NOTE: This is a review by a casual gamer over 40. It's not intended for boosters, glitchers, cheaters or those 16 and under.
Once again, people have managed to screw up what could otherwise be a passable game.
For the purposes of this review, I'm going to make comparisons to the best three 'shooters I've played on Xbox; Rainbow Six Vegas 2 (R6V2), Battlefield Bad Company 2 (BC2) and the Ghost Recon Advanced Warfares 1& 2 (GRAW). In my opinion these three games contain all the elements to make the perfect shooter, just not in one game. Further, this review is based on about 4 hours of game play.
COD BO is the sequel to Call of Duty: World at War (COD WAW). As such, I expected it to be similar, but improved from COD WAW. Alas, that's not necessarily the case.
Single player does appear to have better graphics, but the gameplay is remarkably similar. There's that frantic fast pace where you run along and shoot while being shot at. You can't really plan your mission as in R6V2 or GRAW, you're stuck following a timeline the game designers have envisioned. The first level was pretty much a rail shooter for me.
Zombie mode lets you jump right in, instead of playing through the whole campaign first. The first map is Kino Der Untoten (Cinema of the Dead), a bombed out German theater that appears to have been rotting away for 20 years after WWII. Player one, instead of being TanK Dempsey, is now Dr. Nazi, or whatever his name is. It plays pretty much like the old Nazi Zombie levels. I didn't get far in my attempts as none of the strangers I talked to wanted to communicate. They miss the fact this is a tactical game, and not just a shooting alley.
Multiplayer Training was a nice addition to the game. It's like R6V2's terrorist hunt, in that it pits you, and co-op players if you wish, against AI-controlled opponents in a mimicry of online gaming. A really neat feature is the game randomly selects names from your own friends list for the AI opponents. So you get to grease your friends without them being there.
The annoying part about training mode was that the experience I earned didn't carry over to my Multiplayer online scores. All those weapons I unlocked remained locked when I did switch to multiplayer. That's crap. R6V2 offered a great system where campaign play and terrorist hunt earned you experience to unlock weapons to use in online play. This levelled the playing field for those of us who don't boost, and can only play a game a few hours a week- cause we have jobs 'n' such.
Which brings me to multiplayer. I hated it.
The early interviews for COD BO sure made it sound like you'd be able to buy this and that, that you could earn experience off line, etc. etc. All lies. I played the game less than 24 hours after it was released, and already there were players ranked up to level 19 or higher. That means that they had far superior weapons than me. Which means I was getting slaughtered. Not much fun.
Worse, the game was touted as having a customization feature- you could design your own logo, customize your weapons, and even change your face paint and camo. Once you've reached a high enough level.
See, you earn experience in the game to reach ranks, and you earn COD points- kind of like MS points, that are used to buy weapons, attachments, perks, etc. once you've unlocked them by reaching a specific rank. As for your custom icons... well again, the premade images you can recolor, resize, etc. have to be unlocked and purchased. You can't even think of customizing your logo/icon until reaching rank level 10 in the game. Something that can be done in about 4 hours of continuous, stubborn, get-killed-repeatedly game play.
Customizable? My ass. R6V2 was customizable. Yes, you had to unlock things, but you could mix and match pants and shirts, carry different weapons and even change your face. In COD BO, you have a uniform choice, and when you've played long enough you can pick from pre-set face paints. Wow. That's really customizable.
What about MP game modes? Well, those are locked out as well. You start with just two: Deathmatch and team deathmatch, both of which I despise. I like objective-based gaming, like BC2's Conquest mode. Or R6V2's Terrorist Hunt, where the enemies stay down and don't respawn.
After a few rank ups, you do get some extra MP modes. I prefer Domination so far- it's just like BC2's Conquest.
But what about gameplay?
Well, in MP, there are some problems. Lag is one big problem. As is weapon damage. Many times I'd score multiple hits on an opponent but they kept on coming. And why is it a knife can take you out with one slash, but a tri-burst from an M-16 can't? Stupid.
Then there are the cheaters. I only saw a couple possible lag switchers, but glitchers and boosters were prevalent. I refuse to believe anyone could honestly rank up to level 19 in under 24 hours of play. And how on earth did that one guy figure out how to reach a ledge that shouldn't be reachable?
COD BO does have one advantage over BC2- you can go prone. Unfortunately, most of the game you see people doing Greastest American Hero impersonations- leaping and going prone, like they're trying to take off and fly. Why the game limits your sprinting, but not your jumping is beyond me.
Overall, the COD BO MP experience seemed identical to COD WAW's. Same graphics, same mechanics, same frustrations. I really see no improvement here, other than slightly more modern weaponry. Maybe there are better game modes I haven't unlocked yet?
I have several, but will undoubtably uncover more as I unlock the ranks in this. Assuming I keep this game that long. First, Vietnam-era M-16s (the game is set in the 1960s and 1970s, even though the Cold War officially ended in the 1990s), did not fire tribursts. They were single or full auto. I carried a Nam-era M-16 when I was stationed in Germany, 1990-1992. The M-16A1 also was single/full auto, but added a forward assist. The M-16A2, had the forward assist and the tri-burst or single.
Then there's the Enfield. The first assault rifle you unlock as you rank up. It does full auto, but does more damage than the M-16. Which is funny, considered both weapons use the exact same round, the NATO 5.56mm, and even the same magazines.
As for weapon attachments, I found it odd that the only zoomable scope for the M-16 was a nightvision scope. I would think you could put a 12x scope on an M-16 if you really wanted to, yet it isn't an option in the game.
What is Black Ops missing?
Better initial weapons. Why not give low ranks weapons they do great damage, but have low ammo, or maybe aren't accurate at a distance? Why give them spitball guns? How on Earth can I rank up firing a musket at people with ray guns?
More customizable player models. