Call of Duty: Black Ops Xbox 360 Review

November 22, 2010 by  
Filed under Xbox 360, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher – Activision – Developer – Treyarch – Genre –  FPS – Players – 1-18 – Age Rating – 18+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, Wii, DS

They say that nothing lasts forever, but at the moment Activision’s Call of Duty is the biggest game series in the world. Every recent game has broken sales records and their production values are seemingly through the roof. Last year we had the fantastic Infinity Ward developed Modern Warfare 2, this year we have Call of Duty: Black Ops, developed by Treyarch.

Of course, Treyarch aren’t strangers to the massive FPS series, having developed three Call of Duty games in the past, their previous one being Call of Duty: World at War. I’ve loved them all and have really thought of Treyarch as an underrated developer in recent years. But no skirting around the subject, Black Ops may very well be the best Call of Duty game that they have ever put together.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is set during the 1960’s in the Cold War. The lead character, Alex Mason, is under interrogation in regards to the whereabouts of a numbers station, and levels are basically flashbacks of all the events that led up to this point. There’s a real sense of intrigue and I certainly wanted to know what the larger picture was, although sadly none of the characters are all that interesting, which is very typical of a Call of Duty game. Still, it’s certainly quite a step up over previous stories in the series.

If you have a 3D TV, there's an option to play Black Ops with things popping out of the screen.

The campaign takes place between the years of 1961 and 1968, which definitely makes for a varied one. The game begins with the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba, wherein an attempt to assassinate Fidel Castro goes awry, but later you’ll be shooting your way through the jungles and caverns of Vietnam, the snowy mountains of Russia, amongst other varied environments. There’s even an increase in the number of vehicles you’ll be driving, each of which feel polished enough, with perhaps the helicopter level being the standout.

Not only is the campaign varied, but it’s also a spectacular and intense one, delivering many moments of awe. Black Ops is definitely the most cinematic Call of Duty yet, with a number of portions seemingly wanting to be a film as opposed to a game. It’s hardly cinematic gold, but for those who love adrenaline fuelled and slow motion action, this has plenty of both. On this subject, Black Ops can’t really be called realistic or a tribute to the military (sorry, Mr Kotick), it’s just made to excite, and excite it does.

Call of Duty: Black Ops is also the most vicious entry in the series thus far. Such things as the slitting of necks, brains flying in slow motion and pointy objects piercing eyes really could make some people sickly, so if you’re not one for brutality, then Black Ops campaign may be a little too much for you to stomach. It is perhaps attempting to show off the horrors of war and the nastiness that people can inflict upon other human beings, although I did feel that it was overly much at times and as if Treyarch had just included some of the violence for the shock value over anything else.

But, on the whole, with its explosive and satisfying weapons, its cinematic scenes and music, variation and vehicles, this intense campaign is excellent and even lasts for a decent seven hours or so. It’s definitely up there as one of my all time favourite FPS campaigns and Treyarch will certainly get respect from those who love this kind of full throttle, brainless and visceral action.

But, as we all know by now, Call of Duty never ends at the campaign. The series has also become well known for having a multiplayer component included, a multiplayer component that quickly became one of the true online favourites with the introduction of perks amongst other features. Treyarch haven’t simply taken Infinity Ward’s multiplayer and stopped there, but they’ve also thrown in a pool of their own ideas.

Introduced here are the Wager Matches, in which you can wager your Call of Duty points (the game’s currency) against everyone else’s. Finishing in the top three in any of the Wager Match modes means that you’ll be in the money and will be given a percentage of the winnings, and there’s three different playlists with buy-in rates varying from a mere 10 to the massive high stakes of 10, 000 points. There are some exciting new modes, including Gun Game in which each kill will reward you with a stronger weapon, Sharpshooter where weapons are randomly switched every 45 seconds, and One in the Chamber is one of the most tense – you have a pistol with a single bullet and your trusty knife, and killing others will earn you an additional bullet, meaning you have to be extra careful with each shot you make. The Wager Matches are a brilliant inclusion and really sets Black Ops apart from Modern Warfare.

Another thing that sets the game apart from Infinity Ward’s efforts is the return of the Zombie mode from Treyarch’s very own Call of Duty: World at War. This mode can be played in single or multiplayer and involves a relentless zombie attack in which staying alive as long as possible is the aim of the game – using your points to barricade windows and to buy better zombie killing weapons. It’s a great mode and something entirely different from anything else that you’ll find in any of Infinity Ward’s games.

There's no time to watch the sun go down, but the sky does look lovely here.

Visually, Black Ops is a true stunner. There’s a true feeling of scale and lots and lots going on within each level. The game has so many explosions that I sometimes feared that my TV wasn’t going to be able to contain them all, and a fireball was going to come shooting out of the screen into my face, it’s lucky then that the explosions are beautiful – if one ever came raging out of the screen it would be the last thing you would ever see, better to be beautiful than ugly, then. Also beautiful is the snow which acts exactly as snow should, drifting in the wind, while character models and guns are wonderfully detailed. I could continue about the visual splendour, but it’s best to see it for yourself.

All in all then, Call of Duty: Black Ops has a terrific and loud campaign that attempts to throw in as many big set-pieces, environments, weapons, enemies, intensity and moments of awe as possible, and it also has a feature filled and brilliantly crafted multiplayer mode which many of us are going to be sticking with for a long time. Basically it has everything and deserves the massive success and attention that it has already received.