Tag Archives: video games

Call of Duty Double XP Weekend: A Rare and Bloody Treat

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When I text my wife and tell her that I can’t wait to come home and shoot people, she (usually) knows I mean I want to play “Call of Duty.”

I’m not very good. See, I don’t live in my parents’ basement, sans girlfriend, and live and breathe to prestige. I work, 45-plus hours a week, and I have a house and family with all the assorted encumbrances these things entail.

Still, when the evening grows late and after the kid is in bed, it’s nice to grab the ol’ Xbox controller, fire up the console and blast the hell out of some kids.

Call of Duty Black Ops 2 game image

Yee-ha!

It can be a frustrating and fruitless exercise. None of my “real life” friends play it, which is kind of odd given the popularity of the title, but my friends aren’t very hip about a lot of things, I guess. I die a lot. And I die in stupid ways. I fall off buildings and trip over claymores. I stumble across an approaching patrol of enemy players and lose my mind, trying to pepper them all in an ill-advised rain of fire that serves only to give each plenty of opportunity to fire a lethal shot at my skull.

But, I enjoy it. Every now and then, when I get the drop on someone who’s really good and they get soooo pissed that I killed them that they throw a tantrum on the opposite end of the audio feed, I just have to smile and call the evening a success.

This week, a new map pack dropped for the current title, “Call of Duty: Black Ops II.” There are not many game franchises that I follow, because 1) I don’t have much time and 2) they can be pretty expensive, because of adding shit like these map packs. I’ve already given you my $60 – don’t charge me again so I can run around on three or four new arenas.

That said, the new maps are actually pretty fun, especially “Cove,” which features a small desert isle-turned-battleground. It’s my own little Midway. It’s great.

In the weekend leading up to the dropping of the map pack, Call of Duty offered a “Double XP Weekend,” which is a really brilliant way to get players reengaged with the game. Let’s face it, running around and shooting people gets old after awhile, and giving people an incentive to drop your disc in the console after it’s been sitting on the shelf for a few weeks reminds them that it might be worth dropping a few more dollars to download the new maps.

Call of Duty Black Ops II medals

The medals you get when you prestige. See that one with the lightning bolt? Top row, second from the left? That’s the one I’m on now. See that one at the bottom right? Not gonna’ make it.

Now, I’ve “prestiged” only once before. To “prestige” (like I have to tell you if you’ve read this far), you basically reset yourself. As you play, you earn “XP,” or experience points, and “level up,” gaining a higher and higher rank and meaningless titles. I’m a brigadier general right now. Know that that means in the game? Not a damn thing. But as you level up, you unlock new weapons. And the better your armory, the better your chances of killing that little prick camping out in the corner and blasting you every time you walk through the door. (God, I hate that.)

Once you reach the top level, you can start over. This earns you “prestige.” Or it should; honestly, if you’ve earned the absolute top “prestige” rank, you’ve invested so much time in the game that most folks just feel really sorry for you. But, once you’ve reached the top, there’s not a whole lot of incentive to keep playing the game, either. So, either you “prestige,” or you move on to something else.

With the Double XP Weekend, I managed to make my way from ground zero up to level 42 of 55. Not bad. It took me a couple of months to make it to level 55 the first time, and about as long the second, when I first prestiged. But, Friday night, with Double XP Weekend upon me, I took a good, stiff drink of whisky (which I keep beside my own decanter set rather than having to sneak from my dad’s liquor cabinet like most of the other Call of Duty players) and prestiged again. Second prestige. Third time climbing the ladder. Another stiff drink.

Let’s do this shit.

You get extra points for headshots, for killing someone who’s hurting someone on your team (“Savior”), for killing someone who just killed someone on your team (“Avenger”), for killing a lot of people in a row (“Blood Thirsty”), for killing people in quick succession (“Double Kill” or “Triple Kill”), for stabbing someone in the back with a knife (“Backstabber”), for killing someone making a fatal mistake, like shooting someone while they’re falling off a building or aiming a rocket-propelled grenade at their feet and pulling a trigger (“Assisted Suicide”), and so forth.

