Powerhouse Activision developer Treyarch put a lot of effort into the single player campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Sam Worthington was brought back to reprise his role as Alex Mason, Michael Rooker (who you may remember from The Walking Dead, Call of the Dead or Mallrats) also joined the cast, as well as Tony Todd, the immortal James Hong (David Lo Pan and fuck you if you don’t know who that is) and they brought in Trent Reznor to score the game.
That Activision money came out in spades, and Reznor even seems to be channelling late 70s/early 80s Roger Waters at times. Despite this, and despite the fact that I was home by 12:35am Tuesday morning with my game in hand, I still haven’t played the Campaign yet. I’ll hit it tomorrow, or really later today…because I’m off tomorrow, but I have some very definite thoughts about what I’ve played thusfar.
Yes, Black Ops 2 teabags your mom. It’s that good…if you like CoD. If you don’t like FPSes or you’re just way too cool to admit to liking CoD on the internet, then that’s beautiful. Just know this…this is not the “same old CoD” that you’re used to. It’s still a first person shooter with the framerate and control scheme that was, is and continues to be the Gold Standard in FPS console gaming…but aside from that, shit is ALL KINDS OF different this year.
And just as a side note, I love how people love to hate on CoD for being “the same,” yet they talk about Halo 4 as if they’re giving themselves a handjob at the same time. Anyway…I don’t want to digress too much…
Multiplayer is totally jacked. Your loadouts are customizable to the point of ridiculousness; with the ability to exchange secondary weapons, attachments and other items to add additional perks to the three that you already have…the scorestreaks include some awesome rewards for running it up (Hunter Killer FTMFW) and you could probably spend an hour or two just setting up your five custom classes.
Zombies has been completely reworked with Tranzit and Campaign, and while certain changes weren’t quite so welcome (lava adds challenge but becomes more annoying than anything), other things are (some maps start with power on and all perk machines/Pack A Punch rearing and ready to go). I’m still trying to get a grip on it, as it’s not quite the as linear as Black Ops’ zombies are…once I was on a bus and another time, there was no bus at all.
I haven’t played the single player campaign yet, but when I do, you can be damn sure I’ll have things to say about it, as well as tips and shit. I kinda slacked on that with Modern Warfare 3…my bad.
Until then, happy merc’n, bitches.
On Tuesday, Treyarch released their most recent ploy for mine and your hard earned money, the Escalation map pack for Call Of Duty: Black Ops. Priced at $14.99, the Escalation Pack includes 4 all new multiplayer maps and a new zombie map as well.
New for multiplayer are the maps Zoo, Convoy, Hotel and Stockpile. These maps will work in any and all modes available for competitive multiplayer. The new zombie map is named Call Of The Dead, and since that map is the most different from it’s forebears, I guess that’s the best place to start a review.
Call of the Dead is a more cinematic approach to zombies mode. Rather than a comic strip, it opens with an actual cutscene, which isn’t too involved, but I won’t spoil it for you.
Basically you are cast as one of four potential players. You can be either Danny Trejo (in full Machete gear), Sarah Michelle Gellar (in leather pants…not sure if that’s what “Buffy” wore or not), Robert Englund (not dressed as Freddy Krueger, unfortunately), and/or Michael Rooker (actor from a bunch of movies you may or may not know, playing the role of a poor man’s Woody “Tallahassee” Harrelson).
The round starts with you and any other players spawning in an Arctic looking hillside. For some unspecified reason, the Godfather of Zombies, George Romero, rises out of a nearly frozen lake with an electified hammer or truncheon or some shit. Before we go any further, I just want to share a spoiler for people who want to know how to start off as best as possible…
Don’t attack George at all. Don’t shoot him, don’t knife him, don’t even go near him. As near as I can tell, he’s indestructible, but leaves you alone if you leave him alone…kinda like a bee.
Anywho, the mode then plays out similarly to other zombie maps, although the difficulty does ramp up immediately. There’s no 4 rounds of pussy zombies to frolic through…you’re fighting for your life against strong zombies from the start, and you need to upgrade your weapons sooner rather than later.
The rest of the map plays out pretty much as zombies normally does…or at least as far as I’ve gotten, it does. It’s definitely harder than all the other zombie maps from Black Ops OR World At War, and if you want to know what helpless frustration is like, try to kill Romero. Oops, that’s another spoiler…ah shit.
Moving forward, the four multiplayer maps keep with the game’s Cold War Era feel. Hotel is by far the largest map, and as such, it’s the most disappointing. You basically have two multifloor, large hotels on either end of the map, with a few buildings, topiaries and obstacles in between. I spent most of the time searching for someone to kill.
