excellr8's Call of Duty: Black Ops (PC) review

Black Ops, SP & MP

I don't usually play multiplayer games online, and when I do it's typically short-lived, but when a mainstream franchise makes a 360 million dollar splash on the first day of sales it's hard to not take notice. Call of Duty: Black Ops is the latest game in the series and the second developed by Activision subsidiary Treyarch--who gained a lot of respect from gamers after World at War hit store shelves in 2008. Unlike WaW however, Treyarch's latest installement would borrow much of it's gameplay mechanics from last year's Modern Warfare 2 and improve upon one of the best multiplayer formulas of all time. Needless to say nobody thought that they would fail and the profit that their latest creation has amassed is downright impressive, even beating out last year's best-seller.
 
I'm going to start with the multiplayer aspects of the game since that's what the majority of people bought the game for. The gameplay online highly resembles that of MW2 but it's a bit more polished. There are a variety of familiar game types ranging from standard Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag/Domination to more objective-based modes such as Search and Destroy and HQ. The maps, with the exception of a couple, are really well designed and provide users with a variety of engaging combat strategies. The sizes are small through large and most have been carefully crafted as to reduce the amount of camp zones and easy sniping spots that may have been present in previous installments. On top of this, Treyarch has gone and fixed a few of the exploits that diminished the online experience. This is what ultimately killed MW2 for me and a lot of people I know.
 
The one thing that shines through in multiplayer is Create-A-Class and the level of customization that allows players to equip better gear and thus be more effective in matches. One addition to this MW2 adopted feature is the COD currency ($C) which, like regular XP, is acquired by winning matches, getting kills, and completing objectives. These credits can be put toward new gear, perks and killstreak options. Player customization is deep, from changing weapon layouts to camo and face paint. You will be able to choose from a variety of guns, explosives, weapon mods, and character traits--which are all unlocked as you climb the ranks. $C can also be used in Wager matches where players can "bet" on  upcoming battles and be handsomely rewarded upon victory, or bested by defeat.
 
As with MW2, all the stats in multiplayer are displayed in detail to the very last kill and provide users with legible combat records and class information. Using custom classes is a great way to find your best combination and makes the game rewarding and even more enjoyable as compared to using preset layouts. There are also contract missions and challenges where players can really test their skills and refines the way you play. If you're a newcomer, the game also offers Combat Training where you (along with some of your frinds) can team up against computer-controlled enemies in either Free-For-All or Team Deathmatch. This mode features the same level of customization as in the ranked matches online but the stats are separate, so you can experiment and learn to play before you dive into an onslaught of RC cars and mortar strikes.
 
Now for the single player experience, which I must say was a love/hate relationship for me. The missions are relatively short but very challenging on harder difficulties and provide players with plenty of carnage-inducing firefights. The story behind all the chaos is a little hard to follow but it does come together a little bit near the end. You play as a captured operative and relive your memories through a wide variety of covert missions, from Russian work camps to the jungles of Vietnam. The characters and cut scenes are great, as will most COD games, and the scripted sequences is tastefully done. Like in the online modes, the combat is very satisfying and wholly entertaining. I would have liked some of the missions to last a bit longer but I can't complain as the maps are really detailed and thought-out. The entire campaign only lasts around 6-7 hours but there is plenty of action and memorable moments.
 
As a whole, Black Ops stays true to the series award-winning formula and is a worth follow up to last year's Modern Warfare 2. The multiplayer is robust and offers a variety of challenging game types to veterans and newcomers alike. MW2 players may find that it's a bit more balanced and polished than IW's last effort and provides additional hours of solid gameplay and even deeper customization elements. For everyone else, it's a great tactical shooter with plenty to offer. I would highly recommend this game to fans of the genre or series and to anyone who likes an engaging game. Treyarch really stepped it up with Black Ops and will undoubtedly gain a large fan base for years to come.

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