Why Halo: Reach's Multiplayer System is Better Than Black Ops'

Want to change your reticle? It'll cost ya.

This past week saw the latest addition to the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops, arrive in retail stores. With the game being developed by Treyarch and not Infinity Ward, I was a tad worried about what the game would be like. Specifically my concerns lied with its multiplayer system regarding ranks, customization, leveling, and more. After a few mere hours of play with the game’s new system, I found myself extremely disappointed. I wanted to figure out just what exactly makes Black Ops‘ multiplayer so unsatisfying, so I took this holiday season’s other big shooter, Halo: Reach, and drew a comparison. I found that Reach‘s multiplayer system is more enjoyable and far less frustrating that Black Ops‘, and I intend to tell you why.

When Modern Warfare was released, it came with what was at the time the most addictive leveling system in shooters. Players would gain experience and complete challenges to level and unlock weapons, perks, killstreaks, and weapon attachments. The game then gave players the option, once maxing out their level, to prestige. This got rid of all of their unlockables and reset their levels so they could have a fancier symbol next to their names. The trend continued with Modern Warfare 2, and although the system was addictive, it also felt like it was getting old and frustrating. The system left new players in a completely unbalanced state and forced them to suffer bad games and aggravating losing streaks before getting to the "good stuff" and thus have the ability to fully compete. You would think that Treyarch would think about this and possibly change things up. They did, but they only made it worse.

In Black Ops, players have to use in-game money to unlock everything. Money accumulates slower than experience does and it takes a considerably long time to get the attachments, perks, killstreaks, and equipment you need to survive. The introduction of money to the system also punishes players who try to experiment or perhaps purchase an upgrade they soon realize isn’t very useful. It makes a player feel like all of his efforts are in vain if that thermal scope he just spent his hard-earned $2,000 on doesn’t work well with his weapon. Guns are unlockable via leveling, but that’s just so you can have the privilege of being able to purchase them, too. You even have to pay with in-game money to edit your nameplate. All this does is create an even more unbalanced playing field, rewarding those who invest more time into the game and punishing those who just want to have fun, or those who perform well but don’t have the convenience of playing frequently.

Upgrade your armor. Go ahead. It'll just make you look pretty.

When it comes to Halo: Reach, the game allows the kind of customization that players who spend a lot of time in the game can enjoy without hurting anyone who wants to play only every so often. Reach implemented a system that gave players credits based on the exact same amount of experience earned in order for them to buy armor upgrades. These armor upgrades served merely as aesthetic bragging rights and made no changes at all to the balance of the game itself. All players still had the same amount of weapons, armor abilities, and grenades to choose from. No one was instantly more powerful than the other. This form of showing off combined with the game’s level cap, which has been increased once since release, also allows players to let others see their time invested and abilities without robbing them of what they’ve earned. Thus it is completely unlike that of Call of Duty’s prestige system.

So when you compare the two, it’s clear that the more balanced and least punishing system of the two is by far that of Halo: Reach. The game provides customization on an equal progression with leveling, the customizations do not affect how multiplayer matches play out, players are not punished for wanting to have bragging rights, and everyone is left on a level playing field where games are determined by skill. Black Ops, on the other hand, forces players to grind out for levels and money in order to hopefully pick the proper combination of perks, weapons, attachments, equipment, and killstreaks that will allow them to survive against players with more invested time. It also punishes players who want to show off their abilities with the prestige options, has players suffering horrible kill/death ratios and losing streaks when starting out, and makes for generally unbalanced matches. If anyone is on the fence this holiday season over which of these two big-name FPS titles they should purchase for an enjoyable multiplayer experience, Halo: Reach is the way to go.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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