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On Choosing Reach

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The world of the FPS is going to get even more crowded when Bulletstorm comes out soon. Games gather dust as more popular ones come out, and it is almost impossible to be a "dedicated" player of more than a few titles at best. I went through a few weeks of solid Halo and Black Ops playing; I played hours nightly. I've had to turn away from juggling Bioshock 2, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and more in order to focus on my truest calling: Halo: Reach.

But what is it about Reach that puts it somehow above the other games? And is it really something about Reach...or is there a greater lesson?

Halo represents the ultimate even playing field: everyone gets the same weapons, the same choice of special equipment, there is no change in game play with leveling and all your upgrades are cosmetic. I love it. No worrying about not having the right set up, the experience feels very mathematical. So recently I decided to find out if there was a formula for greatness in online multiplayer experiences because...well why not?

What is it that makes a multiplayer experience great?

1) Consistency of experience. Now this can be for better or worse, but making sure that the free radicals don't interfere with the game play can be hard. An example is a game like Mindjack: You may have the same controls as everyone else, but even so you'll find yourself not sticking to cover right, or throwing grenades into pillars. Remember back to Mirror's Edge when Faith would not grab ledges, or miss leaps you knew you'd made before. It can lead to frustrating times when the skill of the player is held back by features that don't deliver.

Now in a game like Reach I cite grenades as my thermometer of consistency. I can throw a grenade at anytime in that game and feel like a surgeon. Grenades around corners, grenandes over ledges, grenades on people's heels. It's the confident Spartan who throws the grenade, and he throws it cause he knows it'll stick. Jet packs similarly have a surgical feeling to them, giving careful players some incredible air control. I don't feel like I can expect the same from Call of Duty; Diving on time is a coin-flip, grenades are more deterrent than anything, and you find yourself cursing each time your typically perfect accuracy goes awry thanks to gun kick or otherwise.

2) Equal access to greatness.The only way this can happen is if step one is achieved, and this is my favorite step. This is where the game you're playing rewards you for playing, gives you access to a system of controls that will, if you use them right, put something beautiful on the screen. Feeling responsible for great moments in games is the bragging rights we play for. I'm thrilled about the upcoming Anarchy Reigns from Platinum, because of how Bayonetta gave everyone access to greatness. If Platinum can pull off the same game play on a multiplayer field...we're in for a ride.

How do you give all players equal access to greatness? I believe it's all in the controls. Games like Smash Bros, Power Stone, and Tatsunoko vs. Capcom all use simple controls, and enjoy a wide range of followers. I have trouble accessing greatness in games like Street Fighter due to the incredibly high price of entry: without basic knowledge of inputs and mid-level techniques games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat become one-sided affairs with the new players unceremoniously trounced by seasoned vets. Letting new players jump right in with simple inputs, while layering more complex systems and techniques (cancels, combos, counters) on top is the way, and it's not hard to mix inputs back in for the dedicated maniacs who want them.

3) Strong community. No one likes to play alone. Choosing a game to stick with often falls to who else you know is playing it. Firing up Xbox Live I see my friends often playing Black Ops, Reach has fallen off the top of people's lists...but the people I started playing Reach with, I still play Reach with. And just recently I made a new buddy over the service to play Reach with. My favorite moments of Lost Planet 2 were when my crew was tight, and we were wasting Akrid and laughing over chat.

Having a good community could mean the different between your game lasting one month and one decade. I can almost assure you people will be playing Reach for the next five to ten years, maybe longer. >Counter Strike, Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast, Day of Defeat...they all have dedicated communities running dedicated servers keeping games that maybe long out of print still alive. Add into that the advent of digital distribution and soon you've got a cocktail for game immortality: Good Community + Dedicated Servers + Digital Distribution. Good people, running a good game, and new players have a chance to get involved at any time.

So Reach is my baby. Is it all I play for my Multiplayer fix? Not by a longshot. I love Red Dead Redemption, NFS Hot Pursuit, Section 8, and Rainbow Six Vegas 2. But Reach is the cream rising to the top. Games that can hit those three points stay on my shelf.

6 Comments

Shin Gallon said:

All of this makes me wish they'd either release Reach for PC, or release an official mouse/keyboard controller for 360. I really want to play ODST and Reach, but I HATE playing FPS games with a controller. Like, really hate it, it feels so clunky and unnatural and sluggish (I tried getting used to it, and simply can't. I'm spoiled by playing FPS games the proper way on PC). So until then, I won't be Reaching (or any other Halo except the first two games)...

Shin Gallon said:

Also:
"Letting new players jump right in with simple inputs, while layering more complex systems and techniques (cancels, combos, counters) on top is the way, and it's not hard to mix inputs back in for the dedicated maniacs who want them."

That's pretty much the definition of what Street Fighter does. It's like chess: Easy to learn, difficult to master.

Mike said:

A proper way of playing FPS is on PC?

Ok Shin lets be Gamers for this type of talk here. I' am not being mean when I say this, but you clearly suck really bad at FPS gaming with a controller. As far as me it does feel sluggish and weird when I play PC games, but I'm not going to say games like FPS are proper for console gaming because I suck at it. There are games out there that work better for whatever it's meant to be on, like most mobile phone games etc.., but for someone to be saying something as big as FPS is proper for PC because you simply can't play well with a controller is a pretty low opinion.

bequietpirate said:

I agree with Shin, Mike. FPS is better felt on PC, this is coming from someone that avidly plays both.

If you FPS often on both a controller and a keyboard/mouse setup (especially a decent set), you will find yourself craving the speed and response of the keyboard and mouse much more than the controller.

I really just don't think this is debatable. It has nothing to do with his skill with a controller. I have a hard time calling any of my console FPSing anything better than casual playing, while nearly all my PC FPSing I have dabbled competitively.

Shin Gallon said:

@Mike
There's a reason that console FPS games have auto-aiming assist, dude. It's a simple fact that mouse aiming is objectively more precise and faster than thumbstick aiming. It's not a matter of being used to it or good at it or not.

Mike said:

This is still only a matter of opinion and is debatable because it's only a opinion.

This is about what or how well someone can adapt, being PC or console. Not to mention with FPS you can change the settings to your liking and handling.

FPS console gamers at MLG and World Cyber Gamers have shown that you can make well accurate hits with the thumbstick at 90, 180 and 360 turns etc..

For one thing I Love____ BC2. BC2 also doesn't have auto-aiming. I get accurate shoots and kills really really nicely on the console, but on the PC not so much. I suck at PC gaming because I can't adapt to it very well. That's just how it is for a lot of people and why it's wrong to say that FPS are quote "proper" for PC.

I just recently ask some PC and Console gamers at school for the pass 3days on this. All I got was preference & how well you can adapt to it. The only bad thing I got was the auto-aiming in multiplayer because people hate getting killed by noops and luckly hits. Which still goes to what I said before that it's only a opinion on what's proper.

And girls who like girls who like rumble packs!

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Shin Gallon on On Choosing Reach: Also: "Letting new players jump right in with simple inputs, while layering more complex systems and techniques (cancels, combos, counters)...

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