This is probably the best sniper board in the series since Modern Warfare, if you ask me…if for no other reason than there’s just sooooo much dead space. If you’re a good camper, you can get over 20 kills a match on this one. If you’re a good run n’ gunner, you can hope for 20…but there’s just so much space that it’s not easy to meet up with enemies on the reg.
The trailer hints at elevators and rigging them with explosives for surprise Claymore kills…yeah, that’s a joke. The elevators are absolutely useless. There’s no reason to even stand near enough to the elevator door that you’d even get caught with a Claymore, much less actually use the damn things. If you had up to 32 players on this map, it’d be a totally different and probably better experience, but with only up to 12, this map is pretty worthless.
Zoo is an old Russian Zoo…duh. It’s a pretty symmetrical map, but it has different features here and there that make it stand out. It feels like a sequel to MW2′s Resurgence Pack map Carnival. It’s bright and vivid and there’s a monorail for a little vertical gameplay.
There’s lots of different ways to get around the outskirts of the map, there’s plenty of buildings for cover and there’s also long, end to end sightlines for you snipers out there. Overall it’s a pretty good map, offering a little something for everyone and it definitely rewards exploration with new and interesting vantage points.
Stockpile is a camper’s wet dream. Lots of buildings with multiple floors and windows. There’s a huge building in the middle, you may have seen the trailer where the guys run to the building because the garage doors being shut to close off the rear entrance. Yeah, it’s not that big a deal to the gameplay.
Basically, every inch of open road can be sniped at from any one of several buildings, and doing well is finding the balance between camping and moving, or working with your team to secure the middle building, which is probably the most difficult but direct path to success on this map. This one mixes it up inside the buildings but for the most part is a campfest. Good map, but not the best.
Convoy is a big map that plays small. A freeway runs down the middle with overpasses for snipers, and on the sides are a gas station, travel lodge motel, school and a few other buildings. Running down the middle of the freeway isn’t a good idea. The freeway is hit from either end spawns as well as two side access points in the middle. All the while it’s covered by two overpass bridges that always have campers on them.
The key to surviving on this map is moving quickly from building to building and staying out of the campers’ crosshairs. Sometimes the gameplay can bunch up into certain areas and be somewhat frenetic, but for the most part it’s a pretty even map. Not my favorite, but it’s workable.
Graded the way I grade full games, this map pack gets a 6 out of 10. Other than Call of the Dead, these maps don’t really bring anything that’s overwhelmingly good or exciting to the table…honestly even Call of the Dead eventually goes back to being just another zombies map. Not that that’s bad, but the maps aren’t at all anything special, either.
Well, I shouldn’t say that…Hotel is a legitimately bad map for the 12 player rooms. Too much dead space and not enough elevated camping positions. This is a map fit for Resistance 2 with it’s 60 person rooms. It’s not as big as some of them are, but it’s at least as big as the Chicago map…but the point is that it’s simply far too large for only 12 players.
If you’re a casual Black Ops player, then you probably have better things to spend $15 on…like a half a tank of gas. It’s not integral to the experience to have the MP maps and the zombified coolness of Trejo, Gellar, Englund and Rooker wears off as soon as you go into First Person view.
Now…if you’re a regular, hardcore or addicted Black Ops player, then this doesn’t matter because if you don’t already own it now, it’s only because you’re waiting till next month to own it on PSN…if PSN is still around by then, that is. If you Black Ops on the reg, then you’re pretty much going to need the mappack to keep from getting dropped out of lobbies once Escalation maps come up.
It’s not like these are the MW2 mappacks…these are all new maps and are worthy of $15 for a purchase, but really only if you play Black Ops on the reg. 6 out of 10. Good, worth it, but not really “inspired.”
The Call Of Duty franchise is the gaming world’s equivalent of the 1986 Mets. Setting records, beating other games and even gamers into submission, all while the most interesting things were happening behind the scenes.
You had Infinity Ward (officially not intentionally) ruining Modern Warfare with its limited PC features, cheap perks, glitches, laggers and total lack of dedicated servers or any kind of quality server architecture at all (which wasn’t at all an attempt at lashing out at their publishing partner Activison, allegedly)…all while the studio heads were allegedly brokering their next publishing deal with Activision’s main rival, EA.
Then of course there was Activision, charging $15.00 for $6.00 worth of downloadable content and bringing in a bunch of Jersey Shore bouncers to sweat down and eventually coerce signed confessions from….ERRRRRRRRRRRRRR…fire IW studio heads Jason West and Vince Zampella, which was of course followed by the resignation of every lead and quality developer employed by a studio is now for some reason still called “Infinity Ward,” to join West and Zampella in their new development team, Respawn Entertainment.
