Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Game Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops

Formats: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Call of Duty: Black Ops lives up to most of the hype. It improves on Modern Warfare 2 in almost every single way ensuring an even better campaign mode, additional competitive and social features, a more balanced multiplayer and even more content to sink your teeth into. Black Ops doesn’t do anything innovative or spectacular, but this is to be expected, instead it stays safe and drops little gems into the game every once in a while that make it very clear that this is a superior game to its predecessor.

While it is widely acknowledged that many gamers do not buy Call of Duty games for their campaign modes, it is still worth noting that Treyarch have done a brilliant job here and it is definitely worth taking six to eight hours out of your time to go through this thrilling and fast-paced campaign mode. Set in the heart of the Cold War, you dwell deep into the mind of the protagonist Alex Mason as he recalls previous missions and assignments while being interrogated. This is certainly an intense way to present a campaign and the mix of past and present helps maintain a strong structure throughout the story, linking in all of the varied locations and missions you find yourself in. The campaign mode might not be particularly long but in this case it is a good thing, you want to enjoy the story, get to grips with the varied weapons allotted to you and jump into the multiplayer action. What it does offer however, is very impressive, with great voice acting and narration; beautiful and varied surroundings with a few intriguing plot twists and turn that lead to a satisfying conclusion.

Not surprising however, is the majority of you out there won’t even bother playing campaign and will dive head first into what makes Black Ops so incredible, the competitive multiplayer. Just as before you won’t find anything that you aren’t already accustomed to if you’ve played the predecessors. For newcomers the premise is very simple, you compete in a variety of different game-modes earning points to level up and unlock new weapons, perks, tools and other content, all of which progressively gets more powerful and cool the higher level you reach. New to the series is the addition of Call of Duty currency that is earned alongside experience points. This currency is now accumulated and used to purchase almost everything in the game, weapons, perks, killstreaks, camouflage and so forth. This means that plenty of content aside from the guns is already available for purchase right at the beginning of the game, for example everyone should immediately buy the Claymore as soon as they have 5000 COD currency. What this does mean however, is you have to purchase individual attachments for every weapon, for example if you buy the silencer, it can only be attached to one weapon and another must be bought for another loud-out. You will not find yourself short on money as it gathers relatively quickly, but nevertheless, you must choose wisely what you would like to unlock next.

Another interesting addition to the multiplayer content is the introduction of Contracts. Contracts can be purchased and then completed in game to gain further COD currency and experience points. A variety of different contracts become available to you and include lots of different goals, for example ‘’win 3 games of Team Deathmatch’’ or ‘’use the Attack Dog killstreak.’’ The harder the contract the more it will cost, but the rewards will also be greater, so it is up to you to gamble with your money because if you fail to fulfill the contract in the allotted time, it expires and you do not get your money back.

Call of Duty proceeds to taunt the gamblers inside all of us by offering us the ability to wage earned COD currency against other players, ranging from just 10 COD points all the way up to 10,000. These matches will really test your competitive abilities and naturally with more points on the line, people’s tactics and game-play will change from ordinary games such as Team Deathmatch, forcing you to change your play-style accordingly.

In terms of online play, you will find immediately that the game is a lot more balanced than Modern Warfare 2. Killstreaks are no longer as devastating but can still turn the tide of battle. Favourites at the present moment are the infamous 3-kill RC-XD remote controlled car that always seems to clip my ankle in combat and blow me to smithereens. The 5-kill Napalm Strike resembles the Air Strike, the 6-kill Mortar Strikes and the 8-kill Rolling Thunder resembles the Stealth Bomber but there are new additions to the game such as the SAM turret that takes down aircrafts and the Blackbird, which is an indestructible UAV plane. Killstreaks now don’t go higher than 11 kills and that is the Attack Dog and Gun Ship, meaning no more Nukes that end the game. Killstreak kills do not count towards unlocking further Killstreaks now, focusing combat directly on gunfights as opposed to camping and letting your killstreaks do all the work for you.

Perks have also been toned down, no more Commando allowing you to leap 5 meters and stab someone and Cold Blooded is a thing of the past, although the Ghost perk does allow you to stay hidden from enemy Spy Planes. The maps are all fantastic, every year people complain that the maps were better on the previous game but I find each map is balanced and for the most part, are all to a decent size. In particular the most fun map has to be Nuke Town, which is simply two houses across the road from each other in a tiny area, needless to say absolute carnage ensues.

Of course it is impossible to forget that aside from all of this, the endless customizability Black Ops offers ensures that every player has unique face-paint, emblems, clan tags while every gun has different camouflage and crests etc. All of this content helps to keep you spending your COD currency and ensuring a varied, thrilling and most importantly, much more balanced online experience.

Black Ops does also cater for the newcomers to the series because as popular as this franchise is, new players are always a target audience. The Combat Training mode is an excellent simulator of online action, allowing players to experience the action but against enemy AI as opposed to humans. This mode allows you to get to grips with the maps so when you do bite the bullet and get online, you won’t be running around like a headless chicken.

Another awesome addition to the series really helps the Call of Duty community prosper, Theatre mode. This naturally allows you to compile videos, screen shots, edit clips and so forth to really bring your favourite and most embarrassing moments in the game, onto the Internet for the whole world to see.

If you find you have some spare time to play with friends but don’t fancy the competitive circuit, then Zombies could be a very enticing prospect for you. Available four-player cooperative online or two-player split screen, the game pits you against waves of flesh eating ‘’spine monkeys’’ as they are so eloquently called, in a dramatic fight for survival. This game-mode is surprisingly a lot of fun and very tactical, forcing incredible team-work as you progress through the level trying to find upgraded weapons and the electricity to turn on the portals on the map. As the zombie waves become thicker, stronger and faster, it really becomes a tense and heated affair, one that is very challenging but heaps of fun.

In terms of technical presentation, Black Ops is for the most part a complete winner. While the aging World at War game engine seems to lack a little at times, the polishing over has certainly helped it to look pretty smooth and most impressively perhaps are the brilliant facial structures the game creates. The audio is brilliant as expected, creating thrilling atmosphere and dynamic action in both multiplayer and campaign modes. The addition of Sam Worthington and Ed Harris as voice actors really make the campaign mode stand out, showing once again the importance of high quality voice acting.

Call of Duty: Black Ops has delivered everything we expected and more. It has brought us once again, a brilliant expansion on the franchise’s wonderful competitive multiplayer mode. This mode offers plenty of versatility, variation and customization, ensuring you will be glued to your screen for months to come. Black Ops also brings to the table a very impressive campaign mode, it is nice to see that although it is absolutely obvious that the Call of Duty series thrives in multiplayer, the time is still taken to ensure an engaging campaign mode is available. Combat Training helps newcomers become accustomed to the multiplayer by fighting enemy AI, Zombies allows players to enjoy the game offline or with buddies cooperatively online. You can even play the competitive multiplayer split-screen with a friend. Additions such as theatre mode help the Call of Duty community thrive and ultimately this is all presented in one brilliant package. This is the best game of the year, this is the game to have right now, if you don’t, you’re missing out, it is that simple.

Technical presentation – 8.0

Graphics – 8.0

Game-play – 9.0

Replay value – 10.0

Final score – 9.0 / 10

Igor, CeX UK Contributor
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