Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
Treyarch aimed to make a big impression with Call of Duty: Black Ops, their steps out of the tired World War II genre and towards making their own way with this series as a worthy follow-up to Modern Warfare.
- Worth The Time?Yes, this is definitely worth every cent spent on and every second spent playing it.
- Things LovedThe engaging narrative and cinematic experience of the single-player campaign, the unsurprisingly incredible multiplayer, the new multiplayer Wager Match mode, the return of zombies, the huge amount of content included in the game.
- Things HatedThe lack of split-screen in single player, the under par visuals in certain areas, the occasional stupid and absent-minded friendly AI in single player.
- RecommendationIf you even remotely like Call of Duty, you should definitely give this game a shot. Otherwise, any fan of the series or those looking for a new multiplayer experience will undoubtedly love what's on offer in Call of Duty: Black Ops. The game gives you every reason to make this purchase, and it's worth it.
- Name: Call of Duty: Black Ops
- Genre: First Person Shooter
- Players: 1
- Multiplayer: Online and Offline, LAN, Co-op, Local Split-Screen
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360, DS
- Developer: Treyarch, n-Space (DS)
- Publisher: Activision
- Price: R632-699 (PS3, 360), R451-499 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
In reality, there is not much that needs to be said about the Call of Duty franchise that gamers do not already know. But the curious thing about Call of Duty: Black Ops is that it’s Treyarch’s turn to step up and deliver a successor to the worldly famous Modern Warfare 2, which is far from an easy task. Many huge fans of Infinity Ward’s Modern Warfare series were probably shaking their heads in Black Ops’ direction due to the fact that Treyarch perhaps don’t have the best record when it comes to Call of Duty games, and seem to rely more on building up from Infinity Ward’s success rather than going out of their way to craft their own game and achieve their own milestone. But now, however, all that doubt and past history can be thrown aside, because with Call of Duty: Black Ops, Treyarch has set a new bar for the entire franchise.
The first major leap Treyarch has taken with Black Ops is with the game’s main campaign. Black Ops focuses a great deal on its narrative, offering not only an intriguing and deep plot filled with mystery and interesting characters, but also a larger cinematic experience. From the get go Black Ops feels like more than simply another Call of Duty game, and this fact will mostly be recognised when firing up the main campaign mode. Despite the 1960 Cold War setting, the game still easily manages to feel like modern warfare, and not at all like a step backwards or as though it’s a dated battle. In fact, it’s the Cold War setting for the story that makes it even more appealing and interesting before jumping in.
The story puts you in the military boots of a few main characters, and you’ll get to know all of these characters on quite a personal level throughout the game as you switch between them. The primary character, however, is SOG operative Alex Mason who, at the beginning of the game, finds himself strapped to a chair in an interrogation room, injured and disorientated. His unseen captors immediately start firing questions at him, forcing him to explain the meaning behind a bunch of seemingly random numbers that are evidently of critical importance, but he has no idea what they mean. Mason’s captors, insistent that he does in fact hold the answers to their questions, urge him to relive his memories and help him remember, and it’s from here that the game begins taking you through a series of flashbacks, alongside scenes in the present inside the interrogation room, that inevitably lead up to Mason’s capture.
All in all, the story remains interesting and immersive from the beginning right until the fantastic conclusion. It’s also excellently told and paced, which is a pleasant surprise considering that one would not usually expect this level of storytelling from Call of Duty. However, perhaps a small gripe would be that it’s a sequel to World At War, so if you haven’t played through that story you would most likely not be fully clued up on a couple of the characters featured in the game and their pasts. It’s the furthest thing from a train smash, but in order to get the most you possibly can out of the story mode of Black Ops it might be in your best interest to take a trip down memory lane and play through Treyarch’s last entry in the franchise. It’s definitely not a necessity, but it adds that little bit of extra value and nostalgia to the main campaign.
