Title: Call of Duty: Black Ops
Systems: PC, PS3, 360, Wii, DS
After taking a hiatus after Call of Duty: World at War, Treyarch is back behind the reigns of the Call of Duty series with their latest installment, Call of Duty: Black Ops. After receiving mixed reviews on their World at War installment, there was a surprising amount of hype going into the release of Black Ops. With a new storyline that takes place across multiple areas across time, the reemergence of the popular Zombie Survival modes of play, and with numerous new and improved weapon functionalities, Black Ops is looking to capitalize upon the massive base of players created by the Modern Warfare line of games.
The storyline takes place mainly during the 1960, including the Bay of Pigs invasion, as well as the Vietnam War. The player mainly takes control of an American soldier named Alex Mason, whom is initially seen being interrogated by an unknown person in order to find out the meaning of a series of broadcasted numbers, as well as the location of the numbers station. The storyline then proceeds to be told, by Mason, as he recollects events from the past few years, including memories from Operation 40 (an assassination attempt of Fidel Castro), to an escape from a Russian Gulag, to the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, tomany other parts of the 60s. There are also elements where the player takes control of James Hudson, a CIA operative, and a former Soviet soldier named Victor Reznov, whom Mason met during his time in the Gulag. Add a chemical weapon plot and a twist ending, and you have yourself the story of Black Ops.
Overall, the story is told rather well, and numerous voice cues start to depict that things are not what they seem to be, as the actions of those around Mason hint that there is something else to the story that isn’t truly known from Mason’s perspective. Many of the events are shown pretty well, and they all do end up tying together in the end. However, that being said, the storyline is VERY short, accumulating to about 5 hours total on a slow pace. So, those looking for a single player game will be a tad disappointed in terms of the length of the game.
Black Ops, as with most recent Call of Duty games, has a major focus on multiplayer functionality. Some of the problems involving the multiplayer of Modern Warfare 2, such as the ridiculous kill streak awards; have been adjusted to allow a bit more balance to the game itself. Treyarch also changed the system around so that awards such as the helicopter do NOT count towards kill streaks anymore. So, this is welcome news for many as it requires players the need to earn the streaks themselves, as well as preventing those who do obtain the streaks early to sit back and rack up even more rewards caused by the previous reward. The multiplayer matchmaking and lobby functionality is also done decently well… at least on consoles. On the PC, Black Ops utilizes the Steam client functionality in their multiplayer, and as of this writing, there are a few noticeable bugs in the multiplayer system. This diminishes the enjoyment of one of Black Ops’ major drawing points as the bugs affect not only the player name on scoreboards by making the player appear with the name “Unknown Soldier #”, but also the friends list and the ability to join parties with friends. There are also some very noticeable differences between weapons and their functionality that cause some weapons to be almost useless on maps, such as an assault rifle with a scope can pretty much outmatch those with a true long range rifle at a long range on many an occasion.
However, aside from the bugs, there are a few new game modes that the player can choose from. The character class creation has been improved, and there is also a money-based upgrade system, with the money being earned via simply playing matches, as well as the popular level system which allows the ability to purchase the weapons and upgrades. There is also a separation in terms of character class creation and money between matchmaking multiplayer and Combat Training, where a player goes up against AI controlled opponents and friends who decide to join the game. So, this allows those who are not too fond of playing against human opponents a place where they can level up and have fun.
The other major feature of the game is the reemergence of the Zombie Survival mode of play, for either single player or multiplayer, where the players are pitted against a never-ending stream of zombies. The players must complete a few objectives as well in order to gain access to better items, as well as increase their score exponentially. There are a couple stages to choose from, with the player characters ranging from a series of multinational mercenaries, to heads of state such as John F. Kennedy and Fidel Castro. Overall, this is a nice change of pace and scenery for those looking for something else in the game.
Call of Duty: Black Ops definitely captures a nice level of enjoyment for the most part, as it offers a well done story along with some good multiplayer and a bunch of extras. However, there are a few major downsides within almost all of the modes of play which prevent the game from reaching the levels it could. The single player is extremely short, so those looking for something to keep them busy for a while will be disappointed. The multiplayer, at least on the PC, has many bugs and a clunky interface that diminish the enjoyment for many players. So, while the game is competent in the gameplay, improved multiplayer, and the powerful quality of the story, it is bogged down with too many things to be considered a truly fantastic game.
Now to break the game down a bit.
Storyline: 7.5/10 – While the storyline itself is surprisingly deep, with no lack of twists and turns, the overall length really hurts the rating. Regardless of the type of game, as well as the quality of the story itself, a game providing less than 5 hours of gameplay is a tad ridiculous. So, the game checks out in quality, but fails in length.
Graphics: 8/10 – Overall, the graphics are done decently well. The effects are good, and they don’t truly impede upon the gameplay itself unless the plot requires them to, such as in a snowstorm where vision should be diminished. While not a visual masterpiece, and aside from the occasional blocky object and poor cropping effect, as with a knife upon human flesh, the game does its job decently enough.
Controls & Gameplay: 8/10 – The controls are decent enough after a little bit of practice. They are not too cumbersome, though there are some frustrating times in the game. There were a few times where there was a major delay to swap to a pistol for the “Second Chance” perk because the character fell while swapping to another weapon, and by the time the pistol came out, the character was very much dead. There are also a few events where the hit detection is a tad off, though that tends to be chalked up to the weapon itself, and the player actions while firing (such as aiming down sights, or moving slightly, etc).
Sound & Music: 7.5/10 – The in-game music definitely suits the timeframe in which the game takes place, so nice job to the developers in doing their homework. However, the soundtrack itself is pretty much unnoticed during the gameplay. The sound effects are decent enough, and the voice actors aren’t bad at all… aside from the occasional accent confusion for certain characters where they can’t decide if they are German or Russian. So, while nothing too bad that ruins gameplay, and the music fits the times, it is nothing that is above and beyond what is expected at this level of development.
Replayability & Fun: 8.5/10 – Well, the storyline is very short, so for those looking for fun in that will be disappointed when it ends quickly. There is an achievement system in place for those completionists out there, but many can be done with one playthrough on the hardest difficulty. However, for those who bought the game for multiplayer should not be disappointed on the consoles, though until the bugs are ironed out on the PC, there may be a delay for the full enjoyment. The Combat Training, however, does offer a good amount of fun for those who like to stop on AI opponents. The main source of fun and replayability in Black Ops comes from the Zombie Mode, and the extras available through accessing the computer terminal in the main menu’s room (through a secret method of breaking out of the chair). Zombies offer a challenge with the increasing difficulty and with the addition of Dead Ops (a top down shooter) and the text-based RPG Zork, there should be ample ways of passing the time.
Overall: 39.5/50 = 79/100 = C+/B-
Reccomendation: Definitely a source of fun for those who enjoy the Call of Duty series of games and the Zombie mode is definitely an enjoyable way to pass the time. However, it is not worth the price of $60 for those who are not interested in multiplayer and even then only on the console systems until Treyarch fixes the bugs on the PC version. So, if the price goes down, pick it up, but otherwise try it out first before any purchase.