26/01/2014

last stand on murder hill

What makes a good multiplayer shooter experience? Been playing them for years and only now do I ask myself that question in light of my recent experiences with Battlefield 4. Okay so its partly a game and partly an exercise in futile frustration in its current broken state but there's some intangibles here worth pondering I think.

Is it the guns? The maps? The looks? Is it the reflexes required to succeed? Is it the systems of points and scores? Is it the players? Is it the hidden hand of the developers as they quietly pull the strings behind the scenes and manipulate the on-screen action as it ebbs and flows from one murderfest to the next?

Having played so many online shooters over the years and having some very distinct opinions on which games were good and bad I now wonder what aspect if any separates them at all. Of course there are well made games and games that fall apart at the start and never get back up again but beyond that what makes a game undeniably good or bad online?

I ask this because ostensibly Battlefield 4 is pretty much the same game I've been playing for the last few Battlefield games, going at least as far back as the Bad Company games. Ostensibly the same, yet somehow lacking a certain something I can't quite nail down. It's probably one of those frustratingly vague combinations of all the above. A freewheeling blend of chaos where it all comes into play. A push and pull between control and the lack of it.

Making my last stand on murder hill (every hill's a murder hill in first person shooter online) earlier tonight I wondered how Battlefield 4 could essentially be the same as Bad Company 2 but somehow less engaging, less fun, less something something. Franchise fatigue maybe? Too many tweaks to a formula that wasn't broken in the first place? See how this is devolving into further questions? This definitely appears to be one of those topics. 

As such I doubt I'm going to get to the crux of the matter by the end of this entry. For all that these games are meticulously designed and stage-managed I don't think its entirely in the hands of the makers. Conversely the players who perhaps shape the experience as much as the developers do, well perhaps they wouldn't stick around were it not for all the unseen tinkering and manipulation behind the scenes? So maybe its some ambiguous sweet spot inbetween but who knows? Answer: not me!

Maybe Battlefield 4 is broken and I should leave it at that. Maybe the intangible is succinctly tangible after all? Have my doubts that it'll be as good as it used to be even when its fixed though. Why is that when on paper at least these games are nigh on identical? Okay no more questions, that's it. This is as deep as the rabbit hole that is my brain goes for now. Another proud moment for my brain there. Just doing its job, whatever that is exactly.