It is finally here…but how is it?
Call of Duty has evolved into something more than your average first person shooter. With the release of Modern Warfare 2, the hit series turned into a blockbuster franchise. It won many awards and was successful both critically and commercially. Now, a year after its release, Treyarch brings the newest entry to the series-Black Ops.
Before I start the review, I would like to apologize for the time it took to get the review up. I wanted to make sure I can give an in-depth opinion on the online components.
Let’s Start With the Campaign
Call of Duty: Black Ops’ single player campaign puts players in the role of Alex Mason. Sure, you’re given the chance to play as other characters, but it is clear that the storyline is focused n Mason. In short, Black Ops’ campaign is perfect in every way possible. The voice acting is absolutely amazing. Sam Worthington puts on a strong performance as Mason. Gary Oldman does an amazing job as the World War II veteran Sergeant Resnov. Even Ice Cube does a wonderful job as Bowman. The lead characters, especially Woods, are some of the most likable. characters in a Black Ops game to date.
Aside from the well-though out characters, Black Ops also tells one of the best stories seen in the series. The missions are all essentially flashbacks. In these flashback sequences, we are taking to different, well-crafted settings such as Cuba and Vietnam. The main plot has Mason and company attempt to stop Dragovich, the lead antagonist, from hitting the United States with a deadly gas known as Nova 6. With the minor confusions seen during the beginnings of the campaign, players may not have a clue as to what is going on. However, it all ties in at the end with a surprising twist that will leave players in complete shock. Unlike Modern Warfare 2′s weak storytelling, Black Ops tels a well-thought, well-organized storyline with the same dynamic and tense moments seen in that of Modern Warfare 2.
As mentioned above, the settings of Black Ops are particularly stunning. Cuba looks fantastic, as well as Vietnam. However, the details behind just about everything else are subpar. Compared to the beautiful Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops is rather lacking. There are plenty noticeable jaggies as well as some Frames Per Second issues. Black Ops doesn’t look bad, but it isn’t as visually impressive as last year’s title.
Next Up: The Online
The Call of Duty series is also notable for creating one of the most fun, most addictive online experiences to date. Black Ops is no different. Black Ops refines and revamps Modern Warfare 2′s online component drastically. For starters, Treyarch introduced a new money system known as COD Points. With that, you can purchase Perks, weapons and even custom reticles for your Red Dot Sights. As noted, the customization was definitely stepped up a notch. Now, players ar giving the option to have custom Red Dot Sights, facepaint, loads of gun camo, clan tags can be engraved onto guns, and players can now create their own emblems. Having seen some pretty nice creations, the features are robust in every way. Treyarch sure did a wonderful job in giving players the feel of their custom class being their very own custom class. The leveling system remains pretty much unchanged, aside from the fact that there are now fifteen Prestige levels rather than ten. Essentially, aside from customization and improvements to the options given to players, the main core of the online game remains the same. This isn’t a bad thing, as the online has always been fun the way it was. Custom Killstreaks make a return with the addition of some nice new killstreaks.
One problem seen in Modern Warfare 2 was balance issues. Black Ops sought to fix this issue, and for the most part, did a splendid job. With the removal of perks such as Danger Close, Stopping Power and One Man Army, Black Ops is probably one of the most balanced Call of Duty titles to date. It is now impossible for one person to have stronger guns than others. Although there are still some n00b tubers running around, with the removal of One Many Army, it is now impossible to see the same person constantly hitting you with it. There are several balancing changes to Black Ops’ online aside from these, such as the removal of Commando as well. Overall, the core of the online components is still as addictive and fun as always. Wager Matches have proven to be a blast to play as well. My favorite being Sticks and Stones, each of the game modes have something special about them that make them all fun in their own way. Combat Training is another nice addition to the online. Playing with friends enhance the feature and can even help get to learn the maps of Black Ops. It also serves as a fun time to just put the enemies on the lowest difficulty and rack up on kills and killstreaks. Theater mode is definitely intriguing. Although intimidating at first, once one gets used to the system, it becomes a simple and fun way to show off your skill or even your lack thereof.
One of the major issues in the online would have to be the servers. It isn’t exactly hard to find a game, but it is hard keeping one. When hosts are picked, it seems like the Black Ops servers like to pick random people, seen by the fact that games will constantly end to a “Connection Interrupted” error. The party system also has several issues. At times, players in my party cannot hear me through my mic, and vice versa. Other times, party members would get separated going into a game. One of the most memorable moments was having a party of three and all three players were sent to various different game modes. A patch could fix this, and it supposedly has, but I am yet to see a difference. Despite these several issues, the game is still as addictive as ever.
And Finally, the Brain Munchers
Treyarch took a gamble with the inclusion of a Nazi Zombie mode in Call of Duty: World at War. After its surprising success, Treyarch continued by releasing three Zombie maps in several map packs. Treyarch made no mistake in choosing to add the Zombie mode again to Black Ops. It was an addicting game mode in itself. It was not only fun, but it also packed a wonderfully thought out backstory hidden behind several Easter eggs. There are three Zombie maps this time around, with one being a surprisingly weird addition.
‘Kino Der Toten’ puts players back in the roles of Dempsey, Richtofen, Nikolai and Takeo as they time travel to the future (the Cold War era). They land in what Richtofen calls “a theater of the damned.” The gameplay for Zombie Mode remains pretty much unchanged: get the power on, pick up a random weapon from “the box,” and Pack-A-Punch it. However, this time around, the Pack-A-Punch machine also adds a nice little attachment to your weapon. Also, single shots turn into three round bursts while three round burst weapons, namely the M16, turn into full automatic. The Hell Hounds also make a return for some zombie dog fury. Lastly, is the game mode’s newest addition: gas zombies. Upon death, these zombies will unleash a large amound of gas, likely Nova-6 gas seen in the story, that will disorientate targets and can lead to death. The quotes said by the above mentioned characters are comedic and the co-op is as fun as always. However, Zombie mode sees one of the most exciting movements in its unlockable map.
‘Five’ puts players in the role of either John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon or Robert McNamara. This is the first time players actually get to play as non-fictional characters. It is weird for Treyarch to do so in an extremely fictional gameplay setting, but it is all-in-all very interesting. This map sees some pretty neat little additions. For starters, it rids of the Hell Hound rounds for something much more tense and rather difficult. The Pentagon thief comes every couple rounds after the power is turned on, and like his name states, he goes after a player to steal the weapon he is currently holding. It may sound like a simple task as there is only one of him and you can just kill him, correct? No, as for the fact that not even two clips of a Pack-A-Punched Spas-12 will take him out. What’s worse is the fact that your teammates cannot see if he is chasing you. All they will see is a group of numbers fly through the halls. Although annoyingly difficult, these moments prove to be incredibly tense for the average Zombie Mode player. Security system DEFCON also makes an appearance in Five. It isn’t a large addition, but it is important as it provides access to the hidden Pack-A-Punch room. Five is a nice change to the zombie formula, and it is always great to bust zombie heads while listening to Eminem and P!nk nail a track together.
The last Zombie map isn’t exactly a map. Dead Ops Arcade, unlocked by entering a special code in the computer at the main menu, is a leap from the normal Zombie formula. It plays out like a class arcade shooter, similarly seen in recent zombie titles Dead Nation and Zombie Apocalypse. The style is extremely different, but the same point is there. Face waves of zombies in different sections of a rather large-scaled area. You must also collect various treasures along the way to score some points, as it is indeed an arcade shooter. There are also several power ups along the way, some seen in the other zombie maps. Certain rounds bring out another “special” zombie, if one may call this that. The Cosmic Silverback is actually an extremely powerful gorilla. Dead Ops is certainly something very different based on what we’ve seen before, but it doesn’t make it any less fun. It is actually an incredibly fun game mode that can prove to be as addicting as the normal zombie mode. It also supports full online co-op, leading to high potential.
All in all, Call of Duty: Black Ops is the same addictive experience as Modern Warfare 2. Gameplay remains pretty much the same, and “the feel” is still there. Minor tweaks to the online system created a much more balanced experience, leading to hours of endless fun. The customization seen in Black Ops is a dream. Sadly enough, the servers need some working on. Luckily, this can either be a long-term problem, or patched in the coming weeks. The story is just about perfect in almost every way, and the zombie mode provides the same co-op experience we grew to love in Call of Duty: World at War.
- The story mode is just about perfect-10
- The voice work is astounding, minus the very minor characters-9.75
- The online is still as addicting as ever-8.5
- The customization is dream, although actual custom Red Dots would have been nice-8.75
- Zombie Mode makes a much-wanted return and succeeds greatly in positive variety-9
- The online experience is also much more balanced in its own sense-9.25
- The money system gives players the ability to level up in their own way-9.5
- Wager Matches are a blast to play, and are beneficial in the money system-9.75
- Theater mode is not only helpful, but allows players to show off their true potential-8
- Private Matches have been reworked to give a ‘LittleBigPlanet’ feel in the Create, Play Share formula-8.75
- The story is still pretty short lived-7.95
- Servers are painful at times-6.5
- Graphics are subpar compared to Modern Warfare 2-7