Multi-player Shooters are a Different Beast

I’ve moved on from Call of Duty to Killzone Mercenary. Since CoD was my first FPS I pretty much thought it was great. While I still think it’s a great addition and it seems that sales are finally picking up since they drastically reduced the price, it definitely under delivers on the VITA’s promise. Killzone Mercenary definitely delivers as a solid FPS. I enjoyed the single player campaign a lot and was able to complete it at various levels from novice to veteran in a reasonable amount of time.

After running through the campaign several times I finally ventured into multi-player and all I can say is that playing against human players is a different beast. I’m pretty much dead meat and it seems that the most difficult of settings in the single campaign is poor preparation for the multi-player experience.

Suddenly, I was lost and slow while opponents take me out like a clay pigeon from every angle. My reaction is woefully slow and it feels like I’m moving in a freeze frame mode while the enemies are psychic. Now I know that in theory I need to work on my reflexes (to max out what’s left of any minor genetic potential), to know the maps (especially the nooks where people can camp or sneak up on you), and improve accuracy (even when I get the jump on someone, missing a headshot gets you killed).

I avoided playing multi-player after several disasterous forays in CoD. In retrospect, that was stupid because no matter how much you suck, you can only improve. Right now I play on team matches knowing full well that I give a significant competitive advantage to the opponent. I’m also playing some rhythim games (DJMAX on the vita) to improve accuracy and timing (which seems to help quite bit) and also playing more multi-player.

Despite the difficulties, it’s given new life to the game. Seeing how it’s missing the hostile mode (my favorite feature in CoD where enemies are spawned in infinite waves until you die—even though you can go on forever by camping), it’s turning out to be a blessing because I need to venture into multi-player to get that thrill. Killzone Mercenary just has better graphics and feels more like a proper shooter.

I just wish the PS VITA had more shooter games and proper franchise titles to choose from. One great thing about the PS4’s successful launch is that the PS VITA is getting attention as an accessory to the PS4 since it allows you to remotely play PS4 titles right on your VITA. It helps you avoid fighting for the TV and is just convenient because you can play games anywhere in the house. It’s made the VITA like the tablets (which are popular for web browsing around the house) of the gaming world.

In other news, any Playstation owner should definitely subscribe to PS Plus since you get free games every month for less than $5 per month. I’ve gotten Gravity Rush with this and have a bunch of games should I ever buy a PS3. While I enjoyed Gravity Rush, I would have never bought it for full price or a discount even though I enjoyed the unusual game play. I look forward to playing more games that I would otherwise not buy. Also, the ability to back up 1GB of game save data to the cloud lets you manage precious space on the VITA without connecting to a PC.

In addition to shooters I’m playing action games, racing games and some RPGs. I’m not sure gaming is doing anything significant to improve my abilities but I do notice some things.

  1. Mundane tasks like shopping are more fun when you think of it as a game.

  2. I’m more adept at navigating through crowds.

  3. I notice more subtle movements and am more aware of my environment without being more jumpy.

  4. I can remeber a random set of numbers longer (not sure where that came from).

  5. Faster at routine tasks and more likely to react quicker at critical moments.

Only time will tell if there are any spillovers into life and most of this might just be placebo but at the end of the day, I enjoy playing these games and that’s good enough. Despite all the negative press and bad reputation games have with parents, games are really beneficial for a wide demographic (in moderation and balance). For older adults games help to keep your reaction times sharp and fulfill competitive urges that are either overlooked or crushed in every day life (you just can’t take out your boss with a headshot and dance over his corpse).

In recent years lots of journalists and bloggers made a big deal about smartphones displacing console games. The amazing success of GTA V (reaching a billion dollars faster than the movie Avatar) and the successful launch of the PS4 (not to mention anticipation for Xbox One) is indication that gaming is far from dead. Although PS VITA sales may seem dissappointing despite great graphics and PS3-level power, you just can’t beat a dedicated game machine with physical controls when it comes to the gaming experience. I do think that handheld consoles must compete at some level with smartphones and tablets (who wants to carry yet another device). However, the casual games with touch controls on the handheld are completely different beasts (despite some titles making unbelievable amounts of money, like Candy Crush and Clash of the Clans).

Personally, I think smartphone games will eventually spark more interest in consoles (that’s certainly how I found myself meandering back to gaming after a very long hiatus). Console games are far from a dying art. Blockbuster game titles are becoming a cultural force in their own right (great storytelling combined with a player’s ability to interact with the environment is a very powerful experience that no movie can ever replicate, not to mention that game graphics are rapidly approaching Hollywood level fidelity). Also, the median age of games is now in the 30s. That means more disposable income and kids. The current generation of young parents most likely grew up on games and do not have the same hangups about games in letting their children play. It’s just that game developers and console manufacturers need to be aware of the bigger picture (social sharing, downloadable content, etc.) in creating a more compelling experience.