Review by SolidFantasy

"Campaigns, Deathmatches, and Zombies oh my!"

I'm just going to come out and say it, if you don't know what Call of Duty is then you've been living under the boulder that Chris Redfield punched into a lava. Regardless of if you or I agree, Call of Duty is the series that defines this generation of gaming. 5.7 million copies sold on day 1 proves that. We are all cuckoo for our over-exaggerated blockbuster big budget action military thrill-ride. Whether you play Call of Duty for the cinematic Hollywood blockbuster film style campaign, the ridiculously deep and amazing multi-player, or the urge to kill some zombies, Black Ops does not disappoint. I actually don't even have to think twice before claiming that it is the greatest Call of Duty game yet and easily one of the best FPS's of all time. Treyarch may have been living in the shadow of Infinity Ward for a long time but with Black Ops, they are now the kings of FPS's and have their fingers on the pulse of the entire gaming fan-base.

Campaign: Treyarch has finally left World War 2 which turned out to be a great move. This time you will be lighting up the Vietcong army. However that doesn't mean Black Ops is its own series. Black Ops is loosely connected to World At War, playing World At War is far from fundamental to understanding and enjoying Black Ops though. One of the greatest accomplishments by Black Ops is its story. Before you even start the game you are sucked in as the main menu screen is accessed via looking at a TV while you are being interrogated in a torture room. Why you are there and the meaning behind a sequence of numbers is what will drive you to progress through all of Mason's flashbacks and the game. You will be taken back to Mason's time and epic escape in a Russian labor camp with Viktor Reznov to defending Khe Sanh and much more. The interrogator is constantly saying that time is running out and that only Mason knows what the numbers mean. Black Ops is essentially a thriller more than a shooter. The plot constantly plays with your mind and the twists and turns throughout will blow your mind. The fact that Black Ops packs a hell of an amazing voice cast with names such as Sam Worthington and Gary Oldman intensifies every moment of the game even more. Black Ops will suck you in and you will not put the controller down until you have seen the mind-blowing revelations. Every cut-scene, every set-piece, every moment of the game will have you on the edge of your seat.

While playing Black Ops I could not count on my fingers and toes the number of times I just briefly stopped playing to say holy **** and reflect on what set-piece or intense firefight I had just come out of. The game does not have a single boring or out of place moment. Playing Black Ops is the same as usual, LT/RT aim and shoot while LB throws Smoke/Flash-bangs and RB throws grenades. Occasionally you will have something story related like a radio that can call in air support and bomb the holy hell out of everyone. Special interactions like this are done by pressing right on the d-pad. LS sprints and A jumps while X reloads your gun. Y switches to your other weapon and as usual you can hold 2 weapons at a time along with your trusty knife which is used by pressing RS. Again, the game has many set-pieces such as sections where you rappel down areas, operate turret guns or helicopters, and as usual everything controls smooth. Breaching sections are back but much more cinematic this time. One example is where you zipline down through a glass window shooting everyone up John Woo slow-motion style. The level design is always being shaken up as you may have noticed with sections where you operate vehicles but there's much more to it then that. There are numerous stealth sections, cinematic sections, straight up firefight sections, and you will control numerous types of vehicles. Take into consideration the ridiculous amount of weapons and there are almost endless ways you can go about levels. Don't forget about that story either as it damn near ensures you won't put the controller down. Really good characters like Mason and Reznov go a long way too in making you care. Your squad-mates aren't really that fleshed out but they don't need to be. Mason alone makes you want to see this games ending. Getting there surprisingly takes awhile. There are 16 missions and the game lasts around 6-7 hours on normal and about 12 on Veteran mode. Veteran mode is where the game's only flaws are truly noticeable. The friendly AI is simply stupid regardless of difficulty but on Veteran it's more annoying obviously. Your squad-mates often take the best cover spots but that's not all. Apparently when Treyarch became aware of the camping complaints in previous Call of Duty games there was a miscommunication. Camping is fixed alright because apparently my squad-mates are against it as they take it upon themselves to push me out of cover! When that happens and I'm far into a checkpoint and die because of it I have to put the controller down and freaking meditate. Regardless of difficulty your squad-mates will account for about 9 kills throughout the campaign with 3 of them somehow being against you. Also, someone at Treyarch had the stupid idea to put back in sections where enemies infinitely respawn. This feature basically forces you to go gung-ho making Veteran mode a chore rather than a fun challenge. Thankfully there aren't many sections with infinitely respawning enemies but it's still a terrible decision that detracts from the overall experience.

