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Call of Duty: Black Ops review

| Updated on August 03, 2011 Published on January 26, 2011

Call of Duty: Black Ops   -  Business Line

In case you live in a place where the Internet doesn’t exist, Black Ops (BO) is the latest in the Call of Duty franchise from developer Treyarch. It’s a first person shooter with heavy emphasis on big, spectacular moments rather than gameplay grounded in reality. At regular intervals, you’ll be pummelled by some insane, over-the-top scripted sequence that’ll leave you begging for more.

It’s nothing you haven’t seen before; only, a lot bigger and way more insane. BO is still highly linear, and you’ll face wave after wave of enemies till you complete a particular objective or reach an invisible trigger in the form of a checkpoint.

As much as I loved the Modern Warfare series, Modern Warfare 2’s campaign felt a bit weak. Not only was the story a bit off, but gameplay sagged quite a bit in certain sections, making the game feel more like a chore. Thankfully, BO rectifies this with clichéd yet high octane, in-your-face gameplay that’ll barely give you a chance to catch your breath. Certain missions did feel like a drag, but realistically, it’s not possible to expect every single minute of any game to be full of “OMG, did you see that!” moments.

Campaign

In older CoD games, you constantly shuttled between multiple soldiers, but in Black Ops you’ll mostly play the lead character – Alex Mason, giving the plot a more cohesive feel. The CoD franchise has slowly been making its way to a more ominous and darker setting, and this game ups the ante in a big way. Not only is it backed by a riveting plot that feels like it has stepped out of a mature espionage thriller, but there is also a lot of violence that makes the game not quite suitable for kids.

Even though the campaign is praise-worthy, it is not without its share of faults. For one, the AI is dumb. Painfully dumb. On multiple occasions, the squad just ran past enemy soldiers like they never posed a threat. Enemies too rarely flank or try to save themselves. All of their strength is in infinite numbers. Besides the dumb AI, the game even falters a bit on pacing, where some missions feel like a mindless grind. It’s not as bad as Modern Warfare 2, but it’s there nevertheless. Thankfully, the game has axed the infamous grenade spamming that’s synonymous with this series.

Brownie Points

Once you get done with the campaign, you and three of your friends can indulge in some co-operative zombie genocide. Besides slaughtering hordes of the ‘undead’, you’ll have to tackle certain obstacles in your path. For example, a big chunk of debris could be blocking your way, so one of you will have to shell out credits - earned by killing zombies - to clear it. You can also earn additional credits by fixing environmental barriers like doors or windows that may have been broken by the zombies. It definitely encourages team play and is an excellent addition to this game. Treyarch has even paid homage to co-operative top down games with something called Dead Ops Arcade, where players bind together to hunt zombies from a top-down perspective. The areas are full of power-ups and other awesome weapons that help you decimate the ‘undead’. It’s old-school fun all the way.

MPG Time!

Now we come to what I feel is the game’s crowning achievement – the multiplayer angle. Building on the solid structure laid out by Infinity Ward, Treyarch has improved on the multiplayer by leaps and bounds, giving players a staggering number of options to play with. In case you haven’t played the last three CoD games, multiplayer in this game is class-based, where you level up and unlock a bunch of stuff by playing various adversarial modes.

Credits

The biggest game changer this time around comes in the form of in-game credits that will allow you to buy anything you want , be it newer weapons, attachments, face paint, or even squad signs. This approach works a lot better as you aren’t boxed in by what the game offers only at a particular level. Another new addition to the game is the Wager matches, which has players betting on their skills using their in-game credits. To enter a Wager match, you need to put up a bet, and if you perform admirably, i.e. if you end up in the first three positions, you’ll get a decent return on your investment. Like in the real world, the higher your bet, the better the returns. Make sure you master the game first though, or you could end up losing big. If jumping online seems a little daunting, you can even sharpen your skills with bots.

Theatre mode

Taking a cue from the Halo games, BO ships with a theatre mode, where you can store your most recently played games in the form of a video or screenshots and share them with your friends. It’s not a revolutionary addition, but it’s a good option to have in the game . But as awesome as this game’s multiplayer setting is, it is still far from perfect. For one, it’s nearly impossible to play as a team with your friends. You either end up on different teams, not being able to switch teams for some insane reason, or can’t join each others servers.

Considering online gaming is a social experience, this seems like a pretty dumb move. Also, each server can only accommodate 18 players, unlike Modern Warfare, where up to 32 players could fight it out at the same time. Due to this, some of the game’s maps (which are actually quite big) feel empty even when they’re packed to capacity. Finally, there’s a noticeable issue with enemy spawning. It’s highly erratic and there’s a strong chance that the guy you just killed may spawn right behind you and stab you in the back.

A big minus

If there’s one department in which the game suffers terribly, it would have to be the technical details . When it works, the game looks real nice, boasting some decent lighting effects and gorgeous set pieces. But certain textures look terribly bland up close and the PC version has been plagued by issues since day one. On both the SP and MP front, the game stutters like crazy even if your system exceeds the requirements. Even after the game was patched, many users faced noticeable lag spikes and stuttering across the board. This is manageable in the campaign mode, but in multiplayer gaming, it results in immediate death, which then leads to immense frustration. Dying due to lack of skill is one thing, but dying due to technical issues that aren’t up to you to fix is a real bummer.

Our Verdict

While the game’s technical issues can get very annoying , Black Ops is still a game you shouldn’t miss out on. It boasts of an explosive campaign, co-operative modes and a multiplayer gaming style that’ll have you addicted for months on end. If you do, however, decide to pick up the PC version, I strongly suggest to wait till Treyarch irons out all the glaring technical issues.

Love - Entertaining, fast-paced campaign, addictive and extensive multiplayer, Nazi zombies co-op is a total blast

Hate - PC version is plagued by technical issues, Dumb AI.

Publisher - Activision

Developer - Treyarch

Platform - Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PC

Rs 3,499 (Xbox 360, PS3), Rs 2,999 (Wii)

CHIP

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Published on January 26, 2011
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