The campaign in Black Ops is a little different than what we’re used to. As the player, you take on roles of various characters who are all special forces operatives. You’ll battle through fifteen missions in the Black Ops campaign and they take place in different years throughout history.
The campaign plays in the same fashion as all recent Call of Duty games, and you shouldn’t have any trouble getting used to the controls at this point. One thing I noticed was that the weapons in Black Ops felt a lot more powerful than the ones we’ve had access to in the past. Using Dragon’s Breath incendiary shells in a SPAS-12 was fun as hell, and you could light your enemy on fire with each shot while blowing them backwards at the same time. Also available is a Crossbow with regular or explosive darts, and while it was a cool weapon, I didn’t find it to be 100% accurate even at relatively short range. If you’re playing online, you’ve probably seen the Ballistic Knife by now. It’s a gas-powered knife which acts as a secondary weapon and it can be fired at high speed to silently kill your enemy. Plus, you can pick it up and reload it into the firing handle to use again.
Call of Duty campaigns have often been all about showing off truly epic moments whether they are realistic or not. That’s one area that I can’t help but feel that Treyarch has failed us. In the eight hours I spent completing the campaign I can only recall one or two missions that were quite fun, but nothing gave me that “Wow, this is incredibly amazing!” feeling. Modern Warfare 2 pulled it off when fighting in Washington, and in other areas, and the recent Medal of Honor succeeded in various missions. Black Ops had a very missed opportunity where you could act as a reconnaissance aircraft in an SR-71 Blackbird, spot the enemies, then switch to the role of friendly ground troops and take out the enemies you spotted from the Blackbird. It was an extremely cool and enjoyable part of the game, yet it lasted for maybe five minutes total.
The game itself uses the same engine as World at War, therefore the visuals on about the same level as that title. However, it would appear they made a few tweaks in lighting and some minor improvements on the overall graphics of the game. While it may not be on par with Modern Warfare 2, it’s still a very impressive looking title. Sound quality is on par with other COD titles, and it really puts you into the war on a proper sound system. You won’t really find any changes from previous games in terms of quality, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If I had to be picky though, I’d say the team should listen to the radio chatter in Medal of Honor, and maybe they’ll learn something.
Black Ops doesn’t have a bad campaign, but it just didn’t feel as enjoyable as previous games in the COD series. Yes, a couple missed opportunities, and a lot of it is likely due to the fact that we set the bar so high for our games now. There has to be a limit somewhere, but how do we know when it’s’ been reached? It’s not the end of the world though as I’d be willing to bet maybe thirty percent of the six million plus people who own Black Ops are in it completely for the multiplayer experience, so let’s move on.
Mistakes were made in the multiplayer aspect of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, weapons and perks in particular were unbalanced. Who can forget the quick scoping sniper guns cheat or the killstreaks inviting people to camp in order to activate the ridiculous match ending Nuke? Treyarch have listened to the complaints from the previous game and set out to make everything fair and they have mostly succeeded.
Treyarch have wiped the slate clean and changed the weapons, equipment, perks and killstreaks so that everything feels more refined. Perks such as Stopping Power and Juggernaut have been eliminated which puts everyone on a level playing field. Weapons feel right and give a mostly fair fight, depending on the map used against each other of course. Sniper guns no longer have ‘quick scoping’ which has prevented players from using them as shotgun like weapons, effectively cutting the sniper players to very minimal numbers. True snipers may have less success now as the map designs tend to favour other guns, gone are the sniper friendly levels such as Modern Warfare 2’s Derail. In over 20 hours of playing online, I have probably been killed less than ten times with a sniper gun!
The biggest change to the multiplayer mode is the credits system. As well as earning XP to increase your rank, you now earn credits which are used to purchase just about everything that is unlocked as you progress through the ranks; guns, attachments, equipment, perks and emblems to name but a few. Guns for example now cost 2000 credits to purchase, which for me, made me more cautious about changing my setups as funds may be limited. In my opinion it feels like it has stunted the exploration and fun of trying new weapons, attachments, perks and killstreaks. This was reflected in my multiplayer experiences with opponents using similar setups which lead to fairly standard games; everyone using the same guns, fewer equipment placements such as claymores and the same killstreaks are often seen.
Amongst the new additions, Treyarch have included a new game mode called Wager Match which allows you to gamble your credits in a number of modes such as ‘One in the Chamber’ which arms you with a pistol loaded with a single bullet and a knife. A kill will earn your victims bullet, but if you miss your shot you will have to stab them in order to earn another . The Wager Matches are a welcome addition and though not a original idea, it is the first time seen in the Call of Duty series. They add a new dimension where strategy and skill are required to get in the top three places to earn your winnings. Other new additions include split screen multiplayer support and a Theater mode similar to the Halo series which allows you to watch previously played games, edit them into clips and even upload them to your Youtube account for future posterity.
There are two faults with multiplayer games which I hope will be fixed over time. The first issue is finding games when you are in a party. Doing so with one or two players may have some issues, but larger parties will often result in booting players back to the pre-game lobby. Our worst experience was when we had a party of six players and spent nearly 45 minutes trying to join a game lobby. The second issue is the spawning, it is not uncommon to find enemies spawning behind you when you are in a corner of a map. It is more noticeable on the smaller maps such as Nuketown where enemies can literally spawn beside you, often resulting in some very cheap deaths. As said, I hope both issues will be fixed over time once Treyarch have acted on the feedback.
Overall Treyarch have created a much more balanced multiplayer game so if you, like myself, found Modern Warfare 2 to be too over the top I would definitely recommend giving Black Ops a chance. Generally speaking, Black Ops is a very good title in all aspects and though its not incredible, its very worthy of your time, especially if you’re into the multiplayer aspect.
An average campaign mode but a great multiplayer experience.
Not as impressive as Modern Warfare 2 due to Black Ops using an engine based on World At War.
Good use of audio with plenty of explosions and decent voice acting. On par with previous Call of Duty games.
This review is based on playing the Xbox 360 version.