Call of Duty: Black OpsESRB:
Platform: Xbox 360
Category: First Person Shooter
System Link: 2-18
Online Multiplayer: 2-18
4 MB to Game Save
In Game Dolby Digital
A few years ago when many people, including myself, were getting somewhat tired of first person shooters, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare came along and rejuvenated the whole experience. Both the single player and online experience were quite a thrill ride. For months on end I could not put the game down. One year later, Treyarch’s Call of Duty: World at War touched down with a big splash but it was nowhere near the tidal wave that Modern Warfare provided. Although Treyarch had plenty to be pleased about with World at War, you just knew they were hungry to make the kind of impact Infinity Ward was able to accomplish with Modern Warfare. Well since World at War, Treyarch has been re-tooling in an effort to launch the best COD experience to date. Have they accomplished what they set out to do with Call of Duty: Black Ops? Read on to find out.
The Call of Duty franchise has always raised the bar when it comes to visuals in a first person shooter and Black Ops is no different as the game’s graphics are once again outstanding. Black Ops is simply a stunning game and Activision has another Call of Duty title they can be very proud of. Everything from the impressively detailed Ural Mountains of Russia to the lush green jungles of Vietnam, Black Ops is a game that will make your jaw drop more than once. From the moment you put the game into your Xbox 360, everything is eye-popping and a lot of the animations are overwhelmingly good. Black Ops runs at 60-frames per second and as a result plays silky smooth, and this includes playing online. Even during some of the most chaotic moments with enemies everywhere, bullets whizzing by, and explosions blasting from all angles, the game runs better than I could have imagined.
Similar to previous COD installments, the environments in Black Ops are incredibly detailed and look very good, not to mention you get a great deal of variety as well. Black Ops does not limit you to one desert-like setting or slap you in a WW2 country for the entire single player campaign. Instead, mission settings in the game include Russia, Vietnam, Cuba and Laos. From one mission to the next, you get a completely different look and the result is stunning featuring plenty of eye candy. Whether it is a chaotic shootout inside a Cuban villa or blizzard-like environment, Black Ops never has you sitting back and yawning while you wish the end of the level was near. Black Ops also features some realistic looking character models and even the enemy AI characters look great.
To say the battle combat is intense in Black Ops is an understatement. The explosions, tight quarter combat, destructible environments, and all the intensive battles around you, everything you have come to visually associate Call of Duty games with, are in all their glory in Black Ops. Bottom line - the combat feels real and is comparable to something out of a Hollywood movie. Everything is a bit better this time around and it really shows as Black Ops is as good as it gets as far as games pushing the next generation console's graphical hardware.
The sound in Black Ops is an excellent compliment to the fantastic visuals. The Call of Duty franchise as a whole has always been strong in the audio department and this latest release is no exception. From the solid soundtrack to the sound effects and soldier chatter, Black Ops features terrific sounds that should only be experienced in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
This year I am really impressed with the musical score. Black Ops’ soundtrack features big sweeping Hollywood-esque orchestra tunes matching very well with the scenarios taking place on screen. The music sets the perfect mood. I found the soundtrack really enhanced the gameplay experience. The music effectively 'amps-up' as the action becomes much more intense and nothing is more gratifying than when the music settles down and you realize the action has subsided.
Another improvement is the incredibly realistic weapon sounds. I know what you are thinking; this is nothing new to the franchise as Modern Warfare 2’s weapons sound equally fantastic. Yet, every time I seem to fire up a new Call of Duty game the weapon sounds blow me away. The shotguns, pistols, sub-machine guns and grenades all have very unique sound effects. Black Ops’ cold war weapons sound incredibly good and have once again, dare I say it, raised the bar for how weapons should sound in a first person shooter.
The voice acting and battle chatter between you and your squadmates is once again bang-on. Gary Oldman and Ed Harris provide some of the voice talent and they flat-out deliver. It can sometimes sound a little over-the-top, and there are some "oh brother" moments; however, at the end of the day the voice acting combined with a great storyline makes for a more engrossing experience this time around.
The last time Treyarch developed a COD game they took us back to the game's traditional World War II roots, a time period re-hashed to death. It was well received but didn't quite have the lasting impact the Modern Warfare series has had. After a two year hiatus, Treyarch is back with another COD game that takes place in the cold war. Similar to previous COD games the single player campaign has you controlling more than one player. In this game you play as Special Forces operative Alex Mason and CIA agent Jason Hudson. Both are members of the Studies and Observations Group (SOG), a clandestine black operations unit tasked with carrying out critical missions behind enemy lines. When you first fire up the game, you start out as Mason who is being interrogated for information he cannot recall. He is strapped into a chair and surrounded by TV’s in a Saw-like fashion. Black Ops has you play through Mason’s memories as he attempts to recall significant events from his past. Without spoiling too much, Mason starts recalling these events and you subsequently get to play them out.
