- Publisher: Activision
- Developer: Treyarch
- ESRB Rating: “M” for Mature
- Genre: First-Person-Shooter
- Pros: Great gameplay; amazing visuals; good campaign; good multi; combat training, zombies, lots of modes
- Cons: No Spec Ops; strawberry jelly on screen
The campaign takes place during the Cold War in the 1960's and has you jetting around to typical Cold War hotspots like Cuba, Russia, Vietnam, and more. It is told through flashbacks of your character while he is being interrogated. This storytelling method means the story doesn't take place in chronological order, and some things can be obscured because you are effectively playing through a memory. It works well, and the story of Russian extremists trying to recover abandoned Nazi nerve gas is pretty cool. The missions are varied in pacing and scope, and are full of neat set pieces that will prompt more than a few "Holy crap!" comments as you play. I don't know if I'd rate the Black Ops campaign over Modern Warfare 1 or 2 (especially 1), but it is still very good.
The core gameplay isn't different from past Call of Duty games, so I'm not going to spend much time on specifics. This slight lack of ambition is just fine when the foundation you're building on is so solid (unlike some recent shooters that failed to innovate but also weren't very good to begin with). The controls are nearly perfect and everything just feels good. And it does ditch the infinitely spawning enemies and grenade spam that plagued the last Treyarch CoD, so I'd say it is certainly better in that regard. It is just plain fun to play.
Another welcome addition is that you can now play multiplayer matches with bots in the new Combat Training mode. You can level up and unlock new perks and weapons, just like the online multiplayer, with the benefit of not actually having to play with foul mouthed jerks on Xbox Live. You can play with friends in Combat Training, so it is nothing but Win, Win, Win for players who don't like playing with randoms on XBL.
Other modes include the return of the Zombies mode from CoD: World At War. It has new maps, new playable characters (including a super team of Cold War-era U.S. Presidents), and is the same frantic "kill wave after wave of zombies" action that was so addictive in WaW. You can also unlock a special top down perspective "arcade" mode for Zombies that plays like the twin-stick shooters on XBLA like Smash TV or Geometry Wars. This is a neat addition, and a fun game to play through all on its own. It also has to be noted that Zombies is the only co-op mode in Black Ops, which is kind of a letdown, but it is better than nothing.
Another cool extra is that you can play the classic text-based adventure PC game, Zork. It is kind of unwieldy having to use an on-screen keyboard to type in commands, but it is cool that it is here at all.
Black Ops is an amazing looking game. I've always been impressed with how realistic and detailed the Call of Duty games are, and Black Ops easily tops them all. The environments are stunning. The character models are lifelike. The special effects for explosions and fire and smoke and rain are spectacular. This is a gorgeous game. My only complaint about the visuals is the same problem I had with Modern Warfare 2 - the strawberry jelly-looking stuff that oozes on the screen to show you're taking damage. It is just obnoxious and gets in the way.
Black Ops also sounds great as well. Good voice acting all around with excellent music and solid sound effects.
In the end, Call of Duty: Black Ops is an easy game to recommend. If you like first-person-shooters, and if you like the Call of Duty style, there is no reason not to buy it. It has a ton of features and modes, great presentation, and fun addictive gameplay. It is kind of a downer that there isn't a true co-op mode, and the Spec Ops mode introduced in Modern Warfare 2 is nowhere to be found, but Black Ops has enough other content to offer that you won't miss these modes that much. Call of Duty: Black Ops is a great game that is worth a purchase.