Ef You Treyarch...

Why Do I Hate Myself So – Call of Duty Black Ops – 2010

Select Difficulty > Veteran > You will not survive

Yeah, you guys know the drill. A new Call of Duty game comes out, I somehow end up with my hands on it, I play it on it’s hardest difficulty right off the bat for no reason at all, and I end up writing about how much I hate it. This saga all started because my friend and I trudged though Call of Duty 4 on Veteran. Like a sadist I’m always up for a challenge and look where it’s taken me.

Gaming purgatory.

Right off the bat Black Ops makes grave mistakes that mark the campaign a worse experience then Modern Warfare 2. After reflecting on MW2 for the past year that game, minus it’s mindless storyline, was actually in parts fun to play even on Veteran. Black Ops is a completely a mixed bag. Some missions and scenarios are brilliant where others are complete bullshit. For example, the Vorkuta mission (minus the dumb conclusion and getaway) is fantastic. How the objectives are unveiled felt like a fun rip on the series and I always love a good prison break.

I can 100% confirm re-spawning enemies make their grand reappearance in multiple sections in Pitch Black Operations. Without question the worst part of COD4 are the areas where, for example, you shoot some asshole in the window and a second later another asshole would take his place in the window. Truly horrid.

The worst part of Black Ops is the mission S.O.G. For the designers I’m sure in their diabolical ways planned “this is the mission the layman is going to be broken trying to get the veteran achievements. “After not having to look up game play suggestion videos for MW2 I had to for one checkpoint in the above level. Watch the video then come back. You kill the guys they keep coming back. Listen to the poor guy in the video. He makes it look easy but he even admits how many times he had to die to get this part right. You try to rush forward you are cut down immediately. Your AI guys (as they are for the entirety of the game) are completely worthless and not a good way to judge your safety. On Veteran it’s complete luck to pass this section.

Gripes, bitching, moaning, whatever.

Along your quest for military supremacy your AI companions have this great ability to either always take the best cover spots or seriously push you out of cover. On Veteran a good strat is hugging a wall and doing a pop in/out of cover. Some dick level designer always wants to put Woods or Hudson exactly where you want to be to blast the fools they refuse to. Multiple times I was just cussing at them for being asses for taking my spot putting me in danger of game over.

On the mission “Rebirth” there is a part where you will man a tank. This is not an easy part and your tank on Veteran cannot take many hits. Also, the player is not controlling the movement of the tank so progression is scripted and you only move the gun. The game hit a checkpoint right in the middle of a firefight not in a safe area. On respawn the shots were impossible I couldn’t kill the guys behind me and in front of me at the same time thus having to restart the entire level. I’ve never had a game with an automatic checkpoint system EVER screw me over like this.

On the final mission of the game “Redemption” I ran into another well documented glitch that required another level restart. After going though half the level downing three helicopters and running the gauntlet of memorizing the location of countless instantly lethal men the last thing I would have ever thought happened. A scripting error. If anything Call of Duty does right is scripting events. During my decent in the boat apparently I’m suppose to be accompanied with an AI guy and apparently he didn’t come with me thus not allowing the trigger of the next event. Seriously how in the world did this issue get past 12 minutes of credits?

Something that I didn’t even bother with on MW2 was the multiplayer component. With Black Ops since my friends recently have been playing online I’ve played enough to reach level 29. This is the reason to come to Call of Duty and I can see why people like it for reasons I’m not going to get into here. The community is huge at one point there were over a million people online. The same night a tenth of that was playing Halo Reach. In the battle of Halo vs COD really I believe it’s a personal preference. Halo feels like anybody can come in and have a good or a bad match where COD feels it caters to the good and constantly rewards them for being good. For those bad players the hook is to make them strive to be good to have what what the already good players have. As poor as those sentences read really it was the best way I could put it. For myself Halo has been my preferred game of choice for competitive multiplayer since Counter Strike practically for online statistics and rocket race alone and Black Ops won’t change that. Black Ops did change that I’m no longer afraid of playing COD online other then the next game better not have the RC-XD killstreak. I swear I hate that stupid remote controlled car so much.

So, after all that where are we? For my small fanbase after reading my maniacal rants on Call of Duty one would ask ‘why in the hell does he keep doing this to himself? Now that I’m 1up over anybody I know on “Veteran Completions” that slightly dampens but doesn’t extinguish the need to keep beating these. Part of me also still feels like the challenge is fun. The whole “I did it and nobody else did” is always a goal to strive for. On top of everything I still have lingering thoughts trying to comprehend how these games are the most popular in an industry where there are tons of better alternatives for content.

