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1/10/2012

REVIEW: Call of Duty: Black Ops (Xbox 360)



Black Ops is the seventh installment in the Call of Duty franchise, developed by Treyarch and published by Activision, it brings a really interesting and varied storyline taking place in the 60s when the Vietnam War was happening and a conflict between the US and Russia was successfully avoided.

The game is also a very famous entry in the series and the genre itself because of the multiplayer modes where players in both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 create tons of load outs and visit different maps to play classic competitive games either online, offline or with system link.

The story on it is told in a very interesting way, the player takes control of a US soldier named Mason (for the most part) who is captured by a secret part of the government and is being interrogated by a mysterious voice who is trying for him to tell them the meaning of a series of numbers and stop a World War III between Russia and the USA. As he is being asked questions aggressively, Mason starts to remember some of his past missions to try and find every part of the puzzle inside his mind. These missions are the levels the player plays during the game’s campaign.

Sometimes, the game will make the player take control of a different character to tell the story of what was happening at some given point when Mason was either MIA, captured or simply not important in that moment of the events. For being a game coming from a franchise with a reputation of being casual and simple, the storyline in Black Ops is quite deep and interesting, the events on it are a bit complicated and require paying lots of attention to the dialogs and what’s happening on the screen to understand everything, instead of just being a “stop-the-evil-terrorists” plot and make the public shoot unlimited hordes of AI soldiers.

In the Xbox 360, the game looks very good graphically, it has excellent textures to decorate all the environments (which are a lot), characters, vehicles, etc. For the most part, the animations in the game are good, especially the ones in the player’s character reloading the weapons, firing or simply swapping them. The different vehicles are also very good-looking, there are tanks, SUVs, planes, helicopters and boats and they all look and move great.

But the enemy soldiers in the campaign seem to be very stupid and are not well animated, they will sometimes just run towards the player character until they get killed or come out of cover when they’re still being fired at. It is somewhat common to see the NPC’s animations glitch a little when the player is supposed to follow them or such. Still, none of those glitches happen very frequently and when they do, they seem to fix themselves in a matter of seconds and everything goes back to normal again.

The multiplayer modes also run very smoothly and the characters move very naturally, though they seem to reuse many of the animations seen in past entries of the series like Call of Duty 4 or World at War. The maps use several of the campaign locations to make the players fight each other on them in the many modes available.

Sound-wise, the game also has great quality. The soundtrack is very good with many different kinds of songs in the menus, credits and gameplay itself. The songs from the missions are very climatic and fit with the events happening in the story at the moment. Some of the ones in the menus and credits are commercial songs from famous bands that will be recognized immediately by most of the public.

Inside the sound department, the aspect that really shines is not the music but the sound effects and voice-acting which are definitely some of the best around. The weapons and environments sounds are excellent and really make everything feel like a real war between nations. There are tons of explosions, gunfire, vehicles moving around and groups of soldiers shouting things at the same time and the mix of all is really cool.

The voice-acting is great as well; all the important characters have memorable voices and dialogs that fit perfectly with what they’re doing in the game. It feels really natural and makes a great job at telling the story, making everything feel realistic and draw the public inside the game’s events, which is really important. Truth be told, Black Ops has definitely one of the best voice-acting in the entire genre.

In the gameplay, the game stays really close to the classic formula of the previous entries. In fact, when on foot, Black Ops plays exactly like COD4, MW2 and WaW. You can sprint, use the iron sight, fire literally dozens of amazing weapons, melee attack with knives, etc. But in some parts of the campaign, the players will be able to either drive vehicles or have small sections of slow-motion to try and keep the game as varied as possible, and the truth is that the game manages to do it perfectly. It avoids the monotony of having to move around and shoot enemies during the campaign.

The multiplayer is something else though. As mentioned above, Black Ops stays really close to the familiar formula. The game modes are varied and usually run very smoothly online. In them, there will be classic free-for-all and team deathmatches as well as a variety of objective modes. They allow many players to join in a single session and the maps are very cool for the most part, but while it’s very fun, there’s nothing really new inside the competitive modes that will make the game necessarily better than the previous ones. Still, there are several map packs available in Xbox Live as DLC to expand the experience and give the game even more replay value.

But when compared to other franchises like Halo, Team Fortress 2 or Uncharted, it is obvious that the Call of Duty one is way behind in the skill-requirement part. As usual with the games from this series, Black Ops has a huge auto-aim and the perks allow for pretty much everyone to get easy kills and do well in most of the competitive matches. It is a very fun game but hardcore gamers looking for a shooter that requires skills, team-work and practice to be truly good will not find that here.

The co-op zombie mode from World at War is back and this time, there are different maps to play it with. In it, a group of players will try to survive as much time as possible inside a given map that can be expanded by paying money to open doors. This money is obtained by killing the AI zombies and rebuilding the barricades that stop them from getting to the players for a few seconds. It can also be used to purchase more powerful weapons and power-ups to try and be more lethal against them and survive more rounds.

In short, Call of Duty: Black Ops is a very cool first-person-shooter that will easily appeal to every kind of gamer out there. The gameplay is very simple and not as deep as the other franchises but the game modes and storyline are great and will definitely get a lot of attention from the public for years to come. It looks and sounds very good and is easily one of the best shooters of this generation.

Pros:

-          Great visuals, campaign and voice-acting.
-          Excellent story with many interesting twists.
-          Multiplayer is varied a very fun.
-          Zombie mode is a blast when played with friends.

Cons:

-          Competitive modes do not require much skill.
-          Stays really close to the familiar COD formula.
-          Glitches are common in the NPCs.


-          Graphics and Visuals………...7
-          Music and Sound Effects….....8
-          Gameplay……………………7
-          Replay Value………………...8

-          Overall Score……………….. 7.5 / 10

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