Review by bbears

"Best Call of Duty Yet"

Call of Duty: Black Ops is the 7th game in the COD franchise and is one of the most hyped and best selling games of all time. The Call of Duty series gets a lot of grief for putting games out every year Madden style. But Activision actually uses two different teams who independently develop their own game. With both of them being on a two year cycle this means that since the studios alternate who releases each year that there is a new game every year. This allows the COD games to have a degree of polish and always have a high volume of content. The games do use hit scanning with aim assist on consoles for the shooting mechanics, which PC purists will absolutely hate. But if you can get past that and enjoy these twitch based shooters then Black Ops offers tons of content, a good campaign, and a consistent matchmaking system for the multiplayer.

The COD franchise has always put a high emphasis on the presentation and Black Ops is the best looking one on consoles. Animations and texture qualities are all very high. And Black Ops has a very cinematic feel without taking the game out of your hands to often. Weapon models in particular are very detailed with lots of smooth animations. Sound design and quality is also great. The sound track is epic and could be in a summer action blockbuster. Voice acting has a surprising amount of Hollywood talent, including Sam Worthtington and Gary Oldaman, and is both well written and acted. Ambient sounds especially using surround sound help give the game it's strong cinematic feel.

Black Ops has the same control setup and is the same as all the other entries in the franchise and most people agree that is a good thing. While a lot of people might not be a fan of the style of play that COD is, shooting and movement has always felt very smooth.

The last few years the single player campaign has been one of the bigger weak spots in the COD games. Black Ops changes this by bringing us the best COD campaign since Call of Duty 2. The solid shooting mechanics mixed with high octane action movie flair gives Black Ops perfect pacing. Modern Warfare 2 was over the top and completely unbelievable with a rube's goldberg puzzle style plot. Black Ops is a huge improvement with story telling that could be serviceable in a Hollywood movie. After a mission in Cuba to assassinate Fidel Castro goes wrong you end up in a Soviet gulag. Then being tortured and brainwashed you eventually escape and become involved in a desperate mission trying to stop a deadly new poison gas, Nova-6. This may not sound that original, and it's not, but the way that it is told and the twists that game starts to take later on are. You start off the beginning of the game strapped in a chair being tortured by an unknown person asking you to tell him the numbers. As the game progress it cuts back to this scene as you try to unravel what happened and become aware of your brainwashing and the meaning of these mysterious numbers. I can honestly say that the game surprised me and had a good ending with a legitimate conclusion, something a lot of games struggle to do. But it is not only the story and mechanics but all the excellent scripted events that make Black Ops great. Black Ops is one jaw dropping scene to the next. One of the game's weaknesses, cheap infinitely respawing enemies, turns out to be a strength as it forces you to constantly push forward to stop the tide. This helps keep the action at a frantic pace and with the well scripted events gives Black Ops a real sense of urgency.

The one saving grace of COD: World at War makes its return in Nazi Zombies. Not only that but the mode has it's own story line even and received lots of extra DLC content. In case you don't know for some reason Zombies is a wave based survival or “horde” mode. While it's not the first horde mode, zombies in COD has definitely popularized it. You can play zombies either by yourself or 2-4 online or local co-op. Slaughtering waves of zombies of increasingly tougher and tougher enemies with friends is something that never gets old. Treyarch has gotten very creative with the maps especially some of the DLC maps that are definitely worth the money. The Moon map in particular is quite complex with it's own lore and really shows how much effort went into this great mode. On top of the traditional horde mode zombies there is also an arcade zombie mode that is a top down dual stick shooter like old school classics like Smash TV and Robotron 2084. This is an unexpected and much appreciated addition that makes the sheer amount of content for this game sky rocket. In arcade mode you simply shoot everything that moves clearing out the current room and then move to the next room/wave. A dual stick shooter is where on stick moves you in any direction and the other shoots in any any direction. There are several special weapons that you can pick up as well including things like turrets and a floating bird that has whatever weapon you have. This mode can also be enjoyed local or online 2-4 co-op.

The online competitive multiplayer is the reason most people are interested in COD at all. While the mechanics haven't changed the progression system has. As you play through your various games you gain XP and unlock new weapons and abilities. As you gain enough XP you level up to a max of level 50. Then you can prestige and start over from level one again keeping all the extras you may have gained but losing all weapons and abilities. You can prestige 10 times. Personally I never prestiged as I would rather keep all my stuff rather than continue some pointless progression. That is all the same from the previous games but the pseudo currency and economic system is new. You also gain money at the end of each game for kills, winning, and completing challenges. After you unlock weapons at certain levels you then can spend this currency to purchase the new weapons and whatever junk you want to put on your weapon as well. You also use the money to purchase your new kill streaks and bet them on wager matches. Kill streaks make their return as well and have the welcome change of whatever kills gained on the kill streaks themselves don't contribute to your initial kill streak. This simple change prevents a lot of random nonsense that plagued Modern Warfare 2. The wager matches are also new and are select game types where you can “wager” some of this currency against the other players in the game. All the modes are free for all and all bets are preset by the room your in. The only additional bets are if everyone in the game votes yes on it you can double down doubling the beginning wager. Honestly you get so many points so easily that betting them is inconsequential. In fact I would say that about the whole currency system. What is the point of it when it doesn't actually limit what you want to do or have any consequences? That said the new modes in wager matches are a lot of fun. Gun Game is where with every kill you move onto a different a weapon and if you take a knife hit then you go back one weapon cycle. There is a preset order that everyone receives the weapons and the first person to get to the end of the whole cycle wins the game. This new mode turned out to be one of my personal favorites. One in the Chamber, which is just what it sounds like. You get one bullet in your pistol and have a knife. With every kill you get a bullet and you only have 3 lives. Sticks and Stones, you only have knife, crossbow, tomahawk, and ballistic knife. Which is a standard free for all death match except that a tomahawk death sets you back to zero. And finally sharpshooter, where every player has the same weapon switches randomly. Kill streaks award perks. With all that new content Black Ops is in my opinion the best feeling game in the series. That's largely a personal opinion and I know same people hate hit scan twitch shooters but Black Ops is probably the best twitch shooter you will ever play.

Black Ops offers a ridiculous amount of content and has all the quality and production values you have come to expect from the franchise. For me the Dead Ops arcade zombie mode and the gun game wager match sucked up a lot of my time, as did the regular zombie with loads of great DLC it is one of the best co-op experiences this side of Borderlands. If you enjoy shooters there is something here for you to enjoy and easily soak up 100 hours.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 09/10/12

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

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