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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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?).