Published on November 29th, 2010 | by Richard Motokovsky0
Call of Duty: Black Ops – Review
Summary: Treyarch has simply expanded upon the magnificent foundation laid down by Infinity Ward
Treyarch has some big boots to fill. Call of Duty: Black Ops, the studio’s third proper outing into the world’s biggest action franchise, is its most important to date. Infinity Ward has been pulled apart in the past 12 months, installing Treyarch as the premier CoD team in the process. This game has so much money behind it, it looks down its nose to all five Dragons’ Den dragons. So, it had better deliver, right?
First things first. Any concerns about Treyarch’s ability to hit the true Triple-A heights should be hurled out of the window. This is the team’s best CoD, and by some distance. So we can all breathe again and get stuck into what makes Call of Duty: Black Ops such a voluminous package, such a fantastic multiplayer experience and the most interesting single-player campaign in the series’ history.
Yes, you get a lot of bang for your buck with Black Ops. The menu screen presents Campaign, Multi and Zombies as your main options, and there are sub-menus within all of them. Chances are you’ll dive straight into Campaign though, with knuckles pre-whitened in anticipation of another Call of Duty rollercoaster.
Treyarch has struggled in the past in maintaining the illusion that Infinity Ward’s CoD games have managed so well. Essentially, these are corridor shooters with very little enemy AI, and the drama comes from both the tension of survival and the spectacle of the game’s set-pieces.
Black Ops doesn’t begin well. Its opening hours are a relentless shooting gallery of dimwitted enemies popping their heads out, allies yelling rubbish and you ploughing forward to the yellow floating number that means you can continue. Gaps in AI see troops on opposite sides of the conflict literally running past each other. To be honest, it’s a worrying start.
As the whole game plays out in a series of flashbacks, it means Treyarch has the ability to jump around in time and location fairly easily. When protagonist Alex Mason talks about his time in Vietnam, things really do start to pick up, and Black Ops gets really quite interesting. During its quieter moments, Black Ops actually gets you invested in its characters and story in a way that no other Call of Duty game has managed.
There’s an intriguing plot involving a major political leader, some shady agency that has you trapped to a seat during interrogation, and a whistlestop tour of some of the Cold War’s most contentious and infamous hot spots. There are issues, too, narratively. The pay off doesn’t quite match the set-up, and there are huge constructs borrowed liberally from other places, but it does keep you engaged and interested in where it’s heading, which is a lot more than Modern Warfare 2 managed to do.
Where Call of Duty: Black Ops really shines though, is in multiplayer. It really is something special. Instead of deviating, Treyarch has simply expanded upon the magnificent foundation laid down by Infinity Ward, but done so in a way that adds layers of depth and ways to play.
Structurally, the unlock and perks systems that have underpinned CoD online for the past few years have been tweaked. You’ll now earn CoD points alongside XP, which you can use to buy new weapons, attachments and perks. However, a lot of the stuff you can buy will still be locked until you structurally, the unlock and perks systems that have underpinned CoD online for the past few years have been tweaked. You’ll now earn CoD points alongside XP, which you can use to buy new weapons, attachments and perks. However, a lot of the stuff you can buy will still be locked until you win more back. Come in the bottom three, and you obviously won’t.
More interesting than that though, are the matches themselves. Its split into four games – One In The Chamber, Sticks And Stones, Sharpshooter and Gun Game – and each of them has a little magic spark that’ll have you coming back for more.
One In The Chamber, for example, is ridiculously tense. You’ve got a pistol and one bullet. It’s an insta-kill if you hit someone with it, but miss and it’s just you and your knife. Patience, accuracy and a steel nerve are the order of the day here. Stick And Stones is even better. It’s exploding crossbow bolts, projectile knives and a tomahawk. It’s fairly normal stuff, until you get hit with a tomahawk and you’re ‘bankrupted’, causing you to lose all your points. Every one of Wager mode’s game types has a sneaky way to grief your enemies, and it makes them all uniformly hilarious.
Stepping out into the regular multiplayer modes is tremendous too. They’re familiar, sure, but Treyarch has great map-making skill, and the killstreaks have been tweaked to avoid some of Modern Warfare 2’s more egregious crimes. Of course, this might all change when the game gets out into the wild and every 13-year-old boy in America finds out you can win by spinning in a circle with a flamethrower or something, but for now, it’s a truly spectacular online experience.
Rounding up the package is Zombies, a fun way to kill 10 minutes of time but not really worth distracting yourself from multiplayer for. Although make sure you try out the mode where you play as Castro, McNamara, Nixon and JFK. Hilarity ensues.
So, it’s a healthy and hearty package of violence and virtual warfare, as Call of Duty now regularly is. It’s a worthy successor to the name, unquestionably, and it’s also the type of game that really justifies the amount of money being spent on it – this feels like an event, like the big alpha gorilla that walks into the pen, grabs the good bananas, sidles up next his women and scares off all the pretenders with a flare of his nostrils and a grunt. You really don’t want to mess with this guy.
Treyarch has definitely stepped up its game. The balls in your court, now, Infinity Ward. What can you do with it?