Friday, February 6, 2009

Always Connected: Gears Of War

Always Connected is a series of posts focused on online gameplay. Today I take a look at my time with Gears of War.

The Gears of War series can be great fun to play online but unfortunately also one of the worst, with a community comprised of people who are more interested in ruining your experience than playing the game for fun. A generalised view perhaps but one that I feel is necessary after the time I have spent playing the series.

Looking at the original game first, my time with Gears of War has been a mixed affair. In the first few months I was able to cooperatively beat the game's hardest difficulty setting, Insane, as well as play a lot of Warzone multiplayer matches with a group of my friends. I really like the way Gears of War plays as a multiplayer title, with the game's matches feeling much more up close and personal than a game like Halo 2. Eventually my completionist side took over though and as a result, I begun to play Ranked matches so I could work towards the multiplayer Achievements. It was there that my perception of the game changed.

At first playing the Ranked matches was okay. I was doing it with a couple of friends and it wasn't too long before we found out that there was a particular search criteria we could use to get into Australian matches and eliminate the lag. Playing with Aussies was great but then something changed and the matches against them were not fun anymore. These same Australians had a sudden change of attitude and turned into the sort of people that give a bad name to the rest of us. They became the type of people who verbally abused you if you killed them, used glitches such as the infamous Crab-Walk to make the matches unfair and just generally became arseholes. I apologise for the language but it is an apt way to describe their attitudes. It ruined the game for me and made the quest for Seriously, an Achievement obtained by killing 10,000 people in Ranked matches, much harder than it should have been.

Moving onto the second game, I found it to be a much better experience than the first. Partly because the Achievements for the new game don't require much online play but also because of the new Horde mode. Horde in Gears of War 2 is a cooperative mode where a group of up to five players get to take on an onslaught of Locust, with difficulty increasing after every wave of Locust that is defeated. It is immensely fun to play and working together with other players -- friends or randoms -- means that there is no competition between players. This suggests that cooperative play is always going to be more enjoyable than competitive, but even if that is true I still wish that playing a game like Gears of War online could be fun regardless of whether it is with friends or not.

I can only speak from my own experiences so perhaps someone else has found their time with the game's multiplayer to be more enjoyable than my own. I also had a choice to stop playing the original at any time but instead allowed my desire to complete everything take control, something that is entirely my fault. I'm aware of that but even so it disappoints me that a community of players who clearly enjoy both games can take pleasure in ruining the game for everyone else.


pete said...

See - I never really liked Gears of War. Sure, the co-op modes were fun, especially when playing with a partner on the other side of the planet and having a half-second lag between pulling the trigger & having the shot be fired. Plenty of hilarity as I ran around a train full of mutant dogs firing madly into the roof, causing no damage save for the ceiling tiles :)

But, in the end, it felt like a game on steroids - big, boastful, and waaaaaaay too much testosterone. And when my OCD dragged me online to start playing ranked matches, it took me precisely one round of five games to realise that the online component was an extension of that testosterone-fuelled single-player experience.

Steven O'Dell said...

Gears of War is definitely a game that can go either way for people, you'll either like it or dislike it and I am fine with that. I'm not a big fan of it but it's okay for mindless fun and in a way I see it as the shooter that I can play when I want to shoot things but not to the point where I am concentrating immensely (Call of Duty 4 anyone?). The whole completionist thing made my approach to the game change of course, which is both annoying and rewarding because hell, I am proud that I obtained that Seriously... Achievement.

Honestly it is just one of those games that I can't really articulate my thoughts on. I do like it and see it as mindless fun but at the same time I wouldn't care if I had never played it. Make of that what you will, then.

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