I cannot condone (recommend?) the campaign on Veteran difficulty. My gift of  stubbornness was the sole reason I was able to trudge though this game. After finishing the game I went back and did some achievement hunting on an easier difficulty and I can see where mortals can find their fun. As always being behind the barrel is done well and Treyarch appeared to try to make the storyline interesting even though I didn’t pay attention to any of it. Honestly don’t listen to me I’m just a jaded old man who’s lost his way. If one needs a balanced four star review read Giant Bomb’s it’s great and all of it true. This post could go on forever.

Note: I forgot to mention they finally (!!) removed those patronizing quotes when you die. My stomach and lasting sanity wouldn’t handle seeing “Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction” – President John F Kennedy every twenty seconds after walking Mason into a death trap.

Promise I Tried To Make it Into Work Today

West Michigan weather is terrible today. COMPLETELY misjudged the accumulation. Saw the tracks and thought “me to!” Right now my car is stuck on a slippery downhill slope  and there is way too much snow for one man to use a shovel and get one self out. Ef this I’m going to drink tea and loaf in front of the TV clearly there is nothing I can do about this.

WTF – Wet – 2009

Seriously, the final boss is a quick time event.

Undecim: -5

My Xbox 360 Died – Pt. 2

Once again my once strong and valiant Xbox 360 has died a painful death. This time I’m getting the dreaded Three Blinking Rings of Death. Honestly part of this might be my fault or fate telling me to stop being a typical American consumer but I lost two devices yesterday due to failure. It’s been quite the day to say the least and another ‘Irate’ category post will be scribed within the next few days. Regardless I’m at the library leaching free internet on my day off printing off a UPS Ground label to have my 360 repaired again. On my previous post regarding the death of my console I’m still under warranty thus the repair will be free and registering for repair was mostly painless. Failure happened June 22nd and will be in the hands of UPS the same day. Here is the report I filled out for the TDCB Repair Center in Mesquite TX. Some information removed for obvious reasons.

My console is doing the behavior listed here http://support.microsoft.com/kb/907534 (three red blinking rings). Tried all troubleshooting steps listed and I don’t believe it’s an issue with the power supply as the light is green on the power brick when system is powered on and this happens on all power connections in my house. There was a disk in the drive and being unable to open the drive normally I used the method here http://support.microsoft.com/kb/906935 to remove the disk. There has been no modifications to the Xbox 360 and only operated under normal use. I would like to request the system returned has a HDMI port as the console I’m sending in has one included. This is my second repair order (Service Request Number: **********) during Xbox 360 ownership.

Thank You,
vanlandw
*****************
***********************
************

Gamertag: gaming vanlandw
Service Date: 2009/05/06
Serial Number: ************
Product Id: ********************

Regardless I’ll keep everybody in the loop with updates. Now to send my Xbox to UPS, get some food, and go to Vo’s to make sure my 360 Hard Drive isn’t completely fried.

Update 1: I forgot to note that I’m sending the Xbox to the repair center using the same box and shipping materials they returned my previous repaired Xbox. Also I’m using the Print Label feature this time rather then having to wait for a box to be sent to me. Hopefully turn around time won’t be over three weeks like last time.

Update 2: Rather then going directly thought UPS like I did last time I went to an authorized place in Jenison called Aim Mail Center. The gentleman working there was very helpful. Noticed I was having problems with my packing tape and came around the counter to help me. Great customer service.

Today I was also able to test the Hard Drive on my 360 and everything appears to be working  without a problem thankfully.

Update 3: My 360 has arrived in Texas….

MESQUITE, TX, US 06/24/2010 8:48 P.M. ARRIVAL SCAN

Update 4: My 360 is out to delivery to Microsoft’s repair center…

MESQUITE, TX, US 06/25/2010 9:59 A.M. OUT FOR DELIVERY

Update 5: Looks like UPS is what is holding up this delivery. My “Rescheduled Delivery Date” has been updated three times so now is listed for June 28th. Things are going bad so far my rough ETA is up again to three weeks best case on the speed of UPS ground shipping. UGH

Update 6: I might have been quick to judge on UPS shipping. Their site now  lists the shipment as recieved at 06/25/2010 7:46p so the shipping turnaround so far is 100% acceptable if Mr. Mesquite TX recieved the shipment on Friday. Repair status at support.xbox.com lists the status still as “waiting for console”.

