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Call of Duty: Black Ops super review

Treyarch almost step out of Infinity Ward's shadow

Where Black Ops differs again from Modern Warfare is the amount of vehicles it throws into the mix. Motorbikes, cars, planes, boats and choppers are there for you to command – some good, some downright fiddly.

Said helicopters are an exception to the rule as they’re both good and bad. Like so…

Above: Blasting things that are stationary = good

Above: Blasting things that are moving = bad

It’s hard to write about Black Ops without ruining key elements for you, which is why I’ve avoided it thus far, so I’ll tell you about the fundamentals instead.

Treyarch can at last play with a new armoury and they’ve gone all out with crossbows, assault rifles and automatic shotguns that fire incendiary rounds aptly named Dragon’s Breath. Even if it isn’t bang up to date, Black Ops never feels like it’s dealing with old, fudgy weaponry. Well, except when there’s a flashback to the 50s but even then the PPSh-41 from WaW is as awesomelypotent as ever.

One of the main things I noticed is that the accuracy of dropping a man wasn’t as consistent as before. I swear I plugged a guy square in the chest only for him to stand tall like a mighty redwood tree. This wasn’t a constant thing but it happened enough for me to get annoyed. And as discussed with other people reviewing the game at the same time, there was an unusual amount of missions having to be completed through trial and error.

Above: There's afine selection of death-bringing weaponry on offer - fromrifles to automatic shotguns.

Black Ops has a number of poorly sign-posted objectives to the point where I started questioning my gaming skills instead of the game. For example, there's onemission where a flood of Vietnamese soldiers can only be stemmed by piercing two barrels of napalm and then lighting them. If you don't they'll just keep comingbut there's very little direction to doing this. But lo and behold, I answered a call to a friend who was stuck at exactly the same point on the same mission.

There were also more than a few moments where déjà vu struck me like agod damn bunker-buster. Picking off snipers in trees and dealing with flamethrowers? World at War. Running off a sinking ship? Modern Warfare. Sprinting across rooftops and claustrophobic streets? Modern Warfare 2. And this is the biggest disappointment with Black Ops – it plays it too safe with tried and tested mission structures of old.

The aforementioned slo-mo breaches, civilians being maimed (O Hai No Russian!) and up-close melee kills are all overused here, which is a shame because when you do see something new it almost feels like Treyarch are testing the water rather than going balls out and saying “suck on this set-piece Infinity Ward!”.

Above: A descent into the abyss. Don't worry the gun-blasting fun isn't far away.

But I’m not going to rain on Black Ops' parade because when it’s delivering action it’s up there with the most intense missions from previous CoDs.

Using the crossbow on the snowy missions is a great change of pace as you pierce patrols and their guard dogs. Whether you’re flying the chopper or piloting an attack boat the amount of stuff to blow into the atmosphere is incredible – a real thrill ride. And ‘that’ bit where you’re just setting off up a Vietnamese river – the one with the music – sent tingles down my spine. I almost spelt it 'spain' because I was so excited at the thought of it.

See next page for multiplayer, Zombies and a 2D surprise

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DescriptionWith the hype and excitement surrounding Treyarch's first Call of Duty where they aren't bound by a World War II setting, it's a shame that they went for more of the same MW2. This isn't say it's poor but personally I feel they've missed an opportunity to really stamp their authority with Black Ops. Still, as a complete package with a great story, strong FPS action and a killer multiplayer mode, Black Ops remains unmissable.
Franchise nameCall of Duty
UK franchise nameCall Of Duty
Platform"PC","PS3","Xbox 360","Wii","DS"
US censor rating"Mature","Mature","Mature","Mature","Mature"
UK censor rating"18+","18+","18+","18+","18+"
Release date1 January 1970 (US), 1 January 1970 (UK)
Nathan Irvine
Hi, I’m Nathan. You may remember me from such websites as, erm, this one circa 2011. Been hustling in games for over a decade and write for Official PlayStation, Official Xbox, Gamesmaster and more.