Anyone who knows me well is aware that I thought Modern Warfare 2 was a steaming pile of shit. Not that it was the worst game that I ever played, but I expected a lot more from a game with such a rabid fanbase. Still, despite my morals and my promise to never purchase another Call of Duty game again, I found myself in line at the midnight release of Call of Duty: Black Ops.
Why, you ask, would I be at such an event?
I was damn excited for this game, that's why. Did it live up to my high expectations? Hit the jump.
Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360[reviewed], PlayStation 3, PC)
Release date: November 9, 2010
Fundamentally, Call of Duty: Black Ops is Call of Duty. However, developer Treyarch has finally left behind the battlefields of World War II and taken a much different approach. Rather then playing as a muscle man Marine, the player is dropped into the shoes of Alex Mason, a CIA man in the Cold War era. Because of this, the game does have a distinctly different feel, both online and off. Black Ops has done a solid job of leaving behind the typical Call of Duty "army" feel, replacing it with tasks that feel more mission-based, behind the scenes operations. It's a nice feeling.
Despite the change in skin, the game does still control like a Call of Duty game. Literally nothing has changed about the control scheme in this one, so if you didn't like it in Modern Warfare 2, don't expect to be wowed here.
The campaign does have an issue that should be adressed by any review. Ten years after the first fundamentally similar Call of Duty game, the AI is still stupid. I mean retarded stupid. Turning away from hostiles, trying to shotgun you from a mile away and just general idiocy plague both friendly and hostile AI in this game. It's not damaging to the experience, but I'm certainly wondering why this hasn't been at least slightly remedied after almost ten years and a handful of development teams having their hands on the code.
However, the campaign itself does almost everything right. Grenade spam from World at War is gone, and the story is alot more inspired then that of either Modern Warfare 2 or World at War. The environments are beautiful and detailed, and the weapon variety is fantastic. Certainly a thumbs-up from me.
Now on to the important part of the review, which is of course the multiplayer portion of the game. Jim Sterling, our very own reviews editor, infamously hates the horribly broken multiplayer on PC, which was surprising to me, because I in fact quite enjoyed the multiplayer of Black Ops on 360.
Level design is solid here, with at least ten maps being enjoyable, balanced experiences. However, it must be noted that rushing is still the name of the game here, with more reserved players getting a very short end of a very long stick, I being one them. I have already logged 17+ hours into the multiplayer portion of the game, and am outranked by some of my friends with 12, mostly in part to my reservation. I am a nervous, twitchy player who likes to take down his enemies by letting them come to him, and that play style has been almost destroyed by Black Ops. If you are not a camper or a rusher, prepare to adjust your play style.
I also have to note that "Nuketown" is an awful atrocity of a map. Anyone who played "Rust" in Modern Warfare 2 and hated every minute of it, prepare to throw your controller. Treyarch evidently thought that this tiny little bastard child was fit to be a map for Demolition, Search & Destory, and Team Deathmatch, and they were very, very wrong. 12 people on this tiny map is way too much, and most games become a spawn-kill fest before too long. It's awful.
Weapons are fairly balanced in the game, but Assault Rifles still seem to pack the most punch, at least for me. The word is still out on the AK47, unlocked at Level 38, so we'll have to see. Submachine guns are also fairly solid rush weapons, with the AK74u taking a definitive victory as the best. Shotguns are now primary weapons, meaning no man will ever camp with a sniper rifle and a SPAS-12 again (unless of course they pick one of them up, in which case it's fair game).
Sniping seems to be fairly despised by the general population, due to the absence of "Quick-Scoping", which is a great tragedy to everyone. Now when I snipe, I don't have to hear "WOW HARDSCOPZ U ARE THE SUXXORZ" through the mic, which is very dissapointing. Shame on you Treyarch.
In regards to the infamous lag and connection issues Mr. Sterling had, and is possibly still having. They are there. The connection ability is not as tight as it was in Modern Warfare 2, which was generally pretty good at finding a match quickly. My friends and I have had a couple instances where we couldn't find a match, or had to wait lengthy periods of time to get into one. These problems, again, aren't game destroying, but they are there.
CoD points are very cool, by the way. Very cool. Though I am dissapointed that every attachment is unlocked to purchase, right from the start. I loved having to complete challenges to unlock them in Modern Warfare 2, so alot of fun was removed by making them all available from the start.
My final point is to touch on the "Nazi Zombies" gametype, making it's return from World at War. I haven't played a ton of it, but from what I can tell, it's very well polished, and loads of fun. You and up to three friends can play over Xbox Live or PSN, and it IS the best way to do it. The zombies can get overwhelming at times, so it's good to have a lot of help.
Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops is what you would expect from a Call of Duty game; a fun, fast-paced FPS. The variety and customization is still there, but so is the frusturation, the "WTF" moments, and the camping. Damn the camping straight to hell.
The campaign is a solid, albeit short experience, the multiplayer is back better then ever with the inclusion of the "CoD Points" system, and "Zombies" is still loads of fun for you and your friends.
If the campaign was a little longer, and the multiplayer a tiny-bit more refined, I could give this game a perfect score. Unfortunately, as it's not, I can't say it is anything more then great, and recommended for FPS-lovers with a lot of patience.
Score: 8.5 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)