+1 UPS -1 Microsoft

Update 7:

I would be elated if my system got sent out tomorrow that means I would have it back maybe next Monday/Tuesday for slightly more then a two week downtime. I’ll make sure to keep everybody posted.

Update 8: Xbox sent me a really nice email confirming they received my console and will be sending me  another one right away. Enjoy this poorly photoshopped picture of the message. On my last repair they did not do this and it’s a step that is appreciated. The repair process for Xbox’s under warranty is fairly painless process and this step is a positive for customers who are not as anal as I am. +1 Microsoft

Update 9: June 29th 7:39 AM I received another email from Microsoft

An Xbox 360 console has been shipped to you from our service center.

Regardless of how weird ”An Xbox” sounds it’s nice to know a console is on the way. There is a chance system breakdown to return might be under two weeks. Personally I’m hoping to have it on Friday. So far so good. Watch me get returned a 2005 Xenon version with no HDMI and the shiny DVD drive scratched to shit and with children’s fingerprints on it.

Unlike my last repair Microsoft did go ahead and register my new console. They are returning me a “Xbox 360 Exchange Pro” and I have no idea what that means. The Internet doesn’t really either. If this site is to be believed deciphering the serial number shows my new Xbox was created in China and built in the year 2008. Gives good hope to being returned a HDMI model.

Update 10: 7-1-10 9a – It’s been over two days since Microsoft sent my Xbox back and my tracking status is still…“>>> UPS could not locate the shipment details for your request. Please verify your information and try again later.”

In the email sent they really did mean “It can take several business days for UPS tracking information to be updated online once your console leaves our shipping center.”

After being optimistic about return before the holiday there is no chance it comes before Friday. Best case next Tuesday.

Update 11: Yup next Tuesday at best sadly. My 360 hasn’t left Mesquite yet. Today at 12:52p the “Origin Scan” was placed. The emails sent from Microsoft are slightly misleading. That was over two days from the email sent saying my console has “shipped”. Also this is coming by ground so it will be about 2.5 weeks turn around. I’d rather them just email when the 360 has truthfully been shipped rather sitting somewhere for a few days. Assholes…

Update 12: Email sent today 7/3 from Xbox Live…

This mail is confirmation that your subscription to 1 Month for $1 has been cancelled on Saturday, July 03, 2010.

Given the membership is worthless without a console this message went straight to the trash. Assholes…

Update 13: Checking shipping status at UPS shows my 360 will be sitting in a warehouse in Wyoming MI for the next three days. I believe UPS doesn’t ship on Saturdays and they observe the 4th holiday on Monday. Thankfully it’s a busy weekend but it came REALLY close to getting my console returned before the holiday. Oh well I’ll let everybody know Tuesday how the return goes.

Update 14: As expected the UPS delivery came at 2:20pm July 6th 2010. Turnaround time from failure to return was June 20th – July 6th. If it wasn’t for the holiday worst case it would have been a day shorter. Faster then my last repair but that counted delivery of a box to send the console in that I wouldn’t suggest anybody to do. Make sure to just use any old box and use the free printing label option to make the repair time faster.

The return came with slightly different literature the second time around. Non personalized letter regarding admin functions (warranty registration, extended service contract). They also said they were sorry for the inconvenience of having to send the 360 in for repair. This was all handled in three languages. They also continue to give you a free month of XBL service that I will use when Halo Reach comes out (unless somebody wants to play something online but I don’t expect that to happen in the summer).

In two languages was a picture tutorial/reminder to reconnect the controller to the console.  In three languages a reminder regarding downloaded content due to the new serial number assigned to the console (this being my third 360 in 16 months).

This newest console was returned again with HDMI support (sorry Vo) and is again clearly a refurbished system. There are scratches on the body and wear along the hard drive chassis. I was also able to find some sticky residue and paper on the console as well. The power button and disk eject button are very firm and don’t feel as used as my first returned system. Overall this seems to be an upgrade. Even the smell is better.

Now that the console is returned I’m going to spend a few hours getting my downloaded content reauthorized and using the system for a little bit. I’ll update the post later today with hopefully final thoughts.

Update 15: One thing I would like to mention is how horrible reauthorizing your downloadable content is on a new console. It’s a terrible process. On my 360 I’ve downloaded 118 items, some that I want to keep some that I’ve already deleted. There is no way to reset this where it only auths the content that is on the HD or where the download list shows what you have. So for all 118 items you have to review if you have it still on your xbox or if you either need to redownload it or ignore it.  This process took forever and I ended up downloading items I didn’t want. Also you can’t queue up over 30 items as once so it needs to be baby sat. Doesn’t help how unresponsive the 360 menus are.