…which of course just signed a nice fatty contract with EA.
Through all this, some of us railed against Modern Warfare 2 and more specifically the draconian and frankly insulting business model put forth by Activision’s CEO…The Lord Of The Flies, The Spoiler Of Virgins, The Master Of Abortions, Lucifer himself, Bobby Kotick.
Concerns of cookie cutter banality abounded at the announcement that Treyarch would have CoD: Black Ops available less than a year after MW2 launched…and that Activision would be releasing more overpriced DLC and repeating the cycle with a “new” CoD game every fiscal year…oh and then there was the announcement that CoD could become a subscription based service in the future, similar to another Activision cash cow, World Of Warcraft.
By the way, Bobby Kotick…fuck you and fuck everyone who lives in your house.
Anyway, despite the fact that Call Of Duty: Black Ops is the product of The Devil Himself and as a result, all who handle it are likely to spend the afterlife frying in eternal flames while drowning in the river of blood for the rest of time…credit has to be given where it’s due. This game fucking kicks ass.
Black Ops starts out in 1961, just prior to the Bay of Pigs. You play Mason, a soldier sent into Cuba to assassinate one Fidel Castro. In case you’re wondering, it’s hellabadass. From there the game bounds into and through the Vietnam era, and as the playable character you find yourself rubbing elbows with guys like Castro, Robert McNamara and even Marilyn Monroe’s most famous john…John F. Kennedy.
Unlike the disjointed garble that was Modern Warfare 2’s campaign, you pretty much are on a linear course throughout Black Ops. There is the token “shocking” scene, and honestly it’s not that big. I wouldn’t have known it was “The Scene” if Yahtzee hadn’t already spoiled it for me by the time I got there. It’s certainly not something you’d want your kid playing through, but I didn’t feel nearly as dirty about it as I did watching Makarov and his goons gun down every civilian in that airport last year, either.
The story is great. Again, if you appreciate Cold War era History…this game’s got a lot of treats for you, both big and small. Much the same way World At War had little bits of coolness for WWII History buffs out there, too.
Treyarch brings it hard with the voice acting talent, Ed Harris voices Mason’s CIA handler, Ice Cube voices teammate CPO Bowman as well as the SOG voice in multiplayer, the excellent Gary Oldman returns as Reznov, the Red Army zealot you may remember from W@W, and some guy named Sam Worthington voices Mason…but I don’t really know who he is.
The single player campaign is very good. Honestly, it’s the best CoD single player experience yet, and that’s mainly because instead of presenting missions and “cutscenes” in bullet point fashion, it actually builds a story, builds characters and then crashes the two together like runaway freight trains. That being said, the main thing EVERYONE is looking for with Black Ops is the multiplayer, and I must say that this could possibly be the best multiplayer for a shooter out there.
Before we get into competitive online, let’s really quick talk zombies. Unlocking the maps takes a little doing, but for the curious who find a way, there are three maps or modes I guess. The first is your standard house with boarded up windows in which one to four players fend off hordes of Undead Nazis and their dogs. Yes, their dogs.
The map is much bigger than the previous version, and now you have the issue of turning on the power, finding the Magic Box, keeping to your partners in the rooms they go to and hitting quick and smart weapon upgrades.
The other traditional Zombie mode features as main players former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, former President John F Kennedy, former President Richard M Nixon and El Jefe himself…Fidel Castro. These four oddballs have to defend the Pentagon from the now time traveling Nazi Zombie Horde. It’s nothing if not pretty surreal.
Finally there’s Dead Ops Arcade mode, which hosts up to four players. This is a top down arcade zombie shooter, employing the left analog to move the character and the right analog to determine where they fire their weapon. Upgrades and reward pop up in big lit up arcade bubbles and you basically have to shoot your way through a fair number of the Hungry Undead.
I’m not thinking that this mode’s inclusion will stop me from buying Dead Nation next month, but it’s a pretty fun mode that plays a lot like Super Stardust HD does. It’s not particularly deep (as opposed to the other modes which I think would go on into perpetuity if anyone was good enough), but it’s quick and fun and if you’ve got friends over, it’s easy to pick up and play.
As for the Competitive Multiplayer, Treyarch hit a home run. They tightened up most of the things that made Modern Warfare 2 such a mess and they boosted up the things that made it also so fun and addicting to play. They added a few new modes and even a nifty little Theater mode that allows you to create clips of your gameplay and uploads it directly to Youtube through the CoD website.
It’s clearly nothing more than cheap filler, but it provides some nice bragging points. For example, my Facebook page has four of my Chopper Gunner videos posted to it, as well as a couple of fantastic runs from One In The Chamber. Now of course those vids mean nothing to the people who don’t bother with games and such, but for those that do, they’re able to recognize the legititude…and bragging’s always a little fun, even if we do look like douches doing it.
Now being such a high profile release and having all the modes available that Black Ops’ multiplayer has, fans of other games will no doubt point at certain modes, features, bells and whistles and complain that “their game” (as if they developed it or something) did it first.
Well I’ll tellya what…for my money, the last “original” shooter was Quake. Since then, there have been ideas floated throughout the genre. Some sucked and were never seen again. Some caught on and became staples throughout the genre and the industry.
Yeah, yeah…”your game” came up with some new type of filler earlier. Hooray for you. Go buy yourself a cookie, or better yet, buy some stock in that developer that has no doubt come to count on you and your ilk for your parents’ money and all your inexplicable free advertising. Then maybe your continuous nut swinging won’t seem so pathetic.
Anywho, the additions to the multiplayer for Black Ops are legion and they all work excellently. The maps are all pretty much awesome, although new addition “Nuketown” makes Rust look like a vast Nebraska horizon. You of course have your typical competitive CoD MP options, Team Deathmatch, Free For All, Domination, Capture The Flag and Headquarters, as well as your Hardcore and Bare Bones modes.
Thankfully, someone at Treyarch must’ve played MW2 and realized that something had to be done about the ridiculous n00b t00bs and quickscoping and all the worthless little bitches that run around doing those things. Quickscoping (also known as Ultimate Aim Assist) has apparently been eliminated (or “fixed” if you’re like me and you happen to have a cock) and rocket and grenade launchers have been toned down.
The tubes are more cumbersome and require greater accuracy as the overall damage and (most importantly) the blast radius have been reduced significantly. That’s right…no longer can some halfwit blow an RPG into a wall 10 feet away from you and kill you. There’s fewer tube users as a result, and quite honestly the game is a LOT better for it.
A small but very noteworthy addition is the RC-XD Killstreak reward. Basically you get to control an RC car rigged to blow. You only get so long to drive around before it blows up, but it’s all kinds of fun just rolling up on someone and blasting them to hell, especially if you can roll up on a group of three or four enemies. That’s probably where it got its name from.
In addition to earning experience or XP for performance, you’ll also earn CoD Points, which factor into EVERYTHING…from your Playertag (Emblem and Callsign) to Weapon Upgrades to Attachments to Killstreaks. Even though you have to level up to get the better weapons, once you unlock a weapon, you can buy any attachment you want so long as you have the CoD Points. Grenade Launcher, ACOG Scope, Suppressor, it’s all available immediately.
Again, there’s still leveling up required, but the ability to create your own loadout almost from the get go is nice. Of course it bears repeating that games like SOCOM make multiple attachments available at the outset, but certainly the leveling up and earning of the ability to buy new weapons is a hallmark in the CoD “Addiction” marketing strategy, and it all blends fairly seamlessly.
There’s a couple of new weapons, too. The Tomahawk replaces the Throwing Knife, but that’s pretty much all it is. The Crossbow, on the other hand…is awesome. You get three explosive tipped darts that go off about 2 seconds after the arrow impacts. Anyone nearby the arrow when it blows gets blown up, but the money shot is when you stick someone. There’s no way to get unstuck, so they just have to wait to blow up. Sticking a person is pretty challenging and honestly it’s so awesome that it’s its own reward.
The Ballistic Knife is a reloadable…knife…that shoots a knife at whatever’s in your reticle. Your melee stroke is sped up kinda like the Tac Knife attachment from MW2, but since you’re holding the knife it works and isn’t cheap. The knife that gets shot out is a one hit kill (if you can manage a hit with it), and it’s straight up NEEZASTY. Seriously…I saw some cat get fucking fishhooked for the Game Winner last night…that shit’s just wrong in slow mo.
Those additions aren’t all that add shine to CoD’s ridiculously popular competitive multiplayer component, though. The addition of the Wager Matches is just simply too awesome to comprehend. In these matches you’re Wagering your CoD points in with 5 other players. In a variation of a Free For All format on drastically shortened versions of the regular multiplayer maps, each player competes in matches with game changing stipulations. If you finish in the top 3, you’re in the money and will win back your wagered points plus a position-pro rated bonus.
