If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me voice some frustration yesterday with both Infinity Ward (IW, which makes "Modern Warfare 2" aka The Greatest Video Game Of All Time[tm]) and Microsoft (which makes Xbox Live, the service we must put up with because we want to use the Xbox 360). The issue, of course, was the release of the first map pack ("Stimulus Package") for MW2, which includes 5 maps, three of which are new (and at best, decent) and two of which are copies of maps from the original Modern Warfare (both of which are quite good).
As has become typical with this type of highly anticipated Xbox 360 release, it was completely botched. And I think we can fairly blame both IW and Microsoft for this.
First, IW. Despite having a better reputation than their Treyarch stable mates for some reason, IW has actually done a much poorer job supporting their own horribly buggy and easily cheated-in games than has its in-house rival. To that point, I'd highlight the unbelievable number of cheats that have cropped up in MW2 and the incredibly long times IW has taken to fix these horrific bugs. Meanwhile, Treyarch certainly had some bugs in MW2's predecessor, the excellent and underappreciated Call of Duty: World at War (WaW). But nothing like those that have plagued MW2. And Treyarch very nicely supported WaW with three--count 'em, three--map packs over the year after that game's release. And some of those additional maps are among the best of the lot. Today, over four months into MW2's run, we get just the first map pack with just three new maps. None are excellent. In fact, the new maps are largely decent at best, as noted above.
IW also didn't release the map pack until 10:30 am ET for some reason, and not at midnight the night before as is customary. I can only imagine that many people stayed up to download it and went to bed disappointed. That I actually considered doing this--but didn't, thankfully--bugs me, but at least I dodged that bullet.
And then there's Microsoft. Oh, Microsoft, what a wonderful web of BS you weave. Microsoft published the map pack to Xbox Live, allowing thousands of users to plunk down their hard earned cash (well, Microsoft Points) for the eagerly awaited update. But they didn't provide the MW2 patch that the map pack requires until later. And until that happened, users trying to play the new maps met with failure. Then they were punted offline. And then they had to wait an at least an hour--trying to install, rebooting, rinse, wash, repeat--until Microsoft fixed the problem. Because that required update wasn't working right. And now that MW2 had an update, no one could play the game at all--even single player or the old maps--until it was fixed. Cue the sound of crickets chirping. And of controllers being hurled against walls.
Hours into this, people were still having problems connecting. But perhaps as problematic--and I point my finger again at IW here--even those who got in found disappointment. That's because IW, in its infinite wisdom, isn't allowing gamers to play any game type they want with the new maps. Instead, if you want to use the new maps, you can only choose between two new game lobbies, Stimulus (a random sampling of game types) and Hardcore Stimulus (also random, but using the Hardcore Ricochet modes). So if you're like me and want to just play Team Deathmatch on the new maps--as you could, say, when new maps came out for WaW last year--well, tough. You're out of luck. So play Domination, or Demolition, or Capture the Flag, or whatever game type comes up, you sucker, and enjoy the fact that they all have different spawning rules. Arrrrgggghhh.
So. I'm happy to have new maps. I look forward to more (and hopefully better) new maps in the future. But I cannot believe that two companies that should be able to handle exactly this kind of thing could screw it up so badly. Shame on both of you. And shame on your silly excuses. Reading Major Nelsons' Twitter feed during all this was like a Three Stooges sketch. It was just horrible.
You can read more about Microsoft excuses for this debacle in its Xbox Live Operations Blog. Which, as you may have guessed, is an oxymoronic title. As for IW's excuse, I expect none. In fact, I'm pretty sure the IW that made all those games we love doesn't even exist anymore.