Xbox 360 FPS Triple Review: Part 3 – Gameplay

Triple Multiplayer Review – Part 3

See part 1 here and part 2 here.

Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2



Most gamers have played an FPS before. We expect a viewpoint behind a gun, running around a three dimensional environment shooting at some sort of opposing force. In recent multiplayer shooters specifically we can usually expect a variety of weapons with different uses, the ability to run, jump and climb around a complex level, and usually there is access to vehicles, power ups, and/or abilities to influence the battle. Halo: Reach, Call of Duty: Black Ops, and Battlefield: Bad Company 2 all have these things, but implementation is different across the board creating very different experiences. Instead of talking about the gameplay of each game overall, I’d like to make this more manageable by discussing smaller elements of the gameplay in detail.



Sprinting, that extra burst of speed over your normal running speed, only allowed while moving forward. All three games have it, though not equally. In Black Ops you can click down the left stick while running to sprint forward for a short period of time. After a while your character “gets tired” and reverts to normal run speed. You can sprint again after just a few steps, but the sooner you do, the shorter your next sprint will be. Bad Company 2 has unlimited sprint; clicking down the left stick while running will let you sprint across the map as far as you like, or until you get shot. Halo: Reach’s sprint is actually optional most of the time. Unlike Bad Company 2 and Black Ops where sprint is an ability shared by every player in the game, sprint is one of Reach’s “armor abilities” which I will discuss more in the Powers section. Assuming you have selected the sprint ability Reach’s sprint is much like Black Ops’. Unlike Black Ops however, you can see your sprint meter in the corner of the screen so you know just how long you can use it. If you use it all up, you have to wait a bit longer than in Black Ops, but when it recharges it recharges back to full almost instantly. All three games do not let you shoot or otherwise use weaponry while sprinting. Bad Company 2 is the only game of the three that allows you to reload while sprinting, though you have to have started your reload before you start sprinting. This makes sprinting in each game useful for escape, repositioning, or closing the distance to strike a melee attack, but not for run-and-gun tactics.

Crouching in all three games can have benefits for accuracy, help you hide behind cover, and help you sneak up on opponents. In both Black Ops and Bad Company 2, where your sprinting or running footsteps will be heard by nearby enemies, crouching and sneaking decreases your footstep volume putting stealth on your side. Halo: Reach does provide a slightly less audible footstep for sneaking, but far more important is that sneaking will prevent you from showing up on nearby enemy motion trackers, which every player has on default gameplay settings. Black Ops is the only game of the three that lets the player not only crouch, but by holding down the crouch button, you can go prone. When prone, character movement is literally a crawl, and I’ve encountered a lot of frustration with the limitations of turning your character. If you try to aim left or right and your player model’s legs hit an obstruction it completely prevents you from rotating. However, going prone presents a very small target to your opponents and increases your accuracy even more than crouching making it worthwhile in many situations. Going prone while sprinting in Black Ops sends you into a jumping action hero dive which can create quite a dramatic entrance or escape from combat, and can even be used to dive through windows. It’s a fun feature but isn’t a game changer.

If you prefer a safer way in and out of windows you can always stick with jumping. Black Ops soldiers are the worst jumpers across the three games; the jump provides enough distance to jump over small gaps and up small ledges, but the game compensates for the weak jump by providing the player with a vaulting/climbing animation if your jump can get you halfway up. This little touch adds to the immersive experience of the game, but I find can cause more frustration than not. Not only does the moment of climbing take away your ability to fire your weapon, but sometimes it doesn’t work when expected leaving you open to enemy fire. Jumping in both Bad Company 2 and Halo: Reach is simpler and therefore more reliable. Players have a given jump height, and if you can get your feet on a horizontal-enough surface then you’ve made the jump. Reach’s jump height is by far the highest, soldiers able to leap almost their own height. Bad Company 2’s jump is high, but still feels realistic, and as an added bonus soldiers have a magic parachute that can be used for even the shortest fall distances to prevent fall damage. As unrealistic as that is, it’s quite fun to be able to jump off the shortest building, or out of a helicopter, and know that you can survive the fall. Unless you get shot out of the air that is. Comparatively, Halo: Reach lets you fall a good distance before taking any damage at all (only great heights will kill you), and Black ops only allows you to barely survive a one-story fall, but almost anything higher is deadly.

