomy between the war-movie feel of the Marine missions and the spec-ops SAS missions dissolves. (Not coincidentally, this is after the SAS and Marine regiments we’ve been following start working together.)

        Unfortunately, whoever put the campaign for MW2 and 3 together didn’t have the same subtle touch. While we have token “stealth” sections, the overall intensity level never ratchets back down. While I’m a fan of MW2’s campaign (which imho stands perfectly well without MW3 bookending it) I can acknowledge that it has a serious pacing problem. Nothing stops exploding for long enough for us to bond with characters the way some of us did in CoD4. It’s no coincidence that almost no one’s favorite characters came from MW2 or 3; we never really MET any of them. Even the Ramirez thing is more about a running joke regarding the repetitiveness of the game’s writing than anything to do with Ramirez, Dunn, or Foley.

  7. JPH says:

    You know, Shamus, when you were talking about that style of gameplay that was picking up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and then got drowned out, that reminds me of a console game genre I feel the same way about: 3D platformers.

    With the advent of 3D in the N64 and PS1 era, we were getting a lot of 3D platformers (Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Banjo Kazooie, etc.) but after that generation they all pretty much died out. Nowadays Mario is practically the only series that still has 3D platformers released today.

    To me that’s disappointing.

    • AJ_Wings says:

      I have to wonder why isn’t this genre living in a renaissance like the 2D platformer nowadays. I mean with today’s current engines, isn’t it easy to develop these games on the cheap?

    • Torsten says:

      3D platformers evolved into games like Mirror’s Edge and Prince of Persia and Assassins Creed franchises. Having not played any of the examples you mentioned I cannot comment if something was lost on the way.

      • JPH says:

        Prince of Persia, Mirror’s Edge, Tomb Raider, etc. are less like the platformers of old because they have more emphasis on things like climbing and wallrunning than on simple running and jumping from platform to platform. Really, I kind of wish we’d have called them “parkour games” or “freerunners” rather than platformers, because there’s a very distinct difference in how they play.

        • Phantom Hoover says:

          If you watch Chris’ video on the Sonic series, he makes the point that in 3D the controls and positioning are inherently less precise, so the AC/PoP system is more popular because it’s a lot more forgiving. The 3D environment also gives it a sense of flow in movement that you can’t really get in a 2D game. Basically, they’re the evolution of platformers into 3D, rather than a simplistic translation of the mechanics as with older titles.

    • Irridium says:

      There’s also Ratchet and Clank.

      Great series. Wish there were more like it. Well, not Ratchet and Clank knock offs, but 3D platformers. Games like Jak and Daxter (well, before it started to ape GTA a bit with 2 and 3, but there were still rather fun and platform-y), Sly Cooper, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon…

      Good games. Good series’. Wish there was more like ’em.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I know exactly how you feel. That’s why I was so disappointed with what they did to the Crash and Spyro franchises.

      Makes me mad just thinking about it.

      • Aldowyn says:

        Those 3D platformers are like the space sims of the console universe. Awesome games that mysteriously died out for no discernible reason…

        I love me some space sims…

  8. JPH says:

    Speaking as that guy who’s playing all the old games he didn’t get to play before, I can attest that a lot of those older shooters had horribly confusing level design.

    One game in particular I’ve been playing recently is HeXen, and that game is absolutely unbearable. Not only does it take forever to figure out precisely where the button is that you need to push to open the door on the other side of the map so you can go in there and get the key to open the next door on the other OTHER side of the map so you can backtrack to the next level to get the Tome of Whatever, but the enemies respawn periodically and health/mana pickups don’t, so you’re constantly under pressure when you’re trying to find your way through.

    Honestly, if I have to choose between a linear corridor shooter and fucking HeXen, then I’ll take MW3 any day.

  9. Alex F says:

    One thing you guys didn’t talk about, and never really gets brought up in criticisms of the Call of Duty series, is that the game is popular because of the multiplayer. There’s bunches of players that don’t ever open up the campaign.

    I saw a statistic in November, around the time Modern Warfare 3 was released, that only around 20% of Black Ops players had finished the single player. Those kind of numbers really change the whole discussion, because your complaints don’t really apply to the majority of the fans.

    • JPH says:

      Yes, this precisely. The whole concept about preferring linearity and not choosing what to do doesn’t apply to multiplayer, because in the multiplayer you can customize your own loadout and playstyle. There’s almost no agency in the single player, but there’s plenty of agency in the multiplayer.

      I think it has less to do with giving the fans what they want and more to do with the campaign development team wanting to make a movie with shooty bits.

      • SKD says:

        I agree. In my experience, most FPS players spend far, far more time in the multiplayer than in the single player campaign.

        But even then there is very little actual agency in the game. Everyone is working to get to the highest level so they have the best gear, or gaming the system in order to get achievements.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          My comparison was high-tech “guns.” Or perhaps more socially acceptable laser tag.

          I’ve heard the campaigns described as six hour tutorials -which may explain a bit of the leading-by-the-nose. You need to have a grenade section, and a vehicle section, and a sniper section so that you can learn those skills for use in the multiplayer.

          I suppose by those standards, they are pretty good tutorials but only so-so-games.

          • Aldowyn says:

            I wish to mention that Starcraft also fits the “campaign as tutorial” mode. It’s typical for shooters and pretty common with RTSes, although I can’t think of an RTS that even compares to Starcraft as far as MP popularity goes…

        • Eric says:

          I dunno. Most of the best guns in Modern Warfare are the basic ones. Leveling up gives you more options; it doesn’t make you better. I can say that Modern Warfare the first is quite well-designed when you jump online. Lots of game modes are available, and you can pick from a pretty wide variety of play styles that are all valid. It’s not quite TF2 or anything but the level design and number of options open make it quite a bit of fun.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Did you see at the beginning of the video: 54% complete multiplayer, 5% complete campaign.

      • Irridium says:

        Those are your personal stats. It means Chris has completed 5% of the campaign, and 54% of the multiplayer. The multiplayer percentage also goes up every hundred for each prestige. Prestige is a setting that lets you reset your rank when you get to the highest level, to do it all again. You can do it, like, 15 times in MW3 I think, and get 1500% in multiplayer.

        • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I know, I was meaning that it looks like Chris is one of the people who does more multiplayer than single player.

          • Irridium says:

            Oh. My mistake then.

          • Chris says:

            Part of this is a result of getting a new computer. Modern Warfare doesn’t save singleplayer saves in the cloud, but interestingly it does store multiplayer progress in the cloud.

