Not very often we do multiple reviews here at GamingBolt, but considering the scale of the game, we had no option but to review Black Ops, not once but thrice by our review editors. The final score that you see above is the aggregate of the scores given by each of these reviewers. Anyways read on what our editors: George Reith, Jim Girgenti and Shubankar Parijat have to say about the year’s biggest release.
A nice change of pace for the franchise, featuring a new time setting and tonnes of new modes and features that make Black Ops the definitive COD experience.
The Good:The gunplay you know and love, Zombies mode is still awesome, You can have a guest online, Fantastic Single Player, New wager matches are tense, Impressive new gadgets and weapons, Theatre mode is a nice addition.
The Bad: Balance in the online play is still a mixed bag, Occasional connection issues, Arguably too similar to Modern Warfare 2.
It’s going to be a long day for me. The moment I loaded Black Ops into my 360 I just knew it. When you have three game modes that practically qualify as three full games in their own right, you just know you’re going to have to do a lot of writing to do it justice. Let’s get straight to the point and discuss the engine. Not much has changed. It’s COD as you know and love it, for better and for worse. The only major addition to the standard move set is the ability to now dive into a prone stance from a sprint but, aside from a satisfying animation, this move has few practical implications. The graphics and sound are as you may remember from last year’s Modern Warfare 2 and retain the same level of detail and excellence that made MW2 one of the most impressive titles of yesteryear. There are a few issues with sloppy voice acting here and there, and when playing with two people on the same screen in the online modes the engine and textures can get a little choppy but this is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for complaints.
But let’s backtrack just a little bit and come back to the whole two people on one screen thing I just mentioned. That’s not just in local play. That’s right, Treyarch have finally given us the ability to go into all online modes with a guest profile signed onto the same console. We have gone too long having to make our friends take a back seat when it comes to online COD gameplay and, whilst it would’ve been nice if we could have all three guest profiles allowed, it is certainly a step in the right direction allowing a guest online. High Fives and beer filled COD sessions all around!
We’ll start with the online multiplayer, whilst we’re on the topic. Aside from fourteen fresh and tasty maps and a whole host of new weapons to fit the 1960’s time frame, the core mechanics of the game remain largely unchanged. The biggest addition is in how you unlock new weapons, equipment and perks. You still have to progress through the ranks as you level up in game with experience points but you now also earn COD points, a type of currency you use to buy new attachments and perks. It’s a nice change of pace in how you unlock your gear and gives you more freedom in what order you want to acquire new upgrades. The COD currency system also feeds in nicely to the new wager matches, where you can bet COD points to enter. It’s honestly more fun than it sounds, featuring some creative and often bizarre new game types. One in the chamber was my personal favourite, where you only get one bullet in your pistol, but earn another bullet for every kill you get. Others include a mode where your only weapons are the explosive crossbow and the fantastic new ballistic knife gun. Modes like these really keep the experience fresh and separate the whole Black Ops package from previous Call of Duty titles. The fact that you can now also save and edit replays of your online exploits is also a nice new touch, and makes bragging rights all the easier to obtain.
The online modes aren’t all fairy dust and magic however. There are a few balance issues that rear their ugly heads now and then. For a start some of the kill streaks are irritatingly overpowered, (RC car that means you) and there are still certain guns that just seem pointlessly underpowered (LMGs anyone?) It wasn’t too much of an issue during my time with Black Ops, but I get the feeling it will become a telling weakness as the Black Ops community progresses in skill. The other issue I had were some odd connection issues and an inability to migrate host, though I get the feeling these were just teething problems that will be rectified when Activision adjusts to the server load.
An interesting new addition to the multiplayer spectrum is the combat simulator, a pseudo online game played in an offline setting. Well, sort of. The mode has the same ranking system as in the online play, but you rank up separately so that you can’t just tank in the combat simulator and take all your pimped out equipment online. They even project the names of people in your friends list onto the AI to make it feel like you’re playing with your buddies. The limitations are in the fact that you can’t play any other modes aside from free for all and team death match, and the major irritant is the fact that you can’t play the mode offline! Despite being a mode played offline and being entirely populated by local players and AI, you still need to sign into Xbox live to connect to the servers and play the game. This managed to totally ruin would could’ve otherwise been a very successful offline multiplayer addition.
