For the majority of gamers this year, November the 9th was the day that couldn’t come quick enough. The Call of Duty franchise from Activision doesn’t need much of an introduction, certainly not if you’re a first-person-shooter fan. In fact last year’s offering was not only the best first-person-shooter you could buy, but it was awarded game of the year. Modern Warfare 2 was brilliant, but was it so good that Activision wouldn’t be able to advance this year’s release? No. Let’s find out why.
This year Activision decided to take a gamble with the campaign, something untested and new. You play as Alex Manson, a special operations veteran, who has been captured and imprisoned. He is being tortured for information and from here the story is told from flash backs. The action takes place in Cuba, Vietnam and Russia though the Cold War. We don’t want to go deep into detail, as it will spoil your experience. What’s so special about this story campaign is the way in which it’s all put together. It feels as though you’re progressing through a block buster movie. It’s excellent, full of action and suspense; it will most certainly grab your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s going to keep you busy for around 15 hours and can be completed using different difficulty settings.
The graphics have being slightly improved upon those of last year’s release. Presentation has been totally overhauled. The way in which Black Ops is presented is simply stunning. Everything is set out clearly and beautifully. Navigating through the menus couldn’t be easier and yet it looks so impressive. The audio in this game is simply fantastic. The sounds of guns and warfare are captured perfectly, voice over’s sound realistic and the background music blends in with perfection.
Controls are as you would expect, precise and accurate; the only new addition I noticed was that you can now dive on to the floor as you run.
Whilst the campaign mode is likely to keep you busy and entertained for around 15 hours, the multiplayer modes have a much greater life. In fact I wouldn’t like to guess how many hours you will spend in multiplayer. As with Modern Warfare 2, the action never gets boring, the ranking system keeps on progressing and the whole experience never seems to get old. Just as you’re starting to get bored of the maps on offer, Activision release a number of fresh maps, which will keep the life of the game going until next year’s release. There are 14 maps to keep you busy until the first map pack is released.
The addiction never dies; in Modern Warfare 2 I noticed that numerous gamers on my friends list had spent the equivalent of over 40+ days in time playing it online. Whoever thought nicotine was addictive clearly hasn’t come across Call of Duty’s multiplayer. Black Ops is no exception; in fact it has far more on offer than any of the franchise’s predecessors. The core multiplayer experience is improved with some cool new features.
COD points are a big new addition to the online gameplay. You will earn COD points in each game you play. With these points you get to spend them on new weapons, weapon upgrades, perks, killstreaks and more. This makes the experience deeper and allows for far more customisation than seen previously.
Wager Match mode allows you to gamble your COD points against other players in one of three special game modes. How many points are you willing to gamble? Ante Up offers a low buy-in entry fee, weekend gambler offers a medium buy-in fee and high roller of course is for big spenders only. Just like with real money, when it’s your COD points at stake, the adrenalin is pumping and it means that much more. In these areas you can choose to play one of the following: one in the chamber, sticks and stones, gun game, sharpshooter or pro gambler. Each offer a unique gameplay mode such as ‘gun game’ where you kill players with your weapon to advance to the next weapon; first to get a kill with each weapon wins.
A new feature called Contracts allows you to purchase Contracts to earn more XP and COD points. You can select a contract from the menu, for example you could take out the RPK Cruelty Contract, which will cost 50 COD points. You must earn 25 kills with the RPK to complete the contract and your reward is 250 COD points. Other contracts will reward you with more COD points as well as XP. The Contracts feature offers a nice selection of sub-tasks whilst in gameplay.
One of the major aspects of the multiplayer is the killstreaks, which as we already know, add a nice flavour to multiplayer. Some new and familiar killstreaks are available to use, here’s the list including how many kills are needed before you can use them: spy plane (3), RC-XD (3), counter-spy plane (4), sam turret (4), care package (5), napalm strike (5), sentry gun (6), mortar team (6), attack helicopter (7), valkyrie rockets (7), blackbird (8), rolling thunder (8), chopper gunner (9), attack dogs (11) and gunship (11). You unlock killstreaks by purchasing them with your COD points. The Perks system is the same as before, but this time also unlockable using COD points. My favourite killstreak is the little remote controlled car with the C4 attached to it: drive it around the map and detonate it next to an enemy – great fun!
The Zombies mode makes a reappearance from 2008’s release – World of War, as it was disappointingly excluded from last year’s Modern Warfare 2. It was one of my favourite modes and it never seemed to get boring, as you’re always trying to get to a higher level than before. If you don’t already know, in Zombie mode the purpose is to survive as long as possible and reach the highest level. You can play with up to four others online, go solo or split screen. You are placed on a map, Zombies will begin to break through boarded up windows, you kill them to earn points and board back up the windows. Each level becomes harder, as more zombies attack as you reach the next level. You can spend the points on weapons and opening up other sections of the map. Having a strategy is key when working as a team in multiplayer. The fun factor with Zombies mode is immense.
You won’t find a better first-person-shooter, and a big thanks to Treyarch for delivering the best ever first-person shooter experience. What makes this game so special is the intelligently planned out campaign storyline, COD points in multiplayer and Wager Match mode, the inclusion of Zombie mode and the stunning presentation and graphics. Call of Duty: Black Ops is an all-round masterpiece and will keep you occupied until next year’s release, it’s a must have 10/10.