Call of Duty: Black Ops Review
Call of Duty: Black Ops is the fourth game developed by Treyarch in the successful Call of Duty series. Previous to Black Ops, Treyarch developed Call of Duty: World at War. Shortly after E3 last year, I commented that I wasn’t ready to jump on the anticipation bandwagon for this game, and, now that I’ve been playing it for a while, it’s still a little tough to rate overall. I’ll start with the good news.
Let’s begin with the single player portion. Black Ops brings more of the Hollywood action movie style of the previous games of the series, with even more drivable vehicles, big firefights and a few well done plot twists. The music doesn’t match the Hans Zimmer compositions of Modern Warfare, but the storyline in the campaign is still actually one of the better points for this game. It’s a tad complicated, but nicely written and executed, complete with voices by Ed Harris and Gary Oldman. I’ll not spoil the plot for you, but it’s a solid campaign.
Zombies is another chunk of fun. Players can play by themselves, or cooperatively with other players, and try to survive wave after wave of invading zombies, each wave larger and stronger than the last. Killing zombies and repairing barriers is rewarded with money, which can be used to buy more powerful weapons and advance to new zones. It seems like a very simple concept, and it is, but that doesn’t stop it from being a blast.
The online competitive portion makes a number of strides forward from Modern Warfare 2, and it’s for this reason that I want to like it a lot. Split-screen online multiplayer is supported. There are some balance changes that many Modern Warfare 2 players will find most welcome. Specifically, players will bid good riddance to grenade launchers and other explosives being combined with the Danger Close perk for all-too-easy kills. I still wouldn’t call the game balance perfect, since there’s definitely room for improvement, but it has changed for the better in some ways. I’m not particularly impressed by the level design in the online multiplayer, but it’s adequate for the most part. They also redesigned the customization and unlock system, now allowing players to earn points by playing and completing contracts in-game, and spending them to unlock items, perks, killstreak rewards and more. Multiplayer also includes wager match playlists, where players can wager credits to earn more, with unusual and fun game modes like “One in the Chamber” and “Gun Game.” There are some great improvements and ideas here, and it’s honestly really fun… when it works properly.
Now for the bad. Unfortunately, for all its steps forward, Call of Duty: Black Ops takes some huge steps back. First and foremost, it suffers from a frankly awful case of game-changing inconsistency. I’m told the knife is an instant kill… that’s true, if you’re lucky. Four shotgun shots at close range? That should probably finish someone off, but that’s not always the case either. I could go on. It happens often enough that it can really ruin a game. Sometimes it works for the positive too – I’ve gotten points from some near misses that counted for me. I’m guessing these things are largely the result of greater-than-average lag, but in any case, something has got to be done. It’s definitely worse than Modern Warfare 2.
Secondly, the spawning system has a number of nasty issues. Players spawning within 20 yards of where they were killed most of the time, especially in combination with killcam, is a bad thing (for both players involved!). Spawning roughly in front of an enemy is also a generally negative thing – they can really get the jump on you when you don’t know where you are yet. In fact, it seems like the game only really cares to put you with teammates and away from enemies a fraction of the time.
Let’s recap. What we have in Call of Duty: Black Ops is a game with so much potential for excellence in campaign and multiplayer modes alike, with great ideas for improvement everywhere. Unfortunately, the online multiplayer is marred by some pretty heavy issues. Fortunately, though, aside from competitive multiplayer, players still have the solid campaign experience and zombies to keep them busy while they wait for a much-needed patch for the lag.
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