Posts Tagged ‘ XBL ’

Call of Duty: African American Ops

Released November 9, 2010 for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, and PC by Treyarch studios, the group responsible for Call of Duty 2 and 3, and recently condemned by the Cuban government for being too violent is the newest game in the Call of Duty series Call of Duty: Black Ops. Personally, I believe that this game has, thus far, been a little too well received. I have heard reports that there was literal dancing in the streets (and laser tag) to celebrate the release of this game as well as an average Xbox Live population of over 5 million. Just let it sink in that, right now, there are more people playing Black Ops on Xbox Live than live in the state of Oklahoma. Frankly, I don’t understand this but I suppose it can’t be helped, but I digress. As COD:BO is similar in form to Halo: Reach, this review will be split into 3 separate parts, each being rated on their own merit: Single Player, Multiplayer, and Zombies.

Single Player

The first thing you notice while playing the campaign portion of Black Ops is that you, Alex Mason, are strapped to a chair and being tortured for information about the Russians or something. This is where most of the campaign’s story originates from, most of the missions being Mason’s flashbacks. The flashbacks are of your adventures during the Cold War. The missions involve all kinds of neat gimmicks, from flying a spy plane to running through poison gas in a hazmat suit, but all eventually devolve into kill the Russian/Viet Cong/Nazi/British enemies rushing at you with whatever gun Mason can get his hands on. Normally, this would be fine, but after you assassinate Fidel Castro,

You also get an achievement for headshotting Castro.

the first mission and the scene that caused Black Ops to be condemned in Cuba, the game becomes highly repetitive. Run into room, shoot enemies in front of brown border, and repeat ad nauseum. A few hours in and the player starts feeling tortured. The campaign does, however, pick up during the infrequent vehicle based sections. These are the more fun and intense sequences that kept me playing but were often over as quickly as they started, possibly because you don’t die as much, something you do a lot of when on foot.

Outside of the flashbacks, the game feels like it was made exclusively for people suffering from ADD. Flashing lights and constant camera cuts to nothing in particular make the scene incredibly hard to focus on, possibly because someone told the game industry that’s what the people wanted. The story, once you can find it, is childlike in its simplicity. There are two major plot twists at the end, one of which is spoiled by the third mission (if you’re paying attention) and the other seems tacked on to the end out of nowhere. I won’t spoil anything, but let’s just say that Oswald couldn’t have done it better.

Black Ops also suffers from somewhat lackluster acting, which is surprising given the cavalcade of stars brought in to voice the game. The two main characters, voiced by Sam Worthington and Gary Oldman, are more annoying than anything else. The voices are backed by a very impressive soundtrack, featuring selections from Credence Clearwater Revival and other original compositions that are quite good. Especially for a shoot ‘me up video game.
Realistically, the single player is not why anyone will purchase Black Ops, as it is far too weak to stand on its own and is just bad in its execution. The online multiplayer is what the Call of Duty series is known for and what is selling Black Ops.

Multi Player

Nice Dog-OH MY FACE!

The meat and potatoes of the Call of Duty franchise is the online multi player, and Black Ops expertly implements its version. At its heart, the multi-player is just like that of its predecessors but there are a few important differences from the previous Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Firstly, Black Ops is more balanced as many of the weapons and perks that were before considered unreasonably overpowered and easily abusable have been neutered or cut entirely from the game giving a more entertaining and fun experience for everyone involved.

Outside of the core gameplay a few new game types have been added (including wager matches which are always fun) and the weapon upgrade system differs slightly from COD:MW2. Players still level up to unlock weapons, but everything (except the starting set) is truly unlocked by purchasing it with COD cash (also known

Stick and Stones: Best MP mode ever.

as space bucks). Each piece of equipment for each gun comes at the price of 2,000 space bucks (average earning for a match), as do as the guns after you unlock them. This system is more flexible than the achievement based system from before, except for unlocking guns, which are, oddly enough, still level based. It just seems like an odd system when you have to unlock a gun and then buy it, even if it is for a relatively small amount.

Overall, the multi-player aspect of Black Ops is very fun to play. The new maps are very clean and nice looking. There is enough balance for even new players to have a chance at winning. As far as multiplayer games go, Black Ops isn’t a bad choice.

Zombies

A staple of Treyarch’s Call of Duty: World at War, Black Ops ships with the much anticipated Zombies mode. Here, four friends can pit themselves against undead Nazis as historical figures John F. Kennedy, “Tricky Dick” Nixon, Fidel Castro, and Robert McNamara (no one cares about him) in the Pentagon. Why are they there? Who cares!? It’s time to kill Zombies. There are a few other maps with different characters but they all follow the same high-concept, just with less historical relevance (I think one is about time travelling communists?).

World leaders at work.

 

Halo: A bit of a stretch.

Halo: A bit of a stretch.

