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    Call of Duty: Black Ops

    Game » consists of 19 releases. Released Nov 09, 2010

    The seventh installment of the long-running action franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops puts players into the early era of the Cold War (including the Vietnam War) as a member of the United States black operations unit known as the SOG.

    marlow83's Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360) review

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    Fun singleplayer, Same multiplayer

            Call of Duty: Black Ops marks the third major Call of Duty that has been released by Treyarch (but technically their fifth COD game, including the abysmal Call of Duty 2: Big Red One and the Wii version of Modern Warfare). Treyarch has become somewhat notorious among some gamers, and some are quick to dismiss their games. Let me tell you right now: These people are stupid. Treyarch has created a great Call of Duty game. The single player is the best of any COD game that has been released by far. It’s only unfortunate that the multiplayer, while still fairly fun, still has not seen any major changes since Call of Duty 4.

           But first, let’s talk about the campaign. The game opens with the player taking control of Alex Mason, who is strapped to an electric chair in an interrogation room. Alex is being questioned about the nature of a mysterious group of numbers, that apparently Mason knows the secret of. This is used as a framing device for the levels in the rest of the game, as the interrogator references past missions that Mason has participated in. While this may seem like this style of narrative would make the levels feel disjointed and unrelated, the story is actually very cohesive and interesting, especially when compared to last year’s Modern Warfare 2.  

           All of the different elements of the story add to its quality. The game has an impressive cast, with Sam Worthington, Ed Harris, Ice Cube, Troy Baker, Topher Grace, and Gary Oldman, who reprises his role of Viktor Reznov from Call of Duty: World at War. Their voice work ranges from competent to outstanding, the absolute best actor being James C. Burns, who plays Mason’s brother in arms, Frank Woods. Gary Oldman   also turns in a good performance, but is just a tad over the top. (It works for the character though). Ed Harris is strong as well. The weak points here are Ice Cube and Sam Worthington. Ice Cube just sounds likes he’s trying way too hard to be as badass as Woods, whose intensity is simply can’t be matched by the rest of the characters. And Sam Worthington is not terrible, just inconsistent. He delivers some lines, particularly ones late in the game, with conviction and believability. But, weirdly, in some lines he develops an inexplicable accent, which he just seems to slip in and out of freely. The JFK impersonator the game has is a little goofy as well. 

             The writing is fair, with the occasional bad line here and there. There’s a lot of barking orders, with f-words aplenty. But it gets the job done, as characters present enough information in their dialogue to explain the events of the story, but do not do so in such a way where the player feels like they’re listening to a wikipedia summary of the story. But, lines like “Castro’s supporters are fanatical in their devotion to him” are incredibly odd. Seriously, that sounds like a line in a mediocre history textbook. Also, Mason repeatedly refers to one character as an “ice cube” (and no, it’s not Ice Cube’s character). What does that even mean? He’s got a cold personality? That’s just stupid!

           The storytelling is also just advanced beyond anything in any Call of Duty game to be released. There are actual third person cinematics, and first person cinematics that present substantial amounts of story, instead of juts being five second breaks in the action. There are some generally great moments in the telling of the story, including the introduction of Reznov, some very cool dreamish sequences that I don’t want to go into detail about, and one AMAZING twist. Treyarch also decided to follow the infinity ward model of making the player character from the last game a fully voiced NPC, and you get to see your Russian character from World at War, Dimitri Petrenko, in an excellent flashback level that really helps to characterize Reznov. That said, the actual use of any character development in a Call of Duty game is a huge advancement, and a step in the right direction for this franchise.


           STOP! I need to make a point here. The story in this game is by no means fantastic. It is merely good. I still had very little emotional connection to the characters, regardless of whatever measured appreciation I had for them. This is no Mass Effect, it is still an action-focused game. It’s just leaps and bounds ahead of any previous game. The story drew me in and I was interested, but it is not perfect. For example, there is one part of the story that is told through still images and narration, but is a sequence you should have been able to play. There are some very cheesy moments as well.

           Anyway, on to the gameplay. First, this is a Call of Duty game in every way. Pull the left trigger to aim, right trigger to shoot, etc. No changes to the control scheme. If you want a detailed overview of the mechanics, look elsewhere. However, don’t think I am holding his against the game. These core mechanics have worked well for the past games, and they continue to be functional in this game. The shooting is still fast and accurate. In my personal opinion, the mechanics of games don’t need to change, the components surrounding them do.