            So when I got this fancy new machine that let me host Spoiler Warning, I also lost all of my singleplayer progress and we literally had to start the game over from level 1 (this is also annoying as I need footage from all three MW games for my next ES episode). But my multiplayer progress, complete with loadouts and perk settings, was sitting there waiting for me as soon as I booted it up.

            I don’t know whether to chalk that up to “two teams made the singleplayer and multiplayer with two different technologies/goals/ideals” or “no one plays singleplayer games, so we don’t bother to store it” or what. Still, I have beaten the game, but mostly because I wanted to see how silly the conclusion is. Spoiler: It’s very silly.

            None of this really invalidates the original assumption, though: The singleplayer game is only about six hours long, and I’ve spent far more than six hours in the multiplayer.

            • j0rdm31s73r says:

              The multiplayer progress is stored in the cloud to be accessible and customizable from different platforms all using the CoD Elite system.
              I don’t think they even use the Steam Cloud.

    • Alex F says:

      I found the article.

      Here it is.

      Granted, the numbers come from a single gaming site’s achievement tracking, but still, look at it.

      352,809 players.

      27,237,968 game hours logged.

      Only 18.6% finished the single player.

      Out of people who care about achievements.

    • Stash Augustine says:

      I remember getting bored about three hours into BF3’s SP, and thinking the game would be orders of magnitudes better if they would just make MP maps with bots and cutscenes.

  10. Chris says:

    This was bar none probably the worst night, technically, since I’ve joined Spoiler Warning. Rutskarn tried to run the stream but couldn’t get his frame rate high enough to play the game while simultaneously FRAPS-ing, Procasting, Venting, etc. I just got a new machine and offered to try to play a game for a filler episode, and we ran down the list – ARMA refuses to let me use Vent properly otherwise we’d have done Day Z, and various other games either didn’t work or looked too boring for a quick jump-in-and-talk filler episode.

    So we tried Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. And got all the way through the first level, and made lots of meaningful commentary. And it turns out FRAPS wasn’t recording any of it. Not a single frame.

    So we started over. Again. And this, the fourth or fifth game of the night that we started at something like 11:30 PM EST on Sunday, is the result. It was pretty brutal. And I don’t envy Josh anymore – it’s hard to do insightful commentary while actually playing the game, so I’m mostly just screaming boisterous obvious things while mowing people down.

  11. The Hokey Pokey says:

    What’s that Youtube account Rutskarn referenced? I’m having a hard time finding it.

  12. Eärlindor says:

    But Chris! You forgot the real reason the whole war started in MW2: because of the insane American general that “lost his honor” (at that one battle where the nuke went off and killed literally EVERYONE in The-Middle-East-Country-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named) in the first game. So he orchestrated this ENTIRE war against his OWN NATION just to regain his LOST HONOR.*

    *He planted the American agent in the Russian extremist cell just in time for the airport attack and made sure his agent would be discovered to actually be American, get killed, then the extremists could use an actual dead American as evidence that OMG AMERICA DID IT!

    • Irridium says:

      Yep, and using a dead CIA agent’s body as proof, the Russians invaded the US. Sacking Washington (which is why the battle is now in New York, the US pushed them out of Washington in MW2). And when you beat them there, the Russians then invade all of Europe. Because… um… well just because.

    • Bret says:

      Did the evil American general sometimes dress up in an oni mask and hunt the Dali Lama?

      I’ve heard that’s a foolproof way to get your honor back.

    • Klay F. says:

      Methinks the American General doesn’t actually know what honor means.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        So I saw this earlier today, and I think it’s a great encapsulation of Shepherd’s intended character (though I make no claims about quality):

        Batman: Under the Red Hood with Jason Todd as General Shepherd and Batman as the American People in the aftermath of MW1.

        If I understand the plot of the movie (I hadn’t heard of it until today), Todd spends the movie trying to set up this moment, just like Shepherd spent the intervening 2 years trying to set up the moment at the end of MW2 where Nichols says “When do we go to Russia?”

  13. RCN says:

    Speaking of Actiblizzard… why haven’t we heard from you of your opinions on Diablo 3 since the beta? I mean, we all know you hated the always online DRM, but the game was kinda of a big deal for the last 3 months and not a single pip?

    On another topic, yes, I remember the good old days when pretty much every game was a confusing mess where if you’re not going “wait… what am I supposed to be doing again?”, its because you bought the guide. Many games I never finished because I got fed up after trying to figure out what I needed to do for hours or days at end and still having no clue. Turok 2 springs to mind. I’m walking around, walking around. Then I’m suddenly “hey, didn’t I already walk through here? Some 5 levels ago?”

    I think that’s why I liked strategy games and western RPGs for the most part. In western RPGs there’s usually not a real “what you should be doing next”. At least it is not imperative to enjoying them. And in Strategy games there are always a multitude of ways you can go about being victorious, but it is always straightforward about it.

    • Shamus says:

      I chose not to buy Diablo 3. There’s a lot of great stuff I’d like to be playing right now, there’s only so much time, and there’s even less money. And I sort of feel like I’d just be re-treading old ground. I’ve probably already done all the anti-DRM rants I can usefully do in this lifetime.

      • RCN says:

        Understandable.

        I don’t regret buying it, but I have a lot of gripes. It was fun, and worth the money, but it does not have the same longevity of Diablo 2. I think it was the Escapist that had an article framing precisely my problem with it: The auction house made all your item-hunting pointless. By the time you’re in Hell difficulty you’re never again going to be wearing an equipment that dropped in your own runs, and that really kills any investment.

        • RCN says:

          Oh, and the always online is a real detriment, but that goes without saying. 90% of my deaths were caused by lag, and since my connection isn’t reliable or anywhere near the servers I get disconected a lot…

          I don’t even know how people are managing hardcore characters.

        • Aldowyn says:

          That’s what I’ve heard. They balanced the game around the auction house, which is … mind-bogglingly frustrating. WHY would you do that? Pretty much the entire point of Diablo is FINDING those pieces that are better for your character, not.. buying them.

          I guess I wasn’t wrong when I said Borderlands had more Diablo than Diablo…

          • Raygereio says:

            The auctionhouse really amazes me.
            Not the fact that Blizzard did it. That actully made sense. I mean, there was trading and auctioning going on in Diablo II via ebay and stuff. It’s logical for Blizzard to want a piece of that pie.

