PG 1 | PG 2
With an engaging but short single player experience and a ton of multiplayer options to explore “Call of Duty: Black Ops” is not the most original game on the market but what it offers is a fun package filled to the brim with content.
The player steps into the memories of a blacks ops operative named Alex Mason. Mason is strapped to a chair, tortured, and questioned. Each question and answer period Mason endures leads to the next level/memory the player fights through. The use of these torture scenes allows for the game to deliver exposition in a generally exciting manner while using Mason’s memories as a way to quickly jump from one action packed scenario to the next in quick succession. This story telling system works well although I would have appreciated some more gameplay options during Mason’s interrogations (the interrogations are simply cutscenes that divulge plot points) and because each mission is a firefight the variety of gameplay during the story is lacking. The narrative is not especially unique and the plot points get tied up all too easily and quickly in the end but the story is enough to push the player to the next slew of enemies to kill. Also the singleplayer is short at around 5-8 hours of gameplay. Of course many people who buy “Black Ops” are not looking for a deep singleplayer experience but are looking for a rich online kill-fest. Thankfully “Black Ops” multiplayer offers a large selection of game types and options that reach far beyond what most games even attempt to include.
Remember the Good Old Days
As the player plays through Mason’s memories there are few levels that offer original gameplay. Most levels involve killing all the enemies and then moving on to the next shootout. This is not to say that the level design is unoriginal. In fact one the greatest strengths of the singleplayer campaign is the variety of level design. From frozen mountain outposts, to claustrophobic close-quarters city shootouts, to controlling an attack helicopter over a jungle river, the level design helps to add some amount of variety to the singleplayer experience. Still even with the variety of level design the gameplay gets repetitive even in a short 5 hour play-through.
The Sights and Sounds of War
“Black Ops” offers some impressive visuals and great character models/animations at times. However, for every great looking scene/character there seems to be another scene/character that does not measure up. The sound in the game is also top notch when it comes to weapon sounds, ambient war noises, vehicles, etc. The music on the other hand is somewhat lacking. Sure the music offers some mood and atmosphere and when it kicks in during action sequences it does the job of creating fast paced noises. However the music feels generic and the only times I ever noticed the music was when a licensed song from the era came through my speakers. “Black Ops” is by no means a bad looking or bad sounding game. Rather the game is merely inconsistent with its presentation.
Pull the Trigger to Fire
Anyone who has player a “Call of Duty” game, or really any modern first-person-shooter, will feel right at home with how “Black Ops” controls. The game does little to change the mechanics of running and gunning, which is a shame because some new gameplay mechanics to match the unique storytelling technique would have gone a long way (being able to dive to prone from a standing position is not enough to create new exciting gameplay). There are a few new weapons that are fun but are still ultimately point and shoot objects. The crossbow with explosive bolts and a shotgun with incendiary rounds help to add a very thin level of originality to the weapons but ultimately I feel the “Call of Duty” formula is getting old. If the game designers can formulate unique storytelling techniques that facilitate new gameplay mechanics then I feel “Call of Duty” can become fresh and new again. However, if one wants “Black Ops” for the single player campaign I would recommend a rental. However, if one is looking for an expansive multiplayer package then “Black Ops” is definitely worth a purchase.
Let’s all shoot together
There is a ton of multiplayer options in “Black Ops.” All the usual game types from previous “Call of Duty” titles are present. So rather than go into detail about the standard multiplayer modes I will stick to what is new: leveling and COD Points, Wager matches, Combat Training, and new (if not totally unique) Zombie games.
In multiplayer the player levels up by playing matches, completing in-game challenges (such as finishing in the top 3 of a match at least 3 times), and killing enemies. As players gain new levels weapons, weapon attachments, gear, etc. are unlocked for purchase. There are 50 levels all together and 15 prestige levels. Also, not all multiplayer game modes are available to play from the start. Certain game modes are unlocked as the player levels up. I found this to be rather frustrating as I would have liked to try out each game mode from the start. However, leveling up happens rather quickly, so as long as the player fights it out online the other game types should unlock swiftly.
Everything is about Points
Call of Duty Points (COD points) are the in-game currency that allows players to purchase new weapons and gear. As the player levels and plays online matches he/she will gain COD points. Each weapon, attachment, perk, and killstreak costs a certain amount of COD points (weapons and perks are 2000 points and attachments range in price). For example if the player unlocks a weapon at a certain level that weapon, and any weapon attachments, must still be purchased with COD points in order for the player to equip the weapon. All perks are unlocked at level 4 and all killstreaks are unlocked at level 10 but again in order to use these perks and killstreaks the player must purchase them using points. The inclusion of COD points adds a bit more strategy to creating classes and choosing which perks and weapons to purchase. However, I do not think the COD points become interesting until one engages with the Wager Matches and Contracts.