Friday, April 12, 2013

Classic Blogging: Returning to the Battlefield

You know what I haven't talked about in a while? Video games.

Lately, I've found myself playing a lot of Battlefield 3, actually. It's been a long time since I sat down at my computer and booted that game up but it's a whole lot of fun. It was rough getting started again; I was level 21 in the game last I had played and consistently did very well when playing. I had received the Ace Squad award quite a number of times and even managed to be the top player in the game once or twice. I found that I did well because, unlike Call of Duty which always boils down to Kill/Death ratios, Battlefield rewarded you for performing objectives -- something I always hold in higher regard than K/D. Thus I would be tactical and play defensively for a while, defending a point from capture, and earn quite a number of points before spearheading a push to an enemy strongpoint and take it for my team.

Having played Call of Duty lately with my buddy Dallas, however, left me with the impression that all FPS games revolve around twitch reactions and Kill/Death ratios. Thus, when I booted up Battlefield 3 again (thanks to prompting from Dallas, who had received a free copy with his purchase of SimCity), I found myself lost in the entire scope of the game. Where Call of Duty has tightly designed maps full of death corridors and methods of instant-death, Battlefield is grand and open and allows for all sorts of variation. Where CoD punishes you for every mistake you make, Battlefield is forgiving enough to at least allow you a chance to retaliate -- permitting you act fast enough.

Getting back into things was slow. My account was up to level 21 when I started again but I found myself relearning everything about the game. Some things -- map layouts, vehicle controls, destructible environments -- came back very quickly while others -- bullet trajectory, squad commands, knife controls -- are still a point of contention for me. But, after the initial frustrations, I found myself slipping back into the game that I loved so dearly back in 2011.

Though I had leveled to 21 almost entirely using the Engineer and Assault classes, I decided to switch things up and start working on the Support and Recon classes instead. I find that I am (relatively) awful with sniper rifles but I would like to keep working on it, in an effort to unlock the laser designator. Support, on the other hand, has given me a new insight into the game; where Engineer and Assault classes end up being very hit-and-run with their tactics, trying to deal with a single armour unit or a small group of soldiers, a single Support can hold an entire objective to themselves (until aforementioned armour arrives). I know because I managed to do so in a recent game; I found a secluded spot in which to set up my bipod-equipped LMG, utilized the great field of vision I had and managed to hold the point against consecutive waves of infantry.

I still like the Engineer and Assault class, however, and each situation calls for different tactics. On some maps, it is easier to hold some points as an Engineer rather than a Support, and sometimes my customized Assault class (with shotgun and smoke grenades instead of assault rifle and medpack) is just the point man our team needs to take an objective.

This frame definitely looks scripted but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened
organically in the course of a match. BF3 is just that kind of game.
I have managed to reach level 22 now, after a handful of matches, and am eager to continue progressing once again. Even despite my love for the design, however, there are still issues with Battlefield 3 that have yet to be fixed. For starters, it is still entirely possible for games to devolve into what the community has coined "baserape"; effectively, one team push the other back to their starting spawn area and refuse them from leaving the base before dying horribly. I have been on both sides of this situation and in neither case is it much fun: when you are the team being pushed, you experience such utter frustration at the game (not the players) it is almost beyond comprehension; when you are the team pushing, the game becomes little more than a clock-watching exercise as you protect an objective that you know your opponents will never take.

The other issue with Battlefield 3 -- and, really, it is an issue with most competitive PC games -- is the frequency of cheaters. Now, admittedly, I have not seen very many in my days playing Battlefield 3. That being said, when a cheater is present, it is so very obvious and so game-breaking that it boggles the mind to think how anybody could have fun doing so. Using aimbots or other similar cheat programs creates an entirely frustrating experience for everyone else involved, including the people on your team. In effect, aimbots turn a game of tactics and strategy into little more than a contest to see how fast you can click your mouse. How is that fun?

To finish out my little blurb about Battlefield and cheaters, let me regale you with a tale of a recent match: I had joined this particular server about midway through a match. Immediately, I noticed that chatbox was filled with all sorts of complaints about this one particular player (on my team) who was cheating. Finally, I asked the other team who was the culprit. They gave me a name, and I checked the Scoreboard to see what the fuss was about. The player in question -- gamer tag: Hameedie -- had racked himself a kill/death ratio of something like 61/6. I considered the ratio -- a little over 10-1 -- and thought: "That's a little high, but maybe he's just really good. Whatever, no big deal." The game continued, the other team still complaining, and the match ended shortly thereafter.

The next map loaded and I was once again on the same team as Hameedie. Not five minutes into the match, people began to complain about this player cheating once again. They were consistently -- frantically -- calling out for a server admin to do something, to no avail. As I played, I checked the scoreboard periodically and watched as Hameedie jumped to a 91/2 kill/death ratio in less than fifteen minutes. No longer able to rationalize such a score (a 45/1 ratio based on pure skill? Not bloody likely), I decided enough was enough and went in search of this cheater.

This doesn't really have anything to do with the story but
this game always looks so amazing, so here's a pretty picture.
As I came upon Hameedie, I watched as he fired three shots and was granted two kills, back-to-back. The targets couldn't have been closer than an in-game kilometer and Hameedie was merely using an LMG but the kills still registered and his score still climbed. The only way that was possible was if he had hit with headshots which, at that range, simply was not possible. At the time, I was carrying my own LMG, so I opened fire at his position. Disappointingly, it didn't have much effect, nor did standing in front of him and trying to block his line of sight.

After an enemy tank managed to flatten us both, I switched to Assault (for the smoke grenades) and joined his squad, waiting for him to spawn. When he did, and he returned to his same routine, I popped smoke grenades at his feet, fired all of my bullets into him and even tossed regular grenades to make him scatter. Eventually, I had nothing left to use against him, so I knifed him once in frustration.

Suddenly, his character model jerked quite visibly, as if the knife had impacted him far greater than any of the bullets had. Curious, I knifed him again; same reaction. Gleefully, I equipped my knife and began to slash frantically at him, causing his model to jerk this way and that; he simply could not deal with the recoil the knife forced. Finally, after a few minutes of very persistent knifing, Hameedie stepped away from the top of the cliff, looked at me, froze in place, and typed into the chat window: "Dude, what the hell is your problem?" And then promptly logged off the server.

I felt a sense of overwhelming joy and pride. I used the chat window to declare to everybody present that I had managed to rid the server of the cheater, and was met with a (admittedly small) chorus of approval. The game continued and my team eventually won but it was a much more even contest, thanks to the lack of a cheating presence to imbalance the teams. Hameedie's final message stuck with me a little, but only because of the unintentional irony behind his statement: someone cheating, effectively breaking the game, asks someone standing up to him what their problem is? I laughed at the irony, and still do.

My only regret from that entire situation was that I didn't load Fraps, record evidence of the cheating and post it on YouTube, as I had seen others do before. If I ever see Hameedie (or any other cheaters, for that matter), I will endeavour to be much more diligent and make sure DICE hears of the cheating so they can take disciplinary measures. Sure, they might be busy developing Battlefield 4 (which I am suddenly very excited for) but I'm sure they would be interested to hear of any wrongdoing in their games.

Long story short? Cheaters suck, Battlefield 3 rocks, objective-based shooters are much better than purely deathmatch games and I missed this game a lot. I'm glad I'm getting back into it now!

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