Thursday, June 7, 2007

Chromehounds. A brilliant, yet retarded, game. I picked it up for about $15 shipped on Ebay.

Chromehounds is an Xbox 360 game in which you create sluggish and giant tanks (kinda like Mechwarrior but even slower!), and then take them into online combat against other players. The game has what seems like hundreds of different parts and weapons you can use to create your "Hound" with. And you can arrange them in all sorts of funky ways. It's kinda like a really cool and militaristic version of LEGO. :-P That's the "brilliant" part of Chromehounds.

The "retarded" part comes from the really crummy and needlessly complicated online matchmaking system. Online, players choose from three different nations that are fighting in a persistent war. This war serves as the game's Ranked Matches system, where you can fight against people of a similar experience level. You *must* form a squad with other players in order to participate in the war. And you can ONLY play with your squad against another squad. So if none of your squad members are online, you can't really participate in the war. (You can create a mission that is only 1 vs 1, but in a teamwork game like Chromehounds, this is pretty boring.) Imagine playing Rainbow Six Vegas, or Gears of War, and never being able to join 99% of the games because you're not part of whatever clan the host is in! That's Chromehounds. Ughhh.

So here's how it works. Let's say you and your friend are online and in a squad. You go and choose a mission (which is like hosting a game) for 2 players. Now you wait and hope that an enemy squad of 2 players also joins up. Your squad cannot team up with another allied squad. You must always play with your single squad, and only your single squad, against an enemy single squad. Blech. So you wait, and wait, and wait, because you have no idea how many players are playing in the enemy nations. No idea what kind of squads are over there. Maybe there's a 3 or 4 player squad over there. They can't play with you. 5 or 6 player squad. Nope. Boy, it'd be great if we could merge our 2 player squad with a 4 player squad for a 6 v 6 game. Nope, can't do it.

The game is full of baffling game design like this. You can spend 20 minutes trying to get a game going, 5 minutes actually in the mission. In combat, you can be killed in seconds. No respawns. If you die, you turn into a little infantry soldier. You can't spectate the battle. And the battle may very well last 10 minutes more. The game has such an frustrating amount of downtime, times where you're not playing but just waiting... it's maddening.

No comments: