Take the phone off the hook, put the cat out and send the kid’s to her Mum’s for a month or so, as the most anticipated and fastest selling videogame of all time has arrived. Ladies and gentleman snipers I give you:
Call of Duty: Black Op’s
Yes ‘fragheads’ and ‘campers’ the gaming event of the year has finally landed and taken the industry, and gaming retailers, by storm, and ‘no!’ we don’t mean the arrival of the lovechild of all things controllerless and magical: Kinect. We mean the gaming colossus and the runaway first person action shooter steamroller that is Activision’s multi award-winning franchise Call of Duty.
Expected once again to absolutely shatter all previous records, not to mention anything and any title that attempts to stand in its way of being the years best seller, Call of Duty returns for the seventh outing of its long and glittering reign as the very best FPS combat title.
In this edition we are introduced to the game in its latest Black Op’s guise right from the onset, as instead of the usual tutorial level where we get to know a little about our character and his background, we are instantly transported to a scene that would not be out-of-place in a Medieval torture chamber as we greet the games main protagonist, Alex Mason, as he is being put through all manner of heinous practises by his captors as they attempt to cut and electrocute the desired information out of various parts of our main character’s body.
You got the idea now? This is not Cooking With Mother, nor is it Let’s Make Daisy Chain’s in Laura Ashley Frock. This is the darker side of war, the side that nobody really wants to talk about, though we all know it has to exist for fear of despotic loon’s running amok with plan’s of global domination hanging out of their back pockets as they cackle to themselves whilst stroking their obligatory fluffy cat. And nobody does it better than Treyarch and Activision.
The game, for those players who live somewhere on the outer rim, Tattooine or under a large rock, is your standard issue Call of Duty format. First person shooter action wrapped up in the best storyline, in our opinion, of the entire CoD series. However, unlike its previous incarnations Black Op’s has taken the storyline a little deeper and a little darker than ever before. Playing as Mason we are taken through the games missions and objectives in a series of flashback’s as he undergoes torture at the hands of the games main antagonist Dragovic, a Russian mercenary with plan’s to use a new bio-chemical weapon in his maniacal plans to terrorise the world into submission.
From the onset of the game you are in gloriously familiar territory, as Treyarch take you on an amazing journey through some of the best locations and graphically superior backdrop’s that we have ever had the pleasure of playing through. The mission’s are as varied in objective as they are in locations with Mason being charged with everything from rescuing vital sources of intelligence, to bringing in whistle blowers and taking part in the Vietnam War itself, albeit in an altogether more ‘hush-hush’ capacity. With something for everyone the single player campaign has to be the crowning achievement of what already is the most successful and greatest FPS franchise in the history of videogaming. Everything just looks and feel’s so utterly responsive that at times you are turning to look behind you when you hear the ping of a ricochet. The graphic’s are sublime and the way that Treyarch has managed to squeeze every last drop of juice out of the game’s engine is blatantly obvious to all but the most critical of detractors eyes. Response times are still changeable in the settings menu, but when you have a title that looks and feels as good as Black Op’s does why you would ever want to mess with the set up is beyond us.
Something that often get’s overlooked in videogames of this stature and content is usually the sterling job done by the games sound engineer’s but credit where credit is due, the team behind the acoustic’s and audio in Call of Duty: Black Op’s need to have their fair share of the accolades and recognition, as it is due in no small part to the first class job that every person in the Treyarch studio’s does that makes for such a perfect finished article. Too much praise you think? Perfect? Trust us, just get yourself along to a gaming outlet, or to the Activision or Call of Duty website itself, and grab your copy of this truly staggering piece of workmanship, and when you have returned from the infirmary after having your jaw wired from the amount of times it will have connected with the floor, as you repeatedly drop it when you witness the superb action pieces in front of you, then email us and let us know what you think? We have a fair idea how it will go.
Without wanting to spoil the single player campaign too much, and without leaving spoiler alerts all through this review we can genuinely tell you that Treyarch and Activision have done it again with Call of Duty: Black Op’s. A true gaming gem of a title that will see you returning to play the awesome campaign mode time and time and time again.
The gameplay is a cut above the rest, and then some. With rival’s recently launching rehashed competitors for the crown of King of FPS we don’t think that the guy’s and girl’s behind the Call of Duty franchise has anything to worry about. Non stop blood-pumping action comes at you thick and fast as you race from one heart-pounding scenario to the next in your struggle to achieve your goals and objectives in your fight to stop the evil Dragovic. With all the feel of a Hollywood blockbuster action movie Black Op’s throw’s enemy combatants at you by the lorry load as you watch in awe at some truly spectacular set pieces. The addition of the ‘Slow-Mo’ action scenes was a nice touch and whether you are sliding down rooftops as you bid to outrun your pursuers, or smashing through windows on ziplines they make for timely and excellent inclusions as you enter the ‘bullet time’ mode and complete the desired task.