            But the people that spend money on them. I, for the life of me, can’t figure out why you’d do that. Just like I can’t help but stare in bewilderment at people who buy itempack DLCs.
            Come one people, remember when we all ridiculed Bethesda’s Horse Armour? What happened?

            • Sagretti says:

              I actually understand some item pack dlcs in comparison, at least the cheap ones. If you’re talking a dollar for some new toy in one of my favorite games, why not? At least I can use it any time I play the game. With Diablo III, people are blowing lots of real money on items that they only use as long as a better item doesn’t come around. At “end game,” this even means you’re paying money to speed up the process of making what you’ve paid for obsolete.

              I enjoyed my time with the game, but the auction house is what drove me away in the end. Not because of some base objection to it, just that every time I played the game, I felt like I should be trying to make money off of it. Too much of reality was leaking into play, and it just spoiled the fun for me.

              (Additional Note: Didn’t actually pay for the game, got it for free with Blizzard’s Annual Pass offer for Warcraft. Glad I did it, or I would have found the $60 purchase at least somewhat disappointing.)

              • Kdansky says:

                You bought an annual pass for WoW instead. That’s probably less value for your buck than 60$ for D3. So don’t you go rationalising it. When I quit WoW, I had 150 days /played, and while I had a lot of fun, I regret wasting so much time with pointless grinding.

                • Sagretti says:

                  I’m not rationalizing, because I’ve not stopped playing WOW during my annual pass time. I knew I wasn’t going to unsubscribe within the year period, so I’m not losing anything. You may have not enjoyed Warcraft in the end, but don’t assume everyone else isn’t enjoying the game.

                  As an extra note, I’ve seen a good deal of reports that Blizzard lets you out of the pass if you talk to billing, so it’s not even like there’s a gun to my head to keep playing.

                  Edit: I just realized most people probably don’t realize what the Annual Pass is/was. Blizzard offered Warcraft subscribers Diablo III, expansion beta access, and some other bonuses for committing to the game for a year.

            • Eruanno says:

              Oh huzzah, I’m not the only one bewildered. I’ve bought ONE weapon pack, for Mass Effect 2 on Xbox. And that was because I had some spare points from buying a DLC. That doesn’t really happen with Diablo 3’s auction house. You need to willingly fork over a pile of money onto your Battle.net account. Why?!

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Diablo 3 is nothing special.The only good thing it has is the real money auction house.But not because its amazing or without problems,but because of what it holds for the future of online transactions in gaming.

      And really,the thing shouldnt be called a drm.Its not.Diablo 3 is not a single player game.Its an mmo.

      • Lame Duck says:

        I think the “it’s not DRM, it’s an MMO” argument is a distinction without a difference. I don’t dislike DRM because companies are trying to protect themselves from piracy, I dislike it because they’re doing it in such a way that robs me of ownership of a product and ties a single player game to the internet. Diablo 3 isn’t an MMO because the design demands it, it’s because Blizzard chose to make it that way and the net result is that it robs me of ownership of the product and ties what could have been a single player game to the internet. So why does it matter if it’s an MMO or DRM, it still has the things I hate?

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It matters.For example,ubisofts always on line drm is placed on games that were designed as primarily single player games,and were sold as such.Diablo 3 was designed as primarily multiplayer game,and was sold as such.It doesnt rob you of anything if it is sold as a multiplayer game for which you buy an account.

          • RCN says:

            The worst part really is having to deal with LAG.

            Ubi’s AODRM (Always Online DRM) games at least have the decency of only needing to constantly ping an autenticating server, you don’t need to wait the ping back for the game to input your actions. Heck, not even Age of Empires Online, a game that acutally handles like an MMO for much of it, forces you to wait for a response ping for every action. Only when taking drops it pings to see what kind of drop you got and giving it to you, not every time you send a villager (peasant? Gatharer? Worker?) to gather some berries. And that’s why Diablo III is an MMO and not a simple AODRM game. Except lag kills you dead instantly in any difficulty above nightmare, thanks to the action-oriented gameplay, MMOs are usually safe of this kind of thing.

            My veredict? “What were they thinking?”

          • Raygereio says:

            “Diablo 3 was designed as primarily multiplayer game,and was sold as such.”
            Was it? Co-op was a selling point, but the majority of gameplay footage I saw before launch was singleplayer. I also never saw it described as a primarily multiplayer game by Blizzard itself.

            Let’s not get out definitions mixed up. Diablo3 is not a MMO. Calling it a MMO confuses things as an online-requirment is necesary for MMOs to function. This is not the case for Diablo 3.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              I didnt say advertised,I said sold.Meaning you create an online account with which you have to log in when you enter the game.And what do you mean the online requirement isnt necessary for it to function?It is,because everything is kept on their servers.Your stats,your loot,friends lists,etc.

              • Raygereio says:

                “And what do you mean the online requirement isnt necessary for it to function”

                Diablo 3’s singleplayer shouldn’t require you to be online to function. That requirement is not part of the concept of singleplayer. The only reason it does, is because it’s an artificial requirement.
                Blizzard could have the save files stored on your harddrive and have the entirety of the game’s executable run on your computer and the singleplayer would function just as well (probably better: hello there, latency issues).

                Contrast this to a MMO where the being online part is necesary for the basic concept of a MMO to function.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  “Diablo 3′s singleplayer shouldn’t require you to be online to function. That requirement is not part of the concept of singleplayer. The only reason it does, is because it’s an artificial requirement.”

                  No,the only reason it does is because blizzard didnt want to make a single player game this time.You could argue the same about any mmo.Wow couldve been a single player rpg just as well,and everything couldve been on your hard drive.People have been soloing it,so it very well couldve been single player.Swtor couldve been single player.Any mmo couldve been single player.But the thing is their developers didnt want to make single player games.

                  And really,what is with this sense of entitlement?Are you also going around arguing how fifa should have more guns in it?How need for speed needs more puzzles?How call of duty needs more racing?How starcraft needs more jumping?

                  You can argue that it wasnt advertised as an mmo,you can argue that its a shitty move to transfer a single player established franchise online,Ill give you those without a question.But that it should be single player simply because you want it to be so?No.

                  • Raygereio says:

                    Whelp, at this point I can only conclude that you have no idea what exactly it is you’re talking about. So let’s just agree to disagree.

                    But for the record: I find it very amusing you decided to go with an ad hominem for no apparent reason there. Very classy.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      An ad hominem?Where?The sense of entitlement?Its not an insult.When you demand that something not made by you should be something else,that is sense of entitlement.