After getting the cords setup and using the power button for the first time the response on the button iss a little mushy. Seems that is to be expected on some systems but my previous two were not that way. The disk drive that came with the system seems to be the “BENQ VAD6038″ that at this point cannot be flashed or used for mods. The system seems very similar to my previous xbox’s I don’t believe it’s any different as the power adapter I’ve had since my first xbox works. Last night I played a few hours of Mass Effect 2 with no problems. The system appears to be quieter but I haven’t tried a game that was running off the disk yet.

At this point I’m going to call this saga closed.Overall really the process was rather painless but still not something I would hope anybody to have to deal with. With the amount of money invested into platform it can be stressful knowing the brain of the operation is sitting in southern Texas being repaired. Any questions on the repair process let me know.

The Best Buy Rewards Zone Program is a F’n Joke

I forgot to post about this back in June. Email today sent to me from “The Best Buy Rewards Zone Program”
You may remember receiving notification in June 2009 about changes to the Reward Zone® program. This is just a reminder to explain the changes that will be affecting your point balance.Please take a moment to review the important elements of points annualization.What is points annualization?
•In February, Reward Zone program accounts with 250 points are automatically being issued reward certificates to the nearest $5 level
•Any remaining account balance below 250 points will be forfeited
•The annualization of the program is based on your purchases as of December 31, 2009
You may remember receiving notification in June 2009 about changes to the Reward Zone® program. This is just a reminder to explain the changes that will be affecting your point balance.
Please take a moment to review the important elements of points annualization.
What is points annualization?
•In February, Reward Zone program accounts with 250 points are automatically being issued reward certificates to the nearest $5 level
•Any remaining account balance below 250 points will be forfeited
•The annualization of the program is based on your purchases as of December 31, 2009

I forgot to post about this back in June. Email today sent to me from “The Best Buy Rewards Zone Program”

You may remember receiving notification in June 2009 about changes to the Reward Zone® program. This is just a reminder to explain the changes that will be affecting your point balance.Please take a moment to review the important elements of points annualization.What is points annualization?

•In February, Reward Zone program accounts with 250 points are automatically being issued reward certificates to the nearest $5 level

•Any remaining account balance below 250 points will be forfeited

•The annualization of the program is based on your purchases as of December 31, 2009

Apparently Best Buy needed to make up a word to hammer the point home that the Rewards Zone Program is now a joke. What this means is you HAVE to spend $250 dollars with Best Buy within a year to make even being part of the “Program” worth it. If you don’t hit that goal all your purchases are worthless to the program when February rolls around.

Last time I checked I was at about 180 points. Today I’m back down to zero.

I used to carry my Best Buy card with me everywhere. Today I ripped it up and threw it in the trash. Seriously what a bunch of idiots it’s just a worthless matter of control making the customer think their purchases are going to lead somewhere. Honestly it’s not even worth it’s weight in my wallet for a five dollar gift certificate.

Google Buzz – One Step Closer To The Edge

Recently Google thought it was a good idea to migrate social tools directly to users email with a new feature called Google Buzz.

Go beyond status messages

Share updates, photos, videos, and more.
Start conversations about the things you find interesting.

This is absolutely the LAST feature I would want tied to my personal email. Clearly I’m not a “status update” kind of guy. Nobody cares what I’m doing anyway.

I opted out. I made sure I was sharing nothing then on the bottom of your gmail there is a link “turn off buzz”. It took so much work to migrate towards one personal email account years ago. I came close to switching today after Buzz. It bugged me in one day I could have something “social” being tied to my “personal” email. Sadly I believe I can’t “stop” anybody from following me. I fully understand that many google services are tied to your google profile but still this one is a pill I didn’t want to swallow.

I would say this is required reading for anybody using Buzz.

There is already a lot of insanity on the web it’s impossible to catch up, keep track of everything and be apart of every conversation. Right now I’m swimming in Google Reader items as I have been for months.

1000+

I’m drowning in web projects I can’t even find the time to start or even clean up abandoned ideas. Google Buzz is just another hopeless distraction I can’t be apart of.

Really I would love to know how everybody deals with this problem I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Honestly it frustrates me and could use any tips, rules, or methods anybody employs.

Update: Looks like things are getting better at least I can block people I don’t want following me. Time to go back and make sure to block everybody.