           And they have changed in this game, for the most part. The level design ranges from alright to excellent, and includes some of the most exciting missions ever to be included in a COD game. After a forgettable first mission, the game really takes off with a prison break sequence, which is, and I’m not exaggerating, the best level in any Call of Duty game to date. It’s simply the most intense and unique sequence I’ve played in the series. Other highlights include a visually striking level that takes place in the dead of night that has great lighting, and a level where you don an enemy’s uniform and infiltrate an enemy base to prevent a missile launch. The latter ends phenomenally, let me tell you.

           The new special weapons are a nice addition as well, the best being underbarrel flamethrowers and incendiary ammo shotguns. Other new special weapons include ballistic knives and crossbows with exploding arrows. In general this is a new time period with a different armory, but there is the same old assortment of rocket launchers, pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, and automatic weapons. The sound design is ok, some guns sound a little weak (the sniper rifles in particular), but others, mainly lmgs, sound nice and powerful.

           There’s a greater variety of activities in this game compared to past COD games, including moments where you take a human shield, use a harpoon against a helicopter, zipline through a window, run through an avalanche, and more. The gameplay mixes itself up pretty well, and adds little moments, like where you shoot out hinges on a door when preparing to breach a room, that make you feel more involved in the action. Several vehicle sequences are found in the game’s campaign, and they’re all well done. Helicopter control is a little odd, but not odd enough to interfere with the fun of blowing crap up. There’s also a moment where you command a group of soldiers from a Blackbird jet, but you make no real tactical decisions in this section, making the whole sequence pretty pointless.

           However, some of the same old objectives return to this game, like destroying tanks with rocket launchers, and holding your ground against enemy charges. Normal shootouts have the same flavor as they had in past games as well, with enemies performing one of three actions: taking cover, shooting from cover, or charging you to hit you with the butt of their gun or shoot you point blank. The AI never does much else, but they don’t really have to. The player is faced with enough enemies to make the game a challenge, and the pace is quick enough where the relative shortcomings of the AI go unnoticed.

           The button mashing sequences from Call of Duty 3 return as well, and they are actually pretty cool this time. They are over fairly quickly, and the actions you perform are much more brutal. You also sneak up behind enemies and perform context kills, and these animations are also cool and brutal. I’ll leave it up to you to watch them.

          Other gameplay moments are borrowed from past CODs as well. In particular, the standard knife animation and sound effect are copied directly from World at War, as well as the snipers in palm trees, the death animations of which are copied directly from the same game. Also, there is a moment where you are on a motorcycle that feels a lot like the snowmobile sequence from MW2. I don’t hold it against the game though, because the motorcycle sequence is far more entertaining.

           The main low points of gameplay are the first and last missions. The first is fairly tedious, and the last is just nothing new. The penultimate mission is fairly excellent and intense, and just makes the final level seem bad in comparison. Also, it’s still hard to climb ladders.   I can’t believe this is still an issue after all this time.

           Yes, the pace of this game is quick. And frenetic. And chaotic. This game is loud, fast, intense, and disorienting. In the rare case where the game doesn’t give you a waypoint, it’s very hard to tell which way is forward. I died often playing through the game on normal. Luckily, the frequency of death in the game is balanced by the frequency of checkpoints. The action is a little overwhelming, and it’s an issue that’s not made better by the damage indicator. This game uses the “blood splatter on screen” indicator of Modern Warfare 2, but instead of the blood covering the whole screen, it only ever covers the edges. While this was a good choice because it’s easier to see, and therefore live, when you’re hurt, but as someone who played a lot of Modern Warfare, I still think that I’m not badly damaged when I’m actually close to death, because I’m waiting for the whole screen to fill with blood. This is more my issue than the game’s, but it did hurt my experience a little, and I suspect it will hurt other COD vets’ as well.

           Visually, the game is pretty amazing. Shocking, right? I’d like to talk about the technical aspect of the graphics, but to be honest, who cares? Stuff looks just like the stuff it’s supposed to look like. The character models look solid, and I have to give kudos to the people who designed the facial hair on the characters because… damn it looks good. Artistically, some of the levels are striking, such as the level, while others are fairly typical, like the war-torn hell hole level. There are some well-animated, dramatic death sequences as well.

