The black ops series helmed by Treyarch have, in my opinion, produced the best call of duty games to date. I say ‘to date’ because although this iteration of the franchise is radically different, I believe this is one of the best call of duties I’ve played for a long time. The radical differences are enough to breathe new life into the franchise without compromising the well oiled mechanics which make call of duty the leader in console first person shooters.
Normally I’d comment on the campaign first, but the staying power of a call of duty game is rarely in the campaign! The multiplayer has been arcade-ised (definitely not a word), however it describes well the evolution the black ops series has taken. The realms of reality have been breached somewhat with the mind power abilities giving rise to ‘specialists’, some of which are introduced in the campaign, and some new silky smooth movement mechanics. The boost jump and climb abilities make high-up camping spots a risky choice, the running slide and wall runs allow you to shoot at the same time, leading to some pretty badass gameplay when you get your head around the speed of the game. The smooth gameplay, much like with Advanced Warfare (the previous call of duty) is fluid but meaningful with boosts and landings making the controller vibrate giving the player a sense of power and weight which can be easily lost. The specialists seem varied, different people will use different specialists in order to assist their play style. I’ve enjoyed using the Overdrive ability with my SMG causing my movement to become greatly accelerated, leading to some hilarious double and triple kills when used correctly. Other popular specialists include power weapons such as an explosive bow, a golden gun (destiny-like), and an electricity bolt rifle. Each ability is balanced with a use time and a cool-down time with the more powerful abilities often only being available once a match.
Weapons seem well balanced. I usually go for SMGs as most people seem to run about like maniacs and I like to follow suit. Assault rifles and shotguns also seem well represented, snipers I only ever pick up when I run out of ammo, and LMGs just hold me back! The maps are finished to a good standard with lots of interesting paths to take, walls to run along and pools to swim through which adds a huge amount of variety to each game. It is hard to get bored playing online because there is just so much variety both in the gameplay, and in the customisation of your character, loadouts and scorestreak rewards. One critique I’d make concerns the absolute one sidedness of matches where people get high scorestreaks. Although its fair enough that both sides have equal chance of reaching these game concluding streaks, in longer term game modes outside of team deathmatch getting spawn killed by those terrifying spiky motorbike wheels takes away from the fun after the 5th time in a row. In all though, I’m having a great time with the new multiplayer modes!
The campaign is comparable to Halo 5’s. It is confusing as hell. However the secrets are better kept, keeping me in the dark about who to trust. I won’t spoil the plot for you but I will give you some premise. You are given a reason to sign up for a bio-augmentation operation of the body and mind. This gives you a hive mind, connecting your thoughts to those of other augmented soldiers along with a wide array of mind control abilities which increase your base skills or completely screw with your enemies heads. The most useful ability is the explosive detonation type power which can be used on robots (yes robots). You basically use the robots themselves as a bomb, damaging everything in the immediate vicinity. The plot discusses many transhumanism debates ranging from human artificial (and superior) limbs, to the threat posed from AI and security issues with personal interconnectedness (making yourself hackable). The amount of stuff packed into the game makes it less like a ‘call of duty’ and more like a rollercoaster. I couldn’t work out if it was a good one or a vomit inducing one though! There was so much new stuff happening that it didn’t feel like I was fighting for a country or for the good of humanity any more. The jump into the future was such that there was less to sympathize with. Treyarch have however made an interesting new campaign following their more edgy themes of psychological warfare which they have used in the previous black ops games. It was powerful enough to make me uneasy, especially the narration about the frozen forest, you’ll have to play it to find out what it means though! Another thing to add is that the campaign is multiplayer, the areas are more open to accommodate more players but I have only played it solo. The areas can feel a little empty, but its obviously so that you can utilize your enhanced mobility. I only had one frustrating moment in the campaign and that was in an area where enemies kept respawning and the only way to stop them was to run, completely exposed to the entrance of the facility and hope the cut-scene would start before you died… That being said though, I’d like to try the campaign with some friends when my game backlog holds up a bit.
There are 2 zombies modes, one is the usual wave based mode which is a huge selling point for the game. The other is nightmare mode where you play the campaign which has been altered to have zombies instead of enemy soldiers. I found the background narration chilling at first but a little long winded. A woman is relaying her experiences of a virus which was released by the bio-augmentation company, it is essentially an interview albeit a long one. The odd thing is, although it is a little slap dash, and they have essentially muted the game (you can see peoples mouths moving, saying the usual campaign script), I@m actually getting into it, and its more difficult than I thought! Playing zombies alone is always a little scary because there is always the threat of one coming up behind you and making you jump.
The other mode is the highly anticipated wave based mode. The new characters all have decidedly violent pasts which have caused them to be cursed and sent to be fed to the zombies. I am almost certain there is no end-game which doesn’t say ‘You Died’, but thats whats so good about zombies. You can, in theory, go on forever. You can, but I certainly didn’t! I cannot really give a good overview of zombies because I’ve only reached round 8 where a big scary boss reminds you, you really should have found the juggernog by now. The new additions, apart from the boss are plentiful and it will take a while to get used to it. You can become a monster which allows you to unlock certain paths and turn the electricity on. There is a new temporary perks machine disguised as a bubblegum dispenser, and at least 1 new perk. The map is set in a fictional city which reminds me of knockturn alley from Harry Potter. It is huge and has a healthy number of choke points and open areas. Playing on your own is terrifying, especially when you have no idea where anything is, but the terror seems fitting considering it is a game mode called ‘zombies’. So far despite the huge open areas, this one feels the most claustrophobic, even having played Verruckt on Call of Duty World at War. This is one I’m going to have to dedicate some time to with some friends and conquer the challenge as well as my fear of the tentacle boss at round 8…
Although I haven’t played enough zombies to give a fair review, I will give a provisional rating from my experience of the game so far.
I believe the game deserves an 8.6/10