Call of Duty: Black Ops – PC Game Review
Call of Duty: Black Ops. PC Game. Publisher: Activision. Developer: Treyarch Studios. $59.99.
The campaign is the best yet.
Passed Inspection: Excellent single-player campaign and multiplayer. Plenty of fun extras. The best Call of Duty yet.
Failed Basic: Some scripted gameplay. Plot remains convoluted for too long.
For gamers, there is something magical about the Call of Duty franchise. It’s had its fair share of ups and downs, and has taken us through World War II and the modern day. After the fiasco with Call of Duty star developer Infinity Ward, the franchise was effectively put in the hands of developer Treyarch, which has for years been the secondary, the afterthought development team. Black Ops is Treyarch’s breakthrough, and Call of Duty’s finest hour.
Taking place during the Vietnam War but only rarely in the heart of it, Call of Duty: Black Ops begins with a man strapped in a chair, surrounded by monitors, each with a different number blinking on it. Heavy breathing and shadowy figures behind a glass wall, needles and empty bottles litter a metal tray to the side while a morphed voice demands information. And that’s only the menu screen.
Missions take place in the form of flashbacks from Alex Mason, a well-traveled Special Forces operative who is sent to kill Fidel Castro during the Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba. Mason fails and is captured and taken prisoner by Dragovich, a Soviet general with larger plans for world domination. Mason is unknowingly brainwashed in prison, and the story takes off from there. The plot’s only downfall is how disconnected everything feels. Only after two–three hours does it begin to make sense, too long for a game.
Mason’s actions around the globe take him through many locales, though players will also take on the avatar of several other major characters, including a CIA agent and a Russian prisoner. From the tobacco fields of Cuba to the frozen Russian ice shelf to the jungles of Vietnam, there is always somewhere new to fight, and it never dulls. Weapons, thanks to almost always playing as a special forces operative, are not old or antiquated, like the WWII weapons began to feel just a few years ago. Most weapons are still in use today, like the AK47 or Druganov sniper rifle. Remote control rocket launchers, explosive crossbows, a slew of shotguns, sub-machine guns and rifles … combat doesn’t suffer, even in the 1960s.
The campaign is the best yet, thanks in part to incredible action sequences, but mostly because it’s just fun. Unlike its Modern Warfare counterparts, there are no standout scenes in Black Ops, nothing especially memorable to discuss around the water cooler. Scenes such as chasing a scientist across rooftops while eliminating mercenaries or wreaking havoc on the Vietcong in an attack chopper are exciting but emotionally distant. Then again, Black Ops is the story of tough men, who have long since set their emotions aside.
As expected, Black Ops is more prominently a multiplayer game than a single-player experience, though neither suffers. Multiplayer is the finest we’ve seen yet, with new and unique gametypes, an exquisite selection of maps, and an updated experience system that will likely last players at least a year before growing tired of it. Not many games can claim that kind of longevity.
Multiplayer, however, the first two weeks since release, was buggy and entirely unplayable. The matchmaking system was broken, and games online simply did not work. Treyarch has since fixed online play, and now it works fine.
Instead of simply earning points for playing well, a wager system has been implemented, where players take on specific goals to earn points, like contracts to get a certain number of kills or a simple achievement to reach. Wagers is an excellent system which promotes both unique gameplay and extended play, and frankly is all-consuming and addictive.
More importantly, online play is even more rock-solid, as with Modern Warfare 2. Multiplayer is also cooperative, in the form of World at War’s Nazi Zombie game, only with a light sense of humor. Up to four players protect a two-story building from hordes of zombies, all while playing as JFK, Nixon, Castro or then Secretary of State McNamara. It seems somewhat callous to use these characters, but they are done in good fun, and the game mode itself is even more enjoyable than before, predominantly due to more modern weaponry.
Additionally, hidden mini-games are present through a computer terminal, which can be accessed in the main menu. It’s unclear how many secrets are hidden in Black Ops, but we have confirmed at least two games, including Zork and a top-down zombie shooter, which also includes four-player cooperative play.
Call of Duty: Blacks Ops may lack the explosive and memorable sequences of previous games, but it is still the best overall Call of Duty to date. The single player campaign is a fast rush, and multiplayer is the one of the best available on any game today. It’s annoying that Activision refuses to price it at PC prices, but Call of Duty: Black Ops is the game to play.
Armchair General Rating: 95%
About the Author:
James Pikover is a veteran videogame and technology critic, covering high-profile games and hardware from coast to coast. He’s managed to continue being a PC gamer—against all odds—in the face of a monstrous console generation. He lives and works in Los Angeles.