Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What Gears of War 3 needs to succeed

Gears of War 3 is happening, no one can deny that. However, Epic would do well to listen to fans and critics of their last installment to prevent further backlash and insults to their famed franchise. Mainly, they should listen to me. Gears of War 2 was in fact, a great game, but it suffered from a myriad of issues along with embarrassing technical flaws that prevented it from reaching perfection. Being the fan that I am, here’s some things Epic must touch down on in order to achieve greater success with the third installment’s multiplayer.

Online Functionality
Think you won with your 22 kills? Disconnected! How do you feel now?

The meat of Gears has and always will be the multiplayer component. Why then did Gears 2 struggle with it so badly? When the game shipped the multiplayer was all but broken. Unless you had a full party of five it could take an upwards of 15 minutes to find a single match. Not only that but if you happened upon a rather vindictive host they’d simply disconnect at the end of the match and render everything you just did meaningless. There’s nothing worse than waiting for eons to play the game only to have your session cut short and effectively erased by some dude who couldn’t take a loss.

Suggestions

It didn’t take long for Epic to patch Gears 2 to make the matchmaking smoother and you can bet Gears 3 won’t suffer from this. There simply isn’t an excuse for it not to work. To combat the host quitting problem, Epic needs to take from systems that work. Halo and Call of Duty have had host migration features and it’s time Gears followed suit. Also, if there’s going to be a leveling system or some type of experienced based process involved with the online gameplay, Epic needs to make sure it’s not half-assed this time around. If you remember, Gears 2 didn’t even ship with the 100 level system you currently see. Give it some love Epic, not an afterthought and for the love of everything that’s online, put a damned mark next to the guy who has host!

Weaponry
So I guess the mighty Hammer of Dawn is stopped by a flagpole. Awesome.

The weapons in Gears are amazing. Practically every single one has its uses and they’re all designed rather well. Unfortunately, when put to use, more often than not, you witness things that just don’t seem right. The Boom Shield is an excellent example of a “weapon” that seems good on paper but fails in a multitude of ways. It could be used to glitch through walls and more annoyingly, wield two-handed weapons you normally couldn’t. Even if you were using it in a logical sense, you’re slow and it’s completely useless against overwhelmingly powerful weapons like the Torque Bow. Other weapons like the Boom Shot sometimes explode right on target and don’t commit an ounce of damage to the enemy. Even grenades detonate on top of people and sometimes don’t scatter them into bloody chunks. But the king of inconsistency in Gears 2 was the shotgun. When the game shipped, unless you were the host, you couldn’t fire it from the hip. If you did your bullets would immediately hit the ground in front of you. Besides that, sometimes you could deal immense damage at ridiculously long range and sometimes point-blank blasts would do nothing. This inconsistency in weapons is aggravating and makes it tough to concede that you should have been killed there.

Suggestions
Besides making certain weapons more consistent, Epic needs to sit down and think about the implementation of other weapon mechanics. Grenade mines, for instance, changed the way grenades were used. Are they going to keep them the way they are now or perhaps eliminate them altogether? I’m indifferent about the mine thing, but once again, I’d have a better feeling if they were more consistent. Something like the shotgun being broken when the game shipped is unforgiveable and embarrassing but I doubt it’ll happen this time around. Here are some of the things Epic should be tweaking weapon-wise:

Boom Shield: Fix the glitches and make it viable in combat. Wouldn’t you rather have people hang onto it rather than ditch it at the first sign of a torque or boom?

Boom Shot: two shots are plenty, but the explosions need to be effective. There’s no reason someone shouldn’t explode when I hit them with a shot directly or very close by.

Grenades: a certain number spawn each round, that’s it. This would eliminate hoarding and turtling.

Grenade Mines: first they were too brittle, now they’re too strong. Find a happy medium for these things and make them more consistent when they blow.

Hammer of Dawn: the ammo for it is fine, but quit with the gimmicks. Having a super-laser get stuck on a flagpole is stupid and having it on maps like Tyro Station where there are poles everywhere is asinine.

Ink Grenades: Love the idea behind these things but sometimes you’ll be standing away from the cloud and it’ll still hurt you. Fix it!

Lancer: The iconic weapon in the Gears universe is also one of most problematic in the second game. You used to be able to walk through a hail of bullets and still massacre your opponent with the chainsaw, but it’s been semi-fixed. It’s still inconsistent and that’s a problem.

Scorcher: Another weapon I love, but this thing sometimes works too well and then other times it’s not worth a damn. How does a constant stream of fire not down someone? Oh, right it was lag wasn’t it?