When it comes to Call of Duty, generally the campaign mode is left forgotten behind the amazing multiplayer, but with Black Ops, incredulously, you’ll be able to value both experiences at the same level. It even manages to feel at times as though Black Ops was primarily designed for single-player, until you realise that there is in fact the awesome multiplayer waiting for you – and the game only continues to impress in this regard. The only aspect lacking in the single player campaign is two-player split-screen, which Treyarch most probably didn’t include because they felt it would detract from the cinematic experience and gripping narrative they’re offering. Still, it would have been nice to have as an option, but there are more than enough multiplayer modes on offer to make this complaint pretty negligible.
Gameplay has remained virtually unchanged in Black Ops so there’s hardly anything to explain here, but of course you’d have expected nothing less. Run, gun, crouch, prone and shoot all enemies in sight sums up the gist of it. However, aside from all the new weapons and gadgets and the Cold War setting to play-test them in, there is one nice little new move in the game, where while you’re running if you hold down the crouch button you’ll execute a very cool-looking dive onto the ground, snapping to prone position. It’s great, as it can save your neck, get you quickly into cover as well as give you the jump on your enemies more times than you’d care to remember. What is noticeable and welcome here is that Black Ops features a lot more engaging cinematic sequences and unique missions compared to previous games in the series, and you’ll also get to control a variety of vehicles and special weapons in the single player campaign. What will also please gunners is that Black Ops includes more options for stealth than before and overall has just done a great deal to ensure that the single player remains exciting the whole way through, in addition to its gripping story.
The game features a wide variety of multiplayer modes that will ensure that it’s here to stay for a long time to come. Aside from the staple online multiplayer, you’re able to play the classic and highly entertaining Zombie co-op mode from World At War either solo, online or via split-screen or LAN if you’re too afraid to take on zombies without backup. Next on the fun list is local split-screen and LAN play for the challenge maps, where you and a friend can team up to complete a variety of assigned challenges for ranks and kicks. Furthermore, there is also a secret unlock in the game where you’ll get to play a full-on, top-down Zombie mini arcade game titled Dead Ops Arcade. If you haven’t discovered it yet, be sure to check out how to unlock iton eGamer so that you can jump straight into more zombie-killing action.
If you’ve played the past few Call of Duty games, you will know everything regarding what to expect from the online component of Black Ops – and it’s simply incredible. Treyarch has again taken another leap of their own with a few big changes and additions online that all make the experience so much more enjoyable, in addition to the game still packing everything that made the Modern Warfare games so awesome. Starting with the basics, hopping online will grant you access to Player Matches, your standard ranked matches, Split-Screen play, Combat Training, where you’ll basically play with bots solo or with a friend to learn the game, Wager Match, which is the new mode featured in Black Ops, and the Theater mode, where you can watch films or create your own. All of these modes are, for the most part, self explanatory to anyone experienced in Call of Duty, and you’ll most likely be well-versed in all of them already.
However, that said, Wager Match is one to catch the eye. Essentially, it’s a mode where you will gamble your earned experience points, called CoD points, in matches where you stand to either win more points or lose what you’ve thrown onto the table, and it all depends on how you do in the matches you play in – for instance whether you come first, second or third at the end. Every player is required to pay an entry CoD point fee, and the value of this differs depending on the level of the game you’re playing, which is selected beforehand. With the level of the Wager match, you’re given three options, but they’re basically beginner, medium and hard, where the higher the difficulty the more you stand to win or lose and the more CoD points are involved, as the stakes become higher and the game more dangerous. Furthermore, players are also able to, by majority vote, raise the entry fee for the game which will, if the vote succeeds, force all players to cough up more points. This awesome new online mode in Black Ops features four unique game modes, namely One In The Chamber, Gun Game, Sticks and Stones and Sharpshooter, and they work as follows:
- One In The Chamber: Each player is given a knife, three lives and a pistol with one bullet in it. One shot from the pistol results in an instant kill, and for every kill made with the pistol another bullet is gained. The mission is simple: kill all your enemies!