Update 2: I love this story. Well it’s serious in nature but still it’s the truth. Seriously Buzz is just a nightmare. Buzz assumes that everybody lives these glorious lives where ones entire social circle  integrated and loves one another.

Update 3: Yeah just hitting the “turn off buzz” icon is not enough. Quote from Google Help documents

Disabling Buzz

If Buzz isn’t for you, you can turn it off it by clicking the turn off buzz link at the bottom of your Gmail (it’s near the basic HTML link). Please note that this will only remove the Buzz label from your Gmail account.

To completely stop using Google Buzz, you also need to block all followers and delete your Google profile (which will delete all of your posts and connected sites) before clicking the turn off buzz link.

Abysmal…

Update 4: New York Times puts everything together here. Hopefully more people read this and hopefully massive changes are done to Buzz. A single click “opt out” would be nice. Also I’m unsure if “blocking all followers” means I lose everybody on Google Reader? I might need to get a hotmail account.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007) : Veteran Complete Follow Up

As noted in my previous post about COD4 I played the game my first time around on the Veteran difficulty setting on the 360. Below is irrefutable proof that I did conquer the game on it’s hardest setting.

On Google Reader I commented to a friend thinking about replaying the game on veteran the following…

if you cherish your sanity don’t even attempt playing that game on Veteran on the 360. You have to be able to predict the future have uncanny reactionary time and be able to perfectly wield the 360 controller to be able to survive. If I could I would record the choke point I’m on now seriously you have to play perfectly to advance it’s awful.

I might not be the worlds best game player but I have been around the block a few times with hard games. I’ve defeated Ninja Gaiden, God of War 1/2 on it’s hardest difficultly and the list goes on. Not that Half-Life 1 is “hard” but I don’t think I know another person that has beat it due to it’s confusing lack of  direction.

I’ve done it twice.

Hell I grew up in the Contra Era. As a freshman in college I remember me and vanberge sitting for an epic co-op session defeating Contra five times in a row. For ages me and vanbergs would play Contra: Shattered Soldier and that game requires a pure learning process of enemy patterns and deciplne I’ve never seen in another game for two players to progress. Oddly enough that game only made it feel like your own fault for pershing.

Call of Duty 4 is just another beast all together.

This is the only game where I  watched videos online of people beating the levels to find a plausible strategy to beat choke points. The two hardest areas are both timed and I believe will continually throw enemies at you. The game requires you to learn where enemies are placed (sometimes) and also be able to continue quickly.

“You will not survive” is correct.

Watch this video.

This is the final checkpoint of the mission “Heat“. This checkpoint took me FOREVER to beat. The guys can kill you almost instantly and you have to be very quick using the air strikes and forward progression. A few AI exploits and a little luck and I was able to get past this after countless attempts.

Watch this video.

This is a middle checkpoint for the mission “No Fighting in the War Room“. The first flashbang I was able to throw flawlessly. If you don’t do this part fast there will be two guys instead of the first guy to the right. In this level there is at the least two parts where guys are cross firing so it’s almost impossible to get past a section. The next video will display this better. Let me make a picture of this.


As you can see the red dots are bad guys. The green dot is “Soap“. As modern as warfare has become Infinity Ward twice on this level has designed guys to pretty much cross fire upon one another in attempts to kill you. These points the guys are pretty much standing there waiting for you to come around the corner and kill you instantly and friendly firing upon one another.


Ugh

Watch this video.

There is an “epilogue” mission called “Mile High Club“. I tried this mission haphazardly multiple times and was only able to get to the stairs. Watching this video you have to be an amazing shot and have a little bit of luck to complete. There might be a possiblility I’ll keep trying to beat it but really it’s so freaking hard. Your flashbangs have to be perfect and your shot just as much on veteran.

As much as I wanted this post to be the “end all” of Call of Duty 4 really it’s not. I haven’t defeated all the challenges and I’m not an “expert” at the game by any means. This all started as a quest to understand why these games are so popular. I do have more of an understanding and honestly I did find some enjoyment in COD4. Beating this game on Veteran is one of my highest gaming achievements but not even close to what I would say was an”enjoyable” experience…and it’s entirely my own fault. What in the world was I thinking playing this game right off the bat on it’s hardest difficulty (hint ‘G’)? This was the first game I’ve ever done that with.

As a “van” I’m a stubborn SOB. I had to beat this game but really I didn’t “want” to.

Thinking about maybe that is testament to the game?