On a Double XP Weekend, all that is doubled. Rather than 100 extra experience points, you pick up 200. For some of the big ones, like being the first person to kill somebody in a match (“First Blood”), you can pick up 1,000 points. That really helps you rank up pretty quick.

And this particular weekend, my obligations were few. I didn’t have anywhere I really had to go. The grass could wait a week before I mowed it. It didn’t take us more than a couple of hours to clean the house. The wife and kid weren’t terribly needy. So my opportunity to sit and kill loser teenagers over and over was pretty abundant.

Making the past weekend even better was that they allowed players to use one of the more popular maps exclusively.

Nuketown 2025

Nuketown 2025 — bringing war to the suburbs.

Typically, the maps rotate, and you can play on one no more than twice in a row, and even then only if a majority of the people who you’re playing with vote for it. But “Nuketown 2025” was available as an option to play over and over again all weekend, and that map is fantastic.

Nuketown 2025 is a made-to-scale museum piece of 1950s suburbia. It’s a cul de sac, with two houses set on opposite sides that you can run through, complete with garages and back yards. In the middle of the cul de sac is a bus, that you can’t go in, and a moving truck that you can. These provide cover and an obstacle for the house-to-house fighting in which you will engage. It’s a very fun – and very popular – map.

While they made the map available so you could play it to the exclusion of all the other maps, the powers that be decided they would not allow you to play one game on it exclusively. There are all matter of games you can choose to play in multiplayer, from the ever-tired “Team Deathmatch,” in which you are assigned a team and randomly pitted against another team and the one with the most kills wins, to “Demolition,” which requires a bit more strategy to seize and destroy a couple of pre-assigned points on the map.

Another game that I rather enjoy is “Domination.” Three points, marked by flags, are designated on the map. Your team must take and hold a majority of these points for a majority of the time. Points are awarded to each team based on how many points they hold and how long they hold them. For instance, if your team takes points A and B, you accrue two points while the other team, holding C, accrues only one. If you take all three – and hold them – you achieve “domination.”

On Nuketown 2025, two of the points are in the back yards of the two houses. Easy enough to hold and almost impossible to take, since the players “re-spawn” in the back yards – that is, when they die, they get dropped back in the game there almost immediately after death. And they’re not going to let you just sit down under their flag and take it for your team.

The point of contention for Domination in Nuketown 2025 is Point B, invariably located almost square in the middle of the map, just behind the open box truck in the cul de sac. The fighting around the point is frenetic. Grenades are thrown, buildings are strafed with fire, bombs are planted and the whole damned thing is just a disaster. It’s great. Really.

But this weekend, another player and I hatched a plan over our headsets. We changed up our weapons. He chose a light machine gun – a powerful but awkward and unwieldy weapon that is actually my usual weapon of choice; it has a lot of bullets, can be pretty accurate at a distance, and is pretty lethal at close range. I chose a shotgun firing a magnum slug. In close quarters, assuming I get you with my first shot and don’t have to pump it or reload it, you’re a goner.

Black Ops II Nuketown 2025

“Point B” is just behind the box truck in Nuketown 2025. Taking and holding it is the key to victory — and it’s bloody damn impossible.

First, we took B. That took an awful lot of dying, but we did it. Then, we charged into the back of the box truck. Near the bottom of the ramp off the back was the point we had to hold. To take it, one of their players would have to hold a position beneath the flag for several seconds – an impossibly long time when everyone around you is trying to kill you, and you’re faced with the prospect of being unable to move, lest you lose the point you’re trying to hold.

My new friend put his back to mine and covered the doors on either side of the back of the truck, including one that enabled him to plug anyone who came out of the enemy’s house or around through the side yard.

As for me, I just sat there with my shotgun and blew the shit out of anyone who tried to take my flag.

Now, one neat thing Call of Duty does in multiplayer is, for a second or two after you’ve killed someone on the opposing team, your audio and theirs are connected. Now, typically, through your headpiece you can only hear the conversation among the members of your team. But for a second after scoring a kill, you can hear the exasperation of the deceased and even offer your own auditory condolences.

So, as the other team tried over and over to take B, I sat with my slug-shooting shotgun and one-shot killed them, then screamed into my headset, “STAY THE FUCK OFF MY LAWN!” and “YOU DAMNED KIDS BETTER GET OFF MY PROPERTY!”

