Call of Duty: Black Ops
Posted 2 years ago By - Jay Acevedo
Every time a Call of Duty game is about to be released, the video game industry stops and watches. Whether you like it or not, Activision’s multi-million dollar franchise continues to attract everyone’s attention as a new game is being released, despite the claims from quite a few gamers who think the license’s abuse might come back and bite the publisher’s face. Let’s be honest, not every single franchise can get away with a yearly release and still get accolades from the gaming world. However, in order to accomplish that feat, the final product must be interesting, appealing and continue (or surpass) the trend set by its predecessors in the series.
In the case of Treyarch, who has always been playing second fiddle to Infinity Ward, the pressure was huge. Up until today, the Modern Warfare franchise continues to be very popular and while some might make the automatic jump to the new game, many are still unsure if this new Call of Duty is worth opening the wallet for.
Going away from the modern set-up, Black Ops sends players back in time to the sixties as Capt. Alex Mason. The game starts with Mason being held captive in an interrogation room by what seems to be a group of agents who are trying to elude a mystery tied to a bizarre sequence of numbers. Problem is: Mason doesn’t know squat about the numbers nor their meaning…but he’s suffering, a lot. As the agents are trying to make Mason spill the information (or at least try to make him remember), the game unfolds into several time trips with Mason meeting key characters and fighting with them, whether it’s in Vietnam bringing the pain to Charlie or in Cuba trying to put a bullet into Castro’s head. It’s hard for me to not say more than that, but the 6-8 intense, enjoyable and quite interesting hours that Black Ops offers are simply a joy to play. Character development has never been a franchise’s forte. Here, despite suffering from the high-paced run-shoot-run tempo the franchise is known for, Treyarch made sure to showcase the story and its troubled character first.
It’s fortunate too as even though the story is arguably the best in any Call of Duty to date, the other things that brings it all to life is not without it’s flaws. The mission mechanics are as basic as they can get. Follow an AI teammate from point A to point B and kill everything in your path. Wash, rinse repeat. First Person Shooters are not known for their robust sandbox gameplay. However, the uber-linear level design gets tiresome. In fact, in Black Ops, it is entirely possible to break it all-together. Jet past your leader too far and checkpoint cues may get prematurely set off, creating an issue where a needed NPC is not where they should be and forcing the player to restart the level.
Speaking on that, for some odd reason, the game only allows for a basic level select. You cannot enter individual chapters or checkpoints within the level, be it through an in-game “Restart Checkpoint” option or via the main menu’s interface. So if you do get stuck, you either have to restart the entire level or kill yourself.
Other anomalies include bugs within the code itself. Enemies will stop running for no apparent reason, allowing you to blast them with no opposition. In one instance we had an enemy that was immortal. We couldn’t kill him. He would just follow me around the level, smacking me with a melee shot every once in a while. And don’t get me started on the AI intelligence. One can easily push through a good portion of the game without firing a single shot, allowing for their Rambo teammates to kill every enemy simply because you are pushing the checkpoints. Alternatively, should you not be pushing the checkpoints, your squad will, at times, just hang out, letting run past any enemies charging you. The AI is FULL of bad decisions like that. Not choosing the best target, running head on into danger, or not responding to threats at all. Yet, when the checkpoints are pushed, they will clear the area with no problem. And if the difficulty is ramped up, the enemy can fill you full of lead without even a line of site. The various bugs and bad AI hampers and almost makes moot all the effort that went into crafting such a concise and well written story.
The bugs and glitches don’t end there neither. We came across them - to a lesser extent - with the visuals and audio as well. The game is gorgeous, with plenty of explosions, smoke and body parts littering the levels. I dare say this is the best looking Call of Duty thus far. And the sound design is exactly what one would expect, with plenty of loud bangs, whizzing bullets, and well acted dialog.However, we still found texture clips, floating items, and other anomalies combined with some very poor lip syncing. In fact, we even managed to fall through the environments themselves, dropping into the empty void below the maps (and this was in single player.) The positional audio failed at times and the distinction between weapons seemed to be lost, with them all pretty much sounding the same. While the good looks certainly were more plentiful than the graphical issues and hearing Ice Cube drop one liners was a treat, it - along with all the AI concerns - still helped drive the point home that this game was NOT properly QA tested.
