The “Call of Duty” series is known by gamers to continually raise the bar for the first-person shooting genre. After the portrayal of D-Day on the beaches of Normandy in “Call of Duty 2” and the momentous multiplayer mode of “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops” has done it again.
“Black Ops” is the seventh installment in the war genre published by Activision but the third developed by Treyarch, the creators of “Call of Duty 3” and “Call of Duty: World at War.” “Black Ops” is not a true sequel to “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2,” but the developers kept the core formula while making plenty of ambitious changes.
Players resume the role of Alex Mason, an operative for the CIA. The story begins with Mason strapped to a chair in an interrogation room.
The campaign manages to cover a lengthy timeline because of Mason’s flashbacks, from an assassination attempt on Fidel Castro during the Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 to intelligence-gathering in Vietnam in 1968 and beyond. Throughout the story, there are missions where other gamers play as characters to help tell Mason’s tale from different perspectives.
There is not a dull moment in the campaign. The player is constantly engaged in danger behind enemy lines. From a rooftop romp in the heart of Hong Kong to a prison break motorcycle getaway in Russia, players will be entertained. The mission scenarios are packed with surprises that parallel the twists in the plot.
Dialogue is plentiful and the characters are surprisingly deep. As opposed to simply being briefed before and after missions, exchanges between characters mid-mission keep the story interesting, all while something is exploding or collapsing in the background.
Considering that the storyline is abundantly embellished, encounters with real-life characters feel out of place. It does have its share of cliché moments: “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones blares as the gamer is transported to Vietnam.
The online multiplayer mode is why this game is so popular. The leveling aspect of the “Modern Warfare” series remains intact, but a currency system has been added to purchase accessories, clothes and weapons.
This time around, Treyarch has emphasized its focus on socialization and customization in the multiplayer mode — and it has done a good job spicing it up. Player emblems are now fully customizable, and there are a slew of additions to customization — face paint and colored weapon reticules, to name a few.
The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach could have been used when developing “Black Ops” for sales purposes, but the developers went out of their comfort zone to create a memorable video game. The thousands of players exchanging live rounds online solidify that testament.