Oh, it was great fun!

However, now the weekend is over, and I am nigh too close to the top. I’m on level 44 of the 55 I need to reclaim my perch, and when you’re not very good, the climb is slow-going. Probably, by the time I get back to 55, the new “Call of Duty: Ghosts” will arrive in stores.

I sure hope it’s got a magnum slug-loaded shotgun and a box truck in it.

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I’m a Killer – But I’m a Lousy One

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So, there we were – on a street in China, I think it was – pinned down by an enemy who had encamped himself on the edge of a loading platform. Two of my battle buddies were trapped, and there was no way around him. In my ear, I could hear my comrades begging for someone to please take the bastard out.

I hatched a plan. I crept up a ramp near the platform, and rolled a flash-bang grenade into the doorway on the back of the building. It worked; the enemy sprang from his perch and began to unload his whole clip into the doorway, figuring it was being breached.

I shot the poor bastard right in the side of his head. He dropped his gun, grabbed his face and fell to the ground, dead.

In my earpiece, I heard the exclamations of joy from my colleagues as they rushed forward. Alas, my victory was short lived; as the flash-bang had led one enemy to believe someone was exiting the door, the other enemies inside were alerted that someone was possible breaching their little pillbox, and so the baddies began pouring out onto the platform, each gunning for yours truly. I died. Quickly.

If you’ve been wondering why this blog has not been more frequently updated since, say, late November, you have Activision’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 to thank – at least for my absence. As for my cohorts on the blog, I don’t know what their excuse has been. One or two of ‘em had a baby or something stupid, I don’t know. Another probably has the clap, and a couple are teachers who are just too timid to post anything interesting, and so choose not to post at all.

Whatever. Pansies.

As for me, I’ve had Modern Warfare 3. See, this blog – like any other blog – isn’t about you, the reader; it’s about me, the writer who shills out $20 a year for the domain name (and that wasn’t even my first choice). It’s my therapy, my loudspeaker, my hobby. I figure, if I’m going to be writing for myself anyway, I may as well send it out into the world somehow, and since people don’t publish pamphlets anymore, I use this blog.

N00b

I'm not a n00b -- but I get killed as often as one.

So, as I come in from work, feed and wash the kid, tidy up around the house and settle in for a little “me” time, I have a few pursuits to enjoy. I can read, catch up on my sewing (yes, I have things that need mending, what of it?), watch a movie or some television, or write. Since I compose these little diatribes on a laptop, it’s rather easy to combine the “watching television” and “writing” things.

Or, I can play videogames. And, for damned near two months, this has been my pursuit; largely owing to the addictive nature of Call of Duty, which I enjoy, even though I’m rather awful at the game.

Seriously, I’m bad. I’ve had messages from people asking me to leave their team. I often finish in the last three on my team, if not dead last. I consider myself a real asset to my team if my kill-to-death ratio is 1:1. And when others finish below me, or when I finish in the top three on my team, I realize that my team has some serious problems. I am regularly and frequently “pwned” by the same enemy, killed over and over and over for the duration of a match.

But, then, I’m a very casual gamer; I’m not some out-of-work 20-something who has all day to sit around in his underwear at his parents’ house and play Call of Duty. I have a daughter, a wife, a house and a job; Call of Duty is a leisurely pursuit; not a major part of my life.

Now, I have learned enough to make myself at least dangerous – if not particularly scary – in the game. I no longer just crouch in a corner and hope no one happens by, nor do I run devil-may-care through an open field figuring that there’s no one around who’d take a shot at me. And, in many instances, I’ve got a 50-50 shot at taking out an enemy if left to fend for myself one-on-one.

But, I get shot in the back a lot, and if there’s more than one enemy in my crosshairs, I’m usually able to take out only one before his buddies do me in. I also get stabbed a lot, and I’m prone to getting sniped and bombed – though I survive a lot of grenade attacks, somehow.

Still, it’s entertainment, and rarely do I get so mad that the game is no longer fun. And if a group is simply way too lethal for me to be competitive, it’s a simple matter to resign myself from the lobby and join another group, searching for greener, easier-to-kill grasses.

