Call of Duty: Black Ops™ Mega Hyper Super-Serious Review

Thank you, Activision. I have been waiting years for a military-themed, tactical first-person shooter. But I knew you could do it. You created Tony Hawk: Underground. You created Guitar Hero: Van Halen. And now, you have delivered again.

Call of Duty: Black Ops uses tattoo-rendering technology to render tattoos.

I was pumped. Like every Call of Duty game, I knew that Call of Duty: Black Ops was going to be a timeless classic. A game I would hold on to forever. A game to stand the test of time. So I traded in Modern Warfare 2 and purchased Black Ops on release night. It was worth it. This is the best Call of Duty game released in the last six months. Maybe the last nine. It’s that good.

Publisher Activision (the inventor of the Call of Duty series) knew they had something to prove. Despite universal acclaim, it has been rough times for the Call of Duty series. The heads of development team Infinity Ward were recently jailed for their involvement in arson attacks on oil fields during the 1991 Gulf War. Discouraged but not defeated, Activision outsourced production of the next Call of Duty game to a company named Treyarch. This was a risky move. To my knowledge, the company had no prior experience with the Call of Duty series. But it did not stop this upstart from creating a top-five-all-time Call of Duty game. And by extension, a top-five-all-time video game.

The advertising campaign got us completely hyped to play the game. The commercial was awesome and hilarious because Kobe Bryant was in it. I can completely relate to a 6’6 black man who plays basketball every year for millions of dollars. So by the time we removed the disc from the case, we were absolutely hooked on Black Ops. Take the “Press Start” screen. Rarely has a “Press Start” screen been this well-executed. It does not trip into the pitfalls of inferior “Press Start” screens, where you press a face button or use the directional pad to defeat the “Press Start” screen. It uses the start button. It is purely genius. We would put the Black Ops “Press Start” screen on in our top five and can only hope the Call of Duty franchise continues to set the gold standard for “Press Start” screens.

But a “Press Start” screen can only carry so much value for the consumer. The question is: Is the video game fun to play? Is the single-player campaign superior to all other forms of entertainment ever released or published? The answer is yes! Like the “Press Start” screen, the campaign features an incredible amount of detail. The realism is stunning. You begin the game bunnyhopping through the jungles of Vietnam and the realism does not stop there. By the end, you will not care which direction the robo-Stalins are attacking from. It is because the storyline is incredible and realism and motion blur and stuff. Extended praise should go to the voice actor for Robert McNamara, who proceeds to play one of the most interesting fictional characters in recent memory. My only concern is that the story hits too close to home. As though Activision knows who was behind the Kent State shootings. Why would Richard Nixon pull the trigger? How would this help him defeat Barack Obama’s health care legislation, a bill passed nearly fifteen years after Nixon’s death? This lengthy fifty-minute campaign left all of us at the offices wanting more.

There are two people in this screencap and I doubt you can find them all. The camouflage is that real.

The level design in this single-player mode features an incredible amount of diversity. Black Ops constantly changes up the kinds of cutscenes you will encounter. And the excitement does not stop there. While the game is at its best when the player is traveling north, the game will occasionally force you to travel east or west. On one instance, we had to travel south. And the game is smart about preventing the player from taking alternate routes. On more than one occasion, I scoured for a secret room or passage. I was unable to find one. Sensational. That is what people refer to when they speak of “tight gameplay”. It is like that Uncharted 2 commercial where the girlfriend thinks they are watching a movie but in reality the boyfriend is playing Uncharted 2. That commercial was very clever.

The best part of the single-player mode is that when you are done with the single-player mode you can quit out of the single-player mode and switch to the zombie mode. You shoot zombies in the zombie mode. The zombie mode is proof that artificial intelligence has made major leaps forward from the release of 1993’s Doom, where monsters would slowly stumble towards the player in an attempt to surround and attack him.

But nobody cares about single-player. Nobody cares about zombies. They are not why you purchase a Call of Duty game. For readers new to console games and only have experience playing video games on a personal computer, “online play” is where you connect with people across the world and play against real human opponents. I posit that PC gamers will have difficulty adjusting to the level of competition on Xbox Live, as the people at Halo invented the first-person shooter. But if you can adjust from a mouse-and-keyboard setup and man up with a real input device, the greatest online multiplayer of all-time awaits you in Black Ops.

The biggest changes are the new weapons. Most companies in the video game industry play it safe. They do not want to risk harming their profits. Black Ops features more diversity than ever, adjusting damage and accuracy rates for three of the game’s six weapons. The new weapon is the crossbow, and it is incredible. No game has ever featured a crossbow. Name one game that has featured a crossbow. Name one. You could probably spend half your life coming up with an answer to that. But my preferred weapon was the #ERROR!NOSTRING480 Launcher, which alternates between a rifle mode that shoots zombies and a grenade launcher mode that crashes the Xbox. This weapon is very effective when you are about to lose a match.

The only downfall of online play is the voice chat, where players will “ignore” you if you question their sexuality. This makes it increasingly difficult to communicate with your teammates. On one occasion, I told my teammate that he enjoys having sex with his dog. I said this because it is true. For whatever reason, he got upset. He proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the game. His lack of teamwork cost us the game. I proceeded to message him through the Xbox Live service and inform him he probably does it with the cat as well, but the damage was done. I lost the game. Just because my teammate has sex with his dog.

I took this screenshot and sent it to Microsoft to prove that I did not throw my teammate to his death. He clearly tripped.

I am not upset. I am not angry. I am just mad because dogsexboy cost me “COD Points™”, which is like Canadian money only it is worth something. In Call of Duty 4 and Modern Warfare 2, the player would unlock weapons and perks by leveling their character. That was a rare oversight. The Activision programmers did not realize that RPGs are for nerds. That has now changed. The player now unlocks weapons by spending COD Points™ on the attributes he wishes to improve. It is an incredible addition to video games. The video game industry could probably build an entire genre around this concept of improving skills and attributes by grinding through hordes of randomly-spawning enemies. Activision deserves credit for subconsciously inventing the next great genre of video games.

Perhaps the biggest problem with Black Ops is the number of glitches. The game is completely unplayable. When I entered my review copy into the Xbox, the game automatically equipped my Xbox with the E74 perk. After replacing the Xbox, I encountered a number of glitches which made the game completely unplayable. This turned out to be a false alarm. But after replacing Fallout: New Vegas with the proper disc, I found numerous glitches in the multiplayer mode, the worst of which sold all of my personal and financial information to the government of Vietnam, a subsidiary of Activision-Blizzard. It is inexcusable in the year 2010 that companies would still program their games to do this and it ruined Black Ops for everybody at the office.

But it did not dissuade my enjoyment of this instant classic. If you are on the fence about whether to purchase Black Ops, ask yourself a couple of questions. Is the game a better shooter than Super Mario Brothers? Check. Does it have better graphics than Pac-Man? Check. Does the game have a crossbow? Check. Incredible. Perhaps the only issue with Black Ops is that the box does not hurt when you hit somebody in the head of it. I only mention this because people will mock this video game even though they have never played it and probably never will. But don’t worry. They will not be having sex with hot co-eds in your dorm room like you will. Because they will not be playing the greatest video game of all-time. They will not be playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.

15 out of 5

(Games rated fifteen-out-of-five are Call of Duty games.)