Best of 2015: Saving Private !PT!CptToffer
First Published: Oct 29, 2015
Voted For By: Ste, Lorna
Reason(s) For Vote:
“This article reminded me of the time I used to be quite heavily involved in competitive Counter-Strike before discovering alcohol and women of disrepute. I also think that this is probably one of the best things Chris has written. That’s high praise from me considering Chris has no redeeming features to note.” – Ste
“I loved this article because it told me a story. Whether or not a particular game speaks to me, someone’s experiences – their personal story – playing that game can still be absorbing, just as this was. It pulled me in and engaged me in a way I didn’t expect, given that this sort of game is not something I’d generally play. We need more like this!” ~ Lorna
The echoes of bombs and gunfire bounced around the loft of the small building as I lay prone, gazing out of a small wooden-framed window onto the street where the American flag should be. !PT! members RedDwarf and Treffnix were currently escorting it back to our German flag on the other side of the map. With only one minute and thirty seconds left on the clock, we would need back to back captures to win the game. Owing to EmC’s success on earlier maps, even a draw here on uo_dawnville, would not guarantee us victory – we had to win.
Back in 2004 I was doing a whole lot of nothing except ignoring university work and eating bags of crispy M&M’s (the greatest of all M&M’s). Between shrugging off the advances of criminal law textbooks and devouring more chocolate goodness, I was playing plenty of Call of Duty: United Offensive. Now, I know some of you are looking confused because you’ve never heard of this game before and surely I’m confusing it with something else. Except, I’m not. Before the annual rush to get another Call of Duty game out of the door in time for Christmas, boasting another shit story line and pointless feature X, the series was made with the same love and attention you see with other titles today. Instead of rushing out another full release, to be the ‘must have product’ of the week, there were expansion packs. United Offensive was an expansion pack for the original Call of Duty and by God, was it fucking awesome.
I can hear chatter over the radio – !PT!Static and !PT!Tiny are providing covering fire for RedDwarf and Treffnix. EmC have three players trying to cut them off going through the right hand set of buildings on the main street. I won’t be able to get there in time to help them, I don’t think. “Red, do you want me to pull back and assist?” “No no, Toffer, stay where you are, we need that flag as soon as we’ve planted this one to win it” I reloaded my stolen Thompson looked at the bottom right of the screen – one minute fifteen.
One day, while casually moving around the map of Foy on United Offensive’s Base Assault mode, I was shot straight through the head by a player called !PT!Treffnix. At the time, I’d never played multiplayer for anything other than a giggle (oh how those days are gone) because I didn’t really care about winning or losing – it was just fun to play. What I did enjoy doing was specifically targeting clan members because, despite being only eighteen years old and relatively inexperienced, I was actually a really good shot. Attacking clan members was a laugh because, much like a lot of gaming communities, they thought they were hot shit and I set about proving they were, in fact, just shit. When Treffnix blew my brains out he just became another target, and after killing him three times on the trot he offered me chance to sign up to Perfect Target, a newly formed United Offensive clan that had found great success playing Return to Castle Wolfenstien and Enemy Territory. Feeling a little bit humbled at the offer, I accepted. The match that is the focus of this article, came less than six months later.
From the flag point at the American base to the flag point at the German base it’s a forty-five second sprint provided you don’t stop AND also take the shortest route, which is back through the building I’m in, across the fences, through the graveyard, into and out of the church, around the ruins and then straight to the flag point. The guys are struggling to cap it at the other end and worse, the chap I stole the Thompson from has re-spawned, looking for me… and he’s bought a friend with him. I’m all alone here – fighting them will only delay me and reveal my position but I’m still a good five, maybe six, second sprint from the flag – I decide to sit tight. For now. The timer hits one minute five seconds.
United Offensive was an excellent game for a number of reasons and it had to be, coming off the back of the genre-defining Call of Duty. Strangely, it is the only game in the series to introduce vehicles in multiplayer mode (as far as I’m aware). Compared to the standards of the Battlefield series, the vehicle mechanics were incredibly rudimentary and basic. Despite this, though, they served an admirable purpose, injecting extra life into the mulitplayer mode and opening up some huge maps. Base Assault was one of the popular game modes that came with it, along with a single-player campaign but for us, as a clan, the main fun was to be found playing Capture The Flag, a simple game mode that enjoys success in many different forms in many different games. We played our first game against a clan called TDE and suffered a fairly gutting loss. Following on from that, we enjoyed battles with groups that soon became our friends such as BiA, K1, 5th Battalion and, of course, EmC.
I’ve got no choice – it’s time to move. They’re clearly not happy with the fact I’ve practically disappeared from existence, having killed one of their team mates, and now they have started checking buildings. More importantly, if I’m not at the flag point when the flag returns from our capture, I won’t have time to get back. I move into a crouch position and make my way to the stairs. They’re currently in the opposite building, an abandoned train station, where the panzerfaust spawns – a single shot rocket launcher used for damaging tanks or seriously hurting, if not killing, players. I’m sitting at the top of the stairs when Red’s voice comes back over the headset. “Get ready Toffer, we’re about to cap it”. Timer check: one minute. I stand up – show time.
When I joined Perfect Target, most of their exploits had been in other games. They had literally just formed a United Offensive group and RedDwarf was the leader of that wing of the clan. He was a middle-aged man from further up the country. He had a wife and children and would become a good friend of mine over the next couple of years. He taught me how to lead a team online and the basics of putting a team together, where to put your players and how to organise things in game. It wasn’t long before I was a Squad Leader, in charge of taking lead in games when Red wasn’t around or when he wanted to take a back seat. Treffnix was a German chap in his late twenties, who enjoyed inappropriate jokes as much as he did playing videogames. He was a good shot and we had plenty of laughs during our time at Perfect Target. Tiny was a foul-mouthed northerner, who said ‘fuck’ more times in an evening than I’d ever heard until that point. Finally there was Static who was a sixteen year old boy whose skills defied belief. Hardly anyone in our clan (or in any other clan) could match him one on one. He played with us for nearly a year before stopping to focus on his A-levels. At the time I was gutted to lose him but he made a very smart decision for his future and I hope that wherever he is now the extra time studying paid dividends.
I also took on the role of ‘War Reporter’. What a War Reporter does is basically write up the match results after every game to advise the rest of the clan how we got on. Naturally, I loved writing and this was probably my first internet-based outlet for such things. They became, as described by many clan persons, ‘war and peace’ and I would spend hours afterwards recounting our successes and failures – I loved every second of it.
The others are about to make the capture so I bolt down the stairs and turn one eighty at the bottom, heading straight for the flag point. The two guys are still inside the train station so I hurl my last grenade through the huge window, which causes them to back to the far end – it has a long timer and keeps them waiting for the deadly explosion. I’m standing on the flag point in the middle of street looking like the elephant in the room. Dust swirls around my feet and for a moment there is just nothingness. No gunfire, no shells exploding and no voices relaying information over the radio. It’s just peaceful and I relax just for a second. That moment, standing exposed – practically naked – hoping, praying that nobody sees me in the street – not the two in the building, not the two re-spawning and not the fifth guy returning from the previous flag chase – that moment lasts a lifetime. Then two things happen very quickly: the noise to indicate we’ve scored points and the noise to indicate I’ve got the flag. “Got the flag. Graveyard.” I turn and run. Fifty-five seconds.
My main role within Perfect Target (strictly speaking in-game) was to thieve the enemy flag as many times as I could within the round time. I tried my hand at defense early on but found it to be a blend of boring and frustrating. I would constantly move around, making checks on different entrance points, and this would regularly give away my position. The problem was, sitting down or lying prone in one position for ages just felt like I was inviting danger, and even operating a forward position often left me exposed. No, I was put on this earth to capture flags and by fuck I was good at it. My thought process often put me in positions where I’d outsmart the opponent. I’d always think to myself not ‘what should I do next’ but if I were the opposition, what would I be doing right now. This often found me gaining the advantage in any one on one scenario and made me able to get hold of the flag on many occasions. I wasn’t thinking one step ahead of the enemy, I was thinking one step ahead of myself, in essence. Here, though, in this match, the element of surprise and thinking ahead was lost. No tricks, no double-backing and no deft moves. This was a straight run; a slingshot from one end of the map to the other and it lasted just fifty-five seconds.
I ran towards the main building as gunfire erupted around me, smashing into the walls of the building, nipping at my heels. My health bar began to decrease (no regenerating health here!) and a heard the shrill launch of a panzerfaust coming towards me. It went through the window of the building I was running to as I entered the doorway and the blast caught me, taking off a full quarter of health – I’d been very lucky. I carried on moving, through the backroom and out into the garden. An enemy solider appeared in front of me and I unleashed the Thompson, hitting him with four bullets and smashing the underside of the weapon into his face in one swift maneuver. I ran over his health pack, getting a boost back to my health, and flew over the fences towards the graveyard. The timer read forty-five seconds… and at that moment everything went horribly wrong.
Picking up the Thompson had been a calculated decision prior to setting up shop by the flag point. For capturing the flag you’ve really only got two choices of weapon to ensure success on the German team – the MP40 and MP44. The ’40 is a standard machine gun but I hated it because the spray on the muzzle was too strong. The ’44 was more powerful and accurate but had a slightly smaller rate of fire, so despite having it as my weapon of choice I nabbed a Thompson first chance I could get. It boasts a higher rate of fire and, next to the ridiculous PPSH, is the best gun for any flag catcher. The problem, though, was that when I picked up the Thompson it was part used and therefore had much less ammo than I would have liked.
The two that had been shooting at me before now re-appear, adopting a lofty position on the rooftop of the building I’d just exited. I turn, spraying half a clip in their direction, catching one in the chest, the recoil causing the bullets to drift and catch him in the head. He died and fell from the roof while his friend clipped me two or three times as I ducked behind a fence for cover. I was back down to under half health, some distance away from the church and this place would soon be swarming with Americans. I peeked up and sprayed the rest of the clip at the last offender as two more burst through the door on the ground floor. The timer reads twenty-five seconds and I load my last thirty bullets – not that I’d have a chance to use them. The enemy knows the score, they know they don’t need the flag back, they just need to slow me down. They started firing at my position, round after round smashing into the fence posts, grave stones – I can’t possibly move.
Here’s a little extract from the internet that should perfectly sum up the next paragraph: “The MG 42 has a proven record of reliability, durability, simplicity, and ease of operation, but is most notable for its ability to produce a high volume of suppressive fire” The sound of an MG 42 firing in United Offensive was usually associated with the sound of death. People rarely use them because you might as well paint a giant target on your head and announce your position to the world – you’re in a fixed position and making an all mighty racket. In this instance, that’s exactly what Static wanted and exactly what I needed.
The cavalry had arrived and they knew victory was within our reach. “Toffer, move your ass, we’ve got this”. Static, smart boy that he was, opened up on the MG 42 in a long burst, followed by short controlled bursts in order to ensure he wasn’t picked off immediately. Treffnix came barrelling out of the church door with his ’44 and moved towards my position. I got off my ass and ran towards the church door, watching as the roof enemy died a painful death and the two ground guys took cover, the MG 42 spewing red-hot death in their direction. I flew in through the church door and looked right as Static took several hits and fell backwards, dying. I came out through the ruined end of the church, watched as RedDwarf and Tiny started taking fire from the street. Fifteen seconds.
Perfect Target went on to have great success in United Offensive. Out of over a hundred teams we remained in the top five of the European Capture the Flag Clanbase ladder for nearly six months and we held the top spot in the European Base Assault Clanbase ladder for nearly four months. We also beat thirty-two other teams to win the Call of Duty Spring Cup in 2005 – all minor prizes and accolades in the grand scheme of internet gaming but they were our prizes and our accolades. We trained once a week and had matches twice a week, we didn’t have the best equipment nor the best skills but we played for fun and with passion.
This success continued for eighteen months but, sadly, United Offensive was doomed before it began – it was, at the end of the day, just an expansion. Call of Duty 2 was looming on the horizon and it just wasn’t the same – it ditched the vehicles, changed the rules for the Headquarters game type, and added markers to the map for various elements in Capture the Flag, making it far too easy. We tried in vain to cement our love for the new game but it just wasn’t the same. Excursions into Battlefield 2 and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars proved just as unsuccessful. It’s not that any of these were bad games, they just weren’t United Offensive. Perfect Target came to a close a few years later but we left on good terms, choosing to bow out while we still loved games and enjoyed each others’ company. They were the only clan I’ve ever played for and likely ever will be, because just as United Offensive had a certain magic to it, so did Perfect Target.
I still had to get through a small gap in the wall and then commence the straight run to the flag. I didn’t stop, didn’t think, I just ran. Tiny took bullet after bullet defending that hole in the wall but he died before I arrived. I turned, stumbling awkwardly through the gap, spraying the last couple of rounds and switching to my pistol, emptying the clip at my pursuers, as I entered onto the final shuttle run to the flag point. I looked desperately at the clock and willed with all my strength that I didn’t get shot, winged, damaged or impeded. I threw myself forwards and ran through the virtual representation of success, gifting us the win, amid whoops and cheers as EmC cursed their bad luck in the chat. We had won the battle and the war. It was over and we’d scored a famous victory. I looked at the timer – four seconds left when I crossed the finish line.
Guess there was no need to rush after all.
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