                      Also funny how you accuse me of ad hominem a paragraph after you say that I have no idea what Im talking about simply because I disagree with you.

                  • zob says:

                    For what it’s worth, calling Diablo (4 player co-op) a Massively Multiplayer Online game is a gross exaggeration. They can’t market nor they can sell it as a MMO.

      • Eruanno says:

        If Diablo 3 expects me to be online at all times, I expect Diablo 3 to also be online at all times. This was not the case at launch, which caused the biggest issues.

      • Kdansky says:

        Wow, someone actually agrees with me! I wrote a huge post about this on my blog (http://blown-to-bits.blogspot.ch/2011/11/why-diablo-3-cannot-be-played-offline_03.html) because nobody gets it. D3 is an MMO because of the decision to have an RMAH. Techncially, the DRM is not so much on the game itself, but there is DRM on the items you can buy and sell, to make the economy work.

        Is it a good game? It’s decent. Abilities are well designed, monsters are well designed, the levels are far too linear with too many set-pieces (hello CoD influence), and the difficulty makes no sense at all (“normal” is a tutorial of 20 hours length, “nightmare” is easy, hell is acceptable, and inferno is ridiculous). Worth playing, but far from an instant classic.

        • Pickly says:

          That level system was actually how D2 worked as well, effectively.

          (There are actually a lot of complaints like this, where former D2 players complain about some D3 issue that was in the previous game in a big way. Doesn’t mean the issues aren’t there, but trying to argue that they are a big problem in D3 compared to D2 doesn’t make sense.)

          • Kdansky says:

            I don’t remember the levels to be that static in D2, but I may suffer from nostalgia.

          • Sumanai says:

            I don’t know about complaints in this particular case, but times change and so do people’s requirements (and perception) regarding their entertainment. Back then they might have not been as big problems, simply because of a lack of competition or few having seen anything better. Now they can be more serious, or seem more serious, because the environment for games has changed.

            Things like a family can suddenly make the “no pausing even on single player” seem like complete insanity, when ten years ago it was not a problem.

  14. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    Assorted thoughts.

    1.) When we say we want more of a specific type of game, I think it really means we want the games to be cheaper to make (at least, I’ve made this argument regarding movies). If the market for something like Skyrim is smaller than the market for MW3 (including the multiplayer), then Skyrim needs to be cheaper to make, or it needs to be so awesome that everyone wants to buy it. Make the games cheaper to make and the niches can make money. This relates to the Quakecon 2012 keynote part 3 as well.

    2.) I was somehow expecting more biting commentary -not that I’m complaining. I would, I think, like to see some Spec Ops: The Line Spoiler Warning at some point for comparison.

    3.) MW3 may have been an anomoly. I am told that the guys who were making the game were replaced. If so, then Black Ops should be reason for some optimism. You could open doors in Black Ops, the story telling was more interesting, there was better pacing, there were periods of not shooting stuff, and you even got to do a lot of the awesome on your own. Some of this was done by QTE, some of it, like Kowloon Walled City, was worked in to the standard mechanics. Be interesting to see what they do with Black Ops II.

    4.) The selling point for CoD has always been teamwork with the NPCs, not Rambo style FPSing (Medal of Honor has that particular niche). I suspect that many of the “NPC Only Doors” are intended to keep you from running away from your allies and thus keep the squad-level gameplay intact. Nonetheless, this could be done better with a Star Wars: Republic Commande or SWAT 4 style interface, I would think.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “The selling point for CoD has always been teamwork with the NPCs, not Rambo style FPSing”

      And that only worked in the first game,before they introduced health regen.That mechanic kills the dependency on npcs,because you dont have to worry about yourself as much as with a health bar.

    • Eric says:

      “4.) The selling point for CoD has always been teamwork with the NPCs”

      Uh… what? The first game or two, maybe. In every game since then, the squadmates have been completely useless. You have no control over them, they can’t complete objectives, and they rarely kill anyone. The only thing they really exist for is to give you the feel that you aren’t fighting alone.

      Admittedly, the SAS stuff in Call of Duty 4 was cool, but it could have been so much better with slightly more open levels and a few basic commands to give your team.

    • Aldowyn says:

      Want a Republic Commando 2. I really liked that game, one of the best things to come out of the prequel trilogy.

    • SleepingDragon says:

      RE:4) Which only really reinforces the point. I mean, I don’t play the genre but I think I personally would support a more tactical gameplay over ramboing it. However, if the developers feel this need to put things like NPC only doors in your way it clearly shows that either they’re not trusting the player to figure out how to play the game “properly” or they’re trying to force a gameplay style that is not reinforced by gameplay mechanics.

      Example: behind this door is an ambush, if the player rushes in they will get shot to these tiny little bits, if the player waits for the rest of the squad they can get out of the door using covering fire from the NPCs.
      1) Leaving the door unlocked would mean that a number of players would rush through it, get killed and returned to a checkpoint or something. Eventually though they would learn the value of teamplay with NPCs and at 3rd, 4th or 10th door they would wait on their own whether or not there was an actual ambush there. This could also help a bit with introducing teamplay for multiplayer.
      2) Let’s leave the door closed and only openable by the NPC or else we’ll have players banging their head against that ambush for hours and quitting in frustration. Also, in some cases, the player could miss that really cool oneliner we wrote for that teammate.

      To me this need to restrain and limit the player agency shows that either most devs would prefer to be making movies, they do not trust the game to reinforce the desired gameplay style on its own or they do not think too highly of their players.

  15. Phantom Hoover says:

    OK so this is… not at all relevant to the video, but this site doesn’t have a general discussion forum AFAICT so what the hell.

    Does anyone else find that Shamus looks like a different person in every single photo? I mean compare these:

    http://desertbus.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/shamus_dork2.jpeg
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/shamus_young.jpg
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/shamus_vertical.jpg
    http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/images/shamus_1997_married.jpg

    I asked a friend if he saw it too, and he said that it was like someone had made four biopics of Shamus and those were the four different actors who’d played him.

    EDIT: also actually-relevant question: Shamus is your tea addiction to proper tea or that bathwater-weak swill you Americans call ‘tea’? This is very important to my continued respect for you as a person.

    • Shamus says:

      It’s REALLY strange that you posted this now. I just walked in the house after having some new family portraits taken for the first time in years, so photographs are on my mind.

