Whether you’re fanatical about it, or you think it can go frag itself, it’s an undeniable fact that Call Of Duty is one of the most popular franchises in gaming.
Each instalment breaks the spectacular sales record set by its predecessor. The only exception to that rule being the latest, Call Of Duty: Ghosts. First-day sales have been weakened because some gamers are waiting for 4th-gen consoles later in the month.
Gamers with money to spend.
That is to say, middle-aged gamers.
Despite the big yellow PEGI 16 tag on the box, an awful lot of the voices you hear over your headset when you’re playing COD or its cousins will be the squeaky tones of pre-teen warriors. With the occasional interjection from their exasperated Mums, when their pleas for L337G4M3R_69 to stop playing that silly game and do his homework get picked up by the Kinect.
Let’s set aside for now the moral and legal issues around underage kids playing 16 and 18 certificate games. The real problem is how infuriatingly good they are. Young nervous systems are running the biological equivalent of gigabit Ethernet. By the time you’re 40, a sinister coalition of age, tiredness, and the hangover from the work pre-Christmas drinks will have throttled your reaction time down to 10BaseT at best.
Besides, you’ve got a job. And a life. You can fit in a couple of hours of multiplayer a week if you’re lucky. The junior assassins you’ll be competing against have nothing but time. They know those maps better than they know the names of King Henry VIII’s wives.
Yes, it’s only a game. But no-one wants to spend a whole afternoon pressing the ‘respawn’ button. Here are 10 tips to give grumpy old gamers the edge. Tips I have formulated through bitter, bitter experience.
1: Choose the right game mode
Free For All is an absolute no-no. The newer, more hectic modes such as Cranked are if anything worse. You want a nice objective-based mode where you can stop and have a think now and then. If straight-up mayhem is what you logged on for, at least try Team Deathmatch, where you can rely on other members of your team to avenge your numerous deaths. In regular Team Deathmatch team damage defaults to ‘off,’ so you can afford to open up on anything that moves without worrying about offing one of your own guys. Or there’s Kill Confirmed, which is pretty much the same thing but without snipers blowing your head off as soon as you spawn.
2: Pick the right perks
Perks that help with reaction time are key. Forget anything that makes you run faster. They’ll have you running into trouble more often than they’ll help you sprint out of it. Ready Up give you an edge in medium-range engagements. Ditto Quickdraw. Sitrep not only flags up dangerous IEDs to older, less sharp, eyes but in doing so gives you a clue where snipers are dug in. Amplify is such a powerful perk, it feels positively unsporting to use it.
3: Load up with add-ons
You’ll have your own preferred weapon. But the Remington R5 or the MTAR are the choice of the true Grumpy Old Gamer. High damage and low recoil are the ideal properties for the commando in varifocals. Whatever you choose, armour-piercing and muzzle brake give you a little more punch at longer ranges. And let’s face it, you don’t want to let those battle-Biebers get too close. They’ll knife you as soon as look at you.
4: Load up with hardware
Here’s where being a Middle-Aged Gamer really pays off. A massive telly will help you decide whether that dark blob in the distance is an enemy sniper, or whether you’re just wasting perfectly good bullets on scenery. Connecting your console to a surround-sound system enhances your awareness even more. Sound is especially helpful when it comes to flanking enemy positions. Remember I said consider equipping Amplify? This is why.
5: Buy nice headphones
Surround is lovely, especially if you can afford to turn it up loud. But you’re an adult. You have neighbours. And probably a family. And they won’t necessarily enjoy hearing the sounds of World War 6 bleeding through the walls. Buy the comfiest pair of headphones money can buy. Plug them into your TV’s headphone socket rather than trying to connect them to your console. For two reasons. One, if you don’t there’s every chance that the TV sound will carry on blaring into the room. And Two: we won’t be using our microphones…
More after the break...
6: Cut the chat.
As soon as you’re in a game lobby, take a minute to mute every player. Trust me, you don’t want to hear what they’ve got to say. If you play too well, they’ll have something unkind to say. If you play too badly, it’s worse. It would be lovely to think that there would be nothing but constructive tactical team talk over the in-game comms, but that’s not how the younger players generally roll. Plus, the last thing you want is for the fluting treble of a young boy to suddenly erupt from your state-of-the-art surround system when you’re on the phone to your boss explaining why you’re working from home today.
Nobody likes a camper. But this isn’t a social club. It’s war. Or, at least, an imaginary representation of a fictional war using artificially nerfed weapons. Running around like a maniac is by far the most enjoyable way to play Shooters. But with 40 year old reactions your Kill/Death ratio will be hovering around absolute zero if you try that against the under-twelves. Play to your strengths. You’re more patient. You’re more sneaky. Chances are you’re cleverer than a Primary School kid. Screw on a silencer. Pick a spot overlooking a high-traffic area, or a dark spot at the end of a corridor. Congratulations, you’re a human IED. And don’t forget rule 6: Mute everybody.
8: Pick the right time of day
If you can be at home during the day, play while the kids are at school. At weekends, don’t fire your console up until 10pm at least. 11pm is better, because then you’ll be guaranteed some easy pickings from the tipsy post-pub crowd. And, whatever you do, don’t go near online multiplayer in the school holidays.
9: Be a team player
If you’re playing objective modes, and once you’re over 30 you should be, go for team wins rather than personal glory. Support killstreaks are not only more likely to benefit your teammates, they’re also easier for older, that is to say less able, players to achieve. It’d be great to think you’ll be scoring KEM strikes and Lokis every game. But faced with opposition from the CBBC generation, your chances are slim. Besides: the little sidekick with the riot shield is not only a more achievable goal, he’s kind of hilarious too.
10: Be philosophical
We’re not playing this game to be the best in the world. The guy who actually is the best in the world probably doesn’t do anything else. You wouldn’t actually want to be that guy. Not really. You’re playing a game to have fun and maybe burn off a little of the day’s tension. If the kids really want to run up behind you with a shotgun and then tea-bag your twitching corpse, let them. Once the game’s over, you’re the only one that’s allowed to have beer and crisps for supper. Their Mums are making them have broccoli. It’s almost worth switching the chat back on to remind them of that.