Well the annual Call of Duty installment is released, and as you can probably expect it’s going to be the biggest game this holiday season. Taking their bi-yearly turn with the franchise, Treyarch once again shows that they are the under-appreciated kings of Call of Duty and once again delivers a first person shooter experience with more depth and options than Infinity Ward’s offerings.
Call of Duty: World at War took the improvements that Infinity Ward introduced with Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and expanded upon them to create a superior multi-player experience while delivering a single-player campaign with a superior cast (Kiefer Sutherland and Gary Oldman) and one of the most popular multi-player modes ever in a FPS; Zombies. The same holds true with Black Ops.
The campaign of Black Ops takes the story into the 60s and the Vietnam era with some Cold War fun mixed in. You mainly play out missions that aren’t your normal storming of Normandy-style “everyday GI” adventure. For example, the first mission has you attempting to assassinate Castro during the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Each mission is actually a flashback to fill in bits of the story as it goes on, and in the end you’ll have easily one of the best stories ever in the franchise, although it’s still hurt by too much over-the-top Michael Bay exposition. If you want a more realistic FPS story, EA’s Medal of Honor is probably for you.
But more players just ignore the campaign and head right to multi-player. All your favorite modes are here, including the really fun Gun Game and the Co-Op Zombies mode that’s sorely missing from Infinity Ward’s installments of the series. However there are a couple changes to the multi-player game that people will both love and hate.
The first is obviously a big one for PC players; dedicated servers. No longer are you forced to sit through the IWNet matchmaking process. Just fire up the server browser, set your filters, and select your server. This alone should be enough to sell at least PC gamers on the game, but there are other multi-player improvements that affect all players.
Unlocking weapons, perks, and other customization options has changed. You still gain experience and level up, but as you do you earn COD Points that are spent on unlocks. Some people may not like this, but it actually opens up many more options for you to customize your character. You’re no longer limited to the one weapon you get at a certain level. Now with COD Points you have a choice of what you want to unlock and when. When you unlock the ability to make a Custom Class at level 4, having a bit more freedom to make a custom loadout is quite welcome.
There’s also a really great “Theater” mode, which is similar to what Halo has. This allows you to save replays and share them with friends. It’s actually a great bragging tool. Also new to the multi-player side of things is a Combat Training mode, which is basically just the multi-player mode but with bots. That’s right. There’s a console FPS out with a full bot multi-player mode. You level up in Combat Training separate from the main multiplayer mode, but it’s a great way to learn the maps.
So you have a campaign with a superior story to Modern Warfare 2, and a more flexible multi-player mode with more options and contents than Modern Warfare 2. What are you waiting for? If you like Call of Duty, Black Ops is a must buy.
Final Score: 5 out of 5