      To be fair, those pics span about 15 years. But yeah, I do kind of see how they seem different. During those years:

      * I was fat when I got married. I got even fatter* later. Then during DM of the Rings I got sick, had surgery, and lost ~45lbs.
      * My hair got curly over the past few years due to age, which has led to a different default hairstyle.
      * I finally had enough chin-scratch to grow a semi-acceptable beard.
      * Got eyeglasses.

      But yeah, taken together they’re kind of funny.

      * Not actually all that fat, by weight. But I FELT unhealthy, because I spent the first 25 years of my life as “the super-skinny guy”.

    • Shamus says:

      Additional: I dunno man, it’s TEA. I stay away from caffeine. I’ve discovered that it makes me clench my jaw really bad. (Took me years to figure it out. People always said, “It’s probably stress.” No, it was DRUGS.) That means I don’t drink just regular tea. Because of this, I usually drink White Tea. The brand varies.

      • Phantom Hoover says:

        Oh eurgh I can’t believe I ever enjoyed your blog.

        Now that I’ve watched the rest of the video, the conversation about Skyrim and MW and its clones was interesting, because I can think of genres which more or less totally disappeared from the market. The space shooter/sim games were really prevalent up until the end of the 90s, at which point they just stopped selling and more or less disappeared from the market, except for the occasional ‘big’ game, mods and remakes of classics, and indie vapourware that beckons and taunts but never makes any tangible progress. It’s annoying because the genre is probably my one true love in gaming, and I completely missed its heyday.

        • Aldowyn says:

          … I just mentioned this earlier in the thread.

          By the way, if you don’t know there was recently a fan-made Wing Commander game released as Freeware, made on the Freespace 2 engine. Wing Commander Saga, you might want to check it out.

          • Phantom Hoover says:

            Yeah, I heard. I love FS2, but its situation is exactly what I’m talking about — everything is driven by nonprofit fan works, there’s no investment or development by any major studio. Content is thin on the ground at the best of times.

        • Otters34 says:

          But wait! Check out all the space-sim titles still being made…that almost universally are based around trading.

          But yeah, I actually grew up in the heyday of flight sims, and they were AMAZING for a kid like me, who loved the idea of space-travel and flying. I dunno what happened with Freespace 2, but personally I was pretty bummed about the first game’s ending, and from the box art and such I got the idea that it would follow in that vein, and I was leery at the idea of facing something that bleak again(being a kid and all). Then years later I bought and played it, and only then realized how good it was. Stuff like Project Sylpheed is..not a worthy replacement by any means, but not a bad try.

          Also Shamus, you have the best way of saying ‘vehicle’ I have ever heard.

          • Phantom Hoover says:

            I really love the Freespace storytelling. The story itself is nothing special, but the way it builds up this constant feeling of fighting an enemy who massively outnumbers you, who is inestimably more advanced, against whom you can deliver a blow only with the greatest of losses and any victory is pyrrhic and temporary? They do that well. I’ve seen a few people saying it’s how the Reapers should have been. The total absence of characterisation for basically anyone except Snipes also makes you and all the other fighter pilots into disposable cogs in a war machine far bigger than yourself, which is something that the fan-made campaigns sadly seem to shy away from.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I hope you guys will reach the kid scene,because it just goes on to show how formulaic major games have become these days(games like mass effect 3).

    Also,knock offs arent exclusive to fps genre either.Back in the day mario clones were just as rampant.You will always see that.Whatever sells well,it will be plagiarized to death.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I’m waiting for the wave of AAA voxel-based sandbox sims precipitated by Minecraft’s success. Come on EA! Release SporeCraft, the first person procedureally generated sandbox space sim! I dare you!

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Why did you remind me of the kid from ME3? That scene felt like such a cheap shot. I was like “Simmer down, game. You’re trying too hard.”

      • Gruhunchously says:

        Bioware writers have been at it for a while right? Surely they should have figured out that in order to get the audience to care for something you have to make them care for something, you can’t just tell them that they should and expect them to.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Exactly. I knew I was supposed to feel bad. Shepard looked upset and “feel bad” music was playing in the background. But I was just annoyed at such a blatant manipulation with a character that I just met and formed no attachments too.

          • Phantos says:

            It’s especially odd if you played a Shepard who is a notoriously evil jerkface, just as far into Renegade as possible. The type of character whose idea of diplomacy is: “Couldn’t they be a little more on fire? I dont’ think they’re quite on fire enough.”

            It’s like, yeah, I’m sure the homicidal maniac with glowing red eyes and scars from all of the evil he’s done is heartbroken. Because someone he just met exploded. Perhaps he’ll shed a tear after stabbing more zombies with his laser knife.

          • LunaticFringe says:

            I was going to save this til the next season of Spoiler Warning, but yeah, Mass Effect 3 really didn’t start off on a good foot with that blatant emotional manipulation. The music is laughable, the sad little piano keys with the sudden BIG BOOM. It’s even worse because earlier the child says something along the lines of ‘you can’t help me’, meaning that he’s a character you just met, know nothing about, and he’s just there to be killed off. I’d say this kind of petty ‘oh a child dies be sad’ storytelling is above Bioware but with the way they’ve been going I just can’t. The later PTSD dreams were pretty bad in their own right as well.

  17. Lame Duck says:

    Did we already have the second part of the 8 By Zombies compilation and I missed it, or are we still awaiting it?

  18. PSJ says:

    OK, having played this game then spec ops here are some things I noticed blah blah spoilers
    When I got to THAT PART in Spec Ops, I got stuck. I had killed the enemy soldiers and was waiting around for instructions to move on because you can very clearly see a crowd of unarmed civilians under the trucks. Of course, the game doesn’t let you progress until you’re a war criminal, so I very carefully shot so that the edge of the blast radius would hit the trucks. Of course this turned out to be some sort of super mega plot bullet that acts on a much larger radius. Because of this, the supposedly HUGE EVENT became a case of “you made me do that.”

    Comparatively in Modern Warfare 1, when you’re on the turret truck and I accidentally killed a civilian instead of the man next to him pointing a rocket at me, I felt extremely guilty because it was entirely my own doing that an innocent died. When you get to the helicopter glowing silhouette section, you are punished for hitting civilians and thus are very careful to only target enemies who are directly endangering the ground squad. Your punishment is assumed to be stripping of rank (it is a fail state) and thus makes you ponder the very real issue of the cost of human life to the US Army.

    Even before that point in Spec Ops, I did not attack any individual who did not first attack me, and followed Geneva conventions where I was not railroaded into committing war crimes (which is most of the game). It was a moving experience and the Conrad/Heart of Darkness references were masterfully woven into the story, but it has deep flaws that hinder its messages.

