This week I finished the single-player campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops. The Call of Duty games have been my favorite first-person shooters for some years now. Some elements of the game are completely unrealistic arcade-like concessions–in particular, you can take an astounding number of bullets and be fine in mere seconds as long as you get to cover and avoid taking damage for a bit. But other aspects of the game emphasize realism. The graphics are beautiful and textured even when showing the ugliness of war, different weapons behave in different ways in your hands, the characters are well-voiced and believable. I was fully prepared to not enjoy the game at all. Treyarch was the studio in charge of this edition and they’ve made some dull, sub-par games in the past. This one completely redeems it.
First, there’s the plots. Black Ops is set between the World War 2 shooters and the Modern Warfare series, following a CIA wetwork agent on covert missions in the 1960s. Havana during the Bay of Pigs, a Soviet prison, an American army base under attack in south Vietnam, a cosmodrome on the Kazakh steppes, the jungles and tunnels of Vietnam, and more–the landscapes lend great atmosphere to the different missions.
Then there’s the gameplay. Unlike Treyarch’s World At War, I rarely felt funneled into one preset path to get to a location. When I did, usually in vehicle chases, I was given a brief driving game to concentrate on, or a cool new weapon to try. While the AI is not as polished as it could be, it does a better job than many shooters. I really felt like those electrons were out to get me.
If you’ve been wondering whether to get the game, maybe because of disappointment with the CoD games not produced by Infinity Ward, give it a try. Black Ops should be at the top of every FPS fan’s Christmas list.