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Review: Call of Duty Black Ops

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COD Black Ops Review

Let’s do this! The latest in Activision’s lucrative Call of Duty franchise has finally hit the shelves…but does it offer enough to tease you away from Modern Warfare?

The answer is yes….not quite as slick as Infinity Ward’s efforts overall – but plenty of multi-player innovations, a solid (if predictable) campaign and the ever-popular (if dim) Zombies for co-op.

COD Black Ops Screen 1Set during the shady days of the 60s and 70s during the Cold War, with the USA battling the Soviets across the globe in unofficial conflicts and espionage, the plot follows Alex Mason who recalls his confidential battles under interrogation – creating an eery and different narrative from recent entries in the series.

When it comes to the fighting however, the story and battles seem rather unrealistic compared with the gritty, technical battles seen in the recent Medal of Honor. In that game, you clearly understood how the army, special forces, air force, CIA etc all worked together on both tactical and strategic missions – here, going all gung-ho seems to pay off time after time, with more of an ‘arcade’ feel.

That said, the levels on offer are varied in single player. From Havana to Vietnam to Russian prison camps this feels fresh and unlike other COD games. Having said that, a word of warning for Activision: it’s beginning to all feel a bit familiar now (the ‘on rails’ nature of the shoot outs, the sniper/stealth level, the obligatory shock death etc).

With some superb voice talent involved as ever (this time including Ice Cube and Gary Oldman, reprising his role as ‘Reznov’ from World At War) the production quality is a strong as ever. Even if Captain Price is notably missed!

Some of the graphics don’t seem as crisp or as stunning as in MW2 (or even Medal of Honor) though – and the weapons certainly sound rather tinny and low-powered….perhaps a deliberate nod to the Cold War setting to contrast with the modern era setting of MW2.

Unlike in World At War though, there’s no frustration with rifles that need reloading after a few bullets. Treyarch do deserve credit for learning from their previous failings and improving this time round.

cod-black-ops-screen-2Online, things are even better. The maps are arguably the best set of maps seen yet, with a clever variety of locations, sizes and well-tested dynamics (no tanks, annoying camp-spots or dull visuals here). Blurring the boundaries once again between film and game, the cinematic influences of various ‘Nam, Indiana Jones and Bond movies have all been raided well.

The tweaking of the killstreaks and rewards process (you can buy your own setup and classes now via credits and ‘contracts’) works well and seems more balanced and leads to less frustration than in MW2. Other innovations though such the RC-XD car and the return of the killer dogs are rather more annoying. (and spawn points seem a bit random). But thank goodness the tanks have been retired this time round!

Halo has clearly been a big influence too, with many features such as map voting, emblem designing, sharing community videos, post-game stats etc all lifted from Bungie’s flagship. And that’s no bad thing.

Black Ops is a very good game and well worth buying. The pressure may well be on next year though, as there are likely to be many who don’t think the innovations here go far enough – with the bar also being raised by EA (especially in single player). Almost outstanding, marines!

Platforms: Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC & Wii
Version Reviewed: Xbox 360
Release Date: Out Now

Review Overview: “A step forward for the ever-essential multiplayer, with an OK single player campaign (supported by Zombies). Needs to do a bit more next time round, but a vital piece of kit right now”

Overall Score: 8.5/10

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 13th, 2010 at 10:45 am and is filed under General Gaming, Nintendo Wii, PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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