Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Call of Duty: Black Ops


   I'll admit, I have not been the biggest fan of console shooters. For one, the controlling schemes always seems imprecise thanks to unwieldy joysticks that can be maddening and uncomfortable to learn. Black Ops does little to convert me over from my PC-shooter fanboyisms, but as my first introduction into the CoD franchise, it offers plenty of value thanks to a rich multiplayer and a decent amount of interesting game modes - if you can even manage to play.

  There has been a lot of grumbling about how Ops is actually a cold-war era shooter rather than another present-day romp as likes of the uber-successful Modern Warfare sequels.  Hey I was bummed out too; being the CoD noob that I was - I just assumed that they would follow the formula. 

  Really though, the weight of the temporal shift is felt only in the forgettable single player campaign. You played one you played 'em all - though I appreciated the Fight Club nod (or should I say, intellectual theft). 

 The meat of the game - the sole reason millions of people even bought the damn thing - is the online component. The experience system, as well as the myriad of gun customizations and "nametag" personalization options offer a fairly addictive experience, especially when played with real life friends (which almost requires a microphone component for the "shit-talking" option).  Even the addition of the "wager" matches for players to gamble their CoD points on offers a visceral diversion, but some  game-types can be frustratingly reduced down to how good you are with pistol sniping. 

Speaking of sniping, you can almost forget investing in the long-ranged rifles. Unless you are already a savant in console sniping (which is near-impossible with the ogre sticks) prepare to get ridiculed by the CoD-nerds as a liability. You know what - they are right. Sniping is so underpowered and such a chore to set up properly in the field that it is completely cost-ineffective and will  make you a liability in team games. Most maps are tuned around rifles and machine guns, so if you are trying to roll around with anything else as your primary (ig shot guns, machine guns, rpgs) prepared to get your ass handed to you. 

You would think that since the multiplayer is the bread and butter of the franchise, developer Treyarch would have had all the kinks worked out. Unfortunately, there are some major bugs that are rage-inducing in their pervasiveness and can completely kill the experience on any given night. The list includes: matches completely being dropped by the server (with all the loss of points along with it), the inability to join certain friends or create a party at times, a glitch that completely freezes or resets the PS3; oh, did I mention the developer already released a patch that they claim fixes all these problems? 

Basically what the game comes down to is whether or not the multiplayer is up and running with any consistency. Unfortunately, it's a crapshoot. 

  • adequate single player with interesting story twists
  • addictive multiplayer and experience system - best enjoyed with friends 
  • Sketchy connection issues, frequent match-dropping
  • Prestige mode is vanity only - don't be lured into giving up all your hard earned customized weapons
  • Fatal error bugs still persist, as well as a bug that makes it difficult to even party up with friends. 
  • Some weapon classes are vastly nerfed from Modern Warfare to the point they are virtually ineffective in most game-types. 
*** (out of 5)


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