    Conversely, Modern Warfare is at its heart an arcade-style game which caused me, without narrative hammering, to asses the value of human life, the legality of America’s current wars, and the still present issue of nuclear power as a goal for third-world dictators.

    As pieces of entertainment, the two aren’t very comparable. I play Modern Warfare for the well-balanced, action focused, noob-friendly multiplayer and the simple-minded diversion of the single player yet it still brought to mind deeper issues.

    Spec Ops was a work of art, albeit heavy-handed, interwoven with a (for lack of motivation to find a better word) “generic” shooter.

    I’d hate to see gaming fall for the idea that more intellectual and declare Spec Ops to be the superior experience. It is a positive sign of gaming’s maturity that Spec Ops exists, but we should be wary of hailing teenaged poetry as the greatest product of a medium.

    (and before confusion, I am saying that gaming is an adolescent medium, not that Spec Ops is comparable to an average teenager’s verse)

    • Irridium says:

      With the spoiler tags you’ll either need new tags for each paragraph, or lump all the words into one big blob if text.

    • PSJ says:

      OK, that kind of sounded like I didn’t like Spec Ops…I do. A lot. More than any other game this year. But I also enjoy Call of Duty.
      And I’ll fix the tags

    • zob says:

      You do know usage of WP is only legal due to a technicality, right? If you are concerned with legal ramifications sure it’s ok to use a mortar to lob WP grenades to a military objective that may or may not house civilians. That doesn’t change the fact that Walker is a horrible person for knowingly using something like WP on human beings.

      And that’s the part you are missing about Spec Ops. We are not guilty because we did those things, Walker made that choices, Walker did those things. We are guilty because we let Walker do those things by keep playing. In WP scene game didn’t try to trick us. Walker at that point said “sometimes there is no choice”. It was a clear message “if you want to continue you’ll do this”. We may as well stop at that point and close the game. You choose to continue, I choose to continue. We shot civilians, albeit accidentally, to continue the game. Worst part is you knew there were civilians

      We finished the game by accepting it’s narrative. “Game made me do it” is not quite different than “I was following orders”. We do shitty things in war games to win the game all the time and Spec Ops put those someplace easy to see. That made Spec Ops different. It forces us to face what we did.

      You may wonder why doesn’t, say No Russian, hits the same notes. Different protagonists aside, in other games we win when the game ends. We end with a high note and that makes it ok. Spec Ops ends in emptiness. That robs us off our final rationalization point.

      • PSJ says:

        That is all true. I suppose it’s rather that I lost the empathic player to player-character line prior to that point in the game. Because I still associated Soap as “me” in the first levels of Modern Warfare, the accidental killing had a greater effect. Overall, Spec Ops definitely is the stronger emotional experience, but Walker’s characterization was too strong for me to completely associate my own actions with his, which would have made what is a horrifying moment now into something soul-crushing. Walker, to me, is very close to a good character in a novel. It is not total self-identification as in a game like Missile Command, but it is stronger than what I would feel to a movie as my own thought is required to create the scenario.

        But again, Spec Ops fills a very different role than MW, and it is a role that overlaps with other media. Because I can get the kind of experience of Spec Ops from a good book, I’m wont to be more critical of it than MW which is something more akin to…sports I guess, and who wants to do those?

        • Anorak says:


          I’m not even sure that you’re supposed to empathise with Walker. I didn’t, and I’m glad that he had strong characterisation. This meant that I could blame HIM for it. I think the usage of 3rd person helps with this, but I felt that I was guiding a character through a story, not playing as that character.


          If I had been intentionally roll playing Walker, if I felt that the game WANTED me to roll play as Walker, then I might have had the same reaction you just did.


          That said, I grew emotionally more and more distant from Walker the character the more I played, and the more I felt revulsion at the game itself, even as I felt sickened by the fact that I was still playing.

          Hmmm. I’ve felt such a huge tangle of emotions about Spec Ops, and I’m seeing the same argument. I personally don’t agree with that argument, so I’ll write up why at some point. Properly, with grammar.

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    For the fun of the nitpickyness:
    The underwater part was not well researched. The cutting torch would have about a billion bubbles coming from it where it’s boiling the water. Also, they would just used a bolt cutter instead. Also, it’s a square grid, so you cut a square out of it. No one would cut the grate in a circle, let alone a perfect circle. Also, any special ops team would use re-breathers instead of regular SCUBA, which don’t produce bubbles, and for just that reason. Also, there would be a ton of trash floating against the ceiling of the tunnel, and practically none floating neutrally buoyant in the middle. Also, “sonar” would be useless unless it was active, and if it was active sonar it would immediately give away their position. Also, at the end, you hear the “ping” of the submarine’s sonar. This “ping” is an extremely high pressure shockwave that would instantly kill any divers in the vacinity. It’s actually one of the ways to prevent exactly this kind of assault.

  20. Eric says:

    Sid Meier is famous for saying that “games are interesting choices.”

    The basic first person shooter is actually full of these choices. There’s the constant conflict between exposing yourself and getting a shot at enemies. There’s health and ammo management. There’s using the right gun for the right job. There’s whether to go in close or use cover and shoot from a distance. There’s stealth vs. loud.

    The problem is that Call of Duty distills these choices down to the basics. You have the same management of shooting and avoiding being shot, but almost all resource management has been stripped away, levels are linear and offer almost no options in navigating them or in fighting enemies, weapons are accurate enough and powerful enough that they have few downsides and switching them is almost never necessary, there’s no chance to be stealthy until the game tells you, etc. People look at games like Doom or Quake, or even Halo, and call them mindless, but Call of Duty has nothing on them.

    Call of Duty could be an awesome game if it simply injected these sorts of gameplay choices back in. Deus Ex, for instance, is not some sort of incredible feat. Yes, it’s excellent, has great level design, great progression, tons of options navigating the story and gameplay, and more… but the things it does are things that *all* shooters *should* be able to do well without much fuss. It’s just Sid Meier’s mantra applied intelligently.

    Call of Duty is, for what it intends to be, a fantastically designed game. I don’t doubt the talents of anyone working at Activision’s studios. But it’s also one of the only brands that actually has the stability, guaranteed fanbase and budget to be able to go beyond those basics, and it never does – that’s what’s so frustrating about the series.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I remember the Block Ops 2 developers stating that it would have choices that affected encounters and the narrative.

      Time will tell of they actually deliver.

