5.5

A masterpiece at first glance. But if you dig deeper, you won't like what you find.

I am a huge fan of the Call of Duty series, and up until now I have always held some manner of respect for every game in the series. Black Ops, on the other hand, simply doesn't deserve respect on any level. It's simply too shoddy, too unfocused, too unbalanced, and just all-around unfinished. Sorry, Treyarch, better luck next time.

One thing I really DID like about the game was the campaign. The story in particular was very good and Gary Oldman (from Air Force One) gives a spectacular (if slightly overdone) performance that really makes his character come to life. The game also features some particularly great levels, although it does have some cases where bad level design and respawning enemies rear their ugly head. For the most part, though, you will enjoy the campaign for it's whole 5-hour run. Just don't expect the same thrill ride from the multiplayer.

Multiplayer is, for the most part, exactly what you'd expect from the series. However, there are several parts that have been completely screwed up. The unlocks, for instance, no longer rely on your level and challenges, but on a rudimentary currency system known as "cod points". At first glance, this system appears to be a great idea, and "10 cod points per kill, with good gear costing thousands" seems to require alot of skill to get the better stuff. However, it all falls apart when you realize that match bonuses give out cod points so liberally that anyone with the tiniest hint of fiscal responsibility will have cod points to spare at all times. This is because despite the large amount of perks and weapons, very few of them are actually worth using.

For instance, the FAMAS is an excellent gun that is unlocked fairly early on. And once you get it, you'll find it's one of the only guns you'll ever need. In fact, in MW2, almost every gun was useful for some purpose and worthless for another. In Black Ops, the FAMAS, AK74u, and Galil are all-purpose powerhouses, whereas damn near every other gun may as well not even exist, as they're all so underpowered that you are pretty much bringing a knife to a gunfight by using them. Meanwhile, the perks are mostly worthless and you won't find much use for experimentation for you will find yourself just sticking by a few favorites and ignoring everything else.

Then there's the killstreaks, which aren't much for innovation this time around. There's your typical airstrikes, helicopters, the dogs from WaW, and a peculiar little number called the RC-XD. Most of the killstreaks are all fine and dandy, but the RC-XD is an atrocity. You only need 3 kills to unlock it (2 with hardline), and it kills instantly with no hope of a counter. The other killstreaks can (for the most part) be shot down with rocket launchers, but the RC-XD is so overpowered it's practically game breaking.

Even with all these balance issues, Black Ops likes to pretend that it's balanced by making special rules like "Grenades don't explode for the first few seconds of every match" and "No tactical insertions in free for all". I've got news for you, Treyarch, balance doesn't work that way. You need to provide strategies, and counter-strategies, counter-counter-strategies, and so forth. There needs to be a reason to play this way or that way, and a way to counter players who play like this or that, you get the picture. You can't just say "no this" or "no that" and expect everything to click.

And finally, if you got the PS3 version of Black Ops, you're quickly gonna regret your decision as Treyarch clearly hasn't given that version any sort of work. At the time this review was written, Black Ops has already been out for seven months, and the game still has the worst connection problems I've ever seen. There's a reason so many people call this game "Lag Ops". Almost every match is plagued by lag and ends with "Connection Interrupted". At first I didn't mind it, but it all adds up quickly, and if nothing else thus far has ruined the experience for you, this will.

Overall, Black Ops isn't a horrible game, but it's not a good game either. I can't recommend it, but at the same time I can't condemn it either. This is a bargain bin affair, through and through. If you can find it used on eBay, then by all means, go for it. Otherwise, you should approach with caution.

Oh yeah, and it has Zombies....

Yeah, it's pretty much the same as in World at War.

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