As with every COD game, Black Ops' storyline takes several twists and turns. The story is decent but does tend to get rather convoluted at times. Often I wondered what was going on but let’s face it this is nothing uncommon for me. That being said, you really start to get entrenched into the game's storyline about half-way through making it really difficult to put Black Ops down. Fortunately after all the confusion, everything in the game comes together in the end. That being said, I believe that for many the game’s visuals, sound, and combat will overshadow the storyline.
The single player experience will take anywhere from 8 to 10 hours to complete depending on your skill level. The campaign mode in Black Ops is certainly longer than Modern Warfare 2; however, it is still a little on the short side. This being said, it should take you longer to complete the story on the more difficult skill settings should you decide to go this route. The game has a hectic and fast pace and you are often racing through missions and can hardly enjoy the scenery around you. Bottom line - the single player experience is a great ride as the combat and different types of weaponry you utilize throughout is impressive.
As I just mentioned the single player experience is a thrill ride but it is not without some bugs. For instance, on one occasion I was stuck in between a doorway and had to re-start the level. Not a major issue it was more of a small annoyance. Another issue I had with the game is the regenerating enemies. There are certain points in many of the levels where if you don't push forward and risk getting killed the enemies will continually reappear. I can't count how many times I would be stuck behind an obstacle and I would seemingly take out every enemy in sight thinking I was safe. Moments later a new set of enemies would “magically” start to appear and I was back to square one. It was a very frustrating experience indeed as enemies just kept re-spawning over and over again. If Treyach wanted to give a level of realism here, the enemies should eventually die in these moments instead of just re-spawning until you move up to a magical checkpoint.
Another disappointment was the inability to play through the single player campaign cooperatively with a friend. We have yet to see such a mode where you can play the entire campaign in this fashion. Yet each time I fire up a new COD game I wish the 2 player campaign coop was available. This being said, Black Ops does feature a Combat Training mode which is a blast. In this mode, you can enhance your multiplayer skills against the enemy AI in any of the multiplayer maps before jumping online. You can play solo or cooperative with friends. My time in this arena was a blast and was a nice little addition to the franchise. This mode is highly recommended for those of you who find COD online multiplayer a little intimidating.
For many, the Call of Duty franchise is all about the online multiplayer gameplay. When COD 4: Modern Warfare came along with its unique ranking system, slick weaponry, razor sharp visuals, highly enjoyable maps, and silky smooth online play, many praised the game for being the best online shooter we have seen to date. As I sit back and write this review, I ask myself whether Black Ops’ online play is better than Modern Warfare 2’s online play. That is a difficult question at this point, however one thing is for certain - the online play in Black Ops is just as good as its predecessors, but this time features a new in-game currency system.
The new in-game currency system is the biggest addition to COD’s online game since Modern Warfare. This system allows you to unlock and purchase weapons, attachments, killstreaks and perks that allow you to customize your load out to your personal style. It is a great new system that allows online gamers to forgo all those perks and attachments they have no use for. Instead, you can just purchase and customize your player's load out however you please. In addition to the new currency system, Black Ops also features Wager Matches. Now that you earn COD cash, you can put it all on the line with four new multiplayer game types and fight to claim the cash. This new wrinkle seems to amp-up the intensity of the online battles and is also a blast.
In addition to the new online play features there are new weapons, killstreak, attachments, etc. Of course all the game types we have come to love are back again including Team Death Match, Free-For-All and Domination to name a few. The list of different game types is impressive. Fans of online shooters will be familiar with all the game types; therefore I believe they need no further explanation. Bottom line -all your favorite game types are included and all play just as they did in those previous titles. Black Ops’ online play seems to be a more personalized experience. Customizing everything from the colour of you aiming reticles to your emblems, Black Ops is the deepest online experience the franchise has seen to date. Also, 14 maps out of the box are pretty impressive indeed.
Along with the good comes some bad. The online play does feature some aspects that seem out of balance. For instance, when the dogs are unleashed, it is game over for the enemy. A brief snip of a dog charging at you has your player dropping like a sack of hammers. It can be frustrating to say the least. There are other aspects of the online play that need some fine tuning but surely Treyarch will be out with some patches in the near future. For instance, we also had some difficulty loading our 7-man party into some of the big team online matches. We often dropped and the leader of our party had to re-send invites on multiple occasions. Again, I am hopeful a patch resolves some of these loading issues. Despite this, year after year COD’s online multiplayer seems to out due its predecessor. Black Ops is no exception.
Continue to Page 2