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Monday, December 27, 2010

COD:Black Ops - One of the best war movies I've seen recently...

Now past the billion dollar sales point, Call of Duty: Black Ops, the seventh game of the series, and the third by developer Treyarch, has been a huge success, At least sales wise. But what to make of the game itself?

I preordered the game, based on my enjoyment of several of the past games in the series. Not something I do often - too many recent games have turned out to be turds in a punchbowl, so I now wait until I've heard from my 'buy everything' gaming pals, or get some hands-on time with a new game before shelling out my shekels.

I figured the online MP experience would be plagued with issues on release (it was), and did not even bother to install the game or play it on release day. I ended up so busy playing other games, I'd not gotten around to it until recently.

One of my constant gaming buddies got the game as a gift, and I watched a bit of his game play in single player. It sparked my interest, so here's my nutshell review.

First, a note on my biases: I am mostly interested in single player these days. I retired from competitive gaming, and pubbing is filled with far too many cheats / hacks / noodle-heads to have much fun. I limit my online play to games where my close gaming cohorts are the only other players. They're all good enough that cheating is out of the question for them.

I fired up the single-player campaign, to be met with the typical, long (looooooonnnggg) 'intro' video that the player is forced to watch before getting into the action. Ugh.

And therein lies the crux of my complaint with this game. Far too much of the game is cut-scenes, most where the player is unable to skip viewing. F.E.A.R. got this right: you had to watch such scenes on first play, but after that, you could elect to skip them. Added to this, some of the scenes are ridiculously long. Seriously. One of them is so long, I'm quite certain I could cook myself a nice breakfast, and eat it, before the scene is over.

A few of the scenes can be skipped (too few, in my opinion) but sometimes it's with a mouse click, sometimes with a space bar hit. What? Did anyone Q/A this thing?

To add insult to injury, at the conclusion of one cut-scene (one of those, like in a lame movie, where they run out of time / budget, so they end with the "it was really a dream in the mind of the dog owned by the sister of the neighbor that lived behind the house where the ghost of the axe murderer was seen by the uncle of the bank president that loaned the money to the owner of the pet shop the dog came from in return for sex with what turned out to be his long-lost sister"...you get the idea), you as the player have to endure a long sequence of slow-motion navigating of a government building, interspersed with more cut-scene flashbacks, where your only action is to move your avatar through what feels like air made of clear gelatin. Slow, slow, slow, and boring as hell.

If that kind of 'play' is not irritating enough, there are plenty of cut-scenes that are long enough to put you to sleep, only to find that the instant the cut-scene ends, you were supposed to press some key, or click some mouse button, to rescue your avatar from certain death.

Even when you are actually playing, there are far too many places where you must follow an NPC, and you are strictly limited to a narrow corridor of play, with no way to 'pass' the NPC, as if they had a ten foot wide Plexiglas sheet strapped to their back. More of an 'interactive' cut-scene than real game play.

That aside, the campaigns are challenging enough, particularly on the highest difficulty levels. But there's nothing really fresh here.

If you've played past recent releases of the series, you've played this game already: shoot a bunch of baddies, blow up this and that, get this or that important thingy, cut some wires, slap some fools around in the name if interrogation, etc. Same game, different scenery.

That graphics are fine, actually quite good: humans look and act pretty human, the AI of the NPC (friendly and enemy) seldom does anything really stupid, though you certainly won't be fooled into thinking there's anything human about them. Avatar movement is also pretty well done.

A nice assortment of weapons is available, so you mostly get to choose how to accomplish your slaughter to your liking.

The full single player game is rather short (I'd guess 4-6 hours for a player familiar with the series), and leads you to the best part of the game, in my opinion: a very well done, very funny scene with banter between several luminaries from the times of the game, resulting in battle with Nazi zombies. The Zombie mode of the game provides a challenging and fun game, sure to please fans of games like the past COD Zombie modes or Left 4 Dead.

Overall, the game feels, to me, like one where an epic, detailed game was planned, that might have provided 20+ hours of single-player involvement, but someone said "No way!", and too many key elements were turned into arduous cut-scenes.

The game, apart from that, feels lovingly made. But, I wouldn't eat a lovingly made shit pie, nor would I recommend it to my friends. Fans of the series will find it a must play, just as fans of Star Wars will buy every DVD in the series despite some of the films being turkeys.

Really, if the developer / publisher continue on this route, why not just make the next game in the series a theatrical release, where moviegoers get a fake game controller, and can pretend they're 'playing' the new COD?

B- on a good day, C+ on days when I'm grumpy.



  1. My kids played it at their uncle's house, they wanted to buy it before they played it. They've been back and forth on whether or not they want to plop $60 down on the XB360 version. I'll keep trying to hold them off.

  2. You simply hit the nail, it even makes mw2 singleplayer looking good.

    I had preordered the game for pc, and was so dissapointed with the lag, i really could not believe it was true.

    I am a huge fan of cod world at war multiplayer and cod 4 mw1 singleplayer campaign.

    But i am not going to play this game anymore for a while, as long as the lag is there, mw2 feels smooth. I think i go and play a good shooter like EA battlefield franchise instead, bf 1942, vietnam, and especially bf 2, will always be on my favorite list. And to the addition i also enjoy bad company 2 multiplayer. Also Medal of honor is not a bad game at all, everything feels smooth and controls just as good as cod.