Call of Duty: Black Ops and I got off to a very rocky start. It all started with a minor issue like a delayed release time and then snowballed into something a lot worse like an unplayable game. An official patch and a few third party tweaks later things are a bit better but we’re still struggling to make things work. It’s a love-hate relationship no doubt, but all technical issues aside, Black Ops brings such a stupendous amount of content to the table, it’s really very tough to hate her.

In case you live in a place where the internet doesn’t exist, Black Ops (BO) is the latest in the Call of Duty franchise from developer Treyarch. It’s a solid first person shooter with a heavy emphasis on big, spectacular moments, rather than gameplay grounded in reality. At regular intervals you’ll be pummeled by some insane, over-the-top scripted sequence that’ll leave you begging for more. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, mind you, only now it’s bigger and way more badass. At its core, BO is still a highly linear shooter where you’ll face wave after wave of enemies till you complete a particular objective or reach an invisible trigger in the form of a checkpoint. It’s what happens from point A to point B is what separates it from the crowd.

Fear the beard

As much as I loved the Modern Warfare series, I have to admit that Modern Warfare 2’s campaign felt a bit weak. Not only was the story a bit off, but gameplay sagged quite a bit in certain sections making the game feel more like a chore. Thankfully BO rectifies this with clichéd yet high octane, in your face gameplay that’ll barely give you a chance to catch your breath. I won’t lie, certain missions did feel like a drag but realistically it’s not possible to expect every single minute of any game to be full of “OMFG did you see that!” moments.

More like white ops

In older CoD games you constantly shuttled between multiple soldiers but in Black Ops you’ll more or less stay firmly rooted in the boots of a single soldier, giving the plot a more cohesive feel this time round. The Call of Duty franchise has slowly but surely been making its way to a more ominous and darker setting and this game ups the ante in a big way. Not only is the game backed by a riveting plot that feels like its stepped out of a mature espionage thriller, but there’s tons of disturbing stuff in here that isn’t too suitable for kids.

Even though I’m singing praises of the campaign right now, it is not without its share of faults. For one, the AI in this game is dumb – painfully dumb. At multiple occasions my squad just ran past enemy soldiers like they never posed a threat to begin with. Enemies too rarely flank or try and save their lives. All of their strength is in infinite numbers. Besides the dumb as a doorknob AI, the game even falters a bit on pacing where some missions feel like a mindless grind. Like I said, it’s not as bad as MW2 but it’s there nevertheless. Thankfully the game’s axed the infamous grenade spamming mechanic that’s synonymous with this series.

Once you get done with the campaign you and three of your friends can indulge in some co-operative zombie genocide. Besides slaughtering hordes of the undead, you’ll even have to tackle certain obstacles in your path. For example, a big chunk of debris could be blocking your way so one of you will have to shell out credits – earned by killing zombies – to clear it. Besides killing zombies, fixing some of the environmental barriers like doors or windows that may be broken down by the undead will also add to your in-game credit. It definitely encourages team gameplay and is an excellent addition to this game. Treyarch have even paid homage to co-operative top down games of years gone with something called Dead Ops Arcade where players bind together to hunt zombies, from a top-down perspective. Areas are full off power ups and other awesome weapons that help you decimate the undead. It’s old-school fun all the way.

Man on fire

And now we come to what I personally feel is the game’s crowning achievement, its multiplayer. Building on the solid structure laid out by Infinity Ward, Treyarch have improved on the multiplayer aspect by leaps and bounds giving players a staggering amount of options to play with.  In case you haven’t played the last three CoD installments, multiplayer in this game is a class based shooter where you level up and unlock a bunch of stuff by playing various adversarial modes.

Man overboard

The biggest game changer this time round comes in the form of in-game credits that’ll allow you to buy anything your heart desires be it newer weapons, attachments, face paint or even squad signs. This approach works a lot better as you aren’t boxed in by what the game offers you at a particular level. New to the game is something called Wager matches which as the game suggests has players betting on their skills using their in-game credit. To enter a Wager match you need to put up a bet, and if you perform admirably by ending up in the first three positions you’ll get a decent return on your investment. And like in the real world, the higher your bet, the more your investment. Make sure you do master the game first or you could end up losing big. And if jumping into the online arena seems a little daunting for you, you can even sharpen your skills with bots.

Taking a cue from the Halo games, BO ships with a theater mode where you can store your most recently played games in the form of a video or screenshots and share them with friends. It’s not a game changing addition but it’s good to have this option in here. But as awesome as this game’s multiplayer is, it is far from perfect. For one, it’s nearly impossible to play as a team with your friends. You either end up on different teams, not being able to switch teams for some insane reason or can’t join each other servers. Considering online gaming is a social experience, this seems like a pretty retarded move. Also every server can only accommodate 18 players unlike Modern Warfare where up to 32 players could fight it out at a time. Due to this, some of the game’s enormous maps feel a bit empty even when they’re fully packed to their capacity. And finally, there’s a pretty noticeable issue with enemy spawning. It’s highly erratic and there’s a strong chance that the dude you just killed may spawn right behind you and stab you in the back.

Black Hawk down

If there’s one department in which the game suffers terribly, it would have to be the technical one. When it works, the game looks real nice, boasting of some really sweet lighting effects and gorgeous set-pieces. But then again, certain textures look terribly bland up close and the PC version has been plagued with issues from day one. On both the SP and MP front, the game stutters like crazy even if your system exceeds the requirements. Even after the game was patched, tons of users, including myself are still facing noticeable lag spikes and stuttering across the board. This is kind of manageable in the campaign, but in multiplayer it results in immediate death, which then leads to immense frustration. Dying due to lack of skill is one thing, but dying due to technical issues that aren’t even your fault is a whole other ball game.

The roof is on fire – literally!

While the game’s technical issues still continue to grate on my nerves, Black Ops is a game you shouldn’t miss out on. It boasts of an explosive campaign, co-operative modes and addictive multiplayer you’ll be playing for months on end. If you do however decide to pick up the PC version, I strongly suggest waiting till Treyarch irons out all the glaring technical issues.

Reviewer's Rig:

  • CPU: Intel i7 920
  • Motherboard: Republic Of Gamers X58 extreme III
  • RAM: Corsair Dominator GTX 1600
  • Cabinet: CM 690 II Advanced
  • PSU: CM 1000w silent pro
  • GPU: Asus GTX470
  • Keyboard: Razer Lycosa
  • Headphones: Razer Carcharias
  • Monitor: BenQ E2420HD series

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