Earlier this year, events in the industry surrounding Infinity Ward, the developer of Call of Duty Modern Warfare, nearly threatened to split the Call of Duty fan base – between supporters of the founders of IW and the franchise itself.
Since 2003, development duties for Call of Duty games have been borne by several developers on various video game formats ranging from the seminal release on the PC to the current generation of PlayStation and Xbox 360 consoles.
Last year's Modern Warfare 2 went on to become the biggest entertainment launch of all time selling in excess of 20 million copies worldwide as of June 2010. The series has set the benchmark for multiplayer gaming and boasts a global fan base that has been eagerly waiting to pass judgement on Treyarch's latest instalment.
At last night's midnight launch at Emax, Oasis Centre in Dubai, I got my hands on a copy of the PC edition and after fulfilling my social duties with fellow gamers and industry colleagues, I rushed home to give Black Ops a run.
The copious amounts of Monster Energy from the launch event came in handy as I got into the game during the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Heading into the game, greeted by a gritty and intense introduction sequence that sets up the mood for the first mission, I was soon playing as Black Ops operative Alex Mason who is in 1960s Cuba with the objective to take down none other than Fidel Castro.
From the outset, Black Ops remains graphically true to the quality that we have come to expect from the Call of Duty series over the last few years and is absolutely top notch. The cut scenes have been produced well from the pack of Garcia cigarettes in the folded sleeve of a guy in a bar to the urbane grittiness of the streets in a war zone. I felt a slight frame rate drop at times, but nothing major.
The single player gameplay is pretty straight forward and linear, with clear indications of checkpoints and completion of objectives. At this point I must say that I felt the need for a bit of open world. The environments are quite inviting and wandering off is a bit tempting. That’s when the bittersweet linearity of the game and the explosive action brings you back on path following your squad mate towards the objective.
A regular piece of criticism about the Call of Duty series over the last few years has been the relative shortness of the single player campaigns. Black Ops’ single player campaign on recruit difficult should shave about 6-7 hours off most peoples’ existences. Get into veteran mode and you’ll easily add a few extra hours to that. So there’s definitely value in here. Treyarch’s acclaimed zombie mode from World at War is back by popular demand and is available with a bit of spit and polish for cooperative play or online matchmaking. So, there’s tons of replay value here.
Multiplayer is where the game shines, with its massive maps, designed to suit different styles and modes. Along with the standard fare of multiplayer modes, you also have the new wager modes where, in a nutshell, you have virtual currency to bet on the outcome of matches. These matches can be of different types demanding a great deal of fluidity in technique to be able to keep up and hold on to your COD Points.
There is a lot more to tell, but that would require me spoiling the fun and I have a word limit to stick to. In general, when it comes to opinions about Black Ops there are going to be two factions. One side is going to love the game for its single player campaign (with cameo appearances by dead presidents and some scenes reminiscent of Hollywood’s finest). The other side is going to rave about the multiplayer gameplay. Black Ops is testament to Call of Duty’s continued success. Treyarch have firmly shut the critics up with this one and earned a spot as one of the best FPS developers on the planet. Till Modern Warfare 3 or Black Ops 2, there’s plenty of gaming to keep this player going. Black Ops’ only serious competition is the next game in the series.