Hopping through time
You don't usually associate great stories with first person shooters, but Call of Duty: Black Ops' single player campaign tells an excellent tale. You play as Alex Mason, who remains strapped to an interrogation chair for most of the game. Your captor wants you to reveal the meaning of a sequence of numbers, which are part of a puzzle you're also trying to solve in order to avert a global disaster.
Classic Call of Duty
In between doses of electrocution, Mason drifts in and out of consciousness, leading you on a series of flashbacks that eventually take you back to the present time. Peppered with clues to the mysterious numbers, these flashbacks see you engaging in Cold War-era battles across locations like Cuba, Vietnam, the former-USSR and the USA. While a decent plot isn't essential to the success of a shooter, Black Ops' adult story and its excellent delivery represent a step forward from CoD: Modern Warfare 2's clichéd action movie style.
The gameplay is slick, well balanced and highly accessible.
Fans of the franchise will feel right at home when it comes to the action, which is classic Call of Duty in terms of structure. Simply put, you enter new areas on foot, clear them of large waves of enemies, and then head off to the next checkpoint on your map to repeat the process. Developer Treyarch breaks up these sections with various challenges, like freefalling down a massive chasm, taking out enemies from a riverboat and a stealth aircraft, and battling gunships as you pilot a chopper through a river canyon.
The gameplay is slick, well balanced and highly accessible. Even when you're chucked into the seat of a helicopter or on to a motorbike it takes no more than a few seconds to become comfortable with the controls so you can get on with the fun stuff. It's also a lovely looking game, with real variety to the environments, from beautiful orange Vietnamese skies to icy Russian seas. On top of that, Black Ops supports 3D if you have a compatible TV. The only drawback is you're likely finish the story mode in six to eight hours, which is a little bit short..
But the single player campaign is only half – less, in fact – of what's a more than generous package. The series remains driven by strong its multiplayer component and Black Ops delivers the goods in spades. Veteran players will be familiar with the returning game modes, which basically involve one or a combination of the following: shooting the enemy, controlling key spots on the map, stealing the enemy flag, planting a bomb on enemy territory or defusing one.
With a better story and absolutely masses of single player and multiplayer content, Black Ops is one hell of a meaty package.
Black Ops introduces its own in-game currency, Combat Points, which you earn through play and by completing challenges, and then use to buy new weapons, attachments and special combat skills. The new Wager Matches enable you to gamble your Combat Points against other players, while another new mode, Combat Training, helps those who are new to multiplayer or those who just want to experiment with different tactics and weapons. It mimics online game conditions but replaces real opponents with computer controlled enemies. You can even play it cooperatively with a friend.
On top of these game offerings, Black Ops features the return of the popular Zombie mode last seen in CoD: World at War. It sees you attempting to survive endless waves of attacking zombies, buying weapons and special abilities in the process, and optionally repairing defenses to keep the walking dead at bay. The zombies get stronger and faster each round, forcing you to make tactical decisions about spending points - which are earned through kills - and opening up new areas of the map. It's playable in single player and co-op with up to four players online or two in local split screen. Finally, a round-based top-down shooter called Dead Ops Arcade completes the Black Ops package. It's a little lightweight, but a nice addition to an already feature-rich title.
It was always going to be tough to live up to last year's record-breaking CoD: Modern Warfare 2, but that's what Treyarch has achieved. With a better story and absolutely masses of single player and multiplayer content, Black Ops is one hell of a meaty package. Combine these elements with its accessible and explosive gameplay and there's something on offer here for everyone.
- A wealth of content and features.
- Excellent single player and online gameplay.
- A great story.
- Campaign is a little short.
- Unlikely to convert non-Call of Duty fans.
- Gameplay isn't revolutionary.