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Review | Call of Duty: Black Ops

Macho, macho, man

Format: Xbox 360/PS3/PC/Wii/DS | Genre: FPS | Publisher: Activision | Developer: Treyarch | Release date: 09/11/2010 | Price: £54.99

It’s the big one, Jennifer Allen reviews CALL OF DUTY: BLACK OPS.

IT’S NOVEMBER again which must mean only one thing, it’s getting bloody cold. Also, it means a new Call of Duty game is out – Black Ops to be exact. Writing this is bordering on pointless. By now you probably already know which side you’re on – whether you’re a person who avidly bought it within the first week and enjoyed its increasingly formulaic attitude to the FPS genre, or you’re a person who has absolutely no interest in buying it and almost certainly never will. This review certainly won’t sway you.

Call of Duty: Black Ops, or BLOPS as I’m unoriginally now going to call it, is just what you would expect from a Call of Duty game. It’s loud, it’s brash, it’s all American, gung-ho, explosive nonsense. As a friend described it within an hour of playing it, BLOPS is very ‘Hollywood’. This has been the case with Call of Duty since the days of the first Modern Warfare. It’s to be expected to an extent but this time round, it’s feeling old and tired, even despite the hidden potential.

Following protocol

While I adored Call of Duty 1 and 2, even 3, and held Modern Warfare to my virtual bosom, I felt a bit disenchanted by Modern Warfare 2. It felt too predictable, too formulaic. I felt like I was leaping from set piece to set piece without really caring about why I was doing what I was doing. No Russian wasn’t brave or daring, it didn’t work. That’s already been discussed though. I still had quite high hopes for Black Ops though. It looked like an interesting change of pace, one with great potential. It does have great potential but it doesn’t take advantage of this anywhere near as often as it should.

Instead, BLOPS borrows, borrows, borrows from as many films and TV shows as it can get away with. Each time it does this, it’s entertaining but it also feels like a checklist of references. There’s the nod to 24 and Lost, the Apocalypse Now reference, even Forrest Gump gets in on the act. The main storyline positively oozes Lost with a dash of…well, annoyingly I can’t say because simply saying the name of the film will give the big plot twist away to anyone who’s seen said film. Bugger, that’s a bit awkward. Still though, believe me; it’s been done before, just in a film rather than a game. Is this progress? Well no, it’s not. It’s imitation, homage if we’re being generous.

The name’s Mason, Alec Mason

It’s fun of course. It’d be daft to say it isn’t. Treyarch has done a lovely job of offering variety in terms of the game mechanics; it’s the story that feels unexciting and derivative. Besides the typical FPS type action, there are moments where you control tanks and motorbikes, even helicopters. They’re all fun and despite the less than ideal controls, they’re the sort of sections you end up looking back at fondly. My personal favourite was that of an RTS style segment whereby I guided my team of operatives around from miles away. Whenever they came across a threat, the game zoomed into the action and you took over. It’s something that used in large doses would have become irritating, but it was just the right quantity to feel that little bit clever. There’s another section towards the end of the game that doesn’t even involve any combat and it actually feels rather refreshing. Another glimpse of potential. Always a glimpse.


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    I really enjoyed the story, so much so I’m looking forward to a replay, although I did find it fractured.

    As for the multiplayer, I love it. The wager matches are excellent and it’s far more balanced overall. I also Love being able to kit out myself out with the equipment I prefer early on thanks to the currency system.

    However, you make a good point about predictability and playing it safe. Even I have to admit, despite loving this latest offering, the experience is starting to get old.

    Next COD needs to mix things up to maintain battlefield control.

  • Cool review. I think “it’s comfortable like those tatty trainers you just can’t bear to be rid of” so neatly encapsulates why people, myself included, buy these games. I/We should stop doing that. :S

  • Couldn’t give two hoots about this. Since Activision’s destruction of MWII, I’ve been boycotting their games and to be honest, it doesn’t seem like I’ve missed anything.

    Nice review Jen.

  • I’ve managed to not buy this game, despite all the hype and the Twitterers, but to be honest a lot of this review describes why I didn’t enjoy Modern Warfare 2 all that much. They peaked too early with COD4, and everything since then has been a downhill struggle, offering barely anything new.

  • I’d like to add that they also borrowed the Smoking Man from X-Files as… Smoking Woman.


  • I played the first five minutes or so and promptly dropped it. I think that if I had persevered I would have shared your thoughts, or been slightly harsher!

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