If the solo campaign is somewhat uneven, this inconsistency extends to the multiplayer modes, albeit for entirely different reasons.
As someone not overtly familiar with the genre, the front end presentation is impressive, with user friendly menus, clear stat overviews and a welcoming feel to the online arena. This is somewhat offset though when you attempt to play anything and are routinely notified that you don’t own the required pack to access that mode. Look, I understand the concept of DLC to keep a game fresh and to provide an ongoing service to loyal gamers, but if I’ve got a physical copy of a game I expect to able to partake in the majority of experiences that it purports to offer. Locking me out of most of the extended game modes feels cheap and immediately puts me on the back foot.
Leaving this initial frustration aside, a scroll through the various online modes demonstrates a plethora of options and immediately my anxiety triggers flare up. Ducking into my rabbit hole, I click past the team campaigns, capture the flag and other joint ventures, making a bee line for the individual trials, pitting me as an individual soldier against a set of real world adversaries. The concept seems simple enough; shoot everyone, then move on to the next weapon. I’ll have some of that. Sadly my optimism greatly outweighs my ability and it isn’t long before I’m face first in the dirt.
Next up I decide to strike out into capture the flag territory. This is a bold step for me, requiring joining up with team mates and maybe coordinating our actions. Nervously I click to join, my palms sweaty as I watch the clock tick down for other participants to pile in. Still waiting. Still waiting. No really, still waiting. To hell with this, I enter the fray without a clue of what I’m doing and it turns out I’m the only one in the game. No team mates. No opposition. I have the run of the map to complete the objectives at my leisure. I reckon I can get a win out of this one!
Trying again, I find a well populated game to join and I’m straight into the action. This is more like it. Lots of enemies to target, my squad mates clearly labelled so that I have just a smidgen of a clue as to what I’m doing. Early on I have to accept a couple of deaths, taken out by a superior enemy. But I soon start to get my bearings, contributing to the capture of a zone and assisting in an enemy takedown. But then it hits me. No, not a bullet. A thought. I didn’t invite it. I don’t remember letting it in. But there it sits on my mental couch, drinking my beer and eating my crisps. And he whispers into my ear, ‘This is boring.’
And it is hard to disagree. Like the campaign, combat so often seems to be at arms (well, scopes) length. The battle seems to be going on around me, something I am passively watching rather than actively participating in. I try another mode, this time able to jump into a jeep, but the feeling remains. Perhaps these type of online shooters just aren’t for me. I struggle to see what keeps people playing for so long.
And I never did wear that headset.