Next we have the co-op zombies mode that has made a triumphant return from COD: World at War. Whether playing on your own, split-screen or online with four players, zombies mode has a surprisingly large amount of depth and offers a nice change of pace from the usual entourage of multiplayer modes. It is a shame that some of the maps are only available to those who bought a hardened or prestige edition of Black Ops but, regardless, there is still a huge amount of content and enjoyment to be had in the zombies mode.
Saving the best until last we have the rather scrumptious single player campaign, which I will rather controversially state is the best story mode we’ve yet seen in a Call of Duty game. You inhabit the role of Alex Mason, an all around bad-ass and member of a secret government organisation who begins the game being interrogated by an unknown antagonist. The game plays out through flashbacks that Mason has as he is questioned by his mysterious captors. The use of the visual aspect of the medium to tell a subtle sub-story of Stockholm Syndrome and fanatical brainwashing is excellent, and the narrative structure allows the campaign’s levels to shift between different times and places easily. It all amounts to a perfectly paced single player story experience, both in terms of gameplay and, in terms of plot exposition. I honestly found it one of the more enjoyable single player modes I’ve ever encountered in an FPS with a great variety of mission types, as well as some seriously memorable set pieces. The campaign is no longer the afterthought to the multiplayer that it used to be.
The best aspect of Black Ops is probably the sheer amount of content on offer. Whereas MW2 sported the multiplayer and the criminally short campaign and spec ops modes for an extortionate retail price, Black Ops is your standard price of £40/$60 and includes the extensive multiplayer and zombies experiences as well as some awesome multiplayer shenanigans. The achievements list, along with the absurd amount of multiplayer unlocks will keep you gaming for a long time. Black Ops is worth the price of entry three times over. I honestly can’t do the amount of enjoyment I was able to get out of the game justice in such a short review.
By no means does Black Ops reinvent the Call of Duty franchise, and by no means is it original, but it is pushing the COD series in all the right directions with new gadgets and modes, a fresh story with a new chronological setting and, most importantly, the ability to play online with a guest. Black Ops is the best Call of Duty yet, and is the culmination of progressions made throughout the entire series. There will always be those who will prefer the Infinity Ward titles (and why not?) but there is no doubt that Black Ops is a fantastic game that offers a huge amount of content for your hard earned cash.
Call of Duty: Black Ops has really taken the franchise to the next level in every aspect. The games campaign is one of the most unique and intense experiences you will ever have that puts you in the front seat of it all. The multiplayer seems balanced with so many different modes to suit everyone’s needs along with the co-op Zombie Mode brought back as well as the addition of a Dead Ops Arcade Style Game.
The Good: Everything is the game is pretty much good, in fact, it’s great. A truly epic campaign like none other with all the added multiplayer modes and cash system make this the best Call of Duty yet. Online you can now buy what you specifically want rather than grinding things out just to get what you actually want.
The Bad: As of right now there is not much bad I can say about the game other than the fact that you can not “quick-scope” with sniper rifles online anymore, which gave you more accuracy while basically hip firing by tapping the left trigger. The added ‘dive’ mechanic can take some getting used to and I’m not sure whether the feature is good or bad.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is a complete evolution of the franchise. Modern Warfare 2 had many, many glitches as well as successful hack attempts by players that did not help the game at all and the glitches just kept coming and coming. Black Ops so far has seemed to manage to release a glitch free game with out having a large or public beta, which is a hard thing to do for any developer. Infinity Ward created Modern Warfare 2 while Treyarch developed Black Ops. Now with all the glitches in Modern Warfare 2, we still must give Infinity Ward credit for they played a role in the creation of Black Ops being that Treyarch basically used the same engine with a bit of tweaking to make Black Ops the great game it is. Call of Duty: Black Ops has pretty much the same core gameplay mechanics as Modern Warfare 2 with the addition of the ‘dive’ feature and the loss of sniper rifle ‘quick-scoping’. You can now dive or hit the deck by pressing the crouch/prone button while sprinting. As explained above the ‘quick-scoping’ mechanic has been removed from the game and is unattainable even if you have the Sleight of Hand Pro perk. Other than that, if you have played previous Call of Duty games, you will feel at home with the controls for this one.
The campaign in Call of Duty: Black Ops is absolutely phenomenal and breathtaking. It puts you in the front seat of the action like the previous games have before but this time, it is a lot more intense with more action and surprises that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The story is really brilliant taking you all over the world in different time eras including modern day as well as revisiting the Vietnam War, the Cold War and some surprises that I don’t want to spoil for anyone. If you have played the Call of Duty: World at War (Treyarch’s last title) campaign you will be in for a treat while playing this one. Whether it is rappelling through a window or flying a Helicopter while gunning it, Black Ops has many features in the campaign that will please you and let you experience something you have never before, at least in this manner. There are many twists and turns in the story and plot that will excite you as you will never see them coming. The graphics are on par but nothing that would take your breathe away. I cannot stress though how epic this campaign is and how much it blows away all the past Call of Duty games as well as other games campaigns in that sense. I wish I could go into more detail about the story and plot but it would ruin the experience for you. I will go as far as saying you play as a soldier named Mason and are being forced to remember how past events played out that involved you.
The multiplayer in Call of Duty: Black Ops is great, it has basically the same gameplay mechanics as Modern Warfare 2 but other things have changed a lot. Killstreak reward kills no longer count to attain killstreaks. So for instance if you want a 7 killstreak reward, you will have to kill people with your gun, knife or grenade and not a killstreak reward. Secondly you gain XP as well as money now. This money is used to purchase basically everything in the game such as, perks, killstreaks, camo, facepaint, weapon attachments, emblems and pretty much everything else except for guns which you unlock by leveling up. You can even purchase contracts to help you gain money quicker, which are timed and require you to preform a certain feat such as 3 head-shots in a row for example. Your player is extremely more customizable now with the addition to actually change the way you look, by wearing facepaint and Perk 1 will change how you look as well. For example, equipping the lightweight perk will give you a backwards hat among other changes suited to that perk. Your playercard (which pops up on screen when you do something in game & is displayed in lobbies when your name is highlighted) is now also much, much more customizable giving you not just one emblem to use but up to 12 layers to create your own emblem as well as many different backgrounds to choose from. You can even put emblems and your clan tag on your weapon so you can not only see it while you play but make that gun personalized so if someone picks it up when you die they know that’s yours.
There are many returning game modes as well as many new ones. The most interesting being the ‘Wager Match’ modes. In Wager Matches you can wager your cash that you have earned and gamble with it. In Ante Up you may have a party play with you and it is a low buy-in entry. Weekend Gambler disables parties and is a medium buy in fee. High Roller is for the big spenders with no parties, with entry fees starting at 10,000 and you may vote but not pick a specific kind of Wager Match mode. The different Wager Match Modes are ‘One in the Chamber’ which gives you one pistol, one bullet.. miss and all you have is a knife. In ‘Gun Game’ you start off with a weapon and getting a kill with it will equip another weapon of 20 total to cycle through, whoever goes through them all first wins. ‘Sticks and Stones’ gives you a Crossbow, Ballistic Knife and Tomahawk to work with only while ‘Sharpshooter’ makes everyone use the same weapon as they periodically change. Other modes are mostly returning classics such as Free For All, Team Deathmatch, Domination, Search & Destroy, Headquarters, Demolition, Capture the Flag, Sabotage, and Team Tactical. Most modes can be played in Hardcore Mode once you are a high enough level.
Most perks have returned and slightly altered to seem more balanced and make more sense when you attain the pro version of it. Most attachments have returned but many new ones have been added depending on the weapon you can a flamethrower or reloaders that help reload faster and equipment has been added like Nova Gas, Decoys, Camera Spikes, Jammers and Motion Sensors. When it comes to guns you can even customize your reticule color or shape for instance making it a blue smiley face instead of a red dot. Another huge addition to the game is the Theater Mode that recorders your last few matches and you can upload clips as well as make a montage! The level cap has now been lowered down to 50 but you can prestige up to 15 times if I am not mistaken.
