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Call of Duty: Black Ops – The PS3 Attitude Review

Submitted by on Saturday, 20 November 201017 Comments

The yearly Call of Duty release is upon us again, which can only mean one thing – it’s time for us all to start questioning whether this is finally the year that people start getting sick of Call of Duty.  We can’t speak for everyone but after putting a hefty amount of time in to Call of Duty: Black Ops, we can at least share our opinion.  So what do we think?

Oversaturating the market is a dangerous game to play (no pun intended) and Activision knows that – perhaps better than anyone.  After all, they’re the publisher responsible for running the Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk franchises straight in to the ground, so why not Call of Duty next?

Thankfully, we can stand sit here today and tell you that is not the case… at least not yet.

Let’s face it, the reason about 90% of gamers buy a Call of Duty game is for the multiplayer, so we’ll start there first.

On the gameplay side of things, not a lot has changed.  It still looks and feels a lot like the Call of Duty titles before it.  It’s traditionally a fast paced affair with a heavy reliance on players’ twitch reflexes to pull off kills.  However, the upgrades that have been made are good ones and were either much needed or much requested.

Perhaps the biggest hole in Modern Warfare 2’s multiplayer was the lack of balance between loadouts/weapons/players.  Whether you were constantly getting stomped by the overpowered shotguns, consistently annihilated by the grenade launchers (aka ‘noob tubes’) or facing a nuclear armageddon from an unstoppable high-skill player, there was always something to drag you down.

5.6 million people can't be wrong

Luckily, the game’s balance is perhaps the biggest improvement Treyarch made.  Up to now, we have yet to experience any one gun or perk that’s dramatically overpowered or abused.  You still run across an occasional tool bag that does nothing but run around the map at the speed of light to try and knife you, but it’s not nearly as effective as it was in the previous game, which consequently has made it less popular.

Treyarch also took steps towards toning down the dominance of high-skill players by riding multiplayer of the ridiculous tactical nuke and taking the stacked kill streaks away.  This means if an unusually talented player wants to unleash those pesky pooches on the opposing team, he’s going to have to get a legitimate 11 kill streak before he can do it.  Gifted gamers can still earn the bread but it doesn’t affect the lower ranked players as much as it used to.

You can pilot this bad boy in single player and multiplayer

In Black Ops you’ll find there’s a lot more to do between matches than there used to be.  Everything you would expect is still there – classes, challenges, unlocks, etc. – but there’s a lot more piled on top of it, starting with the way you unlock things.  A new currency system is in place called, Call of Duty Points (or CP for short).  You earn CP just like you do XP but you spend it on weapons, perks, killstreak rewards, attachments, etc.

Gone are the days of fighting with the iron sites for 25 kills before you could unlock a new sight or scope.  Now, if you have enough CP, you can purchase all weapon attachments as soon as you own the gun.  Perks are the same way – you no longer have to rank up to unlock them.  If you’ve got the cash, you can snag whatever you want right from the get-go.  The only thing that still uses the old ‘rank up to unlock’ scheme are the weapons themselves.  This was a very nice touch and one of our favorite improvements.

"Let's keep this mission nice and short and just shoot the rocket from here"

Purchasing equipment is not the only way to use your CP, though.  Another way is by purchasing contracts.  Contracts are also new to Call of Duty and they work kind of like a wager against the game.  You’re basically betting that you can complete a specific objective in a certain amount of time.  For instance, there might be a contract for killing 25 opponents over the course of 40 minutes.  You can purchase this contract for 25 CP.  If you complete it, you get 100 CP in return.  If you fail, you lose the 25 you invested.  This is another great addition and the fact that there are so many contracts and most of them cycle daily just means even more depth and replay value.

Just when you were thinking the new CP system couldn’t get any better, it does.  You can use CP in something called wager matches, which are all about you putting your money against other players.  There are four different kinds of wager matches and they all have unique rules and regulations (you can find all four detailed here).  There’s a small buy-in to participate in each game and the top three players at the end of each round get a payout.  These not only provide yet another way to use your CP but they create some of the most intensely competitive matches we’ve ever taken part in.

