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Anthony Capone
14 Nov, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops Review

360 Review | Treyarch stick to their guns.
Following on from the success of Modern Warfare 2, Treyarch, the other half of the Call of Duty tag-team, return to development duties in the latest entry, Call of Duty: Black Ops on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC. The latest instalment demonstrates that the series is far from running out of steam anytime soon, with a fresh approach to the campaign, revamped multiplayer and new additions to the famed Nazi Zombies.

Call of Duty: Black Ops single-player campaign plays very differently to previous Call of Duty games. Set during the Cold War, the game starts in a small room resembling something out of F.E.A.R., with players strapped to a chair and being interrogated by a faceless and imposing speaker. Your character now has a voice, which can be a little dissociating at first after the silence of previous Call of Duty alumni. Your character has little recall of previous events, so players are taken for a stroll down memory lane to recount past events of their soldiering career. These memories form the subject matter of Black Ops various levels, with players reliving battles in locations such as Cuba, Vietnam and Russia. The game shifts at a cracking pace through various secret missions, known colloquially as ‘Black Ops’. Initially, the pace can be overwhelming and events difficult to correlate, but as the narrative progresses, it comes together nicely. This, if anything, could be intended by Treyarch so players can experience the confused and chaotic state of the lead character.

Black Ops story is undeniably levels above the mess of Modern Warfare 2. The plot is tighter, focusing on a particular solider – as opposed to an over-arching war or conflict – with good character development and outstanding performances from actors such as Sam Worthington, Ed Harris and Ice Cube adding a level of authenticity to the game. Unlike other games that tie levels together with minimal story development, Black Ops gameplay is built well around the narrative. The ending features a great twist, with events tied together nicely so players are left in no doubt to what has actually happened. Names from World at War are also nicely slotted into the action, suggesting Treyarch want to follow Infinity Ward’s lead in developing their own particular Call of Duty brand. However, the epic and immersive feeling of large-scale battles from World at War and even Modern Warfare 2 are sadly missing from Black Ops. While level design manages to instill a sense of grandeur, the game never really conveys a true cinematic experience, such as storming the Nazi headquarters or racing through nuclear silos.

The campaign never sways from the traditional recipe, with intense and exciting gun battles forming the majority of the game. The control scheme is also unchanged, giving players a robust and accessible experience. The action is frequently punctuated with vehicle-based gameplay, some of which is on-rails and others that give you control over movement and aiming. Players control various land and air-based machines, providing an entertaining distraction from the usual shooting formula. Another new feature in Black Ops includes a level in which players guide a squad from a top-down perspective.

Chop-chop-chop.

Chop-chop-chop.
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Black Ops level design revolves around skirmishes switching from corridor shootouts in urban cities to big outdoor firefights in the jungle. Handily, allies now call out the location of enemies and whether they have been downed. Of course, the game is not without is flaws. One level ends far too abruptly, but the largest omission is a particular stage that fails to tell you how to progress against waves of oncoming enemies (hint: kick the barrels!). Nonetheless, this does little to dent the overall entertainment value. The single-player is never anything but a satisfying and at times challenging experience. Playing on Veteran is also highly rewarding, albeit easier than World at War but still tougher than Modern Warfare 2.

Of course, the campaign is but a distraction for many, with the focus turning to the Black Ops multiplayer. After a year of playing Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops is a welcome breath of fresh air, with the new multiplayer bringing a brand new era of weapons to play with. Familiar modes such as Team Deathmatch and Domination can still be played to your heart’s content. Black Ops retains the core Call of Duty multiplayer action that we have been playing for eons. However, shotguns and machine pistols are no longer available as secondary weapons, meaning players will have to again adopt a single play-style revolving around their primary gun of choice. The result is a system that feels more balanced and will benefit new and inexperienced players. Modern Warfare veterans will appreciate the new content, but may ultimately find Black Ops too simplistic.

New maps feel a little more claustrophobic than Modern Warfare 2, with far less opportunities for snipers to dominate. Kill streaks are also far less overpowering in Black Ops, again meaning top players have less opportunity to dominate the field (the tactical nuke is nowhere in sight). The RC-XD remote-control explosive car might be overpowering, but given that it can be obtained rather easily, the collective playing community shares the advantage.

The largest change to Black Ops multiplayer is the new levelling and unlocking system. Players still gain levels for winning matches and making kills, but greater emphasis is placed on the new CoD points system. It works similarily to the level system, with participants given CoD points for playing matches and completing challenges. CoD points are now used to purchase weapons, attachments, perks and several other customisable options. Insofar as acquiring weapons, you still need to level up first to gain access to new guns, so don’t think you can buy the best sniper rifle straight away simply by banking the required amount of CoD points. However, at the other end of the scale, perks and attachments for individual guns can generally be purchased instantly with CoD points.