    • Phantom Hoover says:

      Making Deus Ex is not as trivial as you’re making it out to be. Do you really think it’d be only a little less work to make Liberty Island a single, set path to the front gate, rescuing Gunther, then heading upstairs for the leader? There are at least 3 ways to do basically every stage of that level, and it’s something that even HR wasn’t able to fully recreate. Now if only it had decent gunplay and the nonlethal weapons were worth anything…

      • Eric says:

        Deus Ex has a whole bunch of things to its advantage:

        1) Unreal allows for huge levels. Open-ended gameplay tends to stem naturally from that lack of corridors.

        2) Liberty Island is one of the game’s biggest and best levels. Other parts of the game are not quite so impressive.

        3) The only real obstacle is raw size. Call of Duty requires massive amounts of micro-level detail to remain visually competitive. Deus Ex did not. Building a massive level with lots of options isn’t nearly as time-consuming as you might think when there isn’t a need to detail every last inch of the environment.

        I’m not say Deus Ex is not an accomplishment, but its core tenets of offering player choice in navigating encounters – that is something that any shooter can draw from and get right with minimal effort. Designing a level so that you have a sniper perch, a vent to crawl through and some mid-range cover is not hard.

        Call of Duty and other shooters in its category are not concerned with player agency, but with presenting an intended cinematic experience. That, to me, makes them bad games; as I said, the tragedy is that those resources weren’t poured into improving gameplay, but instead into scripting more explosions.

  21. newdarkcloud says:

    I think Human Revolution did well at guiding the player without forcing them tightly down a path. I don’t ever once recall going through a segment of the game and feeling particularly stuck. Most problems only took me a minute or two to find a solution.

    • Eric says:

      Actually, I found Human Revolution had very linear and restrictive environments, at least compared to the original game. The hubs were well-executed but the mission areas mostly left something to be desired.

      That’s not necessarily an awful thing, granted, depending on the experience you’re going for. But, it’s also a murky halfway mark between modern shooters and Deus Ex. By any other standards, it’s a fantastic game, but next to the original I think the limitations of console hardware (not allowing for truly huge and open levels) and modern design considerations (we can’t let players get confused/lost, ever!) ultimately hampered the game.

  22. Eärlindor says:

    That news room they enter halfway through the video is so incredibly DENSE and busy visually! How the heck are you suppose to see anything?

    • Chris says:

      What makes that bit more annoying is that it isn’t just a newsroom – it’s the New York Stock Exchange. Something that’s on CNBC or Bloomberg Money Channel every day. It’s a major cultural and financial landmark. So you totally want to look around, because who gets to randomly walk around on an abandoned NYSE floor, right?! Except you’re getting shot at by dudes, and those dudes are jerks, so you need to focus on shooting them.

      The result is that it’s noisy AND begging you to be distracted. This isn’t the only time MW3 does this – there’s another bit with the Eiffel tower we never get to that also suffers this problem. At a certain point the setpieces and fancy backdrops overshadow the pedestrian shooting because there’s no emotional engagement with the shooting, but we have emotional connections with these places.

  23. Lunok says:

    I know we are all having fun hating on this game but honestly when you look at what it was trying to do it executes it flawlessly. The story has always been secondary in these games and more of a way to loosely connect different environments together so you can shoot different people. The game Has tight controls a fairly large variety of guns that all look accurate and feel different and in most situations it give you a variety of weapons to choose from. This is an action movie not an intellectual study in film making. Yes sometimes I want to watch something very smart but other times I just want to sit down and shoot some nameless dudes for 20 minutes and not have to think about it.

  24. Aldowyn says:

    So that was a very interesting episode. A lot of what you guys seemed to be saying was that a lot of people deride call of duty for things it really doesn’t care about. Sure, it is all those things people call it, maybe even mindless, but all it wants to do is let you shoot people, and it does a pretty good job at that.

  25. x15360 says:

    As someone who actually flies blackhawks for a living, that helicopter scene was hilarious. The pilot’s chatter sounded like it was written by someone who knew all of the right words, but didn’t actually know what they meant. UH60s also tend not to like getting shot with 8324323 bullets from a hind. Not really a survivable situation.

  26. X2Eliah says:

    Honestly, these were the least-action-filled 20 minutes I’ve ever seen on spoiler warning. Nothing actually *happened* – it was all just an infinite “shoot a bit, press wasd a lot while being yelled at by a horse adrenaline junkie or two” conveyer.

    (Not a criticism of show/hosts, but the game. Don’t be an ass and take it the wrong way. You know who you are.)

    Edit: Sidenote: Wait, am I just unaware of this, or was that gun Chris had to use really, really, really huge? It basically touched the middle-vertical and middle-horizontal!

  27. CrushU says:

    Waaaaaaaaaaait a minute…

    North Carolina? Who’s in North Carolina, and what part of it? lol

  28. LunaticFringe says:

    7:00 I’d agree that games like MW3 have a right to exist, I just wish they weren’t such a dominant force in the industry. ‘Shooting galleries’ is a pretty good descriptor for games like Modern Warfare, they’re pretty galleries, but the gilded cage is always very easy to see.

    Personally the major thing I’ve always had an issue with when it comes to Modern Warfare is the blatant jingoistic nationalism (I know, what an original and thought-provoking critique of the series). Modern Warfare attempts to place itself in a position where it claims to be a representation of ‘real world’ conflict but sweeps all the tougher and more complex questions under the rung. The reason for conflict and the moral ambiguity that war creates is instead replaced by a universe of good and evil where America/the West is clearly the ‘good guy’ (the actions of that general in MW2 is an exception, but note how his work is carried out by a private military company rather then actual armed forces. We couldn’t have the ACTUAL American military engineering a war, right? That never happens *cough* Bay of Tonkin *cough*).

    Worse still is that the games fail to offer up any kind of reason for this moral duality. War crimes are treated as truly evil when done by the enemy, but when it’s Captain Price shooting a POW in the head it’s shown as heroic. Hell, I’d totally understand if any Russians are offended by their characterization in this series as mindless, evil commie targets. As a non-American it’s just kind of uncomfortable (not to say that all Americans accept this obviously, but it’s something that is more easily accepted from a specific nationalist perspective).

    I’d love to see a modern combat series grounded in a more morally ambiguous universe that reflects the issues of globalization, neocolonialism, cultural imperialism, etc. But instead the modern military FPS seems to be more of a vehicle for borderline propaganda, blatant generalizations about world politics and a hypocritical moral stance.