Yet another addition to the already ridiculously capacious multiplayer is the theatre.  Every match you play is saved to your console for a set amount of time.  You can go back after a game is over and watch the match again from any perspective you want, be it first-person, third-person, a roaming camera or an opponent’s view.  You can then upload still shots, the whole match, or just bits and pieces of the match to your file share.  You’ve got 6 spaces to fill in your file share and it’s easily viewable by all of your friends.  Again, this is another amazing addition and something core Call of Duty players will likely use a lot.

"Bill, will you look what you've done! There's strawberry jam everywhere!... hey what happened to your eye?"

If you’re looking for a break from all the multiplayer mayhem, you might find that the single player campaign is a good place to go.

Just like the Call of Duty games before it, you play the role of several different people, but this time, the story revolves mainly around one individual.  His name is Alex Mason and the game starts with him being tortured for information.  Mason has these numbers in his head that keep repeating over and over again, and the people interrogating him are trying to figure out what they mean.

The plot begins with Mason having flashbacks to his past.  Previous missions and other things he’s done in his life are replayed by you, with the ultimate goal of finding out where the numbers come from.  You’ll bounce around to several different periods of time while making a number of shocking discoveries along the way.

Some of the vehicular sections of the game were a little too linear

We weren’t entirely blown away by the campaign but it’s certainly not bad.  It’s obvious that Treyarch took a very different approach than Infinity Ward did with Modern Warfare 2.  Rather than relying on pure adrenaline and constant set-piece moments, Black Ops is a little more story driven and atmospheric.  We liked the majority of it and it only got better as the story developed, but there were a few parts that seemed to drag a little bit.

One of the things we definitely did not like was the A.I..  Our teammates didn’t get in our way quite as much as they have in previous iterations but the enemy focus always seemed to be on us.  No matter how many allies were around us, it always felt like the majority of the adversaries wanted our heads and our heads only.

Another thing we weren’t so fond of was the decision to bring back the infamous ‘unlimited enemy spawning’.  It wasn’t like this in every level but there were several stages that had us fighting boundless waves of foes until we physically moved forward.  Many gamers have cried out about this in the past and we can’t help but scratch our heads when wondering why Treyarch brought it back.

Something tell us a 'hard landing' is in this chopper's future

In a not so surprising move, Treyarch decided to reinstate zombies for Black Ops.  We’ve never known this mode to be a huge hit among the masses but there does seem to be a large niche of gamers that adore it.  It’s essentially unchanged and comes with a disappointingly small number of maps, but if you liked it in World at War, you’ll probably enjoy it in Black Ops as well.

Speaking of zombies, we also want a make a quick note about Dead Ops.  Dead Ops is a small game that can be accessed in the interactive main menu by going to the computer monitor in the corner of the room.  It’s a dual stick shooter that controls just like Stardust or Burn Zombie Burn. It almost felt like Treyarch treated this as more of an easter egg than a separate game mode but we enjoyed it.  It’s fairly lengthy, it handles well and it can be played with up to four players via the PlayStation Network.

On the graphical side of things, we were a little let down by Black Ops.  Both the single player and multiplayer seem to have gotten a downgrade.  The game doesn’t look bad by any means but things are just a touch blurrier than we’d like to see them, and the frame rate takes very noticeable dips from time to time.

The sound design is about on par with the series.  Explosions and effects are good, the voice acting is solid but not award-worthy and we thoroughly enjoyed the strategically placed single player soundtrack.

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Call of Duty: Black Ops is a little bittersweet for us.  It’s sweet because the game itself is a good one.  The single player was enjoyable, the multiplayer is absolutely fantastic and overall this is another solid offering from Treyarch.

It’s bitter because we’ve realized that this formula has probably reached the end of its enjoyment and we’re not sure that Activision will identify that.  Black Ops might just be the peak of the Call of Duty franchise, but for the good of the series and the gamers that play it, we hope the next iteration starts building a new mountain.

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