Call of Duty: Black Ops Review

  • Posted November 15th, 2010 at 17:27 EDT by Adam Dolge

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Call of Duty: Black Ops

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While overly familiar, Black Ops offers a compelling package of intense multiplayer action and a gripping single-player campaign that will ensure fans have plenty to do until next year's iteration.

We like

  • The enormity of things to do in multiplayer
  • The gripping storyline
  • The hilarious and immensely enjoyable Zombie mode

We dislike

  • The poor AI
  • The various clipping, shading and other visual issues

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

November is with us once again, and with it comes the one franchise we review each year that creates as much discussion behind the scenes as it likely will in our comments section. The lines are drawn, the sides are taken, and the division runs deep on just about every facet of the Call of Duty series—is Modern Warfare 2 too much to top, is Infinity Ward better than Treyarch, does Activision deserve the mammoth early sale indicators for the latest version in the seven-year-old series? How will fans react to yearly Call of Duty installments; will we get more than just an exaggerated patch, or will each new game push the limits of its predecessor? To make matters worse, we can only assume that out of every review we publish during the year, our review of any Call of Duty game will probably not convince the disenfranchised or the devout follower.

With that seemingly daunting task, we delve headfirst into Activision’s latest entry in the multi-million selling franchise, with Treyarch taking the reins at creating a worthy successor to last year’s mega-blockbuster Modern Warfare 2. While we cannot ignore the clear bias some have for the series, we advise everyone to look beyond the hype, the sales figures, the controversy, and enjoy the game for what it is: a terrific first-person shooter with a well-told, impressive campaign and an enormous multiplayer component that is, despite some minor problems, easily one of the best offerings in recent memory.

Single-Player Campaign

The story in Black Ops is surprisingly interesting and captivating. It is one of the few games we reviewed this year that made us truck forward another level or two just to see what happened next. Black Ops' narrative hits the ground running, as we see protagonist Alex Mason wake up, tied to a chair, and interrogated by a group of mysterious men. Throughout the campaign they torture Mason to get information about numbers – that is, numbers Mason apparently has information of, but has little recollection as to why.

You essentially play out Mason’s memories of when he was a soldier during the Cold War. The story has you visiting a plethora of locations throughout the world, taking you to the likes of Cuba, Russia and Vietnam in search of communists who have access to biological weapons. While we’d love to give more details about those aforementioned numbers, the real political figures you’ll encounter, and how it all ends, we believe everyone should experience the campaign for themselves -- meaning no spoilers here. We will say that Black Ops does a great job of putting all the pieces together at the end, even after a portion in the middle when the plot seemed to get a little disjointed in places.

The story is told in often overwhelming action sequences that feel more like a summer blockbuster flick than a fall videogame. Within the first few moments of the start of the game, you are whisked away to a foreign country, driving through city streets as cars and buildings explode all around you. Black Ops mixes up the action with a heap of varied gameplay segments, ranging from standard run ‘n gun, to piloting a stealth bomber. Unfortunately, the latter is a fine example of Treyarch missing ample opportunity to provide a unique gameplay experience, as all you do is simply press a button to take off and that's about all there is too it. Needless to say, it rendered the whole sequence decidedly underwhelming.

Although the story is different, and the action seems a bit more intense than in previous games, Black Ops follows the same ideas from previous iterations. As such, you'll still encounter the same ubiquitous, irritating invisible lines required to activate the next cinematic or signal the next wave of enemies; heck, there’s even the same slow-motion technique thrown in at the climax of a couple of the game’s stages.

Despite these niggles, it’s where the story is told, and how it is told that'll keep you hooked. There are a couple of terrific spots in the game, certainly not tucked away, where the era, soundtrack, and action all intermix to make for an utterly brilliant 20 minutes or so of gaming goodness. Then again, there ... (continued on next page)

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