At this point, everyone is used to the routine by now: Another year produces another Call of Duty. This year, the reins are given to the "younger brother" developer. The result for this year's iteration places you in both fictional and non-fictional events surrounding the Vietnam War. Although the setting may be one that's hardly used in today's FPS, it is feared that this seemingly endless pumping of COD's could be blurring one's vision when it comes to seeing what's the difference between them. Although Black Ops doesn't try to show that it's different from the pack, it does bring several nuances (both online and offline) that could very well make it worth your while.
As stated before, the story of Black Ops places you in different events ranging from 1961-1968; most of these missions are told through the means of flashbacks. The flashbacks are part of the story element told mostly through the eyes of Alex Mason, a SAD/SOG operative who is secured in a chair being relentlessly interrogated by his unseen captors. The reason for this cruel interrogation is for the acquisition of information; in this case information about what a series of broadcast numbers mean, which they believe Mason knows.
Mason's flashbacks will take to both non-fictional battles, such as the Bay of Pigs, and fictional battles. The variety given for the story's sake help weaves a good ball of yarn; taking to the jungles of Vietnam in one moment, then jumping rooftops in Kowloon really shows you how well-made the SP campaign really is when judging it from this standpoint. Overall, the story is one that can be quite enjoyable, although disjointed. I also personally can't find the use of psychology implemented in Black Ops (or BLOPS for short) to be feasible in the real world, which is disappointing since it is one of the core foundations to this game's story.
Coming to the technical side of presentation (graphics and sound), there sadly is not a huge reason to get excited for BLOPS -unlike it's predecessors-. While this game engine still has a few tricks up it's sleeves when it comes amount of destruction and mayhem, it just never hits that quantifiable leap like Modern Warfare 2 had over WaW (or it's true predecessor "Modern Warfare 1"). You certainly have many high aspects that are still rock solid in both the visual and audible department, but nothing to that will truly stick with you once you have stopped playing the game. One small note I must make in the sound department is the bad voice-acting of Sam Worthington (voices main character). It's quite terrible when listening to his flashback narrations.
Gameplay for BLOPS is what you'd expect from the Call of Duty series IF you have played any of the COD's dating back to CoD4: MW. Whether you take this "more of the same" attitude as either good or bad is up to you. What's certain from the COD formula is that it has now become a template for almost all of today's military shooters, and hardly any of those military shooters rank up to COD's ability to spice it up. Going from leveled moments to scenes on that of Hollywood levels, Black Ops has a great culmination of intense shooting, great set-pieces, and enjoyable action.
Additions to this game are a bit sub-par in comparison MW2. A new dive ability has been implemented which is enabled by sprinting and then holding the crouch button. And since this is a breed of warfare unknown to the COD franchise, you will have a plethora of weapons that you have not seen before. Although, they still are the basics (assault rifles, sub-machine guns, etc.) you've come to known with a few interesting items here and there. Certain weapons such as the explosive bolt crossbow and ballistic knives are the main ones to note.
Just as like CoD's formula remains unchanged, so does it's testament to value since Treyarch's last game: CoD World at War. With the foundation of split-screen to the campaign, co-op, offline/online MP, and more there's truly a great amount of value. In addition to expected returns, such as Zombies, BLOPS also caters to the arcade in all of us. Upon arrival to the main menu, you have the option to look down at your character's hand and break free by pounding the shoulder buttons. Once you have freedom to move around the room, you'll notice an old waist-high console that allows you to enter various codes that achieve different results. By typing in 'DOA', you enter a 3rd person arcade zombie shooter called "Dead Ops Arcade". These code-enabled games may just be "gimmicky" but you may spend just as much time playing these as the SP campaign.
What has been the main course bringing millions upon millions of gamers back everyday is the online multiplayer. Although this loadout and perk system has now been used 4 times in the series, the formula is still addictive. Unlike World at War, Black Ops is able to distance itself from the Modern Warfare games thanks to it's credit system. Credits are an in-game monetary system that allows you to buy your weapons, scopes, etc. rather than simply unlocking them at a certain level. This does enable a sense of fairness which allows you to focus on your strengths at a more prompt pace. BLOPS online also introduces a theater mode, which allows you to record, take pictures, and share recent online games you have played with friends. Among with those come smaller nuances like a training mode to prepare you for online and a deep gun customization option that goes down carving your clan tag on your gun. Overall, BLOPS has done a great job of distancing itself from Modern Warfare when it comes to the online category.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is a mixed bag of FPS goodness. It tailors to more casual FPS gamers while also having an exciting amount of content for FPS addicts to stay glued to it for many, many hours. It is disappointing to see that the ebb-n-flow of CoD hasn't changed much beyond one category; however, it's still a satisfying iteration to a great series. Even with it's inherent value online, there is still something longed for on the offline side: whether it's the need for a more enticing campaign (in regards to length and/or "crispness") or something different altogether. In the end, I can recommend this FPS only to those either with an online account because of how integral the that component is to Black Ops.
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