But an outstanding single player has always been the mainstay of a Call of Duty title, and Black Op’s is no exception. With the campaign taking anywhere between 15 hours plus, depending on your difficulty settings, you are in for a treat that will have you booking a return ticket to the shoes of Alex Mason on any number of occasions.
Another mode that has seen a welcome return to Treyarch’s arsenal of Black Op’s bliss see’s the resurrection of those insatiable Zombies. Kind der Toten has those undead nightmares back for more as they seek to get their fill of human flesh. Preferably yours.
In a new ‘Haunted House’ style setting this time round players are tasked with returning the power to the sprawling mansion and its ground as once you achieve this goal you are then able to set trap’s, operate turrets and utilise auto turrets too. There are also the health station’s as well as a nifty ‘teleportation device’ that allows gamers to escape the clutches of the evil hordes should they require breathing space to resupply or regenerate. Just make sure that yo keep enough points in reserve to affect your escape and acquire your ammunition or alternative weapon otherwise you will just be delaying the inevitable. The co-op section of Zombies is available as split screen through a LAN connection, or as multiplayer with friends or random players from your chosen network. Either way it is a lot of fun and easily has to be the most addictive mode in the entire game.
The setting of the ‘Haunted House’ was an inspired decision by developers Treyarch as the site has been extended from the small setting in Nacht und der Toten from World at War. The mansion in Black Op’s Zombies is huge! Doors opening at a varying cost of points lead to ever further courtyards, theatres, corridors and rooms as the zone just keeps on increasing in size as you frantically search for that all-important switch to reroute the power and so give life once more to the machinery, trap’s and weapons that are placed strategically around the house. Players may notice already, as indeed we did, that when you go into the Zombies menu on Black Op’s that there are two further ‘blank slots’ under the mode title that tease the gamer with the promise of further Zombie maps being made available at a later date by way of the impending DLC.
This now brings us to what a lot of our readers were waiting for in the review. The multiplayer mode.
Call of Duty, as a franchise, has reignited the passion for gaming in all walks of life so much so that gaming is no longer the express domain of geek’s nerd’s and basement dwellers as was previously thought by the mainstream public of us gaming types. Gone are the stereotypical assumption’s of a gamer with ‘no life’ if he spends more than twenty minutes at his console playing a videogame to be replaced by everyone and his dog getting in on the gaming revolution and ‘Geek Chic’ that it is undoubtedly titles such as Call of Duty that have had a hand in revolutionising. So much so in fact that it is more likely that if people answer negatively to the question of if they have played the new Call of Duty yet that the person doing the asking will be wondering if they are in fact mad or have been taken over by pod lifeforms in a Bodysnatchers type way. Call of Duty, regardless if you like the game or not, has done so much good for the games industry.
It is this multiplayer dominance that holds the key to the game’s popularity and success. With all the popular modes returning to the fold once again players will be locking themselves away as they strive to earn their prestige badges and unlock the new perks system ads they upgrade their character.
New additions to the multiplayer in the form of the totally new upgrade system are a welcome inclusion and will see more and more gamers have to base their loadouts on preference instead of necessity. Treyarch have made it so that instead of just unlocking a weapon when you reach a particular level you then have to purchase the weapon using the new in-game credits currency that you acquire by completing contracts, challenges, kills and streaks. It is a far better system, in our opinion, and gives the player a greater sense of inclusion in the decision-making when constructing their load-outs as they prepare for battle on any one of the multiplayers’ stunning maps.
There are also new modes inside the multiplayer itself that will have smiles a mile wide on the face of all those fellow fraghead’s out there as they take part in the new ‘Wager Match’ and the positively inspired move of adding a ‘Combat Training Mode’ for those people wishing to get some levelling up done but not at the expense of their Kill to Death ratio or just downright humiliation at the hands of more seasoned veterans of the multiplayer modes.
The Combat Training Mode allows the player to practise offline, however they will still be earning points and equipment for their character that they will then be able to put up a decent fight with when they take their soldier into the heart of battle in the multiplayer online modes. A genuinely great idea that will appeal to newcomers to the series, and also to the more wizened members of the Call of Duty community who can see the benefits of the ratio not being turned upside down by campers and glitchers.
