Monday, 8 November 2010

Call Of Duty: Black Ops

CALL OF DUTY! One of the most successful game franchises ever returns with lots of stuff you've seen before and much more that you haven't.

For those who didn't know, both Call of Duty 1, 2, 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 were by Infinity Ward whereas Call of Duty 3 and World At War was by Treyarch. Confusing enough? Well it doesn't matter now because Infinity Ward has pretty much disbanded leaving Activision solely with Treyarch to keep the series afloat with Modern Warfare 3 stuck in development hell.

It is often argued that where
Infinity Ward was obsessed with making things look 'cool', Treyarch wanted to make the games more story-based and bring an emotional depth that is somewhat lacking in Infinity Ward's action-packed sagas. But it has cost Treyarch the big dollars as people see them as the underdogs of the Call of Duty series, lacking real scope and bogging things down with story with a much lesser focus on multiplayer. So whichever opinion you have, I would imagine for most of the gaming public all they care about is that this is another Call of Duty and does it raise the bar? Most definitely.

Firstly, most of the game is set during the Sixties / Seventies with missions in Kowloon, Cuba, Vietnam, Russia and more. At one point you're cruising down a river shooting the Vietcong while listening to the Rolling Stones - clearly 'Nam films have had a huge impact on the game. The sheer scale and globe trotting nature of the game, not unfamiliar with the Call of Duty series, goes above and beyond what has been done before. It includes every setting you could possibly want from a war game, whether you're escaping from a huge jail or playing Russian Roulette Deer Hunter style, it never ceases to keep you on the edge of your seat.

The graphics look incredible with faces, textures and landscapes making you almost forget you're playing a game. I'd love to see what this looks like in 3D as fortunately the game is 3D compatible! Let me know if I can come round to see it on your 3D TV because I imagine it'll blow your socks off. The voice acting adds even more to the experience with impressive casting including Gary Oldman returning as Reznov (from World At War and an important character in the game), Sam Worthington, Ed Harris and Ice Cube as the main roles, but the overall sound is amazing. The score is epic and changes according to what's happening onscreen, subtle yet deeply affecting. The sound effects , background noise and how it all changes according to your environment is mind-blowing, every detail here has been thought about.

So what about the actual gameplay? My opinion is that it is the smoothest I've seen in an FPS yet. The normal controls are still there but whether you're on a boat, helicopter, motorbike, car or whatever, the controls work very simply and very effectively. You do not need to 'enter' vehicles, the game just smoothly puts you in them and the same goes for entering cut-scenes, you could be riding your car, then get a flash of bright white light and in the second you think you've crashed and died, it's actually part of the story, this is how smooth the game works. There's also some cool 'bullet-time' sequences that trigger automatically, sporadically and spontaneously, unlike when 'breaching' doors in the previous COD, the bullet time could happen at any point making it's surprise even more cooler. The weapons work well and are varied enough to keep you interested but the developers realise you just want to point and shoot and not get too bogged down customising your weapons (which is more for multiplayer use anyway). The game might also be too linear for some, but FPS's aren't supposed to be too sandbox, you are on a mission after all. The whole thing clocks in at about 8 or 9 hours as well, perhaps a bit more, which means it's more than enough to sink your teeth into without getting too bored either.

The story is the first in the Call of Duty series which I actually thought 'Wow' - not in the same way America was getting blown apart in Modern Warfare, or the Russian airport sequence in Modern Warfare 2, but a character piece that would make some Hollywood movies blush. You play different characters, but for the most part you are Mason, some poor operative who from the very menu sequence before the game has actually started, is holed up in a torture room surrounded by TV's and made to listen to a sequence of numbers. 'What do these numbers mean?' someone from another room is shouting at you, but poor Mason hasn't got a clue, so they delve into his memories to try and uncover the truth which is how you 'flashback' to the missions.

I don't want to ruin it by saying too much, but it seems like Mason is losing his mind. He keeps hallucinating and can't seem to rid himself of these Lost-esque numbers rattling around in his head as you control him in key moments of his life and try and uncover the secret of Nova 6. Even when you think you're approaching the end of the game, something else opens up (in a good way) and the second time you play it through, you'll definitely have a new perspective on it. This adds not only replay value, but it's the first CoD game where I vaguely know what's going on and I vaguely care. They haven't detracted from Modern Warfare's gameplay, but they've added a depth to the game people often criticise it for lacking. I'd argue that, perhaps people might prefer the advanced technology and faster pace of the Modern Warfare series rather than this, but I'd say they're missing the point. This is a whole new Call of Duty experience and one that should definitely not be missed - and this is merely the Campaign mode!

Once you've completed the game, you unlock a new 'Zombies' level (you can play another zombie level immediately if you so wish) where you play JFK in the war bunker of the White House. For those who loved the Nazi Zombies of World At War, Treyarch have turned Zombies into a more advanced beast altogether, realising that fans had a lot of fun shooting the shit out of Zombies (aren't Zombies everywhere these days? Undead Nightmare? Dead Rising? Walking Dead?) and includes split screen, co-op and all the stuff that you loved and more.

Treyarch have said that the multiplayer is incredible but unfortunately I haven't had the opportunity to do so as it has not been officially released, meaning I can't log on to the server. I can walk about the maps by myself though or do some split screen action (if I had friends) and from what I've seen, it's impressive. For me, Call of Duty's success relies heavily on how it works as an online battleground but I haven't been able to test this as of yet, which is why the marking excludes multiplayer, as this can be a whole new game all together.

Overall, Black Ops is a great step forward for Call of Duty, it doesn't hold back on plot, set pieces, environments or character and it'll take a hell of a lot to beat this game. As much as I enjoyed Modern Warfare, it's not exactly Vietnam is it? I mean, war back then was cool right? Do yourself a favour and go and buy it. Some may prefer Modern Warfare, but I think this was a lot more fun. It absolutely desecrates Medal of Honor and puts it in it's place, which is at the back. It just goes to show you can ooze style and still have more than enough substance to match. It is your duty to buy Call of Duty.

Rating: 10/10

(excluding multiplayer mode)