The Call of Duty franchise is one of the biggest and best-known out there. I actually had not played the earlier ones, as first person shooters were never one of my favorite genres. But some buddies of mine got me into Modern Warfare 2, and I loved it. Then I started to play a few others and eventually got myself real excited about the recent Black Ops game. Obviously there were videos and stories leading up to its release, and these coupled with a good marketing campaign has led to an amazingly successful launch for the series. So, what’s my take on it? Here goes:
Graphics – 8:
I liked the look and feel better than Modern Warfare overall, but I ran into some odd glitching more often than I cared for, where textures would pop in and out, and lightning effects would mar the otherwise nicely crafted experience. Still, the expressions are often very good, providing good emotional values to the scenes while the environment were varied and in some cases, wonderfully colored and realized.
Sound and Music – 10:
The voice acting was excellent, and the dialog was great as well. It really helped to carry along the story, which I thought was a lot of fun. The music was also generally very good, and in some instances simply amazing in choice and context. There were a wide variety of sound effects that add to both the action and the feel of the storyline itself. This is a game that makes excellent use of my surround system, and is actually helpful in giving away things like footfalls and bullet direction. If I have a pet peeve with any of this, is I have the game on my PS3, but I don’t have a headset for my Playstation. As such, I find myself muting people constantly in the online games because I can’t talk with them – so I sure don’t want to hear them. I found that trying to globally mute other players was a popular question online when I Googled it, whereas it is quite easy to do on the 360 using your personal preferences in Modern Warfare 2 (and from what I read online, easy with this game as well).
Gameplay – 8:
The game controls well – aiming and movement are sharp, and with a quick twitch game such as this – especially with the online mode, that is a must to have. There’s a ton to do as well, and the menus are generally pretty easy to navigate around in, though there were a few control scheme options I think that got neglected. I’ve seen a lot of people online looking for how to unlock perk pluses and not realizing what button they needed to press on the unlocked base perks to see it. Also, the online connectivity is borderline maddening at times. With the online being such an integral part of the package, I’ve found my connectivity most nights being really rough – at least half of the time I try to play, the servers are almost unplayable. I’d think it was me or my connection but I can A) hop on Halo with my 360 and have no problems b) play other online ps3 games and have no issue and c) I’ve been reading about a lot of other people having trouble with it as well. I’ve heard that this issue is being looked into and I am hopefully it’ll be improved upon, but I have to knock off a point or two just based on this.
Intangibles – 9:
The story mode is amazingly fun – but ridiculously short still. This is a common complaint/observation I’ve heard about the series since at lead CoD 4 – and one I levied against Modern Warfare 2 myself. This mission was a bit longer I think, but not by much. Still, the story was excellent, with my older daughter having watched me play through about 85% of it. Why is this significant? A) she’s not a gamer b) she doesn’t have any interested in war movies – but she sat through almost all of this, fascinated with the storyline and even commenting several times that it felt, looked and sounded like ‘one of those war movies you’d watch, dad’ – so kudos to the team for that.
Online is where the majority of people will play this game, and for good reason. The maps are well made, the classes and progression are fun. Instead of relying completely on levels and accomplishments (like in the prior games) to unlock things, you play for ‘currency’ you can spend as well. So at a certain level you may unlock the ability to get a gun, but you still need the credits on hand to purchase it. I suspect this will drag out the game’s playlife a bit for people like me who like to unlike pretty much… everything. This mode is more rewarding for me than Halo: Reach’s rewards system, because there the upgrades are only cosmetic and here they affect gameplay. However, a huge demerit for this mode is the online connectivity issues that appear to be anything but an isolated problem only for me.
Zombie modes are almost starting to annoy me in games. Bad enough that there’s so many ‘zombie’ games out there lately (between the RE series, Dead Rising – even Plants vs. Zombies), and now it’s creeping in as a ‘mode’ in a lot of games (I just saw something on IGN about how the upcoming Yakuza game would have one). Here however, it’s still pretty fun running around blasting zombies with a shotgun while trying to earn credits and repair broken doors and windows. It is not stand-alone game material, but for an add-on it’s pretty solid.
There’s some other pretty cool stuff in here, including an online training mode, a Smash TV-like overhead arcade style shooter, unlockable intel, a zork text game (though playing it on that keyboard they provide you with seems like it would get old and fast) – and this secret thing you can do in the main menu to stand up and walk around to access a computer (and some of these features). There’s a ton of content here, and most of it is very well done. If I could go 2 or 3 weeks without bad online connectivity issues, I’d probably bump the score to a 9.5, and if the online mode had just a *bit* more variety from say, Modern Warfare 2’s online weapon loadouts and options, it would be a 10 in my mind.
Overall – 8.75:
The game feels great overall. I was a day-of-release pickup for it. There’s a handful of things holding it back from complete greatness – online issues, some areas that feel like they’re a bit rehashed and a very short single player campaign mode (I beat it in a day). But there’s a lot going for the game too – from fantastic production values to a variety of modes that really add to the game’s depth. It’s definitely not one for little kids – the violence can be scaled back, which is what I make my son due, but there’s a good deal of strong language to keep the violence company.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Playstation 3/Xbox 360 review
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