Game Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops – Activision (PC, PS3, XBox360)

COD Black Ops

I can’t help but wonder if saying you like the plot of Call of Duty: Black Ops is a bit like saying you like the cinematography of a pr0n film.

However, having now completed the Single Player mission of the game, I’m pleased to say that it’s excellent. Treyarch have continued in the tradition of this franchise by hiring some excellent vocal talent (Gary Oldman, Ed Harris and an un-credited Ice Cube). The resulting Cold War tale is engaging, twisty and well realised.

Single player campaigns are almost by default for the CoD franchise pretty short, and it was easy enough to whizz through this one in under a week. Still, the story of Alex Mason, part of a US Black Ops team in the 60s, is a strong one. Starting in Cuba, we traverse the globe, to Russia, Vietnam and Laos, and Hong Kong. While the story starts of grounded in the very real event The Bay of Pigs, it then takes its own outrageous path, with a story of a Russian general who commissions a biological weapon to attack the US. Mason is the key to his plan, but doesn’t know why, and much of the story takes his viewpoint and is told in flashback.

The game play is as punishing as you’d expect on the harder levels, while on the easier ones you’re allowed an element of more gung-ho behaviour, which in itself has a certain charm. (And certainly isn’t something you can do on multiplayer).

There are no scenes that have the potential to offend in the same way that the airport scene did in Modern Warfare 2 did, Treyarch have been quite wily about this, by either diffusing most of the eyebrow raising moments or by leaving them to the player’s imagination. The coda of this game being a perfect example of being a hugely satisfying moment plot wise without causing outrage.

There’s a also a huge nod to pop culture, The Deer Hunter, Platoon, and The Manchurian Candidate are all referenced in non too subtle ways, but this is acceptable shorthand rather than laziness. Similarly there’s enough variation in the game play, which includes piloting a gunboat and a helicopter to keep up the interest.

Context is everything and within the context of the story, the game works absolutely and a dark and intelligent tale.

Multiplayer is, as ever, the digital equivalent of paintball and should not be viewed as anything more than that. Indeed a number of players, especially younger players, don’t bother with the single player campaigns at all, so suggestions that they lead the youth astray may be wildly off the mark.

As with CoD: World at War, there are zombie levels, one of which is instantly available, one is an Easter egg and the final one where you play as JFK fighting zombies is unlocked once the game is completed. All are excellent fun, with the usual survivalist instincts intact.

For the multiplayer games you can now make your own player cards (yawn) and can now bet on the outcomes of live games. The range of games hasn’t changed and the maps are the usual blend of big versus small, fun versus frustrating. The smaller ones are especially good fun while the bigger ones require a lot of experience before you know your way around them. Nice to note that at the moment at least, players on games such as Domination, Sabotage, Demolition and Capture the Flag, are actually playing to win, rather than just shoot the place up. It won’t last of course, but at the moment it’s great fun.

As ever with this franchise, this game won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The world view may make you uncomfortable but makes sense within context and time period. Hugely playable and addictive on multi-player with a satisfying single player campaign, this neatly straddles the teen boy market and those who like their games to have some depth.

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~ by moviegrrlreviews on November 22, 2010.

One Response to “Game Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops – Activision (PC, PS3, XBox360)”

  1. […] I can’t help but wonder if saying you like the plot of Call of Duty: Black Ops is a bit like saying you like the cinematography of a pr0n film. However, having now completed the Single Player mission of the game, I’m pleased to say that … See the article here: Game Review – Call of Duty: Black Ops – Activision (PC, PS3 … […]

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