The crossbow is one of many new weapons on offer.

The crossbow is one of many new weapons on offer.
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Experience points still handle several other features, such as unlocking additional create-a-class slots and new multiplayer modes, so there is payoff for both levelling up and banking CoD points. Indeed, CoD points are vital to building up your arsenal, they are every part as rewarding to earn as it is reaching new levels. However, as Black Ops only allows players can only reach level 50, the incentive to continue playing may be lost on some.

In addition to gaining points in traditional multiplayer modes, Treyarch have introduced new ‘Wager Matches’, in which you have the opportunity to gamble with CoD points. The mode incorporates four innovate match types – One in the Chamber, where you start with one bullet and earn another for each kill; Gun Game, which cycles players through twenty levels with a new gun granted for every kill; Sharpshooter, where players have the same weapons for 45 seconds increments, and; Sticks and Stones, which arms players with the crossbow, ballistic knife and tomahawk. Placing in the top three earns you significant CoD points, but a position in the bottom three forfeits the investment. Wager matches are as much about skill as winning points, as they force you to adopt different strategies and use new weapons. Nonetheless, some of the most tense and exciting multiplayer moments can be found in the Wager games because of the high risk / reward factor. Players can also increase their CoD points by taking out ‘contracts’. Operating similarly to Halo: Reach’s daily challenges, you can purchase a contract, and if the requirements are met within the designated time – such as getting three headshots without dying – a payout is given.

Finally, two more new modes round out Black Ops multiplayer offerings. Combat Training prepares players for competitive online multiplayer by simulating matches with AI enemies. You can choose from any of the game’s multiplayer maps and also set the difficulty level of the opposing team. Just like Black Ops online multiplayer, you level up separately and gain points to purchase new items in Combat Training. This mode is an outstanding way of easing into the multiplayer system, all the exploring all the new maps on offer. Finally, Black Ops allows you to record multiplayer matches and upload them to the official Call of Duty website in Theatre Mode. A bevy of editing and control options are available for capturing your finest multiplayer moments.

As the single player campaign can be completed in an average eight hour sitting, players will find the most value in multiplayer. Thankfully, Treyarch has once again given the ability to filter matches according to your location. Even outside of local matches, we found the majority of games to be lag-free. Matchmaking, in its current state, is fairly robust with games appearing in all lobbies within seconds. Several bugs have been shown to exist, but compared to Modern Warfare’s launch, Black Ops multiplayer infrastructure is already far superior.

The presidents of EA and Activision go head-to-head.

The presidents of EA and Activision go head-to-head.
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Following on from the success of World at War, zombies have returned to plague Black Ops with wave after wave of undead testing our defences and stamina. Two new zombie maps are available in Black Ops – the first in a desolate theatre, and the second is a tongue-in-cheek scenario where players assume the identities of JFK, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, or Robert McNamara as they fend off zombies from inside the White House. Treyarch have not messed with the basic idea, with players charged with fighting off increasingly difficult waves of zombies while buying new weapons and unlocking new areas of the map. The second map is definitely the standout of the two, with more opportunity to bunker down and the historical figures sprouting some hilarious dialogue. A third type of Nazi Zombies is also available, if you know where to look. Not to spoil it, all we will say is that the mode is old-school entertainment and an absolute blast.

The absence of a co-operative campaign in Black Ops is notable, leaving it solely to the zombies to satisfying the co-op audience. Zombie mode supports up to four players online or two locally. In addition, two players can also play locally in split-screen online multiplayer, or four can divide the screen between them in competitive local multiplayer.

Treyarch has maintained the high production values associated with the Call of Duty franchise with excellent presentation and sound design. Black Ops runs on an optimised version of the World at War engine, with outstanding lighting, animation and modelling. Nonetheless, the game is still a notch or two below Modern Warfare 2 in the visual stakes. However, Black Ops trumps its predecessor on sound, with a captivating orchestral score accompanying the campaign.

