Call of Duty: Black Ops

It seems now that every year a new Call of Duty game hits the market and every year I think “At some point this is gonna get old.” Well as long as the Call of Duty titles are as fresh and action packed as Black Ops I say bring it on. The more the merrier.

The last Call of Duty title to drop was IW’s Modern Warfare 2 and it dropped to much critical acclaim. But as the weeks went on it seemed like the game was full of glaring weaknesses in both the campaign and the online versions of the game. The campaign was short, very short, and relied a bit to heavily on grand set pieces rather than a gripping story line. The Multi Player aspect of the game was extremely unbalanced and full of glitches, cheaters, hacks, mods and other some such that even the greenest of QA testers should have picked up on. It was enough to drive me, a self proclaimed CoD fanboy, into the arms of EA and the FPS Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

I never would have thought that it would be Call of Duty’s red headed step child developer Treyarch that would get my action pants buzzing again. They have always had a reputation as being a copy and paste developer for the Call of Duty series. A stop gap in between the more polished titles from the handsome big brother that was/is IW. Well every now and then the ugly duckling will have his day in the sun and that time is now and what a glorious day it is.

I’m gonna do my best not to spoil the campaign to much while writing this but please forgive me if I give anything away.

This iteration of Call of Duty is taking us where we’ve never been before. The Cold War era. You will follow in the footsteps of a few Black Ops men as you track down a deadly nerve gas know as Nova 6. Your adventure will start in Cuba with the famous Bay of Pigs invasion and have you globe trotting to places such as the battle of The Battle of Khe Sanh and other Vietnam hot spots, a Russian Doomsday bunker deep in the USSR, and a meeting with JFK himself. In true CoD fashion the missions range from sneaky to action packed with some vehicle play thrown into the mix.

Welcome to the Jungle!

Pretty standard stuff for a CoD game. But what sets this title apart from other titles is the story telling and overall presentation. Other CoD titles often relied on big set pieces such as nukes going off or the White House being overrun via foreign invasion. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great great sequences and missions in this game, one of my favs has you manning a PT Boat up a river in Vietnam while The Rolling Stones blare over the boats radio. But this time around its a well crafted story riddled with paranoia and conspiracy theories that are coupled with great action sequences that will keep you glued to the screen and your controller. The end of the game had a nice twist to it as well. One that I didn’t see coming at all. It also wraps up by placing you at the scene for one of History’s most defining moments. I was truly blown away by the campaign that was delivered by Treyarch. It has all the makings of a movie from it production values, the story, and even the actors. Ice Cube, Sam Worthington, Gary Oldman, and Ed Harris all lend their voices and acting chops to the lead roles. This could be a topic for another day but this story and overall experience is far better then most of the movies that have been released in the last year or so. OK, back to the game. Just when you think all is said and done do yourself a favor and sit through the credits. What you’ll find at the end is nothing short of incredible.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

What does JFK, Castro, Nixon, and Robert McNamara have in common? Apparently they defended the Pentagon from a Zombie invasion. Yes. Yes. YUSS!!!!!!!!

We are gonna kick some Zombie A$$ eeerrraaaa

After the credits roll you will get a cut scene featuring the 4 heavy weights just mentioned and then its up to this motley crew to fend off the Zombie hordes. This is the same Zombie mode offering that was featured in World at War and can also be accessed for online CO-OP play with you and 3 friends. Enjoy. It is awesome.

After a few months in MM with Modern Warfare 2 I was ready to quit Call of Duty altogether. I moved on to EA’s Battlefield series and it was there that I found my own FPS utopia. Now I was convinced that Call of Duty was a thing of the past so much so that I thought that Black Ops would never find its way into my grubby hands. Well as the launch date neared I began to see more and more previews of the game. The more I saw the more I thought “This actually looks really good.” But could Treyarch fix the problems that MW2 had online? The glitches, the hacks, the mods, the constant noob tube spamming, and the unbalanced weapons such as the dreaded dual 1887 combo? Well so far I’m happy to say that all those things have been addressed and for the most part eliminated. That’s not to say it isn’t without fault as it is often hard to find a match where everybody in your party makes it into a game on the first try. But never fear as Treyarch is well aware of the problems and is working on patching it. But once you do get into a game it is a very enjoyable experience. The game is well balanced and gone, for now, are the days of people running around with nothing but the noob tube and the One Man Army perk. So far I’m enjoying all of the weapons and the new Kill Streak rewards. Speaking of Kill Streak Rewards they no longer count towards your future kill streaks. So now anything that can be awarded to you such as a Chopper Gunner or the oh so terrifying Attack Dogs has to be earned the old fashioned way. By shooting peoples faces off their faces. Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in. The game is more like CoD4 then it is MW2 in that it is fun to play. The maps are well designed and give you a little taste of everything from the Hanoi POW camp to the streets of Havana. A new feature that I am really enjoying is the implementation of CoD Bucks. These are earned during your matches and are used to purchase weapons and other upgrades for your weapons. You can add a ton of “Bling” to your favorite guns now. For example, on my Commando AR I have purchased and added a cammo pattern, a scope of my choosing, a colored lens for my scope, a colored reticle and design for my scope, added my clan tag and player created emblem to my rifle as well as an attachment. The customization in this game is really deep. Another new feature that is really cool is the Theater. Here you can re-watch your most recent games and put together a 30 second highlight reel that can be uploaded to youtube. Awesome. New features aside its the game play that really matters and so far the game play is great. All the CoD MP staples are there with a few new additions. All in all its extremely fun to play and for once IW needs to take notes from the red headed step child. Bravo Treyarch on a job well done.

Aside from the great campaign, the awesome MP, and the tense CO-OP action of Zombie Mode there are a few extras here that are worth noting. From the title screen you can access a computer in the game. Go to this computer and type in the word “zork” and then hit the enter key. What do you get? A full fledged playable version of the adventure game Zork. Awesome. But wait, thats not all. On the same computer type in the letters “doa”, stands for Dead Ops Arcade, and hit enter. What you get next is a awesome twin stick shooter ala Smash TV that is set within the Black Ops Zombie world. This can be enjoyed with 3 friends via XBL for a great CO-OP experience. It also plays and looks fantastic and offers branching pathways, weapon upgrades, score multipliers, ect ect ect. If this was something placed on the XBL Arcade I would easily purcahse it for 800 MS pts and have no regrets about doing so.

Brrrrrraaaaaiiiinnnsssssssssssss

This game just has to much going for it. A great campaign that in my opinion is the best of the Call of Duty franchise, a solid and very deep MP experience, Zombie CO-OP mode, Dead Ops Arcade, and Zork. This is one awesome package.

Game Details:

Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Reviewed Platform: Xbox 360
Singleplayer 9
Multiplayer 9
Replayability 9
Graphics 9
Audio 8
Overall 9