First and foremost, I would like to make it clear that I am a stout believer that a video game should never stand on its multi-player facets alone.  Games like Modern Warfare 2, for which there is absolutely no reason to play the single player campaign, are still fun to play but not worth sixty dollars to hear 12 year olds swearing about how I’m a noob.  Even an MMO (it’s in the name) should be fun to play alone.  That being said, I am going to split this into two separate sections:  The $30 single player and $30 multi-player.

Singleton:

In the past, Bungie and their halo franchise have provided a fun and entertaining story.  You, a big bad Spartan, are taking on the entire covenant army to save the Earth.

Never got past the cover.

Cool right?  In Reach, being a prequel in the series and even further in the past, you should be kicking so much butt that Master Chief won’t even be necessary.  That is almost true.  You are the new kid in a group of six lesser Spartans, I’ll refer to them as the uncool kids in school, who are on Reach (the planet) to take care of a pest problem.  It quickly goes downhill from there.  I don’t want to spoil anything for those who have not played the game but that is slightly impossible.  It’s fairly evident that Reach will fall, there’s even a book about it.  Don’t focus on the end, that’s depressing.  Instead, let’s talk about how we get to this fateful end.

The campaign feels, like all of its predecessors, too short but is oddly the perfect length.  Given a difficulty curve like a titration graph, Reach makes you feel good then takes that feeling and shoves it down your throat.

SCIENCE!

Repeatedly.  That aside, Reach does have a decent story included.  Of the Halo series, it is the only one that made me actually like the characters in the game.  It’s true that you, Number six, have the personality of a fishtank, but that’s an overdone cliche standard in video games anyway.

In addition to the above average story, the campaign goes above and beyond, quite literally, to provide experiences that are noticeably unavailable in the multiplayer.  My favorite level in the campaign was when Number 6 was jammed into an experimental space ship and shot directly into outer space.  Why, you might ask, would they put him there?  He is a Spartan, he shouldn’t be flying.  WRONG!  He should always be flying.  Well, thrusting about, but you get the point.

Duffman is thrusting toward the problem!

Flying around in a fighter jet shooting down other ships if incredibly entertaining and I hope that, someday, Bungie decides to include this as a multiplayer variant, but they probably won’t.  Sadly, this mission is very short lived and you soon set foot back on ground with your puny legs.  Like other Halo games, Reach does have a flair for vehicle combat.  Driving around in tanks is still fun, as well as the entire gamut of Warthogs, pickup trucks and forklifts.  Most of these are pretty short, unless you’re clever enough to find a way around their roadblocks.

Artist’s rendering.

Unlike the previous Halo games, Reach does provide a bit more imperative to play intelligently.  There is a lot less ammunition lying about Reach, forcing you to think twice about picking up the rocket launcher with 2 shots or the DMR with a lot more.  Also, there is a lot more attention to detail and overall glamor within the game.  I noticed primarily on a level sans gravity.  In a covenant space ship you jump around, floating from place to place, killin’ some grunts, but when you shoot them there’s not splatter but instead form into little blobs.  I found this to be a nice touch, one among many (forklifts being another).  The rest of the world is incredibly detailed and, often, beautiful.

Overall, the single player is pretty good.  Not incredible or original in any way, but still good.  If you liked the first three, you’ll probably like the one that came before all of them.  Now, on to multiplayer.

Multikill:

“BRB. Mom say’s I gotta take out the trash.”

The multiplayer experience is pretty disappointing, and mostly through no fault of Bungie.  The main fault for Reach is that it was made for the Xbox and thus connects to the Xbox live (XBL) community, where never a more wretched hive of scum and villainy will you find with an average user age of 15.

Other players aside, Multiplayer work best when treated like playing Monopoly:  Its only fun when you can make others in the same room suffer along with you.

ProTip: There is no get out of hell free card.

Reach does have a few very fun games modes, but you have to rely on those playing with you to vote for the fun one, which is apparently not the one you thought it was.  You wanted to play Race?  You’re playing Sniper battle now.  The only way to have a chance at playing what you want is to have 3 people tagging along to pad your votes.

Even if you get a map you want, which has a high probability since the game shipped with a trifling 8 maps, you probably won’t be playing someone at your skill level.  There must be a bug or something in the Reach matchmaking algorithm, because it is incapable of finding people that match your rank.  After a few nights of extreme Reach action, I have yet to find opponents that resulted in anything besides a complete steamroll, which can result in a very unfun experience.  Though, having jet packs is pretty cool.

In short, the Multiplayer of Reach is more of the same.  Yes, the graphics got an update and there are a few aesthetic changes to the overall system but is still the same old Halo everyone remembers and tolerates.

In conclusion, if you haven’t already gotten Halo: Reach…you really aren’t missing out on anything.  The single player is fun, but there are better options in the discount bin at Best Buy and the multiplayer really isn’t worth the screaming children you have to put up with.  If you are really into Halo, go now and buy the Legendary edition and feel good about yourself, the rest of us are going to McNellie’s.

Warthog concept art.
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