Let’s talk about the latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops, by Treyarch. This game was hyped to be the best FPS of 2010, especially with all the new customizable options it was offering. Well, unlike many reviews I have read, I feel that the game is a disappointment. Why, you might ask? Please, let me explain…
First, it should be noted that we need to compare it with the last game released in the series, Modern Warfare 2. Although these games are different in their own right they are set on the same basic principles for game play. While Black Ops has many features that the previous titles don’t, it is plagued with problems. Most reviews I have read center around the graphics which, admittedly, aren’t up to par. There is good detail and lighting on each map but it lacks the overall shine and finish we saw in MW2.
But the graphics aren’t the real issue. The most blaring fault with the game is its inability to run smoothly. Remember when we all played computer games or ancient console games and the screen slowed down considerably when too many things were happening at once? Well, Black Ops seems to suffer from the same problem. If you’ve ever watched the kill-cam at the end of a match you’ll notice that any fully-automatic weapon is shown firing only in 3-round bursts – why? The answer is one of two things: sub-par programming or an incapable game engine (perhaps both). This is further evidenced during game play for combat shootouts. Fully automatic weapons seem to stutter instead of firing continuously and smoothly – a problem never seen in MW2.
And speaking of weapons, it also appears that the program doesn’t pick up bullet hits (or hit markers) consistently. Every now and then while playing MW2, I would watch a killcam when a sniper got me. Once in a blue moon I would notice that the sniper would be credited with a kill even though his crosshairs were an inch or so off target. Black Ops is worse. Not only are the hit markers imprecise, but they are inconsistent as well. At times it seems a player has more chance of a successful hip fire than aiming down the sights – making game play extremely frustrating.
Many of the sounds used in the game are also substandard – cheesy even. The weapon sounds are, for the most part, authentic but the supporting sounds are hideous. The reloading of a weapon sounds hollow and plastic while the canister for an airdrop sounds like an empty coke bottle dropped on the floor. And if that weren’t enough, the sounds for both actions I just mentioned are not in sync – they are a split second late. Does it take away from the actual game play? No, but it’s annoying.
But I think the overall failure of the game is the network/server problems. If you’ve played MW2 then you’re familiar with the term, “server timed out.” For those of you not aware, here is what happens: You’re right in the middle of a game and you’re doing great – you’re killing everybody. Then the screen starts jumping everywhere and finally, game play freezes. Everything is locked up for about a minute until everyone is kicked out to the main game lobby with a message, “server timed out.” MW2 experienced this problem more frequently than necessary, but Black Ops is plagued by it. Connection warnings appear on the screen regularly and when it times out, your friends are kicked out of your lobby. In fact, three times last night while a map was loading for game play, it completely froze up causing me to power down the PS3 and having to restart it. And speaking of which, this may just be a problem with the Playstation platform. I have spoken with Xbox users who are not experiencing the same issues. But the bottom line is that it shouldn’t be happening, no matter what platform you play on.
These are the basic/core failures of the game that affect everyone, but the game still has other flaws that are more opinionated. For instance, who thought of the ballistic knife? A spring-loaded blade that can shoot the entire length of a map with lethal consequences -- it has to be stupidest weapon in the entire game….along with the tomahawk. Let’s say you’re rounding a corner and come face to face with an opponent. You get the advantage, sight in with your assault rifle or light machine gun and send five or six high-caliber rounds into his upper chest region. You get the kill right? Wrong! After the second or third round you fired you immediately fall to the ground dead and you think, “What just happened!?” You watch the killcam and see from your opponent’s perspective that while his chest cavity was being filled with high-velocity projectiles, he had time to throw his tomahawk (or ballistic knife) and hit you in the shin causing instant death. This is nothing short of absolute FAILURE on the part of Treyarch. I understand the need to balance games and strive for realism but the edged weapons are laughable.
Or better yet, take the scenario we just used and instead of getting killed by an edged weapon (which we now know are more deadly than high powered rifles) you get killed by the opponent who is sitting on his rear firing a handgun. I’m talking about the perk called Second Chance which enables a player (normally killed by the appropriate amount of rounds) to fall to a seated position and fire a handgun and kill you. Gamers became frustrated with this perk in MW2 and why Treyarch kept it in this installment is beyond me.
And while we are still talking about weapons I think it prudent to discuss sniper rifles here. In MW2 sniper rifles were deadly. One shot kills were easy to come by, and rightfully so – getting hit by a .50 caliber rifle round doesn’t just put a hole in your body, it obliterates it. Sometimes two rounds were needed for a kill but it wasn’t that bad. The only problem with MW2 was the quick-scoping (a player raises the rifle just before the optic gets to eye level and fires resulting in a hit/kill) which was slightly unfair. Black Ops has made it virtually impossible to use a sniper rifle. When you bring the rifle up to eye level, the crosshairs bounce everywhere making it hard to come on target if you need to make a quick shot. But here is the real problem: one shot kills are few and far between. It takes at least two shots for a kill with a sniper rifle. Every now and then you’ll get a one shot kill but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ten-ringed someone in the chest from 100 yards out only to have them shoot and kill me immediately thereafter with a fully automatic weapon from the same distance. If Treyarch was going to make using a sniper rifle so difficult with the targeting, then they should have compensated by allowing one shot kills. As it stands, there are very few snipers in the online games because you can’t kill anyone with them.
So is there anything good about this game you ask, or am I just going to continue whining about it? There are, in fact, aspects about the game which I truly enjoy. Customizing your character is one of them and something you couldn’t do in previous COD installments. This game allows your character to appear different depending on what perks you choose. Some options include helmets, body armor, ghillie suits, blue jeans, the list goes on. And if that weren’t enough, you can customize your face-paint to help blend into environments. The most enjoyable feature regarding customization, however, deals with your weapons. You can choose colors, insignias, and even change the sights on your optics from a dot to a smiley face. The options are limited but Treyarch has done a fantastic job of supplying enough variants to make it worthwhile.
The good parts of the game are overshadowed by the numerous and obvious flaws. It is definitely an improvement over Treyarch’s last title (Call of Duty: World at War) but it has taken a step backwards from the last installment MW2. My advice: if you haven’t bought it yet, rent it first. See if you discover the same flaws and decide if you want to blow fifty bucks on it. I wish I hadn’t.