Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Call of Duty: Black Ops

You take a sip from a lowball glass and become surprisingly enricCall of Duty: Black Opshed with a bouquet of smoothness, sophistication, and a hint of oak that only twelve years of aging can bring. You savor every flavor this one drink has to offer and feel as though any problems you had before entering the pub suddenly have little significance. You then place your glass back on the countertop and call for the barkeep's attention because, although you appreciated the drink, you had ordered a blended whiskey because it's all you can afford with your measly stipend of the week and the liquor shops are closed at this hour. The barkeep simply nods your direction and says, "No worries mate, this one was on me. You looked as though you could use it". Call of Duty: Black Ops mirrors this hypothetical situation exactly; paying more than you really want to, but doing so because it's the only option, and then getting a little more than your low expectations anticipated.

I'm going to do things a little backwards from the usual format and start with the multiplayer of this game because it's a Call of Duty title and pretty much everyone who plays Call of Duty expects it to be focused in that area, especially following in the wake of the record-breaking phenomenon Modern Warfare 2.

Sadly though, this part of the game exactly meets the expectations bred from a game released almost exactly a year later—lazy. Absolutely lazy. Granted there are a few improvements such as character customization and a few clever game modes, but sadly, my friends, this is pretty much all that's done.

For a game that's full price, I would expect it to not be so blatantly obvious that the scoring animations, graphics engine, and even the font of the numbers for your score are all exactly the same as in Modern Warfare 2. My first round in multiplayer left me with something along the lines of a 27/3 kill-to-death ratio and I'm not particularly good at FPS games! I committed more hours than I care to admit playing Modern Warfare 2 and my high score is a direct result of the two games’ similarity; it was like I hadn't stopped playing at all! If you aren't going to even try to make it a different experience or feel, don't advertise the multiplayer aspect of this game as if it's an entirely new safari when in reality it's the same bloody prey you hunted last year.

The other bit of laziness? Maps. The maps leave me feeling that no adjective could ever fully give the depth of my loathing hatred. They seem cleverly different from the Modern Warfare 2 maps, such as a map with a launch pad that is going through launch sequence as you run around it upping your kill/death ratio (although this itself is preposterous because anyone that close to a launching rocket would be killed by the incinerating flames and smoke long before a headshot wound does). The problem with the maps is that the developers didn't take the time to design maps on a large scale. Every single map I have played feels incredible small, both in perimeter and area. God help anyone who enjoys playing as a sniper because unless you're incredibly good at quick scoping and short-range firing, you shouldn't even bother. I mean what's the point of a scope that can see 200+ "in-game" yards when the furthest anyone is from you in a game is about 30 yards?! My apologies, but if I want to play as a sniper, I want to be able to pick off my opponents that feel they're safe because they're on the complete opposite side of the map. They didn't take the time to expand the maps for diversity; they'd rather just throw in bizarre themes and call it a "new experience". Yes, we all know that Treyarch implemented dedicated servers, Modern Warfare 2's biggest flaw. But really anytime I play on its multiplayer I get bored within 15 minutes. Simply rubbish.
Oh you want to know about the zombie mode? Ok, here's that in three sentences. People get addicted to it and I don't know why. The map is always boring, the game is always the same, the strategy is always the same, and they even used the same voices and voice responses from Call of Duty: World at War. It's just as lazy as everything else. The end.

Single player:
The single player campaign is an entirely different thing altogether and before any of you lops tell me "well duh it's different! It's a different mode WOOAHAHAHA" just shut it. The developers of this game got my expectations completely backwards. I would've figured they spent the entire year developing the multiplayer because that's what Call of Duty players want. Then throw some single player campaign about an agent out to kill all bad guys in the name of good and glory. It seems to me though that the campaign received most of the attention and then the developers said "Oh Lord we forgot to do a multiplayer. Uh...uh...*grabs Modern Warfare 2 disc* here just put this in a clown suit and give 'em servers".

The campaign was brilliant. And to even attempt to pull this off when following in the incredibly epic campaign of the Modern Warfare series is pretty courageous. Being set during the Cold War era alone tells you they were going to new boundaries because this hasn't really been done for a highly franchised game before. Maybe a couple of independent games but for a big name to do so is usually considered taboo. However, they did so in a manner that leaves quite a memorable experience embedded into you. I don't want to ruin this with too many details because I find spoilers to be absolute hogwash, but I will say that you play through the game from different characters' views, giving you a wide range of emotions and perspectives.

The missions are very clever and have a good range of challenge for the experienced and not-so-experienced players. Most importantly it’s so interesting that single player will probably leave you saying "Oh GOD is it really 9pm? I was going to make lunch after that one mission! I completely lost track of the ti-oh bother forget it, I can't stop now!" You are completely drawn in to the story as if you're experiencing it yourself. Well, minus the whole years of Special Forces training and constant threat of death around every corner from missions your government denies occurred or that you even exist. But still! You are completely immersed in a unique environment that tells an incredible story in an almost poetic sense. Simply put, single player is the solitary redeeming factor of this game.

Colonel’s Conclusion:
Multiplayer? Filth. Single player? Outstanding. That's all there is to it. I'll leave it up to you to decide on if that's enough to justify this game. For me, it's not a 21-year-old single malt, but it's definitely an improvement from the blended whiskey I expected to receive.
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