Smoke Grenades: At first these things were a pain in the ass. You’d go down for 20 minutes but then they were fixed and awesome. Having that certain timer on getting up was a great move but then you took away being knocked down which also took away their usefulness. Bring back the short concussion or eliminate these.

Patches
Hmm, should we make the Boom Shot fire lasers in this one?

Patches are something that is necessary in this day and age. Like it or not, certain undiscovered problems can pop up at any time and the wonderful patch can clear them up. However, using patches to treat your customers and game like one giant experiment is awful. Gears 2 went through several updates that constantly tweaked, untweaked, and retweaked everything. Don’t they have places to test this stuff before it goes live?

Suggestions
Gears 3 should definitely get the support Epic has shown for the second game, but not entirely in that way. Constantly shifting what weapons and mechanics do puts people off, especially if they play the game all the time. The best thing I can say here is to thoroughly test out the changes before making them live, thus circumventing the issues in Gears 2.

Team-Killing
BAM said the lady!

In the first game you could actually select whether team-killing was a function or not. In Gears 2 it’s not an option in matchmaking. I understand why this is, but if Halo and Call of Duty can do it why can’t a tactical game like Gears? There’d obviously be penalties but I’m sick and tired of people just throwing endless amounts of grenades in where the fighting is at. I mean, how does that even make sense? All your teammates can run through the Ink cloud but you, since you threw it, can’t make it. The game would be much harder and therefore more tactical, but above all, it’d get rid of some of the nonsense I see every day.

Combat
He’s in my sights. Keep him there. HEADSH… What!? He wasn’t even moving!

This is more about quirks and lacking features I’ve experienced while playing. Compared to the first game, the executions are definitely more varied but not as satisfying. Now turning a guy over and giving him the ole’ one, two is definitely gratifying but during some executions there aren’t any sounds at all. When you melee certain dudes, sometimes no audio plays at all. Even when they’re crawling across the ground and you tap the B button, it’s so anticlimactic I almost wish I could rewind time and do a different execution. Also, in the first game you could save people from the dreaded curb stomp. In Gears 2, once the animation has begun there’s no saving your comrade; even if the enemy hasn’t touched your friend it doesn’t matter. Oh, and it’s also really annoying that the A button does so many things. If you’ve ever rolled passed a guy you were trying to pick up as a meat shield, you know what I’m talking about.

Suggestions
Switching the button that picks people up as a meat shield is definitely something I’d like to see. As far as sounds and executions go, I’d like to see more of those as well. Particularly though, I’d love to see the return of the stun if you’re shot while meleeing. In the first game, if you were reving your chainsaw or meleeing and were hit with a bullet, you’d end up taking a step backwards, ie be stunned for a moment. Epic took this out of Gears 2 and I think with the implementation of it in the third, it’d change many a thing. Epic could also do some tweaking to the hit boxes as they tend to be pretty inaccurate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shot someone in the head, or what appeared to be their head, only to have them shout in pain and move on.

Class and Weapon
You have to hit the head, I on the other hand, can shoot anywhere I please and BOOM!

This is something I’ve had various conversations about with quite a lot of people. Gears sticks to the old style of running to certain locations on the map where specific weapons spawn. This system works but the issue with Gears is that, for one, you only have one life that round, and two, sometimes you’ll never get it. I’m sick and tired of people online not sharing weapons and making mad dashes for the torque bow so they can get the most kills. Their defense is often, “No one else is good with it.” Well that’s because all the other people can never pick it up! Playing online is completely different than the campaign and if people aren’t willing to share or be team players it’s very hard to immerse yourself in the game when you’re stuck with the bare essentials.

I don’t know how they’d do it but I propose shifting their system to a more Call of Duty-esque approach. Obviously not everyone could start with Torque bows since that’d be ridiculous, but something has got to change. Gears is already very tactical and very team oriented but I think it could get a whole lot better, especially for the people who just want to jump in and play, if they’re able to select or achieve certain weapons during the match. Sure you’d still have the lone gunmen from time to time, but at least people are able to grab things they want so they can have a good time. Having Xx SniperLordz xX hurdle to the sniper every single time and doing nothing with it gets old fast.

Closing

I’m sure there’s many more things Epic could touch on to make the game supreme, but I’ve covered practically everything that I’d like see shifted a little in the third installment. Hopefully Gears 3 will be a much more ironed and thought out experience. I know it will if Epic just takes the time to listen.

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