Call Of Duty: Black Ops - An Alternative Review
by, 12-04-2010 at 02:15 PM (1399 Views)
Call of Duty: Black Ops.
You're probably thinking this review is late to the party. Another two cents dropped on top of a huge pile of change. However, now the dust has settled from the game's stellar launch and the raging or ridiculous argument over Treyarch or Infinity Ward has been put to bed, its time for a more objective assessment of Black Ops.
And by objective assessment I mean my completely unobjective opinions.
Black Ops campaign mode is short, lacking in depth, and strangely boring. Modern Warfare 2's campaign may have been fantastical, it may have been ridiculous, and it may not have made a lot of sense but it was thrillingly exciting in a dramatic and cinematic way. The characters, whilst being less realistic, we're developed well, crazed, and engrossing. Modern Warfare 2 had a feeling similar in character to Metal Gear Solid. Not a bad thing. Black Ops suffers in this department, the loading scenes focusing on the interrogation of 'your' character rarely develop anything other than an interrogator auto tuning you into the next action sequence. The story is spread out over a number of years and suffers from the same disjointed feeling as MW2. The supporting cast are more realistic as people but less exciting because of it. I don’t play video games to get a dose of reality... I play them to be entertained and escape the humdrum of my LA apartment and the grind of everyday life.
Treyarch use a number of elements that I always dislike throughout the campaign mode. Infinite enemies anyone? No thanks. Pointless 10 second driving section? Not for me. Some buggy checkpoints in the early sections also frustrated me when an NPC would disappear and leave me stuck banging my head against a door both literally and in the game world.
The boat section, however, was quite a riot... but only if you crank the Stones up to 10 to move it from background music to soundtrack. The much talked about section of Vietnamese tunnels just reminded me of early Doom. Confined, dark, and with its fair amount of predictable ghost train style enemies jumping out and screaming.
There was also a surprising lack of 'Black Ops' in the game. Most levels consisting of wave upon wave of enemies and some serious firepower to gun them down. More sneaking would have been enjoyable. A few levels that involve some serious knifing and some gadget-tastic tomfoolery would have released some of the constant pressure of the campaign.
The plot developments were obvious and as telegraphed as Joe Frazier's hooks in the late part of his career. I would have liked to have seen more era specific weirdness going on. The boat ride in particular would have benefited from a slower start and some NPC characters tripping balls on acid in the vein of Apocalypse Now. My last gripe on the campaign is the lack of NPCs on your side. Something Modern Warfare 2 really managed to convey was being part of a larger war and a larger unit. There was a great deal of background acting in opening scenes and set pieces that I would have liked Treyarch to pick up on. Here endeth the critique of the campaign.
Now the multiplayer, on the other hand, is incredibly well crafted. The initial confusion on new maps gives way to some great tactical layouts that tend to balance the play for new-comers and hardcore prestige players. This can only be a positive thing. It struck me as strange that kill-streak kills weren't counted towards your next kill-streak option but this is easily adjusted to. Some of the levels are somewhat flat with only two levels to work with (upstairs downstairs) but all in all I think it’s a great compliment of maps to work though. Some perk challenges are ridiculous (capture the flag for your marathon completion) but these are minor issues. The new compliment of equipment is fantastic, the level of customization adds a whole new element, and the stats... oh the stats. It’s a veritable statgasm. If you need some time out after a particularly heart racing session you can immerse yourself in your statistical brilliance (or shortcomings) for twenty minutes or so. A friend of mine who shockingly still hasn’t hooked his XBOX up to the interwebs asked to borrow my copy for a couple of days. I had to decline as I think the main pleasure in Black Ops is the multiplayer component. Playing through the campaign only would serve to reduce the game to one dimension when the depth and enjoyment of multiplayer adds so much more.
I’m sure I’ll be playing this until the next installment of Modern Warfare 3 comes out and I’ll be interested to see what they can lift from this experience and what they can jettison. More work is needed on the campaigns of all Call of Duty titles but they've almost reached an apex in the multiplayer. Sooner or later, as with Halo or Gears of War, the entire structure of the franchise is going to become too familiar and will need to be shaken up somewhat but I still think Call of Duty has room for one more 'traditional' on the rails ride through the war-zones of the world.