What Call of Duty 4 is doing right…and Halo 3 is not.

Most of us now know that Call of Duty 4 has surpassed Halo 3 as the most popular title on Xbox Live. To what can we attribute this surge in success for the younger title? There are many factors at play here and as someone who has played both titles extensively, I want to make sure none of them are discounted.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, only Jesus Christ himself holds knowledge of the number of hours I committed to the monumental game that was Halo 2. Even with literally every other Team Slayer match I played being ruined by either a modder (cheater) or a deleveler (a term describing a player who, in a despicable attempt to reduce his rank and thus be matched against less skilled players, suicides repeatedly to bring on a loss), I still stayed true and gamed harder than ever.

The reason was simple: those matches that DID involve eight players who all legitimately wanted to have a good time were incredibly fun – the weapons were awesome, the levels were even better, and the friendly shit-talking was the lemon icing on the giant cake of nerdy gamer delight. I grew angry at Bungie/Microsoft for not adding simple fixes that would reduce the prevalence of hackers and delevelers. For example, it would take almost no effort at all in order to add a script that would kick any player from the game who suicided more than two or three times in a row. Attacking modders would be much more difficult though, in Bungie’s defense, as that was largely Microsoft’s fault for making the Xbox’s hardware so easy to modify that a two-year old could do it.

Anyway, naturally I was incredibly excited for Halo 3, especially since the supposed reason they were devoting literally no resources whatsoever to making Halo 2 a bullshit-free environment was because they were placing all said resources into Halo 3. Awesome, right? I got on the beta bandwagon and even played a demo of the game long before it was released. It looked promising. Very promising.

So I finally picked up my copy of Halo 3. I’m going to be honest – for a good while I enjoyed the game on Live (although the campaign was a piece of shit relative to the previous two). However, I only really enjoyed the aspects of the game that were remnants of the second title. All the new weapons are pretty silly and don’t add that much to the game. The sniper rifle was also a much more satisfying weapon in Halo 2. Perhaps it’s my connection, but I’ve always felt there to be something off about the Halo 3 sniper.

Furthermore, the maps are poorly crafted compared to those of Halo 2. This is probably the number one reason I have stopped playing Halo 3: the maps are utterly terrible. In fact, the only map I really like, Isolation, gets vetoed almost every time I encounter it, and I still haven’t figured out why. The maps don’t offer the same level of team play that Halo 2 did, whose online play was based on weapon domination: being in control of the good weapons.

While that aspect is still obviously important to Halo 3, it has been cut substantially by the addition of the assault rifle, which is an incredibly effective weapon to start with compared to the Gimpy McGimperson SMG of Halo 2. You can now take out people who have better weapons with a few bullets from the AR followed by a swift beatdown. While some may find this an improvement upon Halo 2, I wholeheartedly do not, as the maps that Halo 3 has to offer generally don’t capitalize on this difference. And if they do, as on the smaller maps, the match just becomes a fest of beat downs devoid of the high level of technical play present in Halo 2.

I digress – in a couple weeks, I leveled up to 46 in Team Slayer in Halo 3, putting me in the top 8% or so of all players. This made every match incredibly competitive. Matches were won and lost over single mistakes. I can tell you that this competitiveness is what I see to be the only advantage Halo 3 has over Call of Duty 4: the ranking system.

In H3 you have two types of ranks (your level in a given playlist and your overall rank), and more importantly you LOSE experience when you lose a game. On the contrary, in Call of Duty 4 you cannot lose experience. You merely level up by playing more games. Naturally, rank has no correlation to skill in CoD4. This of course results in games with players that cover a huge range of skill.

This isn’t as disastrous as it sounds though. CoD4 has a feature that allows you to call in support (a radar that detects players, followed by an airstrike on your choice of position, followed by a helicopter to mow down your enemies) once you have killed a certain number of players in a row without dying. This means that even if your teammates are running across the battlefield offering themselves as free kills, you still have a good chance of winning if you kick enough ass. This just doesn’t happen for most of the matches played in Halo 3, where I found that the team that won wasn’t the one with the best player but rather the one that didn’t have the god awful player. At any rate, this support feature is a major strength of CoD4 that spices up the usually bland standard team deathmatch.

CoD4 also offers more realism to the battlefield than Halo 3 does, giving you the ability to prone as well as run. The maps are generally really fun and can be played in a variety of ways. While H3 offers more creative, futuristic weapons, the weapons of CoD4 are made more interesting by virtue of the customizable class system: the more you play the more things you unlock to use at your disposal. There are several perks (such as increased bullet damage, better running stamina, or more grenades per spawn) that add complexity to the weapon classes. Mixing and matching provides new ways to kill. And let’s not forget the melee knife kill, which offers incredibly satisfying instant death to the chest.

My personal favorite is knifing jackasses who use the Last Stand perk (the ultimate in cowardice – instead of placing confidence in your ability to aim and using perks that increase your offense, some players seem to accept the fact that they will die 20+ times and opt to receive an extra chance to kill their assailant with a pistol after they have already “died”). Finally, there are challenges (such as killing 2 enemies while jumping in the air) that are unlocked and can be completed for rewards. The only conceivable weakness in the gameplay is that a lot of the perks and weapons really aren’t that great if you want to dominate – but they’re still fun to use every once in a while.

In a perfect world there would be an online shooter that combined the competitive ranking system of H3 with the great gameplay of CoD4. The biggest thing killing Halo 3 right now is the lack of good maps. I would undoubtedly start playing it again if a great mappack (bringing back some old Halo 2 maps perhaps) were released, but given the incredible disappointment I faced with the last set of maps, I’m not sure if that will happen anytime soon. As for now, I’ll see you on the CoD battlefield.

Special thanks to fellow staff writer kingzardoz on the help with the CoD aspect of this article, both in ideas and in playing marathon sessions with me at 4 am.


3 Responses to “What Call of Duty 4 is doing right…and Halo 3 is not.”

  1. RidesARaider Says:

    I prefer cod4, but i love the theater stuff bungie did with the game.

  2. I agree CoD4 is better than halo 3, the halo 3 ranking system is good but the gameplay is just the same every single game, since i unlocked 1000/1000 achievements, i haven’t even picked it up

  3. PubBasher Says:

    Well my brother bought CoD4 today i think ill give it another chance but i think CoD is FAR better on a PC then a Console, add to that its just so simple x.x but fun none the less

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