The new ‘Wager Match’ offered up some cracking amusement at the expense of the less initiated players in the office, especially when we let Rowena take to the field of combat and, being a girl, no man wanted to suffer the humiliation of defeat, but what we did not tell them was that this is a girl who ran The Pitt in Modern Warfare 2 in 22 seconds and has a kill/death ration that would make most snipers burst into tears. Did we play a ringer just to earn comedic value and bragging rights? You better believe it.
In the Wager Match mode up to six players can earn extra credits to spend on those upgrades by finishing in the top three on the leaderboard. Credit’s can be increased by upping the ante, as it were, and staking a larger bet to reap greater rewards. But be warned, bet’s can go either way and lager rewards may be possible, but so are greater losses if you fail to top the board.
The multiplayer in Black Op’s once again is a masterclass to other developers on ‘How to Make an FPS title.’ Superb map’s that are so varied in their nature as you jump from rooftop gun battles, to desert sniper spots, to Vietnamese battlegrounds. It’s all here for the player to enjoy. The weapons are perfectly balanced with nothing being overpowered or underpowered, and even better than that the developers have patched the ‘No-Scope’ tactic adopted by campers and laggers who were responsible for the barrage of negative comments towards the Modern Warfare 2 multiplayer experience. Now we know that there are going to be genuine snipers out there who feel a little hard done by, but for the greater good of the game this had to be done as the No Scope tactic’s of campers were sucking the life and the fun out of the multiplayer mode as both sides sat and waited for the run and gunners to come along before scurrying off to seek out there next ten minute hidey-hole. The winter nights must just fly by in those houses?
The perks have been amended, as have the kill streaks with the way that perks are rewarded looking less cluttered and feeling more like you have actually deserved your prize than just shot twenty guys as they passed by.
All the ‘usual suspects’ return in the form of Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Sabotage, Demolition, Domination, Headquarters and Capture the Flag so those familiar with the Call of Duty format will no doubt be relieved to see all of their old favourites called back into action for another Tour of Duty.
There are so many new modes for the player to try to test that it will leave gamers dizzy from the sheer weight of content that Treyarch have managed to cram into the game. ‘One in the Chamber,’ ‘Gun Game’ and ‘Sticks and Stones’ are all top-notch inclusion’s to what is the greatest shooter of all time as far as we are concerned.
With so much going on the replay value for Call of Duty:Black Op’s is a moot point. This is all you will be playing for some considerable length of time. Probably until Treyarch and Activision come up with the next edition of the series and then you can spend the following twelve months after that enjoying the gameplay contained therein.
So at the end of the day, with no spoilers included, have we done enough to convince you that Treyarch have made the best FPS title ever created? We hope so, for anything else would be to do this game a huge injustice. Call of Duty: Black Op’s has earned itself a place in the record books with the largest sales on day one of any title in videogaming history, and its doesn’t show any signs of stopping there as other records come tumbling down around it like the fall of empty cartridge cases from your MP5.
Graphics: Without even starting to show its age the Call of Duty World at War engine is looking better than ever as Treyarch enhance and improve upon their best-selling WWII title and take it to the next level in Black Op’s. The renders are flawless, there are no glaring glitches and you are less likely to run into a bug than if you were traipsing through a hospital operating theatre. 9
Gameplay: Stunning. Superb,Staggering and achingly beautiful. Black Op’s is simply put the most compelling action title that you arte ever likely to play until the arrival of the next instalment of the series. A true gaming masterpiece and one that is a must buy a title for any gamer. The control’s are perfect, the frame rate ideal, the action is breathless and the AI is intuitive to th point that you are searching the room for a friend hiding with another controller. Black Op’s has taken the title of Game of the Year. 10
RePlay Value: The most compelling and highly addictive game ever devised. With a single player campaign that will have you open-mouthed at its gameplay and content, right through to the new Zombies mode that is a co-op Heaven all the way to the greatest online shooter mode that we have yet witnessed in any title in any genre. Call of Duty: Black Op’s will be the first game that you reach for every time you turn on your console. Absolute gaming perfection. 10
Presentation: Everything about Call of Duty: Black Op’s screams out quality at you. The game’s storyline, the graphics, the voice acting, sb-plots, single player campaign, co-op ,odes, Zombies, online multiplayer, local co-op, local multiplayer, the new modes, the touched up kill streaks and perks, the new credit system, the personalization of your character…everything. Treyarch have managed to do the impossible and that is to better their World at War masterpiece. If you only buy one game this year, this has to be it! 10