My amazing year-ender..
The first noticeable change is in the menu, which is not only cool-looking and dark in it's own respect, but also easy to navigate. Even from this technical part of the game, you are already placed in the shoes of single-player campaign leading man Alex Mason, who is superbly voiced by Sam Worthington from the film Avatar. Clicking the single player option in the menu screen (literally a TV screen that you can look at through Mason's eyes) immediately starts the campaign without so much as a load screen. This is a very enticing appetizer for many COD fans who love new things done superbly to their beloved franchise.
Black Ops' story is deep and dramatic, with quite a number of twists in the already riddled backdrop of the Cold War era. Mason, it seems, plays a pivotal role in the many changes and frantic moments in this near-nuclear conflict between the East and West. Significant plot points and story segments are told through memories forced out of Mason's head as faceless people whose silhouettes are only seen from grimy windows torture them out of Mason's head. Mason is locked in a dimly lit room filled with monitors, and bound to an electric chair. Why is Mason tied to this chair in the first place? How did these torture dudes get to him? Well, that and a great many questions will resonate in your mind as you plunge through the campaign, and all of them will be answered well throughout the game.
Missions (memories) take place in many intricately designed locations, such as Vietnam, Cuba, Russia, and in a resounding moment that would ramp the experience more, in the Pentagon, where you get to tour around the place in a real-time cutscene. The events that occur in these places bring out the familiar while leaving a sense of newness to the series. Call of Duty is roughly popular with its atmospheric environments and engaging firefights that occur in these set-pieces. Expect a lot of action in these settings and a slew of variety that pushes the FPS genre further in many fun and fast-paced ways. The gameplay is also complemented by a stellar voice cast with the likes of Gary Oldman and Ed Harris. The soundtrack is also a trip to pleasantville as it supports the plot well with its techno-inspired score.
There are sneaking missions that feature gratuitous amounts of bloodshed in their own right; escape missions that take place atop the rooftops of downtown Vietnam; POW rescues that have dramatic bits of gameplay wedged in the middle; many near-death experiences for Mason and his team, and much more. Mason isn't a silent character but his dialogue will make you feel for him, as he expresses his emotions in the various events that occur to him and his teammates. You don't actually play as Mason alone, but a few other integral supporting characters that surprisingly stay as leading men of their own.
The Cold War era is rife with technology that were presumably hidden by the government during that time of international conflict. There are high-tech computer stations, weapon upgrades that were thought not to exist until now, weapons that were thought not to exist until now, and in a 'flashy' section, a glimpse of what I would call a digital camera. In the '60s, mind. These and more are just a few of the wonders that the game unleashes to the player.
Being an FPS, Black Ops wanted to stay faithful to its core, the gunplay; but given the complexity of FPS narratives, this one manages to deliver a memorable yarn of a story filled with human emotion and drama and is effective in doing so. It stands firmly alongside one of 2010's emotionally driven game, Heavy Rain. You would feel for the many characters in the game, be it a friend or a villain. You would experience an emotional jolt if one NPC friend becomes hurt or fall off dead. It's a COD that let's you connect with your AI cohorts, not directly, but emotionally. It's never a creepy feeling, although you'd be left to wonder why you'd actually care for the people in the game, people who turn quite deadly with a penchant for slitting throats and bashing local militia with beer bottles. Quite a few times, you'd think, "Why did he have to die?" or "Why can't I change this part of the game and save this character?" Yes, the game would affect you in many ways, and it's fun to explore your feelings while playing. Anger pangs are abound here; nerve-wracking moments litter the game-space; and there's a lot more to Call of Duty: Black Ops than a mere sequel with better graphics.
This game is a floodgate to many opportunities that are available for those who will make Modern Warfare 3. And as we eagerly await that game's advent, let us partake the sweetness of all of Black Ops' features. The threatre-of-war has never been this frantic and superb-looking. The gun-play is exciting and packed with adrenalin, and every new chapter in the game brings a new sense of adventure and excitement that you can't control. Unfortunately, this is also a letdown for some gamers, because the game actually just pushes you to run and shoot, and reach this point ASAP! that you'd eventually feel tired of just running and gunning. A little cinematic variety divides this frantic pace, but they're too few and too far apart. Good thing there's driving sequences that are cool and visually explosive, and they work both as driving and battle sequences. Despite the aging formula that COD uses, it still works. I just hope that the developers would think of more ways to keep the series feel new in more ways than the way they portray their story.
Zombie mode returns with twists of its own. It's better and more frantic than before and casts a shocking yet radical set of individuals that will leave players wondering what if this kind of character twist happens to Left for Dead. Multiplayer also returns with the classic COD quality modes and new ones that will benefit both veterans and newbies alike. The multiplayer modes are deeper and more fun this time around. The gameplay here flows well and its as adrenalin-packed as the single-player campaign. There's a new currency that compliments the perk and Achievements system popularized by Modern Warfare & other games, and it's an effective multiplayer element that would definitely leave players hooked for a very long time. Warfare has never been this fun. With new challenges and opportunities to kick some ass, it's a new way to impress others with your capabilities as an FPS gamer.