Call of Duty: Black Ops starts off rather differently to the average first-person shooter.
As it begins, your name is Alex Mason and you’re sitting in an interrogation chair, getting electric shocks and being asked about a man called Dragovich while random numbers flash up in front of you on a screen. What do they mean? The year is 1968 and you’re told you were in the Bay of Pigs Invasion in Cuba, 1961. Yes, it’s time to experience the Cold War.
And so you begin by heading back to the early ’60s where you and your men have to in and kill Fidel Castro. This is followed by a solo mission in Vorkuta, Russia, set two years later, where Gary Oldman returns as Sergeant Reznov from Call of Duty: World at War. It’s fun to see him return, but his first level did include a frustrating segment where you had to crouch behind a slow coal cart which he’s pushing along, requiring you to poke your head out and cap some baddies, although frequently they managed to get to you first. Later on you’ll get to play as him, too.
Along the way, you’ll get a new handler, Special Agent Hudson, voiced by Ed Harris, and another famous voice in the game comes from Ice Cube as Corporal Bowman. Even former Presidents Nixon and JFK make their presence felt, although obviously they weren’t around to record their own voices for this release. As for your own character, his dulcet tones come courtesy of Avatar and Clash of the Titans actor Sam Worthington.
Since it keeps jumping back to the ‘present day’ of 1968 with CGI sequences, it did have echoes of Assassin’s Creed where you were immediately taken out of the atmosphere and found that what you were watching was a mere simulation rather than actually being a master thief – and we knew it was effectively a simulation because it’s a video game(!) However, Call of Duty: Black Ops doesn’t suffer the same fate because you’re not going into some sort of A.I. chamber, you’re seeing flashbacks to the time when your character was actually there and doing those actions.
Oh, and one thing that is a particular delight – the Dragon’s Breath shotgun, which has a flamethrower option ;)
Call of Duty: Black Ops Level 1: Operation 40 (720p HD)
Call of Duty: Black Ops has fantastic graphics, explosive (literally) sound effects and the ambience is brilliantly performed, even in the quietest moments. You die a lot in this game but it certainly has that ‘one more go’ factor and it’s hard to tear yourself away. It really is outstanding stuff and looks glorious in HD with so much action going on at any one time and no slowdown. A real triumph, in fact!
There’s always much to enjoy from the graphics delivered in each successive release, and the gameplay also feels improved upon, while the sound was never in doubt.
It’s very well-annointed with checkpoints – which is good due to, as I mentioned, the fact that you’ll die frequently if you don’t pay attention.
Grenades will drop at your feet from time to time, particuarly if you’re in a position where you can hide behind something as the enemy will want to rub you out. Press the right shoulder button to pick them up and toss ’em back!
Random irritiations about the game include the fact that you have to reload some of your weapons far too quickly – every few seconds, it seems, so unless you reduce the difficulty level, you’re bound to die often as the enemy seems to have tons of ammo. At least this time I haven’t had the same problem with ‘World at War’ where I couldn’t enter open enemy huts, due to the odd programming, but I have got trapped in the graphics once or twice when trying to get right down on the ground to avoid gunfire.
Note that it won’t take you too long to complete the game – a couple of solid evenings will get through this, but even still it does feel like it goes on a bit and is incredibly repetitive. Just when you think it’s done, there’s still more to do as you go in search of Dragovich.
Call of Duty: Black Ops Offline Multiplayer Video 1: Nuketown (720p HD)
Overall, the graphics and sound are faultless. The playability is improved slightly as it feels a lot more fluid, so that’s a 9/10, and for enjoyment I’d give it an 8/10. That’s because as entertaining as it can be, with some decent A.I. from the baddies, it feels a little disjointed being constantly broken up with too many CGI or mini-CGI sequences so you never feel in 100% control of what you’re doing.
I’m not one for Xbox Live online play, but if you are then there’s a “Create-a-Class 2.0” customisation tool which lets you personalise weapons with clan tag writing, emblems, attachments and camouflage painting, choose between a Red Dot Sight or a Reflex Sight for your weapon, both of which share the same traits only visually look different, and many more options besides.
One thing I did quite enjoy with ‘World of War’, however, was blowing away zombies offline with my nephew. In this release, there are a few options relating to them again, one of which includes co-op and online games where you can defend the Pentagon from the zombies whilst taking on the roles of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Secretary of State for Defense Robert McNamara and Fidel Castro.
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- Publisher: Activision
- Price: £54.99 (Xbox 360, PS3); £39.99 (PC, Wii)
- Players: 1-4 offline, system link: 2-18, online multiplayer: 2-18
- HDTV options: 720p/1080i/1080p
- Features: Game Content Download
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.