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Posted on Dec 7, 2010 in Electronic Games

Call of Duty: Black Ops – PC Game Review

By James Pikover

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.

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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.

13 Comments

  1. The reviewer is 100% incorrect about the Dedicated Server in Black Ops. There most certainly IS Dedicated Server support and I can’t imagine that the reviewer even played online, because there are quite often over 11,000 dedicated servers operating at any time, with highly customizable game types. Treyarch isn’t operating these servers, regular people are.

    I recommend this reviewer not be sought-out to review any more games for your site.

  2. The reviewer actually wrote the words there is no dedicated server? Really? Good to know this site allows “reviewers” to make up stories with whatever they want because this guys sure is lying and clearly hasn’t ever played the multiplayer he claims to have reviewed. Sad.

  3. I don’t even see the word server anywhere in the review? What are you guys talking about? I see something about the instant action feature or at least that’s what it seems to be.

  4. Gentlemen, I indeed made an error in the review and got mixed up for whatever reason between Black Ops and Modern Warfare 2. as the latest commenter has pointed out, the original writeup has been edited to attest to that point, that there are in fact dedicated servers in Black Ops.

    Armchair General strives to produce the best content possible for it’s readers, though I as one of the writers is prone to error. Thankfully, our savvy and eagle-eyed readers picked up on, as I believe, stupid mistake.

  5. Hi, is it just my dumbness or is it real that the pc version of cod BO (witch I own btw) is far more f***ed up then the console ones. First you cant do matchmaking in the pc version witch makes it really hard to play with friends together. Second you can only play wager matches 500 cod points but in consoles you can gamble more. So wtf why does the pc version suck so much

  6. I am very angry at this game I feel like I am being brain washed.I am old but I like to play war games it keeps me alive and jung. The game freezes, hangs up, and I have a very good computer because that’s all I do is play war games. Question, In what Mission can I free Mason and how do I do It. And How do I shoot the canisters and where are they in Kowloon to get the cassette. Please help. thank you very much

  7. how can I free Mason from that chair and in what mision. Also where are the canisters in that long hall to shoot I can’t find them where is the cassette in the office

  8. I am extremely fed up with this pc game. I have a custom built computer that will play any game on the market except this one.Amd Phenom 9600 quad with Radeon 4850. This game skips like an old hp pavilion. When is Activision going to fix this mess?I have tried every suggestion out there. I shouldnt have to fight this myself. They need to fix it. There is no refund with Steam.

    • Forgot to mention I only play campaigne. Im not fighting servers or any online issues.

  9. I don’t know if I’am doing something wrong but I type ZORK in the old Computer all I get is there is a mail box in front of the house. I am a single player and play PC only. Please help.

  10. Black Ops runs flawlessly on my system. I can find a friend on Steam at any time and join his game or he mine. There are some glitches, but this is, by far, the best COD yet released, hands down.

  11. BTW, how, if a person is reviewing a game, taking notes, and doing what they are supposed to do, can they make a mistake as huge as confusing BO with MW2?

    Seriously. I understand people make mistakes, but one so flagrant and obvious is really unforgivable. I have reviewed books for this site, and I have been beta testing and TEACHING games and simulations for years, and I could never make the mistake Mr. Pikover made. It’s not a typo, and it’s not an omission… it was most of a paragraph devoted to the erroneous information.

    I say again, this reviewer should not be considered for another review until he has proven himself on something a bit easier…say a DS game or something. Something about which he could actually play and develop cogent and original thoughts.

    I also suggest that there is a disclaimer at the beginning of this review stating his error and that it is amended, instead of buried in the comments. I understand he didn’t get paid, but he did get to keep a $60 game it’s obvious he didn’t even play.

  12. hi folks,
    just got the game for xmas i do have a great computer slightly above the min. requirements. i can get the game to load sometimes, but everytime it loads i never actually make it into the gameplay, it freezes after the movie intro the campaign and by freeze i mean complete computer lockdown. ctrl alt del has no effect. please help im really excited by the game and i get the intro teaser then BAM crushed!

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