The classic Zombie Mode has returned of course with how successful the last one was, it was inevitable. You can only play this mode on two maps, one is unlocked right away while the other is in the pentagon and unlocks once you beat the game unless you type in a code to unlock it earlier. The Prestige and Hardened Edition’s of the game came with a code that adds the four Zombie maps from Call of Duty: World at War that will surely be available for download in the future. New weapons have been added like the freeze ray that freezes zombies as well as all the new weapons in Black Ops. The third map is an entirely different mode called Dead Ops Arcade and can be unlocked by pressing the trigger buttons at the main menu to break free from your restraints and entering “DOA” in the computer behind the chair. This is a lot of fun and is a top view arcade style zombie mode where you can attain all the things in the classic mode but you have infinite stock ammo (machine gun). This can also be played with up to 4 people and is another addition to Black Ops that makes it a great game all around. You can check out a video of Dead Ops Arcade here.
Overall, Call of Duty: Black Ops really takes the cake making it hard to top when it comes to first person shooters and even still it might not be your favorite as the classic run and gun style has always been a part of the Call of Duty franchise. Though with its outstanding campaign and its super customizable and balanced online experience it is one game that you should definitely check out regardless of what kind of gamer you are. Treyarch really did an amazing job with this one.
The best Call of Duty game ever is also one of the best games to have graced any system in recent years.
The Good: Multiplayer is the best we have ever seen in any shooter, better even than Modern Warfare and Modern Warfare 2; Perks are retained and are as good as ever; New MP currency system is a fresh new take on experience points and amounts to countless hours of addictive gameplay; Visuals are top-notch, and run at a solid 60 frames per second without a single hitch; Sound effects are really good- the weapons and vehicles all sound authentic; Single player campaign is varied and thrilling
The Bad: Campaign is too short; Some bugs and glitches in multiplayer; No option to play the campaign co-operatively; Customization options in multiplayer are somewhat limited to just aesthetic changes; Campaign cannot be played co-operatively
To be very honest, I, personally, am not a big fan of Modern Warfare 2. While I do appreciate the thrill and variety in its single player campaign, I simple do not understand why Infinity Ward had to make it so short- five hours, at best, and the campaign was over. The multiplayer, then, was full to the brim of glitches, and while it still was very addictive, I somehow still go back to the original Modern Warfare for CoD MP addiction. Treyarch’s track record with the series has been decent, though not quite up to the Call of Duty standards. Call of Duty 3 was at the very best, a “decent” game, and World at War only stood out because of its surprisingly good Zombie mode. With Call of Duty: Black Ops out into the open, the question often arises: is Black Ops quite upto the CoD standards? Does Treyarch finally match up to IW’s Modern Warfare series? Does the game boast of enough quality to warrant a $60 purchase? Let’s find that out in this review.
Let’s talk about Black Ops’ single player campaign first. Black Ops’ campaign has to be one of the best campaigns ever in any First Person Shooter ever. The campaign never relents its hold on you, always throwing something new or the other, keeping you on the edge of your seat all the while. One moment, you’ll be behind enemy lines, trying to assassinate a major political leader. The other moment, you’ll be piloting a chopper, blowing huge structures like buildings, small settlements and bridges hall to hell. And the next, you’ll be in an all silent cave, not knowing what to expect the next time you take a turn. The fact that the campaign is so varied probably makes it so good. While it still is not, by far, the best Call of Duty campaign, it can very well hold its own against biggies like Modern Warfare 2 and the original Call of Duty.
What is best about the campaign is the story and the way it is presented to the gamer. The story is probably the best we have ever seen in any CoD game before. We start of as Alex Mason, a former CIA operative, who has been taken captive by his enemies, who are interrogating him of his past missions to gain access to valuable knowledge of their foes. These interrogations lead to memories triggered by Mason, which are played as missions. It does add a little Assassin’s Creed-ish feeling, playing missions that are actually memories, which makes for a good change in this somewhat stale genre.
The twists and turns in the story, while sometimes not entirely unexpected, provide for good change of pace and viewpoint to the campaign, and characters we see are probably the best we have ever seen in any Call of Duty game, except for some that outstand in Modern Warfare 2, perhaps.
There were, however, some problem with the campaign. Much like its predecessors’, the story gets over rather quickly, lasting you only around five to six hours. Also, sometimes, it felt as if the game was a bit too linear for our liking, we came across many instances when the game forced us to do stuff to its liking. There were also some bugs with the game, and one particular bug made me restart an entire level in the middle of the game. The AI, also, is patchy, both friendly and enemy. We can creep behind enemies, making a lot of noise, but the enemies will not notice, simply because the game understands that we are trying to be stealthy. Our comrades either stand in the way of our bullets (or the enemies’) or just take cover and do nothing at all. There were several other instances which made me feel the AI was not quite up to the mark.
