The Call of Duty series has rapidly become the most successful series of all time. Developers are so scared of it, that almost no game will dare try to release near its launch date. Lines were around the building at almost every Gamestop in the country for the midnight release. Despite the controversy earlier this year surrounding Infinity Ward, who developed the first and second Modern Warfares, players still are willing to bank their money on Treyarch’s take on the series, with Black Ops outselling Modern Warfare 2 within days.
Activision has likely learned its lesson with World at War’s lukewarm reception, and has eschewed World War II for a different setting. Without focusing on a particular war, Black Ops is able to bend the pages of history a bit to create a compelling tale surrounding a Black Ops unit and the lead character Mason. Be prepared for a romp around the world, defending America from dictators and communism.
ON THE MARK
Join The Army, See The World - No two levels look exactly the same, and you’ll be taken practically around the world. From Cuba to Russia to Vietnam, you’ll go toe to toe with all sorts of crazy fascists and meet more than a few familiar faces from history. Hey, at least it’s not Normandy for the billionth time.
Attitude - Black Ops has attitude in spades. From the very first level where your commanding officer stabs a soldier’s hand with his knife, to laying waste to enemies with a minigun, there’s a rough and tough feel to the game you just don’t get from other games in the series. Whereas others feel like a war documentary, this game feels more like a Western. There are a few choice moments in the game that have classic songs from the 60’s, which really help set the mood and show that the game isn’t always trying to be epic, just fun.
Unconventional Warfare - Treyarch did a good job with taking advantage of the setting. Secret weapons developed during the Cold War (and I’m sure a few not pulled from real life) exist in the game. There’s a fire spewing shotgun called the Dragon’s Breath, and the much talked about exploding RC car. While some gamers may find it a little silly given the series’ past with leaning towards realism, I see it as simply taking advantage of the fact that it’s a videogame.
The Walking Dead - Zombie mode makes its triumphant return. And in a hilarious addition, you can unlock a 5th map that lets you play as Kennedy or three other characters in history in the Pentagon. Once again, after all is said and done, there’s hardly anyone out there who can dislike this mode, especially since you can team up with friends on split-screen or Xbox Live to take on the zombie hordes. There’s even a hidden game called Dead Ops that plays exactly like the arcade classic Smash TV.
Multiplayer - All your classic elements of online play are there, from custom classes to earning new weapons to kill streaks. Tactical nukes have been removed, but new terrors such as the RC car have some players up in a storm over its ease of use. Nerfs are probably on the way, but until now you’ll have to deal with it for better or worse.
Wagers - I believe the Wager matches are a good addition to the game. Wagers are like achievements you can buy, and later earn bonus points when you complete a certain task like 10 headshots in the allotted amount of time (otherwise, the points you spent are lost forever). It’s a fast way for skilled players to gain points without cheating the system and being forced to grind.
Glitches Everywhere While it’s not as bad as Modern Warfare 2, since Black Ops had a public beta, it’s still annoying, especially in the single player campaign. Glitches like leaving the map, unlimited ammo, and even being able to send the RC car through a wall are just a few glitches players have found already. Patches are on the way, of course, but I hope gamers are going to start making a bigger fuss about excessive glitches shipping in a final product.
Not Everybody At Once - Your comrades are mission critical, and if they haven’t made it to a checkpoint, you can’t continue the game without them. My team mates would often get visibly stuck in place or simply go missing without my notice. It would make the mission impossible to finish. The objective could be as simple as getting the end of a hallway, and the mission wouldn’t end because some idiot glitched earlier in the mission. I can’t even kill myself to reset this problem; the game seems to save the glitch too. I had to restart entire missions thanks to this garbage more than a few times. Highly unacceptable.
Lackluster Graphics - Now maybe it’s because of the older setting calling for everything to look gritty, but a big complaint from many people is the graphical quality of the game. Granted, the game doesn’t look as good as Modern Warfare 2, but it’s also a few shakes better than many games in the genre. Still, given the pedigree of the series, it’s time Treyarch catch up to Infinity Ward with graphical ability.
While it’s still not perfect, Treyarch still manages to deliver the best FPS on the market this side of Halo. It’s still one of the richest and deepest multiplayer experiences online, and the level of customization is fantastic. Once the most offending glitches get ironed out, the game will likely serve another year’s worth of fun, until the next inevitable game comes out next winter.
- Kyle McClusky