Call of Duty: Black Ops review
Multiplayer gaming has been dominated by Call of Duty in recent years, with Modern Warfare 2 and World At War being the last two releases in the series. Now developer Treyarch has chosen to bisect the two with a tale spanning the Cold War years in between.
The story is mostly told through flashback; you control main character Alex Mason through various era-defining locations including Castro’s Cuba, a war-torn Vietnam and Communist Russia. Each setting feels strikingly realistic thanks to excellent level design and strong attention to detail. The strong voice acting and motion-captured characters also help heighten the experience.
The game begins with Mason tied to a chair, being tortured for the information he uncovered in the 1960s, which immediately sets the tone for the darker later levels. Black Ops doesn’t shy away from violence, which is often incredibly graphic; some sections are truly gruesome and the game certainly deserves its 18 rating.
There’s a decent mixture of stealth and action missions, with driving sections providing a welcome break from the intense gunplay. At times the sheer volume of enemies can be overwhelming, particularly on higher difficulties; while poor waypoint placement often makes it difficult to work out what your next move should be. Your teammates rarely provide much help during fire fights, leaving you to clear out groups of enemies before they will move forward.
There are several spectacular set pieces, but the overall storyline can be confusing at times, especially with the constant character and location changes. It stays fairly true to the Cold War source material for the first half of the game, but by its conclusion it’s obvious where liberties have been taken with the storytelling. For the most part the campaign avoids feeling like a shooting gallery, with some genuinely refreshing gameplay sections, but it’s also over rather quickly, taking little under six hours to finish the entire game.
Competitive multiplayer will feel incredibly familiar to veterans of the series, with the bigger changes restricted to the way you equip yourself. In previous games, you would unlock weapons and perks by levelling-up, and then unlock attachments (silencers, scopes etc.) by getting kills with that weapon. In Black Ops, you get COD points, which you spend to unlock the items you most want. In theory this should allow you quickly setup your preferred loadout of tricks and kit. However, the weapons are still restricted based on your level, which somewhat undermines the whole concept.