It is the sum of its various parts that make Call of Duty: Black Ops an outstanding title. Broken down, Black Ops may not be the most groundbreaking game on paper. Nonetheless, the game really only rivals Halo: Reach in the amount of content on offer. The single-player campaign, albeit not as epic as previous entries, takes a new approach to deliver a solid story with fun and varied gameplay. Multiplayer adheres to Call of Duty’s classic formula, while peeling off the complexity of Modern Warfare 2. Coupled with the edge-of-your seat Wager Watches, Combat Training, Theatre Mode and the addictive Zombies, the monetary and entertainment value of Blacks Ops multiplayer is substantial. Call of Duty may have began suffering burnout of late, but Treyarch has injected the series with a well-needed jolt. Call of Duty: Black Ops is one operation you will not want to miss.
The Score
Treyarch deliver a solid story-driven campaign, addictive zombie madness and a wealth of new multiplayer content in the one outstanding package, making Call of Duty: Black Ops a contender for first-person shooter of the year. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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26 Comments
3 years ago
WTF? A crossbow picture but NO Chewbacca joke? I'm really disappointed. icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
Quote
Black Ops story is undeniably levels above the mess of Modern Warfare 2
My oh my, that's an awfully bold statement to make. I still don't understand the MW2 hate, I loved every minute of that campaign. Did it make sense? Of course not, but neither does this.

The first three missions are crap but I have to admit that the Kowloon mission is terrific. The following two hours are as good as a CoD game has ever been, but the story falls flat on its arse by the end of it all.

Quote
One level ends far too abruptly, but the largest omission is a particular stage that fails to tell you how to progress against waves of oncoming enemies (hint: kick the barrels!)
Yup, spot on. That mission was terrible along with the one where you need to mow down waves of Vietnamese and their Robocop troops. Definitely the lowlight of the campaign for me.

As for the multiplayer, it's a shame that you didn't have enough room to talk about the map design fully. Treyarch did well balancing the weapons and Wager Matches are enormous fun, but I've only seen one genuinely good map so far - Nuketown. Everything else encourages people to camp. You walk around a corner and some kid is prone in the bushes. You walk into an alley and some idiot is crouched behind a barrel. It really frustrates me, but at least glitching hasn't been a massive problem and the matchmaking works well. Lots of positives and lots of negatives, but one thing is certain, Black Ops is about ten times better than Medal of Honor.
3 years ago
Oh my god. I was wondering what the fuck I was doing wrong in that terrible mission. Once I figured out what to do it was a breeze.

It's good, but I wouldn't suggest it's a whole heap better than MW2. I enjoyed MW2 a lot. Good to see Treyarch are now compareable with Infinity wards editions.
3 years ago
i agree with cian i LOVED modern warfare 2 storyline was all over the place but gameplay was phenomenal constantly on edge of my seat and i loved the ending enjoying black ops at the moment but always have fond memories of modern warfare 2 fav thing i like about Black Ops is zombie mode terrific work if you have played dawn of the dead map variant on the old BNET servers you know what i mean all in all GREAT JOB
3 years ago
Have you heard of a full stop Jim?

icon_razz.gif
3 years ago
It's funny how virtually every review absolutely swoons over this game, but the people I know in real life who've played it have basically said they thought it was a bit rubbish, especially compared to MW2...
3 years ago
I'm still trying to remember what mission had something vaguely to do with barrels that everybody was banging on about.

The thing I kept dying on was f**king absailing. >_>
3 years ago
@ Eyce - the defence of Khe Sanh part of the SOG chapter where you need to kick down some napalm filled barrels but somehow no one ingame tells you this. Was very frustrating until I read what you have to do. The same goes for the first part of the Rebirth chapter where I would always get spotted no matter where I hid. Why have a 'Follow' marker on someone when you have to make the first move?

Being primarily a PC FPS gamer, the first title that really 'got me into' the Call of Duty franchise on the consoles was Modern Warfare. I remembered playing the demo on PC way back when and falling out of interest with the almost script directed gameplay where you were required to reach certain sections that 'trigger' your advance.

A few years later I gave the SP campaign a significant investment on bequest of a good friend who lended me the 360 version, I started to understand the feel of the gameplay and came to really enjoy it for what it is - a Hollywood style action FPS production.

Modern Warfare 2 personally raised the ante for me as I loved seeing some of the old characters brought back into the fold and the fact that the player controlled protagonist and his team are fighting against some really high stakes really got my attention. The highly enjoyable MP part and Spec Ops modes really sealed the deal.

I got Black Ops at launch and it has been hit and miss for me. The only previous CoD title I have played by Treyarch was CoD 3 which I didnt enjoy. Respawning enemies have never been my thing as there isnt just any satisfaction involved when all your 'hard work' continually comes back to bite you on the ass.