But the visuals of the game are always there, sky-high level, with detailed environments, lighting and particle effects and other really well done elements that make Call of Duty: Black Ops one of the best looking games in recent memory. The attention paid to detail is astounding- the trees swaying lightly as the wind blows, the grass rustling and bending as we walk through it, the texture of the soil, the sunlight and reflections bounding off a water body or the surface of something shiny. The explosions look particularly good, and the chopper flying sections best exemplify that.
The vehicles and weapons all look authentic and the character models are done really well too. But what makes these things even better is the sound design of the game. The grass wouldn’t be half as appealing is it weren’t for the rustling sound, the snow not half as beautiful if we couldn’t hear it crunching beneath our feet, the chopper not half as awesome if we couldn’t hear its rotor slicing through air, and the explosions not half as amazing if they didn’t sound as… um, explosive.
The weapons and vehicles also sound very authentic. Each of the guns has a different sound of its own, and the sound aptly shows the power, weight and other stuff about the weapon, giving each gun a unique identity of its own- the same goes for the vehicles.
The voice acting is done spectacularly, though we came across a few lip syncing issues, but the characters all sound really good, and the script is well written. This is supported in a big way by the facial animations which are simply amazing, as is with all the other animations in the game.
With that aside, we can now move on to the multiplayer, which is what makes this game so damn awesome, and the best Call of Duty experience there is till date. The most noticeable difference you come across in Black Ops’ MP from Modern Warfare/2’s MP is the addition of the CoD points. You gain CoD points for practically everything you do in the multiplayer, and upon each level you gain, you get 1000 extra CoD points. You can spend these point on practically everything and anything you like- emblems, multi-coloured targetting reticules, killstreak bonuses, weapons, modes, vehicles, perks, class slots and anything else you can possibly think of. We did, however, feel that the customization options in the multiplayer are limited only to aesthetic changes. Rather than seeing just new emblems and reticules, I would have preferred if the developers had thrown in different vehicle and weapon parts for us to create, use and share our own weapons.
Perks make a return, and they are better than ever, though favourites like the nuke have been bafflingly omitted. That is, however, consoled by the new perk additions, the best of which is the RC car, which takes only three kills to earn, and is very powerful for what its worth. Playlists like the Wager Match, and the traditional Domination, Team Deathmatch and the later unlocked Presitge Mode are as fun as one can possibly expect, and will keep you coming back more than once, hooking you for countless hours at length.
The muliplayer fun can be captured and recorded using the new Theater mode, which is a lot like the Theater we see in Halo games. You can record your cool kills and even tweak them a bit using the Theater, and share them online with your friends, it is a cool new addition that adds somewhat to the replayability of the game. Other new modes like the Contracts, which give you a set of tasks to complete and reward you with large amounts of points if completed successfully, and Combat Training, that lets you have the fun of competitive multiplayer offline, stand out and are definitely some modes which we would like to see in future Call of Duty games.
So ultimately, how good is Black Ops? It’s damn good. It’s the best Call of Duty game to have ever been released, one of the best shooters this year, and a game that will stand out in all our memories for many years to come. With Black Ops, I say, Treyarch has finally come into its own, and has overtaken Infinity Ward as the better developer.
Another Take By Bojeeva:
Eager gamers, their trigger fingers twitching in anticipation, braved the cold and queued for hours in for the midnight launch of arguably the biggest game of the year – perhaps EVER. Ladies and gentlemen, Call of Duty: Black Ops has landed. And it’s every bit as awe-inspiring as expected.
The stats that scroll at the bottom of the menu screen in the multiplayer lobby as I was playing online last night informed me that hundreds of thousands of bombs had already been defused, billions of shots have so far been fired and millions of dollars have been earned through wager matches and contracts (more on this later).
Developer Treyarch – the brains behind Call of Duty 3 and Call of Duty: World at War – takes the reigns for the latest outing, which had already surpassed the astronomical sales seen for its predecessor Modern Warfare 2 in the first few days since its release.