Since you will often be killing frequently in style you may be curious as to how Black Ops looks and sounds. Well let me tell you something, the sight of taking down 2 helicopters with 1 Valkyrie rocket or zip-lining through a glass window in slow-motion or skydiving off an icy mountain and parachuting mid-air with insanely realistic wind sound effects never gets old. Chunks of meat flying everywhere when smokin' fools with a Shotgun looks awesome. Every weapon also sounds different and unique. Character models are excellent and the scenery on levels like Victor Charlie and Project Nova are gorgeous. It's amazing how the frame-rate never drops even when the amount of action on screen is just sheer chaos filled with explosions and shooting. The lighting effects are one of the best aspects and had me in awe. The entire game is gorgeous and constantly had me saying wow and stopping to admire the chaos. Also, the sound of shoving broken glass in someones mouth and punching them actually had me flinching at how disturbing it sounded. Black Ops is by far the best looking Call of Duty game and one of the best games this generation graphically.

The campaign in Black Ops is the total package. A gripping war thriller with non-stop action, awesome characters, and some of the best set-pieces and action sequences gaming has ever seen. Very few things detract from the experience making this a campaign you will never forget.


Online: Think about Hell for a second. It's got to be a pretty deep down place. Well the online in Black Ops is probably deeper than hell. Treyarch has cleaned up Infinity Ward's mess by creating the definitive online FPS. Major changes have been made and for the better. One of my major gripes with Modern Warfare 2 was how kill-streaks rewarded you way too much. Your kill-streak prize kills actually counted towards your next kill-streak. Not no more. Treyarch has balanced this so only regular kills advance your kill-streak. Speaking of kill-streak prizes, the rewards in Black Ops are awesome. You can earn dogs to kill for you! There's also an RC car. Level up rewards are different in that, you only earn the ability to purchase weapons. In Black Ops there is an economy system and you earn money by winning matches, completing challenges, and various other ways. Pretty much everything you do earns you some cash. You can then spend your money on weapons , perks, and attachments. This new system makes for a lot of variety in between how people play. If you're feeling greedy you can gamble and try and win more in all new game modes specifically for wagering. Gun Game is already one of my favorite online modes ever. Basically, the first to get a kill with each weapon wins. After you get a kill you move up to the next class and keep going. Sticks and Stones is also very fun too except whoever decided that getting killed with a Tomahawk should reset your score should be fired. All of the new modes are tons of fun, spawning points being fixed makes all the basic modes fun again as does all the balancing tweaks Treyarch made. There are plenty of new maps and all feel evenly balanced and unique. If you're worried about the steep learning curve don't worry because Black Ops has a Combat Training mode which basically allows you to play the online modes with the AI and allows you to even tweak difficulty settings. You can save clips of anything you do online and watch a plethora of videos online in Theater mode with friends. As usual if you manage to reach Rank 50 you can Prestige and do it all over again. The graphics sort of take a hit online, mainly textures and character models but more importantly the game runs lag-free and plays very smooth. Online in Black Ops is wickedly deep and endless fun.

Zombies: The zombie mode made famous by World At War returns and is as fun and intense as ever. There aren't many Zombie maps yet but playing is simple and can be very addicting. Obviously the objective is to kill wave after wave of zombies but there is more to it than that. First of all you can play alone, online, or split-screen co-op. If there's more people playing the zombies become harder to kill. You earn points from killing zombies. Points will be necessary for survival as you can rebuild the walls zombies break through, buy weapons scattered around the walls of maps, buy perks, or even upgrade your weapon by inserting it into the Pack-A-Punch machine if you have the points. The maps this time around are much more complex and bigger. You can still open up areas of maps with points and even search for a mystery box this time that contains a random weapon. There are Zombie dogs too and as you survive each wave their numbers only increase and they become faster and more difficult to kill. Zombies can become very addicting very fast and isn't just another mode. It requires much strategy and skill and feels like an actual game by itself. Now is as good a time as any to mention that you can play as Kennedy, Castro, Nixon, and McNamara... yeah, that's pretty ******* awesome. So choose your weapon and survive as long as you can!

Conclusion: As you can see Black Ops isn't just the total package for one specific mode like most games, it's the complete total package for gaming. A thrilling cinematic action packed story, deep online, and an addicting zombie killing mode all unite (there's even a hidden full twin-stick shooter game and the full game of Zork within) to stabilize Call of Duty: Black Ops as one of the defining games of our generation.


Pros

Thrilling story
Exciting set-pieces
Astounding graphics
Amazing lighting effects
Sam Worthington and Gary Oldman
Great writing
Nonstop action
Realistic sound effects
Ridiculously deep online
Wager modes
Economy system
Balanced online
New Kill-streak rewards are epic
Awesome new game-types
Combat Training
Addicting zombie killing

Cons

Stupid, stupid friendly AI
Sections where enemies infinitely respawn
Graphics during online take a small hit
Ice Cube is a Voice Actor too

Verdict: 9.2/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/15/10, Updated 02/10/12

Game Release: Call of Duty: Black Ops (US, 11/09/10)


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