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    dkirschner's Call of Duty: Black Ops (360)

    [January 13, 2011 11:31:11 PM]
    Black Ops is down. What did I think of this best-seller? Yeah, it was fun. It's even more stupidly action-packed than the previous one I played, which was Modern Warfare. The story is way more convoluted, involving brainwashing, flashbacks, multiple playable characters, tons of other story characters, 'Nam, historical fiction, and...zombies? I literally had no idea what was going on except for the biggest picture idea. The story seemed very pointless, as in, I'm sure it would make a good book, but since most of the story is explained in these fuzzy Saw, Clockwork Orange, Manhunt 2-esque cut scenes that mostly involve a lot of yelling and cursing, I was having a hard time paying attention and following it. The rest of the story unfolds during gameplay moments, and I preferred these because they fit nicely within the action context. I would have enjoyed a simpler story that didn't have to try and be so deep and twisting. The simpler story would allow the game to focus on what it's best at: action. The story as it is made the action infinitely more confusing, although still entertaining in and of itself.

    Overall though, I enjoyed the single player campaign more than CoD 4. I have a feeling it's because of the way objectives were handled this time, and just the faster pacing of the levels. In each level, there are a lot of objectives, and constant waypoints, so you are constantly moving toward a small goal. It kept me very focused on what I was doing and how I was moving forward. I seemed to complete an objective every 5 minutes, and it felt like a big victory because this game I found to be more difficult than CoD 4. I died a lot, had to replay a lot, and despite the numerous objectives, had to do a good amount of trial and error in learning how to take down enemy helicopters (my biggest cause of death), learning how to push back enemy troops with barrels of napalm (the one I retried the most), and so on. I liked the difficulty. There are too many stupidly easy games out there. So, the objectives, and the NPCs that always accompany you, make each level and each moment very dynamic. I never really knew what was going to happen next and always felt right in the thick of things. That's another way this differed from CoD 4. In 4, you were always just with your squad, one squad or another. In Black Ops, your allies are way more varied. Sometimes it's you and one other person. Other times it's you and like an entire army. The flow of the levels and the presence of all the other characters just makes everything feel so right.

    Black Ops had one stand-out level. That was when you, as one character, give RTS-like orders (move, attack, stand ground, etc.) to a squad on the ground from inside a helicopter. From time to time, for important acts, you take the role of one of the ground units that you were controlling, and you go clear out the barracks or whatever. Then the role shifts back to the sky, and you order the ground units around some more. I thought that was a very cool way to play a level, but the part was actually really short. Other than that, I didn't feel there were too many 'wow' moments where the game was doing something I hadn't seen before.

    CoD, of course, is really a multiplayer game, and I've been having some fun there with James. We've been playing on Xbox Live every night, getting our asses kicked all over the internet. Alex leveled up James' profile since Christmas to level like 30 (out of 50), so the game thinks we're waaaay better than we actually are. Thus, we consistently bring our team down and are directly responsible for bad losses. It's pretty funny when we get matched as the 'high' ranked players on our team. It'll be like us two at 35, then a 30, 25, 15, 5, 5 vs like 50, 40, 30, 10, 10, 10 or something, and it's like...yeah, our two 35s are actually like 10s. But it's still a lot of fun. I really like some of the maps. One is called Nuketown, and it's a small map modeled for ABC street in suburbia with pastel houses, manicured lawns, picket fences, and mannequin white families. Another is Firing Range, which is a massive firing range with moving targets and a lot of tin-roofed buildings to run through. Really great multi-player levels.

    I went back and played some CoD4 online in hopes of that helping me with Black Ops online performance, but it didn't really work. It's kind of hard to translate mouse and keyboard expertise to a gamepad. I did consistently better than James though, but that's not saying much. We found out that on hardcore mode (less health, no regeneration, no attachments, no radar, friendly fire on), that we could kill one another. That's after he shot me to death. I got him back with a knife, and then we called a truce. I also found out you get negative points for friendly kills.

    But but but the coolest thing about Black Ops that I discovered tonight is the zombie survival mode. It begins with JFK, Robert Macnamara, Richard Nixon, and Fidel Castro all sitting around a table. The zombies start busting in and JFK yells something like "they're breaking in!" and Nixon responds something like "there's no break-in! what break-in?!" ha-ha. You begin with a pistol in a room. Zombies bust through windows and walls. You get points for shooting zombies and barricading broken windows and holes in the walls. You can spend points on weapons and on progressing through the level (500 points to open this door, 250 points to ride the elevator, etc.). I assume there's some goal at the end, but we never made it too far. We got as far as realizing we had to cut the power on in both the zombie levels, but never actually cut it on. It seems like a cool game mode though. Zombies aren't actually part of the story unless I missed something, so I guess they're just having fun with the zombie craze. Maybe the next CoD game will have vampires...

    One final note is that the multiplayer is designed even better than CoD 4 to make you want to play forever. There are near endless things to upgrade. I can't imagine how much playtime it must take for people to acquire all the guns and all the attachments and stuff. Then now there are challenges to beat, and achievements to unlock, and all this stuff with each and every gun and each and every attachment. There are also contracts, endlessly repeatable money-rewarding tasks like Get 20 Kills in 40 Minutes or Win 3 Domination Matches, etc. ,etc. And there are the equivalent of daily quests every day, just randomized challenges that reward extra CoD points (to buy weapons and things). MMO design meets online FPS. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Considering I'm a rank 9 on CoD 4 after like 3 months, I don't think it matters to me personally, but shooters aren't my favorite thing. I suppose the more designers can figure out how to reward 'dailies' or just more play time, the more people are going to keep playing, if it's fun of course. I wouldn't be surprised to see the dailies idea popping up in more and more types of online, or even single-player, games in the future.

    So, CoD, glad I played it, and I hope James is able to smoke me on Xbox Live next time I'm home.
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    dkirschner's Call of Duty: Black Ops (360)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 10 January, 2011

    GameLog closed on: Friday 14 January, 2011

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Intense action explosion extravaganza. And a lot of profanity.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

    Related Links

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    See info on Call of Duty: Black Ops

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