On this occasion, the action kicks off in the early 1960s with you stepping into the shoes of Alex Mason, in the unfortunate predicament of being strapped to a chair and interrogated by people with a penchant for electrocution. It’s all pretty gripping stuff right from the outset and quickly becomes a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The pacing of the whole game is exceptional with the story taking place through a series of flashbacks; it’s a clever technique that’s well implemented and actually helps to make the plot a little more cohesive. As Mason, you’re tasked with heading behind enemy lines – and coming face to face with the likes of Castro and President Kennedy in the process. But the stellar cast doesn’t end there; award-winning actors Gary Oldman and Ed Harris lend their voices to the game – the former reprising his role as Viktor Reznov from World at War, with Harris cast as CIA operative Jason Hudson.
The grittiness and gore typically associated with Treyarch’s previous efforts is plain to see, from the blood spewing from your victims during their graphic death scenes to the various limbs that lay strewn about the place. There are all the usual explosions and set pieces we’ve become accustomed to – punctuated by frantic running, stabbing and shooting that makes the series such a success. It’s great fun and one of the best campaigns so far in the franchise – albeit way too short again (it feels even shorter than its five hours because of the frenetic pace of the game, and you’ll barely have time to catch a breath). There’s plenty of variety: from propping up bars in Cuba to crawling through Vietcong tunnels in ‘Nam and piloting the Blackbird stealth fighter. And then there are the boats, bikes, and trucks… propelling down mountainsides, basejumping, zip slides, underwater missions… Russian Roulette… I won’t give too much away but Treyarch certainly hasn’t held back.
Besides the brevity of the campaign, from an objective point of view it does have a few other flaws too. Trawl the web and reviews have largely been favourable although there are also criticisms of glitches and irritating spawn points, making some of the multiplayer maps a haven for campers. Some of the graphics and textures are a little shaky too – although there are some lovely vistas in the various locations – and I’d argue that it doesn’t look quite as aesthetically-pleasing as Modern Warfare 2. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect, however, are the infinite supply of enemies that keep coming until you reach an invisible marker on the road ahead – frustrating on an easy difficulty setting and enough to induce joypad throwing on Veteran! At time of writing, there were also a few too many “finding new host” and “connection interrupted” messages appearing on my screen during online matches.
But while these niggles grate a little they don’t distract too much from what is a great package. You certainly get value for money: besides the campaign and multiplayer modes, zombies also liven up the proceedings and make another appearance, there are combat training missions that help you to boost your XP and credits, and there’s even a hidden twin-stick shooter that can be accessed through the main menu. Personally, I must admit I was a little disappointed the Special Ops missions from the last game are missing.
Ultimately though, it’s the online multiplayer mode that most of us buy this for – and first impressions are that that winning formula is largely unchanged. Some 14 maps are available, all blessed with various sweet spots and choke points. You can pretty much dive straight in and be instantly familiar with the controls and tactics, although you can now also perform a nifty, albeit slightly superfluous, dive while sprinting. Delve a little deeper, however, and Treyarch has added a few new ideas to the mix – which greatly add to the experience.
Besides new killstreaks – which include the quirky radio controlled car that you can detonate at your unsuspecting opponents’ feet – a really nice touch is the addition of COD Points (currency that is earned to buy new weapons, perks and attachments) – a clever way of being able to specialise on a certain weapon and improve your skills as and when you want to. You can supplement your coffers by signing up to contracts and completing the various objectives, often within time limits. Wager matches are innovative too, with players able to gamble on the outcome of one of the four game modes: One In The Chamber, Gun Game, Sticks and Stones and Sharp Shooter. Make it into the top three and you’ll reap the rewards. It’s a nice twist on the conventional multiplayer mode and is bound to add to the replayability factor.
So, was Black Ops worth the wait? Definitely. It has a great storyline behind the campaign, it looks fantastic and with the multiplayer, there are so many maps and game modes available that it’s likely to remain the most played game online for many months to come.
If you weren’t among the huge crowds who stayed up for that midnight launch or haven’t already bought it, then stop reading this and get down to the shops to grab a copy! Highly recommended.
This game was reviewed on the Xbox 360.
The gunplay you know and love, Zombies mode is still awesome, You can have a guest online, Great story, with lots of interesting twists and turns and interesting characters; Cutscenes are engaging
Arguably too similar to Modern Warfare 2, Occasional connection issues, Campaign is too short,