- Gun Game: Anyone familiar with Counter Strike’s famous Gun Game will instantly know what to expect here. Each player starts with a pistol, and killing players gives you a gun upgrade until you kill someone with the final weapon and win. However, being killed with a knife results in you going down a level. The first player to reach the final level and kill an opponent with that weapon is the winner.
- Sticks and Stones: Players start with a crossbow, knife, tomahawk and a ballistic knife. Kill other players to rack up CoD points, but avoid getting slaughtered by a tomahawk, because this will reduce your points to zero!
- Sharpshooter: All players in the game begin with the same, randomised weapon. Every 45 seconds the weapon will change. Killing other players will get you perks and multipliers which will all rack up your points. Get as many kills as you can by the endof the round!
All the Wager matches are fantastic fun and, aside from providing a great mode for the daredevil, challenge-lover, confident man and gambler, only further ensure that many, many hours will be spent playing Black Ops.
Another great change is with perks, gadgets, weapons and attachments and all the other little bells and whistles available for unlock online. Now, they are not only unlocked by achieving a certain rank, but in addition to the classical way of acquiring upgrades you’re able to use CoDpoints you’ve earned to purchase the ones you want as you please. It’s instantly awesome, because, to put it in perspective, you won’t have to fully complete each gun you have just to get the attachments that come with it, but instead now you’re able to immediately, for instance, purchase red dot sight or a grenade launcher attachment for all your favourite guns provided you have the cash for it. Perks can also, like before, advance to Pro level. Furthermore, customising your classes and loadout has also been tweaked, so that you’re now able to see how your character’s appearance will change based on the perks and equipment you assign. You’re also able to select a base model for your character, for the purpose of looks and more customisation options.
In addition to all the staple challenges to complete to get you extra experience and bragging rights, you can also purchase and take on special Contract assignments, which basically give you a certain milestone to achieve for reward, such as kill 15 enemies in a single match or get 75 kills with a gun in a given amount of minutes of total game time and so on. You’re able to create your own player tag, which is like your personal badge, still level up to maximum and start over with Prestige Mode and so much more. Really, there is so much content here that running through it like this almost seems an injustice to the game, because after all is said and done Treyarch has pretty much surpassed Infinity Ward in all areas with Black Ops – which is actually pretty amusing considering that they have used the foundations of Infinity Ward’s work to achieve their success. However, it’s clear that they have not relied solely on that, as Black Ops is undoubtedly an overloaded package of awesomeness, and it’s worthy of all the praise it gets.
When it comes to graphics, for the most part Black Ops looks great, especially in many of the cinematic sequences. However, there are some areas where the visuals look noticeably weaker compared to other sections in the game, but it isn’t really gamebreaking. It’s just that Call of Duty isn’t always the best when it comes to graphics, and the series started showing its age back with Modern Warfare 2 already, but overall it still looks good enough to easily make its mark and deliver an amazing experience. The game is mostly technically solid too, so there aren’t many complaints in this regard except for the fact that the friendly AI in single player can still be stupid, absent-minded and weak on occasion, such as in the case of an enemy wildly charging towards you and your friends only to get in and kill you without your friends raising a hand to stop said clearly visible enemy. It’s instantly redeemed though by the fact that enemies no longer annoyingly spam you with grenades in the campaign on the harder difficulties like they did before, which is fantastic.
In the end, Call of Duty: Black Ops is simply incredible. Treyarch has truly outdone itself, creating what is perhaps one of the best games overall in the franchise to date. With a fantastic and gripping single player component, that begs to be seen through to the end, and a phenomenal and deeply varied multiplayer that no sane individual will grow tired of anytime soon, Black Ops lays down the law and demands that you make this purchase – and you won’t regret it. This is one game this year that you really don’t want to miss. This is Call of Duty as you love it.