Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops

Who would have thought that after last year's enormous Modern Warfare 2 launch, that the Call of Duty franchise would continue to reach new heights? Nobody expected Black Ops to sell better than Modern Warfare 2, but to everyone's surprise, the game actually ended up selling 5.6 million copies in the US in the first 24 hours of its release. Not only is that 900,000 more copies than Modern Warfare 2 sold in its first day, but the game was selling out everywhere, including the rarely-sold-out Amazon. The game has now been established as the largest entertainment launch of all-time, but does it have the substance and staying power to live up to that daunting title?

Much like its predecessor, Modern Warfare 2, the game contains campaign and multiplayer modes. The campaign for Black Ops takes place during the Cold War, which allows battles to take place across many places and times. This is apparent, even at the beginning of the game, as the first few parts of the campaign see you in locations such as the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Try as it may, however, the campaign of Black Ops simply cannot amount to the overall epic stature of Modern Warfare 2. The story may be much more realistic and diverse, but, really, how do you top Washington D.C. being invaded and overthrown? Sure, interacting with the likes JFK and Nixon was pretty cool, but it definitely lacked where Modern Warfare 2 excelled.

For those still wondering, yes, the phenomenon known as "Nazi Zombies" that started in Call of Duty: World at War, is back as well. For those unfamiliar, the zombie mode, the mode places players in the center of a barricaded area. You can reinforce the areas and salvage weapons, but most of all, you'll be fighting off increasingly difficult waves of zombies. The mode is still one of the best modes of any game in recent memory. It remains one of the most fun versions of this new wave of survival modes found in shooting games, easily beating Gears of War's Horde mode and Halo's Firefight.

The main draw for many in the Call of Duty franchise, however, will always be the online multiplayer. Luckily, Treyarch has outdone themselves in this regard. The multiplayer is arguably the most well executed it's ever been in the series. There were many that complained about various issues from Modern Warfare 2, but it seems as though many of those have been fixed.

There are a few issues, however. Some of the reasons we found ourselves tearing our hair out over multiplayer stems back to the killstreak rewards. The ones we hate in particular are the dog and the RC Car rewards. The dogs, which were annoying in World at War, are even more hate-inducing now. They are more difficult to overcome and they tend to kill the player in one strike, rather than pouncing on a player, allowing them to fight back.

The RC Car, which is obtainable at a very low killstreak level, making it as commonly found in multiplayer as the spy planes that give away enemy locations. These RC Cars feel overpowered and way too common. Sure, if you can find a player hiding in the corner using the RC Car, it's an easy kill, but more times than not, you'll be stalking another player, when you suddenly hear a "whheeeeeee" then see an explosion and you're dead. It's enraging at times, but we aren't sure yet if the issue is that it's overpowered or we just haven't developed an effective strategy to deal with it yet.

Treyarch also takes a bit of a different approach to leveling up than we've seen in the past. This time around, rather than instantly unlocking certain killstreaks and guns at certain levels and milestones, you will be able to pick and choose which unlocks you want to obtain, based on experience points you earn while playing through. This makes it feel much more rewarding to earn these new abilities and gives a player incentive to press on.

Speaking of giving the player incentive to continue playing, you are also now giving the chance to take on "contracts", which allows you to try and complete certain tasks in a certain amount of time for a lump sum of experience points that you can use to level up. These range in difficulty, but usually aren't very easy to accomplish. They can be weapon or situation specific, and there are an abundance of them, so there is always going to be incentive to keep playing to earn these points.

There will always be those that complain about little things here or there, but when it's all said and done, Call of Duty: Black Ops is a phenomenal game that deserves to have the successful launch that it has earned. After Modern Warfare hit the market, people sort of assumed that Infinity Ward was the superior Call of Duty developers. With Black Ops, however, Treyarch has definitely made a case for themselves. The campaign may not be as epic, but it is more well thought out and tells a better story. The multiplayer is the best we've seen in the series and the zombie mode is just icing on this very well constructed cake. Black Ops is a definite contender for game of the year and deserves to be mentioned alongside the greatest first person shooters of all-time.