Modern Warfare Basic Training, Week 1: The Last of the Noobs

“Bloody knifers,” grumbles Neil over the headset. “They ruin the whole game.”

I’m crouched on a rooftop in a Brazilian favela. My primary weapon is the FAMAS assault rifle. My secondary weapon is the SPAS-12 tactical shotgun. I’ve got a pocket full of Semtax explosives and flash grenades. And somehow, I have been stabbed to death five times in the past two minutes.

It’s not entirely due to my own ineptitude. These knifers have a few special abilities that make them slippery foes. They don’t show up on radar. They sprint nonstop. They can somehow stab me from ten feet away, and it’s an automatic one-hit kill. There’s four or five of them playing as a group, and they are like a clan of unstoppable ninjas.

Apparently Sean Connery was wrong: you SHOULD bring a knife to a gunfight.

“Seriously, they got me a few times too,” Neil assures me. “Don’t feel bad.”

Neil is a veteran Modern Warrior who has graciously volunteered to train me. And speaking of Sean Connery, Neil’s got a full-on brogue. It’s approximately 4 am in Glasgow. He’s got a night shift coming up the next day so he’s grateful for something to keep him awake. On the other hand, he’s often frustrated with the multiplayer crowd at this hour, which is mostly Americans instead of the Europeans he usually fights.

The American way?

“I don’t want to sound like a typical European, dumping on the United States,” he explains, “but Europeans play the game a little more fairly. Because I’m British I have this insane love for rules and sportsmanship. The fact that a knife-lunge can beat a shotgun blast is ridiculous but these guys don’t care.” I smile at this. It reminds me of General Cornwallis in The Patriot, with his stubborn belief that war should be fought by groups of men marching at each other across an open field. When Mel Gibson’s character launches a highly successful campaign of guerilla warfare, Cornwallis is horrified at how uncivilized it is. I don’t share Neil’s disdain; after all, these knifers are just playing the game the best way they know how. Actually, I find it kind of patriotic.

It’s 10 pm on east coast, and the servers are dominated by the best American players. Keep in mind this game has been out for two years (that’s like ten years in video game years), and since a more recent Call Of Duty game has been around since last November, the people who are still playing Modern Warfare 2 must REALLY love it. Before every match, everyone’s screenname and rank is displayed on the loading screen. I’m level 4. The second-least-experienced guy is level 27. Nobody besides me is venturing into this game for the first time; I’m the last of the noobs. I like to think that when Modern Warfare 3 is released in a couple weeks, it will be some clean slate where everyone will start out in a prelapsarian state of noobness, bumping into walls and shooting themselves in the face. But realistically, these hardcore players are going to be just as dominant. Everyone may start at level 1, but not everyone will be a noob.

This is what I have to work with.

Neil began the training session by helping me create a few custom “classes.” These are preset combinations of weapons and perks. For large, wide open maps, I use a heavy machine gun and a perk that makes the bullets hit harder. For smaller interior spaces, there’s a light machine gun and a perk that makes me a little faster. Creating classes had always seemed intimidating to me, but Neil explains it all really clearly and it starts to add up. Someday, I’ll have enough experience points to unlock better weapons, special scopes, and niftier perks. Unfortunately, to get those experience points, I have to kill a lot of guys who ALREADY have all the weapons and perks. Imagine if the first time you played tennis, they started you with one of those wooden rackets from the 1950s, and the only way you could get a nicer one was to beat the club’s resident pro.

But I should also mention in the spirit of full disclosure that even if I had the fanciest scope in the world, I might not be able to hit anything with it. Time after time, I spot my target and squeeze the trigger a split-second after my soldier crumples to the ground, full of holes. In Modern Warfare 2, it often only takes a couple bullets to finish you off; firefights are over by the time I can react. When I do get the jump on my adversary, I often miss him, which tips him off to where I’m standing so he can throw a grenade in my face while I’m reloading. In the back of my head, I know I need to keep moving. I know I need to crouch or lie down as soon as the first bullet whizzes past my ears. I know that when I hear a harrier jet hovering overhead, I should probably go inside for a while. But this isn’t a game where you have time to think. Neil can teach me what gun to use and walk me through every map, but at the end of the day I need muscle memory.

Here was the most instructive part of the training session. After I created my classes, Neil took me into a private match, where he ran around in circles so I could get the feel of various guns. “Don’t forget to trust your auto-aim,” he told me. “When you pull the trigger to aim, your scope locks on to a nearby target.” This is true in the campaign mode, but when I tested it, I realized there was no auto-aim for multiplayer. Neil was shocked. He really thought your scope locks in on a target. And I suppose after playing for two years, it kind of does.

A long time ago, someone told me that if you want to get good at picking up women you need to get rejected a thousand times. Each time it happens, you learn something, so you should welcome rejection as a necessary learning experience. Instead of saying, “I am going out tonight to get three phone numbers,” you should say, “I am going out tonight to get rejected ten times.” You’ll not only get a lot better at flirting and lose your fear of getting shot down, but you’ll have a better time.

I think about that while I’m getting knifed in the back, on my way to finishing the match with 3 kills and 12 deaths. “Nothing you could have done,” says Neil. “The guy would have got me too.” He’s relentlessly reassuring, perhaps worried that I’m going to get frustrated and go play Angry Birds instead. He needn’t be. The way I look at it, the more I get killed, the closer I get to not sucking. And by that measure, my first training session has been successful indeed.

7 Comments on “Modern Warfare Basic Training, Week 1: The Last of the Noobs”

  1. Darin #

    If the post went live at 8:02am. Did you stay up all night writing? ;)

    Seriously, you have a great perspective on the whole thing. Now, it’s just time in the seat to become good and then great. Don’t forget to reexamine mouse sensitivity. Consider using only 2 or 3 weapons for all maps for a long time. Map knowledge is, as you’ve learned, one of the most important things you’ll learn, especially where and *when* you should be somewhere.

     
    • Matthew Belinkie #

      This training session actually happened last Thursday, and I wrote it up over the weekend. I’m playing again with Neil and fellow Overthinker Josh tonight at 7 pm. If anyone wants to join, my screenname is mbelinkie, because I am terribly uncreative.

       
      • Mke #

        noway, real names ftw!

         
  2. Dan Miller #

    These are fascinating. As someone who’s thinking about taking up World of Warcraft, I appreciate the perspective–keep it up!

     
  3. Greg #

    There actually is some auto-aim in multiplayer, it’s just very different than campaign mode. In multiplayer, guns do follow running people fairly automatically if you’re “locked on,” even if you’re not locked on sometimes the gun drifts if someone runs in front of you, and flicking a locked on shot upwards directs the aim towards a headshot.

    But yeah its not the “here’s your shot!” like in Campaign, that would be a little too easy.

     
  4. Neil #

    Hey folks, there’ll be another session at 7PM EST on Wednesday the 9th of November (next week) if anybody is interested in joining us. I could sure use a little help in instructing Matt just to add a fresh perspective for him. We also had Josh McNeil join us last night, which was great too.

    We’re currently running two hour ‘sessions’ with the first hour devoted to instruction and map touring (yep, I am actually doing that) and the second hour devoted to a bit of gameplay. The more joining us, the merrier as it may provide a softer environment for teaching. At the moment this is like instructing somebody to play the violin and asking them to practise by playing in the London Symphony!

    The guys are definitely making progress, though, which – as many commenters have pointed out – is purely down to practise. I expect by mid-December they’ll be comfortable with the game. I left them homework this week in the way of suggesting that they play in the multiplayer by themselves, where they don’t have the sound of me swearing in the microphone to distract them. As soon as Modern Warfare 3 rolls out we’re going to endeavour to play that together so we only have another week or so left of Modern Warfare 2.

    If you’d like to join in and listen to Matt pronounce the names of weapons wrong while a Scotsman chastises him for being ‘too soft’ then add either MrNeil20 or MBelinkie to your Xbox friends list.

    I would add Josh’s tag but we don’t have his permission and it is incredibly frustrating to spell. Sorry Josh!

     
  5. Dan #

    This is why I play Team Fortress 2 – less pressure, more cartoony.

    I’m strenuously avoiding making snarky comments about shooters on a console vs. PC, but it’s hard. :)