This is the game everyone’s been waiting for. It’s a gigantic release and because of that it deserves a review from a gigantic Call Of Duty fanatic, not some videogame journalist who will play through the campaign and then spend five hours in the online multiplayer before calling it a day.
Which is why Wild Gunmen has recruited a videogame journalist from the deepest most dark corners of the videogame world. A gamer who has a combined 52 days 10 hours and 55 minutes of logged gameplay in the last three Call Of Duty games. Ladies and gentlemen, Sara “Moses” Chin.
Let’s get right to it, shall we?
Overview – The Black Ops campaign is a bit confusing. It suffers from the same symptoms that Medal Of Honor’s campaign did. It’s overly confusing and the narrative jumps you around between so many different characters, wars and decades that you’ll be hard pressed to follow along with what’s going on.
There is hope though. Whereas Medal Of Honor simply hung you out to dry and left you confused, Black Ops, slowly but surely, starts to fill in the missing pieces the further you progress. Which is a good thing considering your mission will take you as far back as WWII and as far forward as the end of the Cold War.
While you’re jumping around through decades you’re mainly playing as an American special operative named Alex Mason, a hunky, manly man with a sweet neck beard. You’ll also have brief stints playing as a CIA agent named Hudson, a Russian WWII veteran named Reznov (World At War) and a few others. I won’t ruin the surprise as to who you get to play as at the end of the game in-case you don’t already know. It’s pretty awesome.
Storyline – Without giving too much away, the storyline starts you in, what can only be described as, a torture chamber. You’re tied up to a chair in the center of a dark room with needles and monitors surrounding you. The only source of light is coming from an observation deck above you where a dark figure commands you to answer his various questions regarding certain operations you took part in. If you refuse to answer you’re tortured until you decide otherwise. Slowly but surely you, and the drugs they have you connected to, start to answer the dark figure’s questions and as you answer you start to have vivid flashbacks of the events. This is where the gameplay comes in. As Mason tries to remember the mysterious events that somehow correlate to various numbers he has stuck in his head, the player relives those events for him.
Levels – The campaign battles and levels you’ll encounter are pretty commonplace as far as FPSes are concerned these days. Black Ops will take you all over the world with levels in the jungles of Vietnam, the Arctic seas of Russia, The back alleys of Hong-Kong, the streets of Laos and the airfields of Cuba to name a few. You’ll have the odd level here or there where you’re doing more than simply running around shooting everything that moves, but for the most part you’re killing everything you can. It’s very much your typical Call Of Duty campaign recipe, a huge morsel of unrealistic over-the-top action here, a large portion of “America! Fuck Yeah!” moments there, a little stealth, sniping and vehicle driving here, and a small amount of plot substance there.
Conclusion – All-in-all the campaign is good but not great. The AI isn’t anything special and because you have to kill so many of them so often they’re pretty stupid. You’ll also die for unknown reasons here and there, it’s actually a little odd how often you’ll unexpectedly just die and have to restart from the last save point. The best way I can put it is you’ll definitely need to take a break after three or four missions and go do something else… which is a great segue into the next part of this review.
Overview – Most people reading this will already know exactly what to expect from the multiplayer element of Black Ops, but for those who don’t I’ll briefly touch on the more notable changes. To give you a brief overview, the mutiplayer is the absolute main reason you buy this game, it’s as solid as it gets and unlike the campaign,it actually delivers some believable combat.
COD Currency – First off, let’s look at the whole idea behind purchasing weapons, perks, upgrades, titles, attachments… pretty much everything, with COD currency. I have to admit, when I first heard about COD points or COD currency, I was fairly excited over the idea. However, after playing roughly 15 hours of multiplayer I can now honestly say that the COD currency system is starting to look like a bad idea. The only time you ever feel as though the system is worthwhile is while you’re playing wager matches, which are a blast, otherwise the system seems a little unnecessary.
Most upgrades cannot be purchased until you reach a certain level anyways, regardless of how many points or dollars you have in the bank. I hate to say it, but it almost feels as though Modern Warfare 2’s approach to earning weapon attachments by completing challenges was a better system and at the very least felt more rewarding. In Black Ops, all you have to do is wait for the attachment to become available and then purchase it, the same goes for everything else like titles, perks, weapons… etc.
Killstreaks – Killstreaks are now customizable just as they were in Modern Warfare 2. They include a generous mix of World At War killstreaks, like the Attack Dogs and the Artillery Barrage, and Modern Warfare 2 killstreaks, like the Sentry Gun and the Chopper Gunner. Thrown into the mix are a few new player-controlled killstreaks such as the Valkyrie Rocket, RC-XD and Gunship. The Gunship is a player controlled helicopter that is surprisingly not as deadly as it sounds. You’ll spend more time flying the ship than you will killing other players, which isn’t the best, but it’s also more in the spirit and continuity of Black Ops’ multiplayer. The RC-XD is a lot of fun as well. It’s essentially a remote controlled car with a stick of C4 attached to it. The more you use it the faster it becomes which is another neat little addition.
Match Types - There’s four main match types to select from in the standard Black Ops multiplayer mode, Core, Barebones, Hardcore and Prestige. These are fairly self explanatory. The one thing I would like to note is that Hardcore Free-For-All has finally returned and the addition of Wager Matches is extremely welcome.
