When a new Call of Duty game rolls around, it’s hard not to get swept up in the hype that surrounds it. So what you need is someone who isn’t a huge CoD fan and who can take a peek at the game from a gamer’s point of view and not a ravening fanboy. Well, that person (rather egotistically) is me.
Call of Duty: Black Ops, is the nth iteration in the franchise but it’s handled by Treyarch – now don’t let that put you off, nope, this one actually has the brass balls to be better than Modern Warfare 2 by a long shot. Sorry MW 2 fanboys, but those are the breaks – I could barely get into MW 2 to be brutally honest, but Black Ops appeals in several areas where the previous game, by Infinity Ward falls flat on its face.
Consder yourselves redeemed Treyarch, after the less-than-stellar World at War. I seriously had my doubts about Black Ops from the moment that I realised they were behind it – all my fears were completely unfounded though, this game is a really solid entry in the shooter genre and whilst it doesn’t bring anything mindblowing or new to the gamespace, what it does, it does really damn well.The story:
You’re a hard-bitten spec-ops guy, part of an elite unit way back in the Cold War, sent to kill Fidel Castro...and that’s all I’m going to say about it. Revealing anything about this game’s plot is a killing offence beyond these few words. It has twists and turns, runs at a very reasonable pace and actually holds a few interesting surprises. What’s key about this game story is that it’s presented in a very interesting manner – told from the perspective of several characters and interleaves nicely so that all questions are answered at the end.The gameplay
Let’s look at the single player aspect of the game first. It is a typical shooter; it has the quick-scoping seen previously in Call of Duty 4 and MW 2. It plays in a similar manner with the regenerating health and run-and-gun mentality of the previous games. You have a variety of well conceived weapons with which to put the hurt on your enemies and you can expect to enjoy tagging bad guys with the likes of an explosive tipped crossbow early on. You can do a cool dash slide if you hit the B button when sprinting and you have to crouch to hide behind things, there’s still no proper cover implemented in the game.
What Black Ops does really well though is to take the tried and tested gameplay mechanics of these core shooters and improve on them. Aiming has been tweaked, the movement has been tweaked and the level design has been really tweaked. I can’t say too much about the individual levels and missions, set pieces and gameplay moments that really had me going ‘cool’. But there aren’t many shooters that let you fly a Hind in ‘nam or pilot a rapid-attack river-boat downstream unleashing hell on the enemy.
There are moments in the single player that are truly stunning, but they’re major spoilers and you’ll have to trust me that one of the best missions features a unique take on the AC-130 shooting gallery from Modern Warfare 2.
With the tighter controls, punchy story, fast-paced gameplay and rewarding stealth sections....the game is a winner. Add to that the direct control for most of the vehicular sections and you’re onto a total package that rolls together nicely and delivers just enough action even though it does feel like the whole thing is over way too quickly.
Never fear though, because Zombies mode is back from World at War. It plays just the same and feels as fresh as it did before. As much as I am not a fan of the CoD series I have played them and I have enjoyed aspects – like the Zombie mode. You can also train against/with bots in Deathmatch/Team Deathmatch using the Training Mode part of the Xbox Live menu.
You can play multiplayer System Link with your friends or play some split-screen local gaming in both the training and the Zombies mode. We’ll talk about the mp in detail a little bit later on. You have various difficulty settings and there’s a checkpoint save system that’s not too unforgiving.The Graphics
Black Ops looks nice, it has all the level of polish we’ve come to expect from the CoD series so far and this one pushes things up a notch. The lighting/effects are excellent and there’s a high level of detail given to the models and environments. It runs at a fair lick and doesn’t have any issues with pop-up/pop-in and screen tearing.The Animations
They’re nice, no dropped frames and some really sweet ‘scripted’ events that basically run flawlessly (through two separate playthroughs) in the game. Weapon animations are great and there’s a real feeling of power conveyed by some of these guns as the enemy die in a hail of bullets. In ‘nam for instance you get access to a powerful 6-shot revolver that blows body parts off, reminding me of Soldier of Fortune in a way.Physics
There’s nothing wrong with the physics in the game, everything works as it should and there are no instances of crazy-jiggling dead bodies when they should be lying still. Unless it’s a zombie, but by then you should have gone for the head! Explosions are nice and there’s a feeling of weight/impact to shots.