Call Of Duty: Black Ops impressions

Easily one of the most anticipated games of 2010, and arguably more hyped than the controversy engulfed Medal Of Honor reboot, this latest installment in the acclaimed Call Of Duty series comes from development studio Treyarch, that much maligned group of programmers that aren’t the franchises founder Infinity Ward.

Set mostly in the 60s, during conflicts such as The Cold War and Vietnam, this sort of middle ground between the classic World War II the game was once known for and the more gadget friendly modern action of Afghanistan etc, follows the story of a prisoner of war being interrogated by an unseen captor and then recanting his experiences in various conflicts, that make up the campaign levels.  Now playing the game it is immediately apparent that a lot of care has gone into the setting, the atmosphere and the overall mood, with some stunning graphics.  Pyrotechnics are all handled expertly and scripted events such as chases and large-scale battles feel very much like the many stand out moments from previous games.  It’s also damn exciting in parts.  Now I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly skilled gamer, and managed to get through the previous two Modern Warfare titles, but have found this one punishingly difficult right from the off.  The Hardened difficulty setting as chosen in the previous games feels significantly ramped up, and it’s not through my own lacking ability, but more the game’s use of respawning enemies, that make progression, although not impossible, a real trudge from checkpoint to checkpoint.  There seems something about this Call Of Duty that feels unrefined, even though this is my first Treyarch game – something cheap in its gameplay and difficulty curve that on a whole makes the experience more of a chore than enjoyable.  I feel determined to plod on though, as I do believe I can progress, and the sense of achievement I’ll get if I do manage to complete the game will be well worth it.  For now though … I wouldn’t totally call it fun.

Fun, on the other hand is definitely what you get in multiplayer, which for many will be the reason to keep this game for months to come.  Copying for the most part the matchmaking and all the different modes from the previous games, this is deep and immersive, with the new element of credits being earned along with experience enabling the player to purchase new weapons and items, or spend on contracts for certain kinds of achievements in-game (such as killing sprees, accuracy, use of a particular weapon).  Some new things like remote control cars can prove more annoying than fun (especially if you are on the receiving end) and the match-making isn’t perfect, as you still seem to be pitted against over skilled players with far superior weaponry.

But I enjoy it a lot and will be coming back to it for a while yet, much more so, it has to be said than the single-player campaign.

UPDATE (29/11/2010)

Have been playing the single player campaign quite a bit, and feel it vastly improves as you progress.  Reaching Vietnam the game’s atmosphere and overall quality seemed to ramp up, and I’d say anyone put off by the opening levels, should not give up.  I haven’t lowered the difficulty, and even that doesn’t feel as hard going, or maybe it’s just a learning curve.

With just a few missions left I am beginning to think this is really impressive, the animation on the characters is life-like, the levels amazingly detailed and with a great action-movie atmosphere.  I still don’t think it’s quite as well done as Modern Warfare 1 & 2, but for Treyarch, often referred to as the lesser Call Of Duty developer, it’s a revelation.

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