In a follow-up to last year’s Modern Warfare 2, Treyarch aims to impress with its most ambitious project yet, Call of Duty: Black Ops. The game features a solid storyline, fantastic gameplay, many unique elements, and a ton of content… even a bonus game or two! Did Treyarch deliver on all the hype that led up to Black Ops’ launch?
I had a ton of fun with the single-player campaign in Black Ops, and I believe it might have delivered some of the most fun I’ve had in gaming all year. The story is good, graphics are fantastic and variety helps keep things interesting. As far as military shooters go, I’d be willing to say that this is the best ever.
Unfortunately, there currently exist many bugs that are preventing people from enjoying the game as much as I did, but that seems to be mostly with the multi-player mode, not single-player. There are reports that the game is far more CPU-bound than it should be, though after performing numerous personal tests, I couldn’t see how things were any different when compared to other games, with the game topping out by using half of my quad-core Core i7 processor. What could be the problem is how the game handles its threading, and hopefully, this is something that will be fixed.
Throughout the entire single-player campaign, which lasts about ~8 hours, I didn’t run into a single performance-related issue. I ran the game at 1920×1200 with maxed-out detail settings and 8xAA on an AMD HD Radeon 5870, and it ran smooth straight through. Online though, things were a different story.
At least a couple of times during any match, the game simply freezes up for a moment and then returns to normal. This of course is a major problem, and has thus far caused me numerous deaths (I’ve played around 15 matches up to this point). Others have experienced even worse issues, with the game slowing to an absolute crawl (think 1 FPS), and others experience typical lag, despite having great latencies.
It’s clear that Treyarch has to do some work here, and it in effect has released a broken game. The majority of the issues have to do with the online play, but this is a game where most people play online before ever touching the single-player, so there’s something wrong with this picture. That said, this is something I do expect to get fixed, because the issues are widespread and cannot be ignored – else there’d be a revolt and Treyarch would pretty much be done for. I can’t see the company allowing that to happen.
I do have one theory to the problem, but it may be way off base. In any online multi-player FPS, pushing “Tab” during a match will show all of the players, along with their ping (latency). Most often, these pings are updated on a once-per-second basis, or once every couple of seconds. Here, for some reason, the ping times are calculated continually and update faster than once-per-second. See the problem here? If the game is constantly pinging users unreasonably, it wouldn’t surprise me if this had something to do with the problem. Again, I could be off here, but it’s a strange implementation nonetheless.
That all aside, the online counterpart for Black Ops is again one of the best of the series, with a huge focus on community, and the ability to allow players to unlock special abilities and other perks with “CoD Bucks” earned after the completion of matches. Unlike previous CoD titles which simply unlocked things as you leveled up, this lets you spend your CoD Bucks the way you want to. You can spend them to unlock new titles, backgrounds, emblems, weapon attachments, face paint, et cetera.
It’s hard to say if hitting Prestige takes the same amount of time as in previous titles, but here that privilege only requires level 50, which is the maximum the game offers. I am not quite sure what Prestige does in this particular title, but I have already seen a couple of level 50 players floating around.
As has become typical of CoD games, you can of course level up by completing accomplishments, from killing a certain number of people with a specific weapon to surviving a large fall. In addition to this, you can now use your CoD Bucks to pay for “Contracts”, which are specific jobs to complete while in a match. Each of these have a time-limit, so if you don’t complete it in time, you lose the money you invested. As one example, the first contract I did required me to pay $25 and gave a reward of $100 for “Get 3 kills using any Pistol, Launcher, or Special weapon”. Yes, easy, but they do get harder as you go on.
In my limited experience of online play so far, I can still say that I’m totally digging the available levels, although one thing I find a tad frustrating is that it’s at times extremely difficult to see players from across the map, especially if they are hiding in some brush. This sounds fine, and is typical, but I have found this to be more obvious in this game than any other.
It could be just me, but for some reason a lot of the levels feel reminiscent of Counter-Strike, and I’m not even sure I can explain why. The overall level design simply reminds me of that game, and it’s not a bad thing. There are 14 multi-player levels in the shipping game, and I’ve been pretty happy with the ones I’ve played through so far.
Believe it or not, there exists more content than just the single-player campaign and online counterpart. The Zombie mode seen first in World at War returns, and it quite fun as is expected, but even more interesting are two hidden games that can be accessed right from the main menu. You must break out of your seat (looking down and rapidly pressing the spacebar), and then walk over to the DOS-loaded PC.
From here, you type in either “zork” to play the original Zork game, or “doa” to play Dead Ops Arcade, a very fun top-down arcade style zombie shooter. Dead Ops Arcade could almost be sold by itself, though co-op play would have been hugely appreciated. The game also features some of the best music I’ve heard in a video game in a while. You can get a feel for the game with this YouTube video.
Overall, Black Ops features a ton of content, solid gameplay, a great singly-player story, robust online play and definitely feeds the hunger that war game fans are looking for. It’s just unfortunate that certain show-stopping bugs exist that prevent a lot of people from playing the game the way it’s meant to be. If you are huge into multi-player and that would be your main reason for picking the game up, wait. If you enjoy single-player and don’t care for multi, then this game is easily one of the best you’ll pick up this year.
If you are wary about making a purchase now, and like SP and MP both the same, I’d recommend waiting for news of a patch and see how that pans out. This game is certainly a hit and a miss by Treyarch, but that miss can be redeemed if the company gets a patch out in good time.
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