As I type out this review, I can’t help but feel as if thousands of Call of Duty players are peering over my shoulder, scrutinizing everything that I type. Mind you, I’m certainly no expert at FPS games on any platform whatsoever, but my time with Call of Duty: Black Ops certainly showed me why the franchise has such a massive following. Call of Duty: Black Ops carries forward much of what gamers loved in Modern Warfare 2, while adding in an array of multiplayer modes and rewards to keep players coming back. However despite some improvements, the game does have some issues that deters from a perfect score.
Unlike previous Call of Duty games which were set during the World War, Black Ops is set in various locations around the time of the Cold War. You play through majority of the game as Alex Mason, a special forces operative who was involved in a series of key events during this period. The game starts with Alex being captured and tortured by two unknown figures, who are trying to decipher a broadcast consisting of only numbers; something which Alex supposedly knows how to do. The game then has you playing through a series of flashbacks as Alex recounts key missions that he carried out for U.S forces. As each mission ends, Alex unravels more of the game’s Hollywood-style plot, and as you approach the end of the game you get a climax in the story that’s well worth waiting for.
Just because a game features guns in it does not necessarily mean that all you do is go around and blow people up. There is a mix of tasks to carry out in the game, such as defending a trench from enemy troops, escorting a wounded soldier to safety, infiltrating an enemy base and even guiding a rocket towards an enemy tank. You also get to try out several vehicles and heavy artillery during the game, which helps to make the campaign feel somewhat less linear than it tends to be.
Through the various missions you’re accompanied by support troops and key characters, but the way the AI is scripted in some levels is just plain bizarre. My companions often tried shooting through walls or obstacles, and while most of the times the enemy AI was challenging enough, there were some instances where I was standing point blank in front of an enemy for a good ten seconds before he started attacking me. Another problem that I ran into during the single player campaign is that some missions don’t properly guide you to your next checkpoint or at least tell you what you need to do next. In one mission I had to jump across rooftops to escape the enemy but I spent a good portion of my time plummeting to my death because I wasn’t jumping off the correct ledge. Despite these flaws though, the single player campaign works out to be a fairly enjoyable experience and can keep you entertained for at least six hours or so.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a Call of Duty review if I didn’t try out the multiplayer modes, which has been a strong feature of past games in the franchise. This time around, the multiplayer is even more frenzied, and a host of game types being available to you. The game modes available in multiplayer depend entirely on your ranking and experience in the online matches – the more you play, the more experience you earn to level up your character and go on to more difficult multiplayer modes. Out of the box, the three multiplayer modes available are Team Deathmatch, Mercenary, and Free for All, with the option to unlock modes such as Domination, Sabotage, Capture the Flag, and many more. Finding players to go up against was a breeze, with over 166,000 players in the main lobby itself and scores of gamers in the other multiplayer modes. Gameplay is of course ridiculously frenzied as you tear around the maps on your own or with team mates, and you can join in with in-game voice chat if you have a headset connected.