Another year, another Call of Duty game. Some within the gaming community despise the series for the now yearly updates which, they say, are dropping in quality, are all the same, and are from an overdone and oversaturated genre. These people will tell you that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the previous entry in the series, is a bad game, and would likely tell you the same about Black Ops, even if they hadn’t played it. The truth is Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops are good games. Modern Warfare 2 got a lot of hate on the internet, some people would have you believe it was absolutely terrible, but it wasn’t. All right it was nothing new or groundbreaking, and the multiplayer was really just an incremental improvement over Modern Warfare 1 (it was an improvement though). But it was a good game. The same is true of Black Ops. Frankly, I found the story in the single player campaign to be full of every action movie cliché going, it had a bit of a Fight Club style twist, but that’s been done in countless movies and games before. It was a completely forgettable experience. Does that make it bad? Not really, because the gameplay itself is just as polished as in the other games in the series. There were a few vehicle sections to mix up the standard run and gun stuff, but most of the game is exactly the same as previous games in the series, you basically follow a linear path from A to B with a few enemies in your way, so you have to shoot them. It’s simple, it’s a bit repetitive, but it’s done well, with a few exceptions, the AI of your teammates for example, which is absolutely terrible. Thinking about it, I suppose I would actually say that, single player wise, this is probably the worst Call of Duty yet. It’s not bad by any means, it’s a fun way to waste a few hours (it’s pretty short, it took me about 7 or 8 hours on veteran, the hardest difficulty), but I feel it’s got the weakest story of the series so far, and there’s nothing new or original gameplay wise.
But I don’t think there are many people who still buy Call of Duty just for the single player, in fact many will never play it and spend all their time playing the online multiplayer. The main change in Black Ops is the way in which things are unlocked, as well as earning XP as you play you also earn credits, which you use to buy unlocks. This means that a lot more is unlocked at the very beginning, you just have to play a few games so you can afford to purchase it, but also means that you sort of have to unlock the other things twice, once to get enough XP to get the required rank so it’s available to purchase, then to get enough credits to actually buy it. The idea is that newcomers to the game are at less of a disadvantage to the more seasoned players. I don’t think it really works myself. Newcomers are always going to be at a disadvantage, simple because they don’t know the layout of the maps, it doesn’t really matter what gun or perks you’re using if you don’t know where you’re going and are running around like a headless chicken. Newcomers will always be at a disadvantage because of this. You earn credits so easily that you only really need to save up for what you want at the very early levels, when you’ve just unlocked the ability to make your own classes. After that you’ll never find yourself in the position where you’ve just unlocked a new gun and want to use it but don’t have enough credits to purchase it, unless you’re the type who buys everything even if they’re not going to use it. In the couple of nights I’ve spent playing it I haven’t even purchased a new gun, I’ve just stuck with the M16, which is unlocked from the start. I’ve only bought perks, a different type of rocket launcher, and some of the customisation stuff, such as gun camo, facepaint, and some graphics to create an emblem.
There are a few new game modes in which you can gamble your hard earned credits, I’ve only tried one so far, the Gun Game. In it you start with a pistol and after each kill get a different gun, working your way up through rifles, machine guns, sniper rifles and such until the last weapon, the ballistic knife, which is basically a knife where the blade fires off. The first person to get a kill with it wins. If during the game you get stabbed by someone using the normal knife attack then you drop back to the previous gun you had. It was pretty good, but I’m a sucker for regular Team Deathmatch, I consider it the purest form of the game, and therefore the best. There are a few changes to the way killstreaks work in Black Ops; kills you get with your killstreak rewards don’t count towards your streak. I think this is a good change, though I think it’s a bit too early to say how it will affect matches, and if it really is for the better. The Tactical Nuke has also been removed. I have mixed feelings about that. In all my time playing Modern Warfare 2 I think I only saw it deployed three times, once was when a couple of people were boosting to get one, and the other two times it was me releasing it, and I wasn’t boosting. It got a bit of a bad rep because of the people boosting to get one, but I think that was only really a problem for the first month or two that the games was out, when it was new and exciting and people wanted to see it in action by any means necessary. With the changes to the way killstreaks work in Black Ops, obtaining a Nuke legitimately would have been pretty difficult, which I suppose means people would have resorted to other methods. Still, it’s a shame the challenge isn’t there. Deathstreaks have also been removed, which I definitely think is a mistake. Now there was many an occasion while playing MW2 that I was killed by someone who’d just spawned with Painkiller and I too was angry and wanted it out. But now I think about it there were also many times it stopped me from going on a nasty streak of deaths, and if you want something that will help newcomers get into the game then I think deathstreaks were much better than this new unlocking system. Yes it enabled people to get a few cheap kills, but if someone needs to die three or four times before they can get one cheap kill it’s hardly a game breaking problem, the result of the game is not affected. Deathstreaks provided a great incentive for new players to keep playing, even if they kept dying, and provided a bit of a safety net for the more advanced player going through a run of bad luck. After all, what better way to deal with a nasty camper, who keeps killing you, than to run in with a temporary health boost? Or a martyrdom grenade to force him to move?
If it wasn’t obvious by now, I have mixed feelings about the changes to the multiplayer. In fact, several times when I’ve been playing I’ve got very angry with it. So far when I’ve been playing I’ve just gotten the feeling that something wasn’t quite right about it. Maybe it’s just my style of play, but I’ve gotten a large number of assists when I’ve been playing, which is annoying when someone else goes on to get the kill and I get shot by someone else ten seconds later. I get the feeling that the hit detection is a little bit off, several times I’ve had people in my sights only for my bullets to miss. The spawning in the game is also terrible. All the maps seems to be quite bad, often spawning you right next to enemies, but the worst is the Nuketown map. The map is the smallest in the game, basically it’s two small two story houses on opposite sides of a road. In every game I’ve played on that map players have been spawned right next to people on the opposing team. And frankly, I don’t see anyway of fixing it on that map, it’s just too small for 12 players. Hopefully the problems on the other maps will be patched. I’ve also noticed problems with people quitting out of matches and not being replaced, several matches I’ve been in have gone from being six against six to six against one or two and new people don’t join until the game ends. It’s really annoying, especially if you’re trying to complete one of the contracts. You buy these with your credits in the hope of completing them and getting more credits and some XP in return for getting X amount of kills with weapon Y, or for winning X number of games of game type Y, those sort of things. You have a set amount of in-game time in which to perform the task, but obviously getting loads of kills is easier if you have more potential victims, so a game which has less people in makes completing a contract for getting a set amount of kills much harder. This makes the problem of new players not joining quite annoying. I suppose most new online games go through a stage of being a little bit broken before the first patch is released, hopefully Black Ops will get one soon, previous games in the series have probably been a little bit slow in that regard. World at War had a glitch where you could get “under” one of the maps that I seem to recall was around months after its release. It’s inevitable that glitches will be found in Black Ops too, hopefully they will be patched quickly. I’ve already had many good games while playing Black Ops, but it’s the bad ones that stick in the memory, so I may have come across overly negative. It’s a good game, but it’s not without it’s problems. If these will be ironed out over the coming weeks and months remains to be seen.