In spite of all the glamour that was put into the presentation and gameplay, not much can be said for the artificial intelligence (AI). Enemy tactics were virtually missing with the AI. Granted, shooting at your targets will make them run for cover, but the problem arose from the lack of genuine battlefield tactics. What made the game superficially challenging was the fact that the enemy targeted you and you alone. It got to the point where it became absolutely ridiculous. For some odd reason, the enemy was never concerned about the immediate threat from one of your teammates standing within knifing range. Rather, they would put themselves in harm’s way to reach you and destroy you. I honestly never thought I would see a whole Russian army hell-bent to kill only me. Once, I recall one of my squad mates blocking a doorway, and the enemy on the other side literally tried to push his way past my teammate to end my existence. Meanwhile, my “bodyguard” was pouring a full clip into his torso, and yet the bad guy was stubborn and relentless to reach me. Now, take the attitude of that soldier and make a whole army out of them – that’s a pretty accurate description of what you’re up against. After awhile, you may begin to feel like that it was just a cheap way to make the AI seem difficult, and it comes off as really frustrating.
Your teammate’s AI isn’t any better. Many times, I found my squad firing a clip full of blanks at their targets. They are literally useless and ineffective. Sure, they’ll follow you around and give you some company, but in actuality you’re facing the world of evil all alone. Most of the time, they’ll get in the way of your line of fire and start cursing at you if you land a few well placed shots in the back of their head. Other times they become a nuisance when they chose to pick your favorite spot for cover, leaving you out in the open to become Swiss cheese. With such poor AI, button based control over your teammates would have been preferable. When moving from obstacle to obstacle, the idea of “suppressive fire” fails all together. You alone are the bane of the enemy’s existence, and since your teammates bought blank rounds from the party shop, you’ll be tripling your weight in lead and bandages as you fight your way to victory.
When you’ve had your fill from the single player line of work, the online multiplayer is highly recommendable. This feature is hands down the best part about this Call of Duty package. If you’ve played any of the previous multiplayer sessions, you’ll notice some differences, but the familiarity is right at home for you to jump in and get dirty. You’ll start off with your basic weapon packages, from SMG’s to sniper rifles, but as you level up with experience, more features will become available for you to create your own custom warrior. However, you don’t have to put in endless hours to build the elite warrior with special weapon customizations. Instead, you’ll get to customize your weapons, select perks, and choose your gear load outs early on. Upgrades to your personal kit are simply purchased with the new Call of Duty point system that is in place. This greatly helps even the playing field and allows new comers to not feel so alienated with the Call of Duty veterans.
You can also take on special “contracts” to help boost your cash flow. A contract is simply a predefined goal for you to achieve, and once you finish the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with more CoD points for you to spend on your gear. As you gain experience and rank, you’ll also unlock different game modes to satisfy your appetite for variety. One particular game mode that is new to the franchise is the Wager Match. Here you’ll get to place bets with your CoD points in the free-for-all matches if you want to capitalize on your kill streak. This can be either overly rewarding, or extremely devastating depending where your find yourself in the food chain.
Zombies have also made an encore into Black Ops, and this time around it also is much bigger and better. More weapons will be at your disposal to purge the zombie infestation and there are some secret rooms to be found with some rewards to be had. If you find the mystery chest, be sure to save your cash and gamble on it. During one of my zombie crusades, I witnessed some new and impressive guns that will shred the dead into lifeless chunks of leather. One lucky player took a gamble on the mystery chest and walked away with this mini-gun that easily turned the tides of survival in our favor. On one of the maps, you’ll get to play as one of four new characters: John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Richard Nixon, and Robert McNamara. As you start to add zombies to your kill count, each character will shout out slapstick one-liners to help keep the hunting humorous. There is more to be said about this must-play feature, but I’d rather not spoil some of the surprises. The discovery element inside this game mode is all part of the fun.
If you’re not in the mood to hop online, you also have the option to enjoy the multiplayer elements offline via split-screen. You can populate the levels with AI bots in the “Combat Training” portion of the game. Just make sure you don’t get caught screen-watching your opponent.
Even though there are some inconsistencies with the single-player elements, the overall scope of the Black Ops package overwhelmingly puts this game into the category of a must buy. With its top-notch production values and addictive multiplayer system, this package offers all gamers an amazing amount of content to get absorbed into. The Treyarch team can now put the past behind them, as they have successfully delivered a superb and finely-tuned game that raises the bar with the enormous amount of personalization that can be found in the online portion, and the solid variety of gameplay modes. Many can argue that Infinity Ward has been king of the Call of Duty titles, however, Black Ops may have just turned the tides in favor for Treyarch, earning them a seat among the top game developers. Anyone mildly interested in Call of Duty: Black Ops should definitely consider answering the call with another memorable tour in the franchise.
PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score
+ Superbly polished multiplayer features.
+ Captivating production values and addictive gameplay.