Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops

The Call of Duty franchise is the very “Defacto standard” by which all war games are measured up to and strive to emulate. None have ever been able to reach the level of praise and distinction that the Call of Duty name has associated with it. In what seems to be an annual series release by Activision, this year Treyarch takes the helm once again from Infinity Ward (Modern Warfare 1 and 2) to take us back to the front lines of war with their own unique story in Black Ops.

The story is told from the vantage point of a few different characters in the game through flashbacks and an interrogation room but the focus is primarily on game protagonist Alex Mason. Instead of using WWII as the backdrop for the story, we jump ahead to the 1960s in the role of Special Forces Operative Alex Mason.

The game starts off with Alex Mason and 2 other operatives during the “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba as a part of “Operation 40” as they try to infiltrate a Cuban stronghold with direction to assassinate Fidel Castro. After the apparent successful assassination, Mason is left behind to protect the extraction plane as it takes off. He’s then captured by Castros troops and handed over to the Russians as a sign of good faith in the new alliance the 2 countries shared where he is then taken to Russian prisoner camp Vorkuta.

The game runs off the same engine that Treyarch used for World at War and I can honestly say that the game looks amazing. The lush jungles of Vietnam to the cold dreary Arctic Circle and the Vorkuta prison all look and feel incredible. The multiplayer maps vary in size with my personal favorite Nuke Town. Treyarch really spared no expense on the sound front. They hired some incredible voice talent in the form of Sam Worthington(Avatar), Ed Harris (Apollo 13), Gary Oldman (Bram Stokers Dracula) and Topher Grace (That 70s Show) to name a few. Couple that with some licensed music by the Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival and you’ve got a blockbuster.

Fear not, the game doesn’t end there either. Zombie Mode is back and better than ever and of course the multiplayer matches are back but this is where I have a problem. The online match making was more than a little aggravating.

One of my biggest complaints in the CoD franchise is just how difficult it can be to play online with most users if you don’t start playing right away and for hour after hour at a time. The leveling system is annoying because with higher levels, the better the options are for loadouts for more powerful weapons and better perks. This can be extremely annoying because the game doesn’t match player levels very well or even at all. There I was a lowly level 1 in a game full of people level 30+. I was thoroughly annihilated with 4 kills the entire round. By the end of the weekend, I clawed my way to level 7 and was ranked in the top 3 for at least 1 round so it’s not to say that I totally suck at the game. Normally I can hold my own but with the cards stacked against you, it’s a tough uphill battle that will leave many frustrated in the end. No doubt I had a bunch of negative feedback due to my incessant swearing and not realizing that my Kinect was set to “On” for game chat – DOH!!!

Did I mention that it seems to me the best way to win any round is to be a camper? Another major annoyance for me is the amount of camping and sniping that goes on in this game. I’m a huge proponent of some sort of camp timer or handicap that says you can only be in the same spot for a finite amount of time before everyone in the round is given your location on the map or something to that effect. One other quick complaint is the omission of online co-op story mode. It would have been nice to play through with a friend or 2.

Despite the issues I’ve heard about for PC users, what we have here is a solid performance by the Treyarch team. They’ve taken the Call of Duty name and added their own stamp to the franchise much like Infinity Ward did with the “Modern Warfare” series. I really enjoyed the dark tone to the story, and LOVED the Zombie mode. Treyarch has stepped out from the Infinity Wards shadow with this title. Well done.

Feed Your Console gives Call of Duty: Black Ops 8.5 out of 10

Pros:

  • Beautiful environments
  • Zombie mode is back and just as fun
  • Great voice talent
  • Intriguing (though somewhat predictable) story

Cons:

  • Unbalanced multiplayer matchmaking
  • Too much camping/sniping

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