Black Ops does alot of things right, but I felt that sometimes the gameplay in the SP story is bogged down with too many semi-interactive cut scenes which player interaction shouldnt be really necessary for (eg..many of the swimming sections that drag out, the 'press button repeatedly for end result' sections, etc... Oh and the SR Blackbird intro is pointless and just flat out sh*ts me - atleast make that skippable FFS..!!!). I felt whilst the varying locales were excellent, there just wasn't enough variation on the FPS formula to really maximise the fun of this game. MW and MW 2 really mixed it up with pursuits, jailbreaks, breach & destroy missions, sniper stalking, etc.. most of the stuff in Black Ops is on the rails cut scenes inbetween basic shootouts with no real meat to them. I really think they could have done more in that dept.

Ofcourse they're all seperate games in one franchise and shouldn't be directly compared, but the ending of Black-Ops was the biggest let down for me. I won't spoil anything but the last chapter felt like a massive anti-climax compared to things getting much more intense towards endgame in MW and MW 2.

In all honesty, all that was missing from the ending of Black Ops was SPOILER (highlight to read):the f*cking Ewoks singing and dancing around on one of the aircraft carriers gathered around the player, whilst fireworks went off in the air around you as you resurfaced. That final scene was just vomit inducing..

On the other hand, I am quite enjoying the MP aspect of the game. Im yet to play wager matches but I enjoy most of the maps and the CoD Points thing keeps things interesting..

The fact that you can choose to search local games only is also a HUGE plus that needs to be a future part of every MP game out there!

All up, an improvement from Treyarch but still doesnt have that little bit of magic that I always feel when playing MW and MW 2. Perhaps time may change that..
3 years ago
Michael Bay presents: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It threw away the compelling anti-war story of the first one to go for an over-the-top Hollywood splosion fest. All it was missing was female soldiers in bikinis.

The single player of this one is miles above World at War. Good to see Treyarch actually improving there. Wiki says David S. Goyer was the scriptwriter, which explains the Hollywood influences that creep in to this one (while not being well over-the-top like MW2 was).

Multiplayer, well, I'm still of the opinion that World at War has provided the best package of the series in that regard.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that it still suffers from "The most important combatant on the field is the player" AI stupidity. It's nowhere near as omniscient as World At War was, but still rears its ugly head in large open battlefields.

EDIT 2: Would anyone notice if the next CoD's single player was on rails? I probably wouldn't. The amount of times the game played itself for me...
3 years ago
Sledgehammer's COD is next year. It will be interesting to see where that goes.

Call of Duty: Space Marines for the year after icon_razz.gif.
3 years ago
If they made a CoD with the character Sledgehammer, well, it might be the best game ever.

3 years ago
It's the most fun I've had with a campaign in the series, even if it is a bit inconsistent. It's as good as it gets as far as dumb action movie-ish gaming goes.

The online has a few problems, namely the awful re-spawning, but it's still great fun. 8 is about right.
3 years ago
I am having many problems with the multiplayer, especially the playerbase. Too many Assault rifles + so much goddamn proning = annoying experience.

Mind you, the single player is still fun. And the zombie mode is satisfying as all hell. But it's not worth buying the full game for.
3 years ago
Jarrod: Sledgehammer is making the space marines COD

I absolutely love this game. Haven't played CoD since MW. The story was excellent. The twist was cool

Jaws I don't think you 'got' the last scene. It was meant to be awful in an "Amurca Fuck Yeh" way.

I'm sill not the great at it. Am lvl 30 atm and always end up in the middle of the table. I wish shotguns were a little more powerful. It seems that SMGs/ARs are all anyone uses. With a shotgun I can usually get one shot off before I get spammed but unless I am at point blank 1 shot doesn't kill.

There are a couple of problems. I keep getting an error occasionally when I try to join a server (duplicate qport). The spawning on TDM is way fucked atm. It swaps spawns constantly and if you stay still for too long you'll get knifed in the back by a freshly spawned enemy. This is fixed if you play any other mode.
3 years ago
jesuslol wrote
Jarrod: Sledgehammer is making the space marines COD
Oh yes, you're right. My bad.

CoD: Space Marines for 2011 then, and Raven's CoD for 2012.
3 years ago
This game is amazing. the story is great and it fixed all the lame things from mw2. I have no idea why its geting lower ratings than the mw2. It makes no sense. Sure the game is really an expansion, but it did everything right in my eyes.

No more lunging with knives, noob tubes, quick scope, kill streak staacking etc.

Maps are pretty good and zombies is better than spec ops for me. Dead ops shows they are adding new ides which is very nice of them.

