I know online gaming is old news to most people, but I have never picked into my pocket and forked out for xbox Gold subscription. The Playstation Network is free, but Microsoft believes you must pay for the privilege. Maybe it’s because I’m a poor student that I haven’t felt the need to hand over cash, but I’ve also never had that much time to spare so didn’t want to pay for something I would rarely use. However, I have always wanted to have a little go.
On the weekend of the 26th November, Microsoft let you upgrade to Gold for free. Everyone who hadn’t paid for Gold got a free weekend trial. I made the most of the offer and took full advantage.
As you may already know, I am a big Halo fan and as everyone else knows, Halo is known for its online multiplayer. At last, I had my own chance to experience the online phenomenon.
There are so many types of games to choose from, and you can either play team games or a competitive match with up to sixteen people.
For my free weekend, I chose to give Matchmaking a go. Matchmaking finds players of a similar level to you. You can choose to filter them by experience, country and more. They even have psych profiles so you can really check whether you want to play with them from the type of person they are.
The first game we voted for was Slayer Pro- and I must admit I was pounded! The classic Slayer puts about eight people fighting against each other to get the most kills, but Slayer Pro gets rid of radar so you have no idea when someone may be sneaking up behind you to do a meelee attack. Being used to having a Radar and seeing little red dots representing enemies, I was slow and wary, always forgetting to look behind me.
Then, after being at the bottom of the board, I got the hang of it and was able to stop someone stabbing my Spartan from behind. Slayer is a lot of fun- basically shooting your opponents until they die and you get a point.
It is extremely competitive as you can imagine, especially when you are winning and suddenly someone kills you and you’re halfway down the board when you re-spawn.
Throughout the Halo multiplayer experience, I found myself laughing a lot- mostly at myself. I also found myself swearing at the strangers who kept throwing sticky grenades at me. Just to be spiteful, I would run after the sticky-grenade-thrower so when it exploded their own grenade also killed them. I’ve always thought grenades are for cheaters who don’t want to fall back on their crappy shooting skills.
Another hectic multiplayer is ‘King of the Hill’, ‘Oddball’ and ‘Headhunter’. You can either play them as a team or individually. I think I found these the most fun because everyone is vying for one place. For ‘King of the Hill’ you must keep in the selected territory for as long as possible before someone steps in the space or it moves somewhere else. As soon as another person steps into the area, your points stop and you must kill them to begin regaining the area. The space also moves, so even if you get points for defending your space, when it moves to another spot on the map you’ll have to run to get into it first. It was a lot of fun to try and defend yourself. Also grenades ended up flying everywhere and sometimes people got killed even when they weren’t anywhere near the main battle (I won those rounds).
‘Oddball’ is similar, but instead of defending an area, you must carry a skull for as long as possible while other gamers try to get it from you. ‘Headhunter’ is the same as Slayer but with every player you kill, you collect a skull. When you’re killed, the other player can pick up all your dropped skulls and receive your points, if you don’t drop them into a designated area beforehand .
You can decide to plug your headset in and converse with other players from all over the world. It was amusing to hear the other players who did have their microphones on. This is more useful in a team game, so you can strategize with the other players in your team about a game plan. In competitive matches, all I really heard was people swearing and shouting at other players.
It is also- (even though this sounds incredibly sad)- a great way to make friends. You may never meet them, and I would never expect to. But if you meet someone you get on with while playing there is nothing stopping you adding them as an xbox friend and meeting them for other matches. I met a few Americans while playing; people I would probably never meet otherwise- and managed to have a good laugh with them.
With all the stories you hear of males talking to women gamers, despite being a girl I never experienced that personally. All the people I played with seemed to be playing for the main reason multiplayer is made for- fun.
I also played the new Assassins Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer. AC:B came out on the 19th November. It’s the first time the Assassins Creed franchise has ever had a multiplayer and was the main selling point for the game- that and Ezio.
The Assassins Creed: Brotherhood multiplayer is very enjoyable. Firstly, you must pick an assassin out of a selection of characters, each with their own weapons and character moves. You can also unlock characters the more you progress through the multiplayer and the main campaign.
You are given a target to assassinate and a little compass shows the direction of your target. Your target might be being pursued by more than one person, including you, so another player might get to them first. If they do, you have to wait until you’re given another victim and lose valuable points in the process.
While you are pursuing someone, there can also be other assassins following you. The higher you are on the leader board, the more pursuers you can have. If people are acting suspiciously, it’s more than likely they are following you. You can always try running and see if they follow you. If they do, you can use a ‘chase breaker’ to get some distance between you and your pursuer. ‘Chase breakers’ can be things like closing gates that don’t open for a few seconds to give you time to get away. You can also hide in haystacks and blend with groups of people. If you do it right, you pursuer will accidentally kill a civilian, letting you off the hook.
The AI walking around the maps look like all the multiplayer characters and it’s very difficult to see which ones are controlled by the computer or other gamers. If you see someone running, then that means they’re being controlled by a player and you have to suddenly be aware of why they might be running.
You also get more abilities the more you proceed, like smoke bombs and disguises. If you mistime your usage of the disguise then your chaser instantly knows that they are following the right person and kills you quicker. The multiplayer is definitely all about being stealthy and aware of what is happening around you.
You get more points if you are stealthy and surprise your target. You have a meter on the right of the screen which tells you whether you are ‘ingonito’ or ‘silent’ or ‘stealthy’. Running can make you more noticeable to your target and they can become aware of your presence. If you start running and your meter runs out, then you will be instructed to chase your target because they are trying to escape from you. If you do manage to catch them and kill them, you will have only a fraction of the points you could have got if you were stealthy about it.
Also, one last point: be careful about how open the space is while you are assassinating someone. If you are being followed, your attacker will see you kill someone and know that you are actually an online player. That way they can kill you as soon as you’ve killed your target; the voiceover would then say ‘massacre’.
There are a number of different maps to play. They are small, but that’s good because it would be far less intense if you were able to run around for miles to get away from your attacker. There are also team games where each team takes it in turns to either be the attackers or the targets. You get points from how well you hide, if you escape your pursuer, or how many of the other team you end up assassinating. I’ve only touched on two of the games, but there are many more to explore and enjoy.
Now, after that free weekend, I’ve decided to sign up for a year’s worth of Gold. I guess Microsoft got what they wanted, because of course, you get nothing for free. By giving people who don’t have the Gold subscription a try, they tempt them with forbidden fruit. They’ve tempted me and have one more paying customer as a result. And I doubt it will just be me signing up for the online experience after the free trail. If you haven’t got Gold yourself, I would certainly recommend it.