Given that I’m writing this blog, you can be sure that I’m not playing Call of Duty tonight, so if you’re hoping for easy quarry, don’t hold your breath. And I’m hoping to begin posting more, because writing these blogs – and my popular “Dispatches from the Road” posts – are rewarding in and of themselves.

The Art of Killing Hookers

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Niko Bellic

How I spend my weekends. I've got it down to an art.

I’m a married professional, a homeowner, a father and a taxpayer. In my life, I’ve received three tickets – two for speeding (both in Carrollton, about 10 years apart) and one in Douglasville for an expired tag (my Oldsmobile couldn’t pass emissions).

In my spare time – what time I have – I enjoy taking my dirt bike to the hills over the city, turning up the old country music and riding ‘till dawn. I also enjoy ripping off fancy cars and blowing down busy streets as quickly as I can (usually I drive in oncoming traffic, because it’s easier somehow to see the cars coming at you than the one’s you’re gaining on from the rear). There’s also this guy I steal cars for sometimes to make a little extra money. I use it to support my grenade-and-ammunition habit.

Oh, and I kill hookers. Sometimes before, sometimes after, sometimes for refusing to get in the damned car. I’ve shot ‘em, stabbed ‘em, ran ‘em down and hacked ‘em to bits with a samurai sword. I’ve bludgeoned them to death with baseball bats and golf clubs. It’s great fun. Sometimes, my wife helps.

She’s the one who taught me how to do it.

One of the best things she brought into our marriage was her PlayStation 2. My experience with game consoles ended with the N-64, and even that was primarily used for prolonged battles in “Goldeneye” and “Perfect Dark.” On the 27-inch television in the living room of our first apartment, we pushed the coffee table aside and sat in the floor next to each other, like a couple of kids, and handed the controller back and forth as we played “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.” For Christmas one year, I got her “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.”

That game still holds a special place in our hearts. We’d spend weekends holed-up in our apartment, checking off missions and opening more of the game. I navigated, reading the walk-throughs from the game guide I’d purchased while Ashley sliced paths of destruction across the deserts outside faux-Vegas, leapt hills in faux-Frisco and thumbed gang bangers in faux-L.A. We’d order pizza and burn through our cache of soda, fueling the fictional bloodshed.

The Grand Theft Auto games and others have been much maligned for their graphic depictions of violence. In the latest one – “Grand Theft Auto IV” – the characters routinely frequent strip clubs, and you can pay extra for a lap dance. It’s not completely indecent, though – the stripper does wear pasties.

It makes sense that these are games that are not suitable for young audiences. California agreed, going so far as to make it illegal to sell these games to young people.

When California passed the law, my reaction was, “Eh,” followed by a shrug. California has a year-round legislature, and it’s purpose is to make up laws. If it didn’t do that, it wouldn’t need to exist. And though California is a very large market for video games, it’s, like, all the way over there, man. If you want to fully appreciate how damned far away California really is, try driving there sometimes. Half-way across Texas is when I started having my reservations about continuing.

Also, I’m not much of a “gamer.” I’d like to be – I find video games fascinating. But I have a job, a family and a mortgage. There’s precious little time or money for video games. The idea of dropping a half-grand plus on a new gaming system leaves a lump in my throat that I simply cannot swallow.

But it was heartening to hear that my appreciation for the utter art that goes into these games is not lost on the highest court in the land.

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States put the brakes on California’s ban, effectively elevating video games to enjoy the same First Amendment protection as books, plays and films. In the 7-2 decision, the Court has placed the regulation of video games out of reach of the state and into the place where it seems most logical: the home.

Now, this doesn’t affect the rights of retail chains to decide that they will not carry certain titles or game ratings; though if they do, they will not be subject to prosecution for selling such games to minors.

The case was Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, and while it does apply only to the California statute, the effects liberate video game designers from the bonds that force them to consider content when planning games, enabling them to use a much broader platform for their narratives.

I continue to adhere to my belief that violent video games do not lead to violent behavior, but that only applies to an audience who knows the difference between fiction and real life. Those who do not know the difference ought not to have access to these games. Whether or not an individual is mature enough to handle these games, however, is more accurately decided by one’s parents; not the year-round California legislature.

Atta’ Court, SCOTUS.