Friday, November 26, 2010

Video game three hundred and thirty three: Call of Duty Black Ops

Video game review number three hundred and thirty three in my 365 Games in 365 Days project is "Call of Duty: Black Ops"

Over the last year, I've become completely addicted to Call of Duty. Somehow, I completely ignored all the previous versions of it, but when Modern Warfare 2 was released, I played it nearly every day for a couple of months straight.

Some people I know have accused me of exaggerating from time to time when it comes to statements like "I played it nearly every day for a couple of months straight". To amplify the accuracy of this statement, I submit as evidence a screenshot from my 360 blog of my top 4 games over the last couple of years:

While these stats are by no means complete (The service has forgotten a lot of my play days over the last 2 years), it does prove that in less than a year, I played Modern Warfare almost as much as I played Halo 3 over the last two. That's saying a lot considering that Halo was my favorite game of all time back when it was released.

Modern Warfare 2 is one of the primary reasons this challenge has been so incredibly difficult for me, because a lot of the time, it's the only game I wanted to play. You might say "That's just selective hindsight", but I will submit exhibit B: as evidence. I mentioned it in at least a dozen reviews earlier this year. There are many more mentions, but you get the idea. That game was constantly on my brain. Whenever I was playing a sub-par game, I was wishing that I was playing Call of Duty. Very often, even when I was playing a good game....I was still wishing that I was playing COD. That's just how good it is.

Because of this challenge, I had to put MW2 on the shelf and instead, play dozens upon dozens of lesser games. Imitations. Mere shadows next to a pillar of awesome. While impressive in its own way, this challenge has also been murder as far as personal choice goes. Sure, I've been exposed to countless games I never would have touched without the project, but I've also missed out on being the prestige level 10 I probably would have been by now if left up to my own gaming preferences.

I spent this Thanksgiving at my sister's house, home of my nephew...the king of Call of Duty. He's got a ginormous 15 year old ego, and I'm sure reading this post wouldn't help, so the only reason I'll even admit it is because I know he's not reading my blog. Here goes: The kid is the best Call of Duty player I know. He gets beat by plenty of randoms online, but he's better than anyone I actually know online or off...and I know a LOT of people. He is consistently ranked atop my friends leaderboard (none of my friends come close). In every match we play, he's almost always first, and if not, it's either because he was screwing around...or because he actually met someone better online and ended up placing a close 2nd.

Anyway...Ryan already had his copy of Black Ops, and he'd already prestiged once in the couple of weeks it's been out. He was halfway through his next prestige. For those of you that don't know what that means he'd ranked up as far as the game will let you, before deciding to surrender his top rank (along with all the weapons and perks that come along with it) to receive a tiny icon next to his player name and start all over again at the bottom of the pile. The sheer number of hours it takes to do that is astronomical. I've only prestiged once in Modern Warfare 2, and it took me months. Giving up all those weapons was HARD. This guy did it in weeks, and he's already on his way to the next one. I know that there are many kids like that online, but I'm related to this one...and I'm pretty impressed by his mad skillz.

He asked if I wanted to play some Black Ops. I had been saving it for when I had a week to completely dive in and immerse myself, but I was on vacation and this was a very tempting offer. I asked him how it was compared to MW2.

"Way better" he said.

High praise from a big fan of the game we both consider to be one of the best of all time.

I decided to settle in for an afternoon of gaming with Ryan and find out myself. I began Black Ops by starting my multiplayer journey. We played split screen (something that usually annoys the hell out of me), and I still had a blast. Within a few hours, I was already rank 5 or 6. This game just feels like "home" and although I'm not good at it by any definition, it wasn't long before I started to place in the middle of the pack in multiplayer matches.

So how does one accurately review Call of Duty Black Ops? You probably need to beat the entire campaign and then play every multiplayer variant until you have an excellent understanding of everything that the game has to offer.

How will I review it? Simple. I already love it.

You don't need to drive 1000 miles in a luxury car to know that it's the car for you. You get in and within moments, you know it's one of the best driving experiences you've ever had. That's what this game already is for me. I'm only a level 10 (and climbing), but I've already spent several hours playing...and each one has just gotten me deeper into what I know will be a new addiction.

Yes, there's a campaign. Yes, I will definitely play all the way through it once and then chances are, unless it's amazing...I will probably never go back. If by some chance the campaign turns out to be incredible, that's just icing on a cake MADE of icing. It's that sandwich at KFC where even the buns are made of fried chicken. It'll just be an overload of awesome.

To me, the meat of the game is in the multiplayer, and that experience is already as close to perfection as it gets, as far as I'm concerned. I played in split screen (a new feature for COD) and I also had the screen to myself for awhile with my nephew watching over my shoulder giving me "win" advice. It was a ton of fun. When I got home, we played over live (me on my home screen and him on his) and it just got all the more impressive. I started unlocking killstreak rewards, new guns and all sorts of other junk. This is the kind of experience I envision taking up any free moments I have for gaming....indefinitely.

Overall Score? 9/10. I could easily give this game a ten. I almost did. That would probably be unfair though, seeing as how I've never actually touched the single player. Even though it's just "Gravy" (as I mentioned above), it's still a big part of the game, and I should probably play the game before I finish my review. I fully expect to revisit this post a little while from now, after I've played the update the score. In the meantime, the multiplayer is just about perfect, and that's all you really need to know. If you like shooters and you don't already own this game, you're doing yourself a giant disservice.

Achievements? All I have so far are these, from the main menu. There really need to be more achievements in multiplayer!

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