    I get that Modern Warfare is clearly designed for multiplayer rather then a well-developed single player experience, but these problems really turn the series from a shooter I just wouldn’t pay attention to (an example would be Halo, unlike critics like Moviebob I don’t try to say it has hidden fascist anti-multicultural messages just because I don’t care for it) into something that I almost feel dirty playing.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Oh great the site ate my post.
      Anyway the gist of it is:
      Simple way to fix that jingoism would be to give the other side a campaign too. But if you did that it might be a hot potato in US.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        I recall there being a huge controversy over the fact that you could play as the Taliban in Medal of Honour’s multiplayer, so much so that they actually removed their name from the game.

  29. Forumrabbit says:

    2 things to say:

    Why the rant on an obvious loading screen door? That’s very unlike you Shamus.

    Furthermore, Diablo 3 was obviously going to be bad in the ways it is; I don’t know why anyone was surprised by the moves taken by Blizzard at release as they couldn’t have made it more obvious unless they specifically stated all the problems on their front page.

    • Shamus says:

      I don’t see anything about that door that makes it obviously a loading screen. The game has regular loading screens, like other shooters. Going by other recent shooters (Crysis 2, Human Revolution) I don’t see why the level would need to have those sorts of things.

      It looked like a plot door to me, which is what I was commenting on.

  30. Deadfast says:

    How high are your graphic settings Chris? I haven’t played any CoD since the first Modern Warfare so I might be wrong but it seems to me the graphics have taken a turn for the worse. I mean just look at the rubble textures in the streets… Not to mention the whole thing looks incredibly sterile and boring.

  31. Artur CalDazar says:

    Wow Vietnam: Black Ops referenced in a Spoiler Warning episode?
    Weird, I used to love that game when I was a kid.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      There has only been one good Vietnam game and that’s Vietcong.

      • Artur CalDazar says:

        My blury childhood memories say you are dead wrong.

        It’s confusing, downright counter-intutitive maps and zombie level of stupid AI were the best things in the world.

        This sounds like sarcasm, but it isn’t.

        • Even says:

          Experiences can vary and you likely perceived things back then a lot differently. I was 16 at the time I first played it in 2003 and I fell in love with the music and the ambience of the game. Even with the mostly linear levels, they did manage to conjure a pretty convincing illusion of a thick jungle. It does have its rough parts, in particular the tunnel missions and a couple of missions with either insane or buggy scripting, but I’d say it’s still a decent game for its time. The A.I definitely wasn’t the brightest, but it didn’t stop me from feeling immersed. Multiplayer could be especially fun and still remains as part of one of my fondest gaming memories over the years. There’s still active communities out there even.

  32. Ateius says:

    I love the TF2 music. It promises wacky goodtimes, and as such is a perfect fit for these intermissions.

    I played and very much enjoyed the first Modern Warfare. Offering a tightly-delivered, Hollywood-esque action-thriller was a new thing, and it was done extremely well. It was also just very well designed in both gameplay and setpieces.

    Then they did the same thing, only “more”, with MW2. And again in Black Ops. And again in MW3. The novelty of being a new thing has worn off, the scripting has gotten if anything more onerous and the plots have gone off the deep end.

    Personally, it feels to me as if all the official MW games after MW1 are just MW1 knockoffs, the same as from any other two-bit company trying to cash in on the latest craze.

    • James Pony says:

      MW was just a decent game with the usual “man-why-did-they-call-off-the-cold-war-that-was-so-cool” thriller plot, but it was still pretty down to earth. It really fell into that “nothing special but well done” category that often seems to be deliberately avoided, by either trying too hard to be special or just thinking they don’t have to put effort into it because it’s not special.

      The Ranger portions of MW2 where pretty cool atmospherically and overall the game had some individual parts that were cool. But they missed good chances to do something cool with the Russians. Then there was a lot of stupidity, blandness, and once again some dunce mistook the volume knob for a quality regulator – you know, the school of thought where making things more “epic” makes it “better”. If they’d just done more of the same, MW2 would’ve been better. I was looking forward to Modern Warfare the sequel, not Modern Warfare XXXTREME EDITION. Satisfying my OCD is the only reason I play the boat chase level.

      Blops was just Treyarch trying to be cool like MW and, aside from a very few parts, failing.

      MW3 was felt like the developers and/or publisher just going “OK, we have all this stuff to build on. Let’s throw it out and hire Michael Bay.” At least they’re consistent, in that they once again got their hands on the volume knob, missed a lot of good opportunities, and added even more cutscenes and QTEs. Filthy wankers.

      • LunaticFringe says:

        Doesn’t help that after Modern Warfare 2 that crazy legal debate between Activision and Infinity Ward popped up, effectively gutting the developer of all its talent over a period of a few months.

      • Ateius says:

        “…it was still pretty down to earth.”

        That’s the key, I think. MW1’s plot has, I’m sure, no small number of holes if you start to scrutinize it, but myself when I was playing, nothing leapt out at me and made me start questioning what was going on – that comprehensive plot failure thing Shamus bangs on about every so often.

        MW2 leapt out at me right from the word “go”. Between Zakhaev suddenly being a national hero rather than a mass-murdering monster, the Ultranationalists somehow coming back from internal anarchy to mount their coup, and the entire premise of No Russian from beginning to consequences, it fell flat on its face and made me question every other aspect from then on out.

  33. Lame Duck says:

    There’s a typo in the intertitles over Chris’ failed recording, by the way.

  34. newdarkcloud says:

    I know it’s only been a week or two, but you might want to put those new Half-Life 2 episodes on the Spoiler Warning page.

    I always find it helpful to do something like that the moment a new episode comes up. That way you don’t forget. Just a thought.

  35. Pattom says:

    I was impressed how everyone managed to justify Call of Duty’s place in modern gaming while rationally pointing out why it gets a bad reputation, and then Rutskarn caps it off with, “That’s fucking stupid.” Dear God, do I love Spoiler Warning.

  36. […] out Shamus Young’s Let’s Play of Modern Warfare 3 for a great discussion on […]

  37. anaphysik says:

    Late to the show, but….

    Shamus: “…some place important for leading…”

    liiiike… saaaay… the international UN headquarters, hampering international diplomacy? The HQ that is, you know, in NYC?

    Not that I’m trying to defend this trash, of course. Probably they didn’t even think of the UN while mentioning NYC. But it would have been a plausible reason, if the attack could be masked as a tarrorrororist/cahnsparrracy attack.

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