The Black Ops Journal: Day 15

Well I’ve now had sufficient time to digest the meat of Black Ops, and so I’m back with another journal review of the game. I was just starting out before, trying to get a feel for things, but now I’m fully in the groove and in a better position to talk about it.

I’ve beaten the single player campaign, which, I have to say, I’m a bit disappointed in. Yes, I appreciated the covert ops nature of it, and the framing device of Mason strapped to a chair being interrogated by shadowy figures was suitably mysterious, but the game relies heavily on a Fight Club/Manchurian Candidate plot twist that’s meant to shock, but you can see it coming from a mile away.

Black Ops is just less…spectacular than Modern Warfare’s 1 and 2. And really, how could it not be? The first game had your character dying from a nuclear explosion, while the second had you murdering an airport full of civilians and watching Washington DC get taken over by Russia. It’s pretty hard to top any of that, and Black Ops simply doesn’t.

A game needs more than just a ton of bad guys in one place to be actually grand in scale and difficulty. Fighting a line of enemies in various random cityscapes across the world pales in comparison to trying to siege the White House occupied by invading forces, or hold off waves of soldiers in Chernobyl with only a sniper rifle as you wait for evac.

Shoot that guy! Now shoot that guy! Now shoot that guy!

There just aren’t many memorable moments here, and while you don’t buy these games for the campaign necessarily, I felt like a lot more could have been done with the whole Black Ops angle, which I might add, features almost no stealth-based gameplay at all, and the game just makes you sprint through it at 100 miles an hour at all times, being lit up by enemies as you do so.

A side note to the campaign is zombie mode, which I found to be a neat little addition despite my recent aversion to zombies invading nearly every game out right now. It’s a cool little minigame, but perhaps a bit too challenging for its own good, and a complete lack of instruction (“turn on the power! Somewhere!”) can be frustrating at times.

But onto the meat of the game, multiplayer, where I’m now a level 44 Lt. Colonel or something like that. No, I haven’t prestiged yet, so I can’t comment on that aspect, but I really wish these games would stop using this system to motivate players to press on. I’m not sure what you can retain in this version, but the idea of just taking everything away you unlock seems rather fruitless, and I can’t imagine why people do this anymore than once or twice, much less fifteen times. Why? For one more gun camo? A new emblem?A new class slot?  Is that really it?

Motivation is also something that Black Ops struggles with. MW2 had a multitude of specific achievements with each gun, killstreak, perk and piece of equipment that would unlock a variety of new titles or callsigns if you completed each task. Some were easy, some were extraordinarily difficult.

“Goal Completed: Kill two people with bullets to their anus.”

These same challenges exist here, but the entire economy  is purely based on two factors, XP and COD points. You receive COD points when you win games, complete contracts or level up. You receive XP when you win games, complete challenges or level up. So really, the only thing you ever get from any of the challenges is more XP, which propels you to prestige faster, but that’s it. No extra cash for guns or equipment, as that’s only earned through contracts or wager matches. Rather, in MW2 the game motivated you to branch out by using different perks, weapons and equipment.  In Black Ops, it doesn’t matter. You’ll get the same amount of XP for using one gun for 1,000 kills as you would using 10 guns for 100 kills. Same thing with killstreaks, grenades, perks or anything else you can customize. It all just feeds into the same XP pool, and if you play the game long enough with any kit, you’ll prestige pretty much just as fast.

Callsigns and emblems at least provided added incentive to complete challenges, as now I’m not going to try something outside of my comfort zone because why would I? I don’t get anything different than I would using my go-to setup in the end. You end up trying out different loadouts more out of boredom than anything else.

I praised the game last time for the fact that its fixed a whole bunch of issues from MW2. Noob tubing, knifing, dual shotgunning are all significantly more difficult to pull off, and therefore rarely used.

But I have problems with the weapons we find available, as there are a lot more clear champions this time around. MW2‘s guns were fairly diverse and balanced, but what I’ve found so far is that at least for shotguns, LMGs and sniper rifles, the final gun you unlock through buying the others is far and away better than any of the previous ones by a mile. I haven’t seen the last assault rifle or SMG, but I assume it’s similar.

“Good thing I have this watch to know it’s time to KILL SOME BITCHES!”

Also, this game really just doesn’t like sniping for some reason. There was no sniping section in the campaign, there are only four sniper rifles to buy and there’s really only one level it’s worth sniping in. I mean, as a terrible sniper myself, and one who was frequently felled by the weapon, I’m not terribly broken up about it, but the class is a lot less useful than it was previously.

The game for some reason is stacked heavily in favor of SMGs and assault rifles, as in addition to snipers, shotguns and LMGs only have 4 builds each, while the other two boast around 10-12 guns in their lineup. I’m still not sold on the idea of a shotgun as its own class rather than having it as a secondary, and I do miss the fun of the riot shield. The explosive crossbow and ballistic knife are welcome additions however.

Though most unbalanced gameplay issues have been fixed from MW2 to Black Ops, a few remain. Most notably how insane it is that perks like Chopper Gunner are allowed on a map like Nuketown. I’ve played in a number of games where I’ve spent a full thirty seconds spawning and dying instantly as the ground is littered with random fire. But the level is so small, my Ghost perk didn’t even matter, and I never even came close to getting a shot off with my rocket launcher to try and bring it down. It’s how you lose a game 7500 to 2000 in a hurry.

This seems slightly unfair.

I’m still highly disappointed in the map selection here. They just seem very uninspired, and though you get used to them, and get to know them, the vast majority seem like mazes where you run around and hope you have a quicker trigger finger than your opponent. This is opposed to MW2 which was more strategic as you and your team would try to lockdown and fortify certain locations most of the time. Yes, there were maze maps in MW2 as well, but those were most people’s least favorite, and really creative arenas like Terminal or High Rise just don’t exist here. At this point, I can name a bunch of levels I hate, but not one that I truly love.

I do like the game, I just wish I could combine it with Modern Warfare 2. The balance is a lot better than it used to be, and customization is a lot more well executed, but I miss the maps, the achievements and most of all the feel of it all. Yes, you get used to how Black Ops handles, but after all this time, there’s still the lingering feeling that MW2 just played better.

This will probably be my FPS of choice indefinitely, as I’m currently frustrated with Halo Reach, which in my estimation took steps backwards from its predecessor in nearly every way. Black Ops might not deserve to be the fastest selling product in the history of time, but it’s certainly not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Or a weekend. Or a month.

17 Comments

  1. J5 December 1, 2010
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  3. floppytall December 1, 2010
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  5. Robert December 1, 2010
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  13. Crash December 2, 2010
  14. Matt Chi December 2, 2010
  15. JohnC December 2, 2010
  16. CriticalBill December 2, 2010
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