The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

COD: Black Out

Written by: Corey Bonanno, Special to CC2K

ImageIt has been over a year, and in the eyes of Activision Publishing, we need a new Call of Duty .  This time, instead of just skipping straight to the multiplayer, players should definitely start with giving this campaign an honest playthrough. Call of Duty: Black Ops, may be the most well executed and unique story in the franchise to date, and it doesn’t hurt to be backed by an A-list cast of actors to tell it. Set in the 60’s, the story places you and your team in the middle of some actual historical events of the Cold War. This makes for some spectacular set pieces and alternate takes historical battles, and some neat twists in the part you play out.      
You are, Alex Mason, an elite black ops agent of suspect sanity, assigned to the most hotshot crew of equally stereotypical badasses ever assembled.  Together you’ll cap Castro, ventilate the Vietcong, and ream some Russians as Mason relives his past missions through a series of flashbacks.  This all takes place with Mason strapped to a chair in an interrogation room under mysterious circumstances.  The real core of the story is the voice acting.  A-list actors such as Gary Oldman, Ice Cube, and Ed Harris provide top notch voice acting and characterization, this alone makes the purchase worth it.  Call of Duty is not known to have the best stories, but the cast really brings this particular narrative together better than the confusing, Bruckheimer-esque, blockbuster nonsense before it.
Treyarch, has created a distinct, stylized, and colorful palate for their backdrops and set pieces.  This is great, but you really only get one good look at the designers brilliant work from a distance before all you see is blood on the screen and a face full of explosions.  I guess that is the point.  The pacing of the gameplay is almost so intense and overwhelming that it clouds everything that happens around you, the purpose of what you are doing is lost in the chaos.  The battle of Khe Sahn has already won infamy in the gamer world for being an intense difficulty spike with poor communication of the player’s objectives.  For a company with such a high budget to spend on a franchise like this, it is only right to expect the absolute best.  The gameplay itself is exactly what you expect from a Call of Duty game, and it still gets the job done.
ImageEnough with all of that, who really plays COD for the single player campaign, all anybody wants is to jump online and prove themselves to the community.  The online multiplayer is basically a clone of MW2, but the newest addition and my favorite to the whole franchise, are the COD points.  COD points are rewarded upon completing contracts, winning matches, and taking part in the new “wager” modes.  Players bet their points in matches against other players in new games like “One in the Chamber” where you start with a pistol and one bullet — miss and its all melee, hit your target, you get another bullet — its great fun and a definite test of your aim and wits.  Instead of leveling and completing weapon challenges, you now unlock weapon mods, perks, and character customization with the points you earn in matches, closing the gap between low-level and prestige players. 
Call of Duty: Black Ops boasts an amazing cast, a huge spectacle in level design and combat, but doesn’t add much to be considered a revamp, but it adds enough to be refreshing.  With tons of bonus content, hidden games, and a huge online community it still is just Call of Duty in every way, and that is ok.  Activision knows people are going to buy it no matter what, even if the next installment is dated for November 2011.  Every year a new COD comes out, it breaks record sales, which in all likelihood will be the trend to come.  I bought it, and I know I’ll plug hours and hours into the online community and trophy hunting until next November.  Repetitive as it is, there is a reason why Activision is on top of the gaming industry battling it out with EA Games for supremacy.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, I suppose.  The numbers will say it all.

+ Huge replay value and hidden goodies galore.

+ A thriving online community with new features and character customizations

+ Star Studded cast


A short and bloated story that tries to be confusing when it is ripped off and predictable (Fight Club/Manchurian Candidate and at times felt kind of Indiana Jones-ish).

Same old thing, but it’s an FPS so what can you do?

8.5 out of 10