Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Old School is not always fun

So Gears of War 2 this Memorial weekend was an "old school" weekend. Teams were now limited to 4 players instead of 5. Stun grenades kept your character upright, but stunned instead of knocking you half way across the map. Old school rules applies.

And it wasn't all that fun.

Now, I LOVED the original Gears of War and have many fond memories of playing that game 'til all hours of the night. But once you've played with a squad of 5 players it makes it hard to go back to just 4. Take the River map for instance. With 5 players you send 1 down to pick up the Boomshot under the bridge, 1 to cover him immediately, 1 to grab the frags and then come down to cover him (or throw them up to the sniper spot if there is no resistance at the boom), 1 player up to the sniper/torque on your side, and 1 player to keep an eye on the bridge/cover the player going for sniper/torque and maybe even go for the mortar is possible. With only 4 players someone isn't going to have enough protection for very long.

If you send 3 down for the Boomshot (1 with frags) that leaves the sniper vulnerable to someone coming across the bridge and coming up behind them. If you send 2 in each direction then there is some confusion as to where the frags would be best used. If the guy going for the Boomshot waits until he has frag support, the other team will get the Boomshot. If the person getting frags goes to help cover sniper, then they can't be used to throw up at the other team's sniper spot.

If you split up and travel in pairs to back each other up no matter where you go, if one of you gets killed that leaves your buddy all along to face who know how many enemies. Besides, it's a whole team effort, not mini Wingman matches in a larger game. Having that fifth person makes all the world of difference especially on maps where you can use them as roving support. Helping out where it's needed once you've learned the enemies attack pattern. Maps like Ruins.

And the frags? In Gears of War 2 I've thrown a stun grenade at an opponent knowing it would knock them back 10 feet right to the feet of my teammate who would promptly blow their head off. One down, four more to go. With the "old school" stun frags, the enemy just stands there cowering until they can move again. This reaction seems to not last as long as if the player was knocked down and had to get up. It's much harder to get over to someone to kill them if they don't have to take that extra time to get up.

Now, I'm sure someone will say that the original rule for GOW2 has made me lazy and that playing "old school" made you work harder to get your kill. Possibly. But another thing I did noticed while playing this weekend is that playing "old school" made my team communicate much less than playing with a squad of 5. Maybe it was the fact that we knew if we came upon the enemy we'd have to deal with them ourselves because help wasn't coming. With five man teams we could send 3 players to rush the enemy, 1 to stay pack and snipe and 1 to act as a scout and protector for the sniper. We would communicate all the time. Telling each other where enemies were; where they were headed; and where not to go because they tagged something. Maps that felt large with 5 player teams needed a lot of communication, but with 4 player teams you'll either end up dead or the victor before you could get any help.

A five player team also means you have someone who acts as leader. Someone to decide if your team is going right or left on Day One. If someone disagrees and it comes to vote, there is no tie. Someone steps up and takes charge. And sometimes it varies on the map. I have some friends who experience the kiss of death on certain maps and others who excel on those maps. We all know our strengths and weaknesses and with more players participating we have a better chance at exploiting that.

Supposedly these "old school" rules ended last night. We'll see what happens today when I play (and you know I will). Hopefully we'll be back to the way Gears of War 2 was meant to be played. While playing "old school" games can be fun, sometimes playing new games by those rules isn't.

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