A final note on mobility should be made about ladders. Seemingly a simple thing, vertical movement in FPS games is often poorly implemented. The first Halo game on the original Xbox, Halo: CE, had ladders in many levels and many people had trouble using them quickly and accurately. Thankfully later Halo games removed most of their ladders, and Halo: Reach’s multiplayer completely does without. Ramps and “gravity lifts” are used instead. Black Ops has ladders in quite a few levels, and they suffer from the problems Halo: Combat Evolved had. If you don’t press just the right direction while going up a ladder you may slip off the side and fall back down. In a combat situation that often gets you killed. Bad Company 2 does ladders right, risking a slight break in immersion to quickly align you with any ladder you try to climb, allowing you to go straight up and down or jump off as desired.



No one would argue that combat isn’t the central element of any multiplayer FPS, but these games present three different and excellent approaches. In the Halo series, from Halo: CE in 2001 to Halo: Reach in 2010, combat revolves around map and weapon control. Because players will generally spawn into the game with similar weaponry finding and using the “power weapons” such as sniper rifles or rocket launchers is often the deciding factor in a match. A team that can consistently grab these power weapons, and bring them to an easy to hold area of the map can easily dominate the scoreboard. However, every weapon is useful and effective if used correctly and if you do lose control of a map you can get it back with careful use of teamwork, stealth, and strategy. In larger maps vehicles play a similar role as weapons, important to control, but still not overpowered as many weapons are quite effective at destroying them, and players can board and hijack slow moving vehicles if they can get close. In the end learning the maps, and learning how and when to use each available weapon and vehicle is the key to winning fights in Halo: Reach. The actual shooting mechanics in Reach are fairly simple; most weapons don’t have any kick, and their potential accuracy is represented by the reticle which increases in size if a weapons accuracy is effected by firing rate. Hitting a target relies on control skills and reflexes more than anything else. Because players have significant health and shields, one on one gunfights last long enough that continual steady aim is important, as is knowing when to turn and run in the middle of a fight.

Black Ops takes a different approach, allowing players to start with whatever weapon they want as long as they have unlocked it. Weapons do have different traits in terms of rate of fire, accuracy, and bullet power, but often the differences are minor making weapon choice more about personal taste than weapon power. The ability to fight effectively with any weapon is aided by the low health of all the players. In my experience, one to five shots from any weapon is a kill, bringing many of the fights down to who shoots first. Unlike in Halo where an individual fight between two players can take a little while, Black Ops fights are usually over quickly making individual deaths less consequential and the overall battle the focus. Players who can kill multiple enemies in a row without dying are rewarded with access to kill streak bonuses like explosive RC cars, spy planes, or helicopters. Unlike vehicles in Halo which must be player controlled, some of the kill streak bonuses in Black Ops have limited or no control by the player. While if a player calls in a “Chopper Gunner” they get to control the minigun on the helicopter, calling in a normal “Attack Chopper” lets the game handle the helicopter. While this is less powerful, it does allow the player to continue to fight while the chopper is in the air. Also unlike Halo, weapons tend to have kick and are usually really inaccurate under sustained fire. Pacing your shots, outflanking enemies, and a little bit of luck goes a long way to victory in Call of Duty Black Ops.