Best of all regional filter so I can get games with Australians again. W@W did this why could infinity ward take a hint that americans are not the only ones who play the game. Amazing game. 9.5/10 from me and that does not come easy icon_smile.gif lol
3 years ago
It's because most reviewers focus on the single player even though 90% of the people playing will focus on MP, and well to be honest B:OPS SP is just not as good as MW2 even if the story was rubbish in MW2. I would rank the MP way higher than MW2 broken mess but it is still not as good as CoD4's.
3 years ago
GooberMan wrote
Wiki says David S. Goyer was the scriptwriter, which explains the Hollywood influences that creep in to this one (while not being well over-the-top like MW2 was).
I dunno. The jailbreak was pushing it pretty far, and that was before you jump on a motorcycle and become the Terminator.
3 years ago
At any stage were you flying over an exploding castle? No. Did a nuke go off in space? No. MW2 went over the top and then just kept going. It would take a guy riding a nuclear bomb to go more over the top than MW2 so I can see where he is coming from.
3 years ago
I feel kind of like the odd one out, I've actually never played a call of duty game. I'm just not sure I'm actually missing out on anything?
3 years ago
I thought the single player was the best one yet. Thats just my opinion but I loved it. Cod4 multi was good but you have to think about it.

Martydom, 3 grenades, kill streak stacking, everyone using m16. It was great for its time, but black ops is better at the end of the day cause the only real annoying thing atm is Rc car. That is just annoying cause my team uses them and not spy planes which are much more useful.

Benza you must try playing at least one of them. You can pick up cod4 very cheap at like ozgameshop. people still play it online and the single player is one of the best
3 years ago
Nietzsche wrote
At any stage were you flying over an exploding castle? No. Did a nuke go off in space? No. MW2 went over the top and then just kept going. It would take a guy riding a nuclear bomb to go more over the top than MW2 so I can see where he is coming from.
Yeah, I guess the part I really had trouble with was the implausible invasion of the USA. Everything would have been solved had the villian owned a pet turtle.

3 years ago
The RC XD is very beatable. The sound is a dead giveaway and the scope of vision for the person controlling the drone is not the best seeing as it's very low to the ground which can give ground pounders an advantage in concealing themselves.

I have managed to hide quite easily I hear there's one in the area. Just stop and drop. Crouching behind barrels or something is almost always a guaranteed RC dodge as they will usually whizz right past you. Getting to higher ground usually works wonders too as most RC pilots will scavenge for targets on the ground first as time is never on their side. By the time it goes past you, you can try and take it out or wait till the fuse goes.

Ofcourse if you don't fancy hiding and don't like your chances at pinging one with a firearm, then plant a Claymore in the RC's probable path or lure it towards the trap yourself to take it down (might I remind that Flak Jacket is one of the best Perks ever!). Claymores always win out against RC XD's icon_wink.gif

I dont know about anyone else, but I have found that most if not all TDM maps aren't very conducive to sniping. The game seems a little quicker paced than MW 2 due to the closer quarter scenario presented in the maps and the respawn problem just kills it completely and is my pet hate in this game...

I might be in the second story of one of the houses in Nuke Town (an enjoyable map but faaaar too small) and all of a sudden, there's a backsurge and I'm suddenly in the thick of enemy troops which seriously minimises life expectancy and the fact that you've fought for a spot to dig in and snipe to your heart's content.

In another scenario, I was able to get three cheap kills because not long after I spawned, the area became the enemy spawn point at the drop of a hat. I hope this issue is resolved as it really ruins the fun and flow of MP.
3 years ago
Jaws wrote
I might be in the second story of one of the houses in Nuke Town (an enjoyable map but faaaar too small) and all of a sudden, there's a backsurge and I'm suddenly in the thick of enemy troops which seriously minimises life expectancy and the fact that you've fought for a spot to dig in and snipe to your heart's content.
It is easy to see that the game is 'meant' to be played in a run and gun style. Nearly every place has at least two entry points and the spawn system makes it so that players will constantly be behind you forcing you to keep moving.

This is done, in my opinion, to cut down on camping. It just sucks to get hit in the head from 50m away by someone you could hardly see if you were looking that was just sitting with their reticle on a corner.

There are a couple ways to make this better if you still want to snipe though. Use a claymore to guard your back or place a motion detector at the entrance behind you so when you hear a beep, aim at the other door.

If you play anything other than TDM or FFA the spawns are fairly well done.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  09/11/2010 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Activision
Genre:
  Shooter
Year Made:
  2010
Players:
  1

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