          There are some weird little moments visually though. A few textures look a little weird (mainly rubble), and the graphics are downgraded a good bit in multiplayer. Some characters will be completely frozen for a few seconds before some scripted events occur. The frame rate drops on occasion, but that is rare overall. Also, like in every other game made using this engine, the fire looks two dimensional. The smoke looks nice though. The only problem with the audio is that some of the characters’ dialogue cuts off during gameplay. This only occurred a handful of times, but was still noticeable.

            I feel like I’m forgetting something… Oh yeah, multiplayer! Did you like MW2? Yes? Then you’ll like this. 
             Just kidding, here’s the real thing: The multiplayer is largely the same as Modern Warfare 2. You still rank up by getting kills and unlock the same perks and gun attachments. The style of play is the same, where you sprint and get killed, go slow and get killed, or camp and ruin the game for everyone. The shooting still translates fairly well into a multiplayer environment, and racking up killstreaks is inherently fun. Speaking of which, the killstreaks are a little different this time around. There is no nuke or any kind of game-ending killstreak, and dogs from World at War return. Other new killstreaks are SAM sites and exploding RC Cars.

           The leveling up system is a little different too. Leveling up is faster than it has been in previous games, and the level cap is smaller as well, with 50 as the maximum level someone can reach, until the prestige and return to level 1. Also, instead of immediately having access to new guns and perks after ranking up, you have to by them using COD points, which you earn the same as XP. That is, for every point of XP you earn, you earn a COD point as well. You then use these points to buy guns and perks and stuff after yo rank high enough to earn the ability to unlock them.

           The XP bonuses are a little different too. Now, in addition to challenges, the player can also purchase contracts with their COD points. These contracts give the player a task to complete, and the player earns a bonus of points after completing these tasks.

           The best change to the multiplayer is the addition of wager matches: free for all games in which players bet a certain amount of COD points on whether or not they will place in the top the match. There are several different modes, the best of which being Gun Game and One in the Chamber. In the former you cycle through 20 guns by killing opponents, and in the latter you have to fight the other players using only a pistol with a single bullet and a knife. These modes are a lot of fun, but they require that you play a substantial amount of the other game modes if you want the wager matches to pay any kind of large dividend that you can use to build your character.

           And the fact that it requires you to play that much of the normal multiplayer is a huge bummer, because regardless of the leveling changes, it is essentially the exact same game. Because the bombast of the campaign is not present in the multiplayer to take away from the tedium of the ‘left trigger-right trigger-scream obscenities at screen’ gameplay, the shooting gets old very quick.

           There are also bonus games and a zombie mode in here. The bonus games are cool but unnecessary (though the way you access them is unique), and the zombie mode is essentially the same zombie mode audiences were introduced to after the Shi No Numa map pack was released for World at War. That said, the intro to the zombie map that plays after the campaign is one of the funnier things I’ve seen in a videogame. Seriously, even if you don’t buy the game, go on youtube and look it up. It’s great.

    Bottom Line: This is a great game marred by a few standard technical issues and a multiplayer mode that is mostly identical to the ones that have been released previously. But, the few new modes are cool and the single player is, mostly, a hell of a lot of fun.

    Other reviews for Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)

      All must die 0

      Call of Duty: Black Ops is the seventh core Call of Duty game to be released in the past eight years, making it one of modern gaming’s most consistent franchises. And while each entry is generally solid, that ridiculously frequent release pattern is starting to dilute the overall product. Black Ops is a perfectly fine shooter, and an equally fine entry into this blockbuster series. But it also does so little that hasn’t been done to death already, making it increasingly hard to jump on t...

      7 out of 7 found this review helpful.

      Scripted bore. 0

      Everything in the solo campaign is scripted.  If you move up too fast, you can actually shoot enemies and they won't die because they aren't "valid" because their script hasn't started.  In that same theme, enemies will spawn in certain areas to supposedly make a tense event.  Sure is amazing how many guys hide behind a door even thou you can see that its clear until you walk thru.  The CoD series is no longer exciting.  You can see scripted events coming up, you can even guess what will happen ...

      10 out of 14 found this review helpful.

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