For just a moment I would like to talk another recently released title and it’s mechanics. It’s all relevant so bear with me.
Mass Effect 3 launched with a Co-Operative MP feature. In it you get your choice of six different classes with a total of 84 points to spend out of a possible 105 across five different categories with six ranks each with branching ranks for the second half, each class has three abilities with a total of four different races, another set of classes are coming Tuesday, which swap those abilities for different ones. There are a total of 43 different weapons, three more coming this Tuesday, and each weapon can pick a two out of five attachments to add on to each weapon that alter it’s various stats.
What this amounts to is a high degree of customization and creation on the players end. I myself have been drawn into it, spending countless hours in the game, not just crafting my ideal classes but theorizing about it. And not just while I’m at home at the game. I’m doing this during downtime while I’m at other places. Work, red lights, doctor’s office.
I’m trying new things with characters. Just now I tried rolling my Human and Salarian Engineers ability heavy with their talent point applications. Didn’t pan out for me since their powers aren’t enough to outright kill and can’t explode like Biotics do with Adepts and Vanguards so I’m going to be rerolling them soon to be more evenly split in terms of damage between their abilities and their weapons. I’ve been juggling which weapon setup to use for my Quarian Infiltrator. She can’t strip shields like a Salarian Infiltrator would so it can instantly one shot most things, but with Sabotage she can perform a similar setup, stripping shields with her weapon and letting her Sabotage power take the kill on the weakend target. Sadly this doesn’t work on a specific class of enemies where Sabotage just makes the hostile friendly instead but a quick change of tactics make’s it worth while.
Before I start rambling on and on about this, I hope you can see my point that the high degree of customization and creativity in the options I had has created an engaging experience that I readily want to revisit even though there is only one specific achievement for ME3’s MP and the gametype elements are rather limited. As a horde mode it’s only 10 waves with one 2 minute extraction wave, three enemy types and three difficulty settings. Though I would argue that the 20 minute average completion time makes it the perfect balance of length and satisfaction.
What does this mean for H4?
That customizable Loadouts can offer everything that I’ve experienced in ME3’s MP in H4. That same engaging and compelling experience and drive that is nearly addicting to perfect your characters and builds. I have fun while doing it. And clearly as CoD has shown, so do many other people.
The only downside is that balance is diminished. But I would argue that this only effects high end play. After biting the Loadout bullet and playing other games with customizable Loadouts, such as SPESS MAHREEN!, I found it wasn’t as horrible as I initially thought it out to be. Instead I found it to be much like my typical Team Slayer matches. In my typical Team Slayer match, I don’t worry about Map Control, I don’t worry about Power Weapon spawn timers. For all intents and purposes, players might as well start off with different weapons since all players are likely to have different weapons 15 seconds after the game starts. Or they would if the only options weren’t DMR/Power Weapon. Different rant though… Everyone spawning with the exact same weapon might matter in high end play, but for most everyone else, it doesn’t seem to be doing anything productive. Just artificially holding back players.
The other upswing is that by allowing players to pick their weapons at spawn, you theoretically could have more of the weapon sandbox being used. Right now, the Repeater doesn’t offer a compelling reason to go out of your way to pick it up. Partly it’s because the weapon is garbage but the other reason is because that most players are just focused on their primary objective: Find target, kill target. Letting players pick that weapon before they get into their single minded rut might give more weapon variety to the game this time around.
Should Loadout choices be severely limited in playlists that cater to the high end player? Playlists like MLG, Classic, a potential Hardcore one, or replacement to Arena? Sure. But customizable Loadouts offers a lot of potential benefits to the game that many seemingly want to throw away for the sake of tradition.