The multiplayer is exactly what’s expected for anyone versed in Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer, including much more customizability...and the glitches and griefers as well. There are 14 maps shipping on the disk, which I have to admit are all very well designed in comparison to Treyarch’s previous effort. Gameplay modes are more fleshed out than ever with the inclusion of Wager matches. As players make their way through the standard Deathmatch and Sabatage matches, they earn COD points. These points can then be used to purchase new equipment like weapons, attachments and other customizable goodies. The points can also be put on the line in the Wager matches. The game types are fairly limited, but each is a ton of fun. In particular, the One in a Chamber match gives players a knife, three lives and a single bullet. Last man standing wins. A great mode that promotes up-close battles? I’m in! Except for the fact that the entire experience was ruined for me as each match was plagued with campers. Trust me, there was so much foul language coming out of my mouth that it would have made the most hardened sailor blush. Leave it to the less intelligent gamers to kill a truly enjoyable game mode.
On top of the single player and competitive multiplayer experiences, Black Ops packs an impressive and interesting number of extras for shooter fans to enjoy. Modern Warfare 2’s popular mode Spec Ops is nowhere to be found, but World at War’s fan-favorite Zombie mode returns and remains just as fun as it was two years. Again, you can face hordes of brain-eating soldiers either alone or with friends over Xbox Live and Playstation Network. To add an extra coat of fun, expect special appearances from some political faces such as Fidel Castro and a very amusing John F. Kennedy. Have no interest in online play? Black Ops supports both local and online split-screen as well.
You can’t say Treyarch doesn’t have love for the non-online players. Matter of fact, Black Ops goes beyond offline by presenting Combat Training, a bot-supported practice field where you and five additional players try online game modes like Deathmatch and Free-for-All against AI opponents. Make no mistake, the bots may not be really smart, but their overpowered skills will make good practice before jumping to the online realm, which as mentioned earlier, isn’t completely stable or fun to play for beginners as of this writing. Personally, both David and I enjoyed Combat Training. The chances of players end up liking it as well are rather high. There’s also a Theatre mode, which shares an enormous similarity with what Bungie has been doing with the last three Halo games. Players can record, edit and share gameplay clips with their friends and the Black Ops community for fun or, for clan-based gamers, teaching purposes.
Being in the subject of extra features, two other games have been hidden in Black Ops: ZORK, a text-based adventure game, and Dead Ops: Arcade. While ZORK will have a certain appeal to older gamers, Dead Ops: Arcade steals the show. In fact, its the most awesome Easter Egg we’ve had the chance to play in a while. Playable solo or online, Dead Ops Arcade is a Smash TV-like mini-game where players are tasked to shoot zombies while collecting different power-ups and money. The mini-game can be found beneath the Zombie option in the Main Menu but you need to unlock it first...ask the Internet to find out how.
While we’ve already stated that Black Ops has nice visuals, 3D TV owners (on both PS3 and Xbox 360) have the possibility to play the game in full stereoscopic 3D. Of course, we see this as a “goodie” and doesn’t make the game look better, but it definitely adds something to the experience. We’ve been lucky enough to play the game in 3D during our review process and compared to other 3D-enabled games, this one stands out as one of the best we’ve seen so far.
At the end of the day, Call of Duty: Black Ops is a mixed bag. There’s enough value to make fans of the franchise (and first person shooters in general) happy and busy for months. The captivating story earns our most distinguished kudos, with the multiplayer offering coming second. Sadly, the number of technical bugs and A.I inconsistencies are well present and cannot be overlooked in our final evaluation. Still, there are a lot of positives and we hope to see some of the story-driven elements make it into all Call of Duty games going forward. Call of Duty: Black Ops remains one the most entertaining games we’ve played this year and we recommend it to anyone regardless of the bugs. Just don’t go expecting an extremely polished, near-perfect experience and everything will be fine.
+ Best COD story to date
+ Loads of multiplayer options
+ DEAD OPS!!
+ Wager matches is a fantastic concept
- AI has a lot in common with a box of rocks
- Multiplayer is already plagued with the slime of the gaming world
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Release Date : 2010/11/09
System : Xbox 360
Publisher : Activision
Developer : Treyarch
Category : Shooter
ESRB : M
7.0 / 10
8.5 / 10
8.0 / 10
8.7 / 10