The first game shown is One In The Chamber. This is a One Shot Kill game. In this match each player is allowed one handgun with one bullet. For each player you kill, you gain another bullet. If you die, you go back to the default one bullet loadout. Each player has three lives and the game goes until one person remains. These games are quick and frantic, and basically creates showdowns on the fly, where players have one shot to win.
The second game available is Sticks And Stones. Each player is given a Crossbow, Tomahawk and Ballistic Knife, and must play the Free For All format to completion. As you rack up kills and survive other people being killed, you’ll bank points. If you get killed by a Tomahawk, you go bankrupt…so it’s not always, in fact it’s not even most of the time that the person with the best Kill to Death ratio wins. This makes playing from behind super tactical in being that you’re looking specifically for the leaders and you want to kill them with the Tomahawk.
The third game available is Gun Game. In this game, each player starts with a pistol. As you kill other players, you upgrade your weapons. From a pistol, you’ll upgrade to dual wielding pistols, then shotguns, then assault rifles and so on and so forth. If you’re killed by your own weapon or if you’re knifed, you’ll suffer a humiliation and your weapon will be downgraded one level. This game creates tension because at first all players are hindered by the weapons available to them, but as the game goes on and the cream rises and separates itself, things get really hairy.
The final game available is Sharpshooter. In this game, each player has the same weapon. The weapons cycle randomly every minute or so, but since everyone has the same weapon, no one can cry about being overpowered by some douche running around with an RPG…because he’s got one, too. From there, the players play through the Free For All format to completion, with kills made with the match’s “Final Weapon” scoring more points. This game isn’t really as awesome as the other three, but it’s still a cool mode that everyone should try at least once.
These modes are awesome and a great changeup from the standard TDM, CTF, Base, Bomb type missions in MP. It should go without saying that they are a lot better than the Hardcore and Barebones modes, which are really just campfests, anyways.
The only thing I wish were different would be the betting levels. Your first level buy in is 10 CoD points, but your second level jumps up to a buy in of 1000 CoD points. The high roller buy in is 10,000 CoD points and honestly that represents the bounty from four or five really, REALLY good games on Domination and/or Team Deathmatch. It would just be nice to have a “Middle Class” option where people could bet 100 CoD points.
I enjoy playing at the 10 point level, but at the end of the day you play that for an hour and you really haven’t earned that much extra. However jumping up to the 1000 buy in, I’m not able to continue playing if I’m not In The Money the first match. I need my CoD points to upgrade weapons and camo and shit. I can’t piss it all away in a couple of Wager Matches, but at the 1000 buy in level, that’s exactly what you could end up doing…and the 10k buy in?? That’s for people who are afraid to Prestige.
However that’s one small problem in the sea of awesome that is the Wager Matches. These games are fun, tense and perhaps best of all, very very quick, so the pull to play and bet again comes in and adds a nice touch…but honestly they would stand on their own merit as game modes even without the Wager. Adding the ability to wager however was brilliant, and at the higher betting levels, it amps up the competition that much more, because you know that if you win…somebody else is hurtin.
The emphasis from a gameplay perspective in these games is of course accuracy and keeping your head on a swivel. I don’t recommend running at all unless you’re chasing someone from behind. The little tweaks to the scoring like the Tomahawk and Melee Knife Humiliations give a nice little spin on what could’ve been just three odd Free For All modes…and they are done well enough to stand on their own as fun and enjoyable game modes. They certainly won’t fully replace Domination and Team Deathmatch for me as far as volume of games played, but they’re a lot of fun and I like to play Wagers at least two or three times whenever I turn the game on.
Sure, the graphics weren’t up to snuff even compared to last year’s Modern Warfare 2, sure, the servers are still that P2P nonsense…but other than that, this game surpasses all of its predecessors in every way. This is the most engaging CoD storyline yet, and the online modes are deep, robust and most of all very, very fun. Everything that was cheap about MW2 has been fixed and everything that worked has been improved.
This game gets a 9 out of 10. It’s not perfect, and I know a lot of critics have crapped out 8.5s and 7.1s and the like…but I don’t do that decimal point bullshit, and I’m not so hamstrung by some archaic formula that I feel I have to show the math for why I rate it as I have. This game proved my preconceived notions about cookie cutter quality to be totally wrong and honestly it’s rarely so good to be so wrong. Black Ops is a great game and one of the best multiplayer FPSes today. Treyarch has acquitted themselves with grace under pressure, and IMO they’ve shown that they’re ready to carry the torch going forward.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops rates a 9 out of 10, my opinion being that it is an incredible game and pretty much a must buy for anyone who enjoys shooters.