Nathan Weller On December 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

In what should be no surprise, the Call of Duty series marches onward with a new release. Call of Duty 2K10, or Call of Duty Black Ops to those in the know, finds us fighting in covert missions during the Cold War. Development has been placed back into the hands of Treyarch.

I’m reviewing on a PS3, so as is customary now, a 23 megabytes patch is awaiting before I can play. As I saw in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the game has you configure your video and audio options before jumping into the game, and gives you a notice that there are levels that will contain graphic content. Being an M rated game for all things violent, this should be no surprise. It is nice to have the warning in the game as a measure to cover the developers if anyone wishes to shield themselves from some of the action that will strike close to home. “Graphic content and historic footage” contained in the game helps blur the line between fiction and reality as these games grow increasingly more vivid.

If you sit on the main screen like I did while typing a few lines here, you will hear some dialogue and realize the main menu is also part of the game, with your point of view being that of Alex Mason, a captive audience to silhouetted interrogators. The cinematic feel of the game continues in this iteration, as you experience game levels as flashbacks, jumping between your present jail cell and past war operations. Ice Cube makes a cameo as voice talent, but other voices don’t always fit in well. The Kennedy voice actor could have been a bit more on point with their Bostonian accent, however it seems that another voice actor is used in the zombie mode to throw out some Kennedyisms to better effect. Fleeting expletives are more heavily used, but this is an M rated title after all. Knowing they have this rating, Treyarch doesn’t mind adding in a variety of bloody scenes, some of which are under your control, others just part of the scenery.

After dying in the same area several times, I am reminded of a few certainties in a Call of Duty game. One, vehicles can explode. Two, computer-controlled enemies like to spam grenades. I’m not sure where the stockpile is, but it’s huge, and it’s the same location where all the extra enemies come from. At a handful of points in the game, I found that I needed to replay the level many times in order to get far enough to the next autosave point to continue the story. This got annoying at times, as I would need to re-run through some pre-scripted actions and lines of dialogue to get to the point that was giving me difficulty. I could see this becoming more of a hassle at the higher difficulty levels. The respawning nature of the CPU enemy adds to the annoyances here, as they will continue to respawn until you reach a specific point where the story can continue. It mimics a game of Simon as you try to memorize the sequence of actions that safely guides you through a level. Forget the sequence, and you will find yourself forever pinned in a corner as limitless enemies continue to run at you.

For the completionists out there, the pieces of intel are once again scattered throughout all the levels, giving you a little something extra to hunt for whilst being peppered with bullets. Nothing like a scavenger hunt during a war, right? Other game mechanics return as well, as the Call of Duty series as a whole has begun to earn the “cookie-cutter” moniker from many. Renerative health, loads of weapons, and checkpoints would make any Call of Duty veteran feel right at home.

The single player campaign isn’t the longest, but lately that seems par for the course. You can plow through the 15 levels in under 8 hours, if not faster depending on your difficulty settings. The 1960’s romp through pseudo history is interesting enough to finish at least once.

The multiplayer portion of the game opens up the options for the seasoned players of previous Call of Duty titles. I’m certain many players go right for this mode, side-stepping the campaign mode entirely. Once again you start from the bottom rungs of the ladder, likely to be pummeled due to your limited selection of goodies, while level 50 players run circles around you. This was to be expected, so I did give it a chance. Improving on an annoyance I had with the earlier games, you are given the chance to open up more custom classes, but only after you have reached Prestige, which…I haven’t done to date in any Call of Duty game. But, to those with the time and need for extra slots, they can now get them.

New maps abound while old game modes are back from previous titles. Again, you are limited to which modes you can play off the bat, and as you progress up the ranks, more options are available. Prestige players have their own mode, so presumably they can hang out and talk about how much time they’ve spent playing.

I’m more accustomed to playing on my Xbox 360 when it comes to multiplayer, but the PS3 provides a similar experience. The sales numbers across both the PS3 and Xbox 360 have done well, and over 300,000 active players were connected on a weekend when I logged in on the PS3. I did experience a few dropped connections, though. Xbox Live’s dedicated servers likely have the upper hand in this case, but otherwise these games perform equally. Graphically there is little to no difference between them.

In addition to the usual XP grind, you also have COD Points to worry about. COD Points are earned in multiplayer games, and can be used to unlock items for use in your classes. The good thing about this is once I bought an item like the Claymore, it was unlocked from then on out for any class. This will limit your selections as a new player, so you will find yourself being destroyed early on by people who have much greater flexibility and range in their class loadouts. Lots of little things here and there can be purchased with COD Points in addition to your weapons and tools. Cosmetic changes such as face paint and weapon badges let you add some personal touches to your character.

If you have some friends over, there is still the ability to let them hop on for some split-screen action, either locally or in multiplayer settings. Be aware, if they do join you for multiplayer, they will have to earn their own COD points to unlock items for use – they don’t get your items. This was somewhat annoying for a friend who was over to play and was used to having their own configuration.

The Zombie mode is back, so for those with a taste for the undead, you can fight your way through underground bunkers while your character throws around some timely quips. You earn currency as you fight that you can then use to upgrade your items at points around the map – and even if you have a bad shot, you can still help out by rebuilding barricades. This is a decent mode and change of pace from the exploding chaos of regular multiplayer.

Is it a good game? For a certain audience, sure. For others, it just becomes another game in the pile used to convince us we’re dehumanizing our children and glorifying war. The multiplayer once again redeems the series for those who will likely put many hours into leveling their character up and preparing for the inevitable DLC maps down the pike. If you are looking for a first-person shooter and have a love for multiplayer on the PS3, Black Ops will serve you well. Worth a rental only if you’re not going to get into multiplayer.


A variety of locales peppered with alternate mission modes spices things up. Multiplayer brings the chance to get drawn back in. Also, zombies.


Strong graphics convey the atmosphere of the Cold War, unfortunately you may be too busy running from one corner to the next to appreciate it.


Good use of surround sound to convey the chaos of the battlefield. Could they get a better Kennedy voice, though?


A high budget shooter from a family of shooters, Black Ops soothes the savage beast’s need for multiplayer mayhem.

Buy Call of Duty: Black Ops online for the PlayStation 3 from

Click here to buy Call of Duty: Black Ops online from for the PlayStation 3


One Response

  1. clarno says:

    Thanks for the review, I love COD.