One of the biggest and most anticipated games of 2010 has been the next installment of the Call of Duty (COD) franchise subtitled Black Ops. This is now the seventh installment in the series and is made by Treyarch and published by Activision. The game does not follow the Modern Warfare story line (Modern warfare was produced by Infinity Ward) and does not continue the World at War story but has a story of its own. The story centers around an agent named Mason and is told through flashbacks as he is being interrogated, there are a few parts where you will play as another character but it’s the same mission from a different perspective, leaving the game completely centered around Mason. This is a nice change of pace since it allows for one huge and epic story and not a bunch of stories sewn together to make a larger picture. Most of the game takes place during the cold war where the Soviets are the main enemy but the game takes you too many beautiful locals throughout the story so there is a lot to take in in terms of scenery, and the game does not get bland after a few levels. Even with the strong single player component the online is also very robust in Black ops with standard Multi-player modes as well as the all-time Treyarch favorite Zombies mode. Overall there is a lot to this game to enjoy but it is not without its flaws.
The graphics in Black Ops are by far some of the best looking I have seen in a first person shooter in a while, it definitely took the game to the next level compared to Modern Warfare 2. The details on the environments were well thought of and this continued throughout the game with attention to detail given all the way up to the very last screen in the single player mode. The characters were well thought of, but it was noticeable that the team you were with was a little more polished then the random soldiers in the field however you really had to stop and look to see this. The gun models are top notch and the cameos look really good on the guns. Explosions look great and best of all is the fact that I saw no frame drops during the single player campaign, no matter on how much action was happening on the screen. The game also felt more filled in terms of the enemies on the screen with gunfire heading your way from a multitude of directions and with so much going on it doesn’t feel like there is something missing and it doesn’t feel overcrowded either, essentially a good balance in the sections. The draw distance is very large and I never had objects pop in while playing and no missing textures which impressed me in the parts that I moved through very quickly. The loading screens were also negated with story elements so unless you were loading up a chapter after turning off your console you did not experience a loading screen that you wanted to skip. Once the ‘loading screen’ was done the mission information popped up and was quickly blacked out, adding a little welcome touch to the game which is properly named Black Ops. Overall I could not find a single thing to complain about this game in the graphical department, it was gorgeous all the way through.
The music in the game was very well chosen and fit in the with the time period of the game. A mission in Vietnam starts with Mason getting on a boat and a radio is playing a dedication to the troops that makes the whole part feel like a movie. There is rarely any music playing but when there is, it is very appropriate and makes the scene ten times better to play through. The voice acting in this game is outstanding as well, with characters being very vocal and not holding back in the appropriate situations. Since most of the time you will be with a partner or team there is a lot of dialog happening, however it is all predetermined depending on where you are in the game, so don’t expect too many random comments. Though with all the action it is always a good idea to have the subtitles on so you don’t miss anything that is happening, most of the objectives are given to you by your teammates. The best voice acting in my eyes was the man who voiced Victor Reznov, without Reznov the game would not be the same. Even though the single player was done well there are some minor issues when it comes to sound in the multiplayer, mainly the footsteps. Online for some reason your footsteps sound like elephants stomping about however it is difficult to hear people sneaking up behind you that are not using the Ninja perk. Hopefully this small issue will be fixed with an upcoming patch.
The gameplay in the campaign is fairly straight forward, shoot the enemy and move ahead. For the most part this works in most of the game with a good balance of guns and giving the player a variety of weapons to try. In most situations the default guns that are provided at the start of the mission are more than enough to finish the level at hand but the guns enemies drop add even more spice. The guns the enemies drop aren’t just average stock guns, they will have cameos, different attachments and sights, so trying them all is fun. However when playing this game on Veteran difficulty it is wise to conserve the good stuff for the tough spots, especially secondary grenades. In my play through I found that at first my teammates seemed to do nothing more than get in my way but they were necessary to drive the story. On more than one occasion I got killed because a squad mate would run in front of me and obscure my view of the enemy, or cause me to shoot them and fail due to friendly fire. This problem did seem to fade as the game went on, the further I got the more useful the team was which was good thing. In most of the game the enemies spawn in predetermined spots and once they were killed, they stayed dead, but there are two spots in the game where there is an infinite spawn and on veteran, these sections are very frustrating because by the time you kill the first batch you have to reload and any chance you have to move up is scarce. There may be more infinite spawn spots but there are two that seem to be very challenging according to the internet as well as myself.
To give spice to the game you will not always be running around and shooting, there are places in the game that give a little break from that in the form of vehicles. At certain points in the game you will get a chance to fly a helicopter that you have full control over except the altitude but not matter where you fly you will not crash, unless you really want to go straight into a rock face. The other vehicles you get to drive are a boat and tank with very similar controls to the helicopter. There is also a section where you are in a jeep but you are the gunner and don’t have control of where the car takes you. These sections are nice breaks from the core gameplay and do not feel tacked on but do give a more immersive experience and I think this is the first game in the recent COD series you control where these vehicles and aren’t just a gunner. In the multiplayer however there is the most fun vehicle to drive of all, the RC-XD remote controlled car. This is probably the best kill streak reward ever awarded.
In the multiplayer all the controls from the single player are available to the player with even more gadgets then you get in the single player as well as all the goodies you have used before except the regular crossbow, the only one available has exploding bolts. All the modes that have been in the previous games are back with the addition of wager matches that include modes like gun game. The weapons unlock as you level up but you also have to purchase them with COD points that you earn by playing online. These COD points can be used to customize your emblem as well and to play the wager matches if you are feeling lucky. The addition of these points is great because the player still has to wait to unlock the guns but can purchase the attachments they want and perks they use most right from the beginning provided they have enough COD points. This really helps narrow the gap between people that have been playing for a long time and those that play now and then, mainly by not forcing you to use an attachment you don’t want to get one that you really do want. The best part of the competitive mode is that kill-streak rewards are more balanced and no longer stack, so you won’t feel like you are just there to be shot by planes like in Modern Warfare 2 and if someone gets the top kill-streak rewards you know they worked for them. On top of competitive multiplayer is also the Zombies mode where you and three teammates take on Zombies to see how long you can survive. This mode is very addictive and is a good break from the mayhem in competitive online. The best zombies level has to be the final one that is unlocked after completing the game, but you will have to finish the game to get this little Easter egg. If you are clever enough you can also get a Geometry Wars style over the top shooter that again features zombies, this mode is call Dead Ops Arcade (DOA). For those really nostalgic gamers there is another little Easter Egg available, and that is the text based game Zork. On the Xbox 360 Zork does work with the chat pad so it can be quite fun if you want to do some reading and rattle your brain. I won’t tell you how to get to all these goodies but I’m sure that the details are on the World Wide Web if you know what to look for.
Overall this game offers hundreds of hours of gameplay for fans of the series and overall has a tremendous value for the price of $59. With all modes available offline except the competitive online even those players without an internet connection can get a vast amount of enjoyment out of this title. Even though this game is not perfect, on a scale this large it is forgivable for its minor flaws which mostly can be found in the competitive online environment. We all know that there will always be players that will find every exploit possible to gain the upper hand online and hopefully Treyarch will patch these exploits however in the meantime there is a Theatre mode available to record games allowing players to report hackers and show exploits so they can be patched. This game is a big step up from Modern Warfare 2 (the previous instalment in the series) with updated graphics and more balanced gameplay. Once again Treyarch has outdone themselves and made a solid first person shooter that deserves all the praise and media attention it got upon release. So if you are a fan of COD or just like a good first person shooter, this game is a definite must have because I doubt there will be many games of this calibre and with such a large online community releasing anytime soon.