Somewhere in between the other two games, Bad Company 2 has similar weapon traits as Black Ops, forcing you to pace your shots or your accuracy goes downhill rapidly regardless of if your sights are on an enemy or not. Also like Black Ops players choose the weapons they use before spawn from the weapons they have unlocked. However vehicles, which can change the tide of battle, are spawned on the map. While they are often spawned at opposing bases, some are spawned mid-level, and even those spawning in the bases can be stolen. A team that coordinates strong vehicle control with good infantry team work can be incredibly dangerous. The Battlefield series is known for its huge objective oriented maps, and Bad Company 2 is no exception. The large team sizes combined with the map objectives make Battlefield into the most team oriented game. In both Halo: Reach and Black Ops I have seen many instances where a single skilled and lucky player takes out an entire opposing team. In Bad Company 2 the varied skills and expansive maps seem to make this kind of control much rarer and every time I’m in a game where one team gets truly decimated it takes at least three or four people working together to do it.



On top of weapons and vehicles, soldiers in all three games have access to some unique abilities to change the way they fight and assist their team. In Halo: Reach before each spawn you can choose your loadout, which includes your weapons and an armor ability. Armor Abilities, a new addition to the Halo franchise, include Sprint, Jet Pack, Armor Lock, Active Camo, Drop Shield, and Evade. Sprint, Jet Pack, and Evade all enhance player mobility. Sprint I discussed in the Mobility section as it is comparable with the universal sprinting in Black Ops and Bad Company 2. Jet Pack is exactly what it sounds like, but unlike jet packs in some games that let a character rocket around a level, the heavily armored soldiers in Halo: Reach are effected more slowly. Though not useful for evasion, the jet pack still lets you gain significant altitude, fly great horizontal distances, or save yourself from a high fall before it runs out and needs to recharge. Evade is the most useful mobility-oriented armor ability for mid combat, letting you dive up to two times in a row in any direction. This makes you a hard to hit mobile target, as well as breaking any homing weapon’s abilities to track you. Armor Lock provides complete invincibility at the price of mobility. You can lock down for a short stint during which nothing will cause you damage, and even vehicles deal with you like they deal with a rock. When you come out of armor lock your shields release a miniature EMP burst stunning nearby vehicles and destroying the shields of nearby enemies. However, this all comes at the price of becoming a glowing stationary target; enemies will often prepare grenades and concentrated fire for the moment you lose your invulnerability. If you prefer stealth to invincibility Active Camo is an effective option. Especially effective when working with a team, camouflaged soldiers are transparent, visible only by light refracting through your silhouette, and they emit an array of fake motion tracker dots. Opponents nearby will know there is a cloaked player because their motion trackers will have a swarm of confused signals, but this will allow teammates to move around the area without being known. Staying stealthy is difficult as when you fire a shot your camouflage breaks down. Also be warned that when camouflaged all sounds are muted making it hard to hear what is going on around you. Regardless of the risks, Active Camo can be invaluable for a sniper, or for sneaking a team into enemy lines. The final ability, Drop Shield, is based on Halo 3’s deployable bubble shield equipment, allowing players to place a spherical shield that blocks all projectiles and thrown grenades. It can be destroyed if it takes enough damage, but can shield an entire team from fire temporarily. The Drop Shield also heals teammates making Drop Shield users the closest to a medic Halo: Reach has. Every Armor ability has great potential, and the variety allows for very different play styles, but every ability can be countered with smart and skilled play, making armor abilities an excellent addition to Halo gameplay.

Instead of a single powerful ability, Call of Duty: Black Ops lets players equip their characters with three “perks” at a time. Each perk adds something minor to a players abilities, but the combination can greatly change potential play styles. With five potential perks for each of the three slots, 125 different possible combinations leads to a lot of variety player variety. A complete list of the perks and what they do can be seen here. You could equip yourself with Lightweight to make yourself faster, Steady Aim to improve your hip-fire accuracy, and Marathon to extend the time you can sprint, creating an effective run-and-gun class. Or you could select Ghost so you don’t appear to spy planes, Scout to hold your breath longer while using a sniper scope, and Ninja to silence your footsteps, and you would have an effective stealthy sniper character. The flexibility this choice of power presents is an excellent way for a game to let every player find their favorite style. The only failing I have found with this system is that certain of the perks are only valuable in very specific circumstances causing them to be rarely used. Often most players end up using the same few perks that turn out to be the most often useful. For example, now that the game has been out for months, the combination of using the Ghost perk with a suppressor attached to their weapon making them invisible on the map at all times has become very popular because it is so powerful. This means the other four perks in the first slot are often neglected by entire teams of players. In general however, the perks are well balanced and you can never predict what an opponent may be using.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 does not allow players to pick their own powers, but instead goes the route selectable classes. The powers, weapons, and equipment you can use are all defined by the class you choose. The powers, more teamwork based abilities, allow you to play a special role to help your team in combat. If you choose to play the Assault class, you get the ability to drop ammo for yourself and teammates, ad specialize in assault rifles and under-barrel attachments for them. The Engineer class specializes in aiding and destroying vehicles. Not only are they the only class that can use rocket launchers and anti-tank mines, but as an Engineer you get a drill-like repair tool which is used to restore damaged friendly vehicles, or dismantle enemy vehicles. The Medic class has access to a med pack to restore teammates health at a rapid rate, and defibrillators to resurrect any recently killed teammates from where they fell to prevent them from having to respawn. The fourth and final class, Recon, is the sniper class in the game and provides the least direct aid to teammates as they can’t provide anything directly to them. However, as a Recon player you provide important covering fire, can throw out motion mines to detect enemies for you team, and call down mortar strikes on enemy positions. Together the four classes can work together to great effect, using vehicles, sniping, healing, and ammo resources to put pressure on opponents and control the map.

Each game clearly approaches character powers and abilities differently but to great effect, providing with the ability to customize their role and their play style, or react to different situations they are put in by the level or the opponents.



I’ll make this brief as likely anyone reading this extensive analysis and review should already have some experience with video games, and therefore know about common multiplayer modes and objectives. In multiplayer, each game has a variety of game modes with different goals. In both Halo: Reach and Black Ops the most popular is the classic “deathmatch” game type where teams race to a certain kill count with no other objectives. Bad Company 2 has a team based mode like that as well but the game is built and balanced around it’s Conquest, and Rush modes, in which players fight over territory to capture flags, or take turns on offense and defense trying to destroy communication equipment. Black Ops also has some popular objective modes similar to Bad Company 2’s. Domination plays like Bad Company 2’s Conquest on a smaller scale, two teams fighting over flag based territories to score time points. Black Ops also has a Counter Strike inspired Search and Destroy Mode, a bomb planting Demolition mode, classic Capture the Flag, and other creative modes like Gun Game, where players race to get a kill with each of a set of weapons and every kill they get moves them on to the next weapon. Halo: Reach has it’s own take on classic and new game types other than “deathmatch” as well. The staples of Capture the Flag and a bomb planting Assault game type are present, as well as Oddball where players fight to carry a skull for longer times, and a Territories map control mode. On the more creative side stand Headhunter, in which players fight to collect skulls that fall from dead enemies and deposit them into goal areas, Race and Rally, two vehicle based racing modes, and Invasion, a human versus aliens mode that combines three different objective modes at once.

Without time to review each game type for each game in detail, I will just say that there are enough in each game to let players choose how they want to play and have a great time.


In the end, each game has great variety and can be approached in many different ways, but also has a general feel and style that provides a unique experience the other games can’t. Halo: Reach players will get used to having more health, armor abilities, and the need to control power weapons on the maps while pushing for whatever their present objective is, while Black Ops players get hectic quick-death battles full of automatic weapons, vehicular rewards, all with custom classes, and Bad Company 2 provides large scale battles full of vehicles, explosives, collapsing buildings, and a character class set that lets each player take a role on the battlefield.

Any FPS lover should give all three games a try and find the ones they like best.

To give you a taste of each game in motion, here are some videos I think represent them well. Keep in mind these videos do not necessarily show the best or worst moments of the games, but rather common gameplay. Thanks to the youtubers who posted them.

Call of Duty: Black Ops Gameplay

Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Gameplay

Halo: Reach Gameplay

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