Theater Mode – Multiplayer also now has a newly added Theater mode which is simply put, brilliant. Every multiplayer game you play is recorded for you by Treyarch. The database can hold up to thirty of your games and lets you keep six on you at all times for anyone to view. Say, for example, you just finish a game where you went 32 – 0 and you want to show your friends just how badass you are. Well, now you can, simply add the recording from the database to your “My File Share” and voila, you and all your friends can go in and re-watch your massive pwnage at any time as long as you keep it there. You can also edit the full match recordings into smaller clips and change around the camera views and add labels and whatnot. I can’t wait to see what the hardcore Call Of Duty fanatics do with this tool. It’s going to be pretty amazing and so long as Treyarchs servers hold out and Black Ops doesn’t fry your console in the process I think the way this Theater Mode has been pulled off could potentially be borderline revolutionary for the future of online FPS videogames.
Levels – Black Ops has 14 levels for you to destroy each other in. Just like the campaign, you’ll be all over the world in these levels. There are quite a few massive levels this time around as well. Array, Cracked, WMD and Villa to name a few. There’s also a super tiny level called Nuketown where a random grenade will kill you three or four times a match. The detail to the environment in the multiplayer levels is also especially impressive and Treyarch’s signature touch and feel can be noted every time you ready up.
There’s also a brilliant little feature that allows players to vote between three different maps to determine what the next level will be while they’re waiting in the lobby.
Gun Selection - Like the killstreaks the gun selection seems to have been mostly borrowed from both Modern Warfare 2 and World At War’s armories. Familiar sights include the MP5K and the UZI submachine guns, the M16, AK47, FAL and AUG assault rifles, the SPAS-12 shotgun and the Dragunov sniper rifle. There are a total of 31 guns and this time around shotguns are considered primary weapons.
Conclusion – If you were a big fan of Modern Warfare and World At War disappointed you, you’ll likely face a similar fate with Black Ops in regards to Modern Warfare 2. This isn’t a run and gun multiplayer. It’s a lot more difficult to get kills and the level environments are perfectly suited for “camping”. It’s likely going to elicit some angry bouts of rage from various young teenage boys on YouTube who are outraged and disappointed that they can no longer run around guns-a-blazin’ and win a good amount of matches while doing so.
On the other hand, this is also going to thoroughly please a huge amount of Call Of Duty players with its clever new features, attention to detail, massive depth and overall enjoyment.
Overview – The Black Ops Zombie mode has all the amenities of World At War’s Nazi Zombies mode. It continues to be an extremely fun side game that can stand on its own next to the likes of the campaign and multiplayer. Unfortunately, it feels as though nothings really changed.
Levels – The levels are much, much larger than the previous Nazi Zombie levels were in World At War and there’s a few new types of zombies trying to kill you but otherwise again, not much else has really changed. Even the sounds have all remained the same, “Max Ammo!” “Carpenter!” “Double Points!” The Pack-A-Punch and Perk-a-Cola machines are also back along with the mystery box and its little haunted creepy teddy bear companion.
Conclusion – There’s two ways to look at this I guess. Either A, not much has changed, but that’s a good thing because the Nazi Zombie mode was perfect as it was, or B, Treyarch dropped the ball and failed to inspire a new generation of Zombie warfare. I’m not sure which I think as of yet.
Conclusion – The gaming mechanics for Black Ops are very similar to those of World At War. You move like a human being, not like a Super Saiyan. You can throw grenades the distance an average human being can throw grenades, not the distance the Hulk can throw grenades. It takes you a little while to pull out and setup that 80-pound rocket launcher you’ve been carrying on your back for the past 500-feet. These are all good things though and add to the experience of the multiplayer. Aiming, reloading, running, changing weapons, etc… are all very similar to World At War. There’s no surprises here.
Successes Thus Far
-Theater mode is absolutely amazing and is an unbelievably crafty little tool by Treyarch
-Wager matches are a ton of fun and add a whole new game type to the multiplayer mix.
-The Camera Spike perk is astoundingly good.
-Hardcore mode once again has Free-For-All. Thank you God.
-Claymores can be planted and then picked back up in-case you want to move them to another position.
Gripes Thus Far
-It takes too long time to enter the multiplayer menu. Anywhere from a minute to a minute and a half, which is twice as long as it took in Modern Warfare 2.
-The strain on your console is significant and trying to access the menu while in a match can sometimes freeze the whole system. It’s happened to me three times already.
-Enemy spawn points are far too often directly behind you in multiplayer almost always leading to your death.
-Enemy gunfire sound is off. For example, an enemy attack helicopter unloading it’s miniguns fifty feet above your head should be noisy, instead it’s nearly completely silent.
-Barebones and Hardcore match modes should be available to players from the get go or at the very least at a low level. Instead they require you to be level 16 and 18 which is far too high and takes far too long.
Black Ops isn’t just a good game, it’s borderline revolutionary. It might very well do for the series what Modern Warfare did three years ago. Its campaign might not be the best, but it’s solid enough that playing through it is fun and what the campaign lacks, the multiplayer and zombie modes more than make up for. The key here is depth, and Black Ops has a metric shit ton of it.
This is easily the game of the year.
Congratulations to Joshua, AKA Grubster11, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada for winning a free copy of Call Of Duty: Black Ops and a Black Ops poster just by commenting on this article.
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