It’s hard not to see the irony in the marketing campaign for a game like Call of Duty: Black Ops. Without exception, all of the trailers released to date have been fireworks displays of violence and destruction, filled with crash landing helicopter, ground shuddering explosions and automatic weapons fire; and all for a game about covert operatives who are meant to move like ghosts.
Subtle and inconspicuous are the last words you’d used to describe any of these adverts, nor is it what Activision or Treyarch would want them to be. After Activision’s polygamous marriage to both Infinity Ward and Treyarch became so strained earlier this year that it drove many senior I.W. staff into the warm, welcoming and less constricting arms of E.A., Black Ops is the Santa Monica-based developer’s chance to take point on one of the biggest franchises in video gaming history.
For this reason alone, no one should be expecting anything too revolutionary from Black Ops. Instead, what we’re almost certain to get is Treyarch’s safe pair of hands crafting a game that blends the most successful pieces of both World at War and Modern Warfare 2, while adding a few extra features to try and further broaden the series’ appeal.
Of course, the biggest thing that sets Black Ops apart from any of its predecessors is its setting. For the first time in the history of the franchise, Treyarch have been allowed out of the trenches and turmoil of World War 2 and into the political tinderbox and proxy wars of the Cold War-era. The most infamous and important indirect conflict in modern history, its global repercussions, crises and confrontations means there should be more than enough source material for Treyarch to fill several games.
In traditional Call of Duty style, Black Ops’ single player campaign will see you taking on the role of multiple lead characters, as the game dramatically hypothesises on the kind of shadowy, deniable operations that took place out of the public eye and behind enemy lines. From carrying out an undetected, high altitude recon mission in an SR-71 Blackbird above the frozen mountains of Russia, to shooting your way through the humidity soaked South Asian jungles and commandeering a Hind helicopter for a destructive rampage in the skies, Black Ops’ lets you experience some of the most evocative locations and iconic machines the period has to offer.
With fast paced, high octane havoc and giant set piece moments dominating the solo story once again, many fans will be anticipating Black Ops’ multiplayer options to feel equally familiar. And they’re unlikely to be disappointed, as the kill streaks and perks that we’ve all become so comfortable around are back, although this time they’re accompanied by a couple of intriguing new additions as well.
For those newcomers nervous of the embarrassment that will almost certainly result from jumping straight into competitive online play, the new Combat Training mode allows you, either alone or with friends, to put your trigger finger through its paces in practise matches against A.I. opponents. It’s a practical remedy aimed directly at smoothing a path into the multiplayer for those not already part of its fervent fan base; while for those veterans of a gambling disposition who want to risk their fortunes as well as their lives, Black Ops also introduces a fresh option in the form of Wager Matches.
Joining the experience points system that governed your progress in Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops also institutes a new Call of Duty points system known as CP. Just like XP, CP are awarded for accomplishments during matches and can be used to purchase items and upgrades, but their primary purpose is to be put on the line against other players in the dedicated Wager Matches, where the total CP pot is split between the top three players at the end of the round while the rest leave with nothing.
With the inclusion of both Wager Matches and Combat Training, as well as the return of those unstoppable zombies, Treyarch certainly seem to have something of interest for everyone right across the multiplayer spectrum. Judging how Black Ops performs as a complete package however, will have to wait until the game’s release on 9th November. If you’d like to see more of the game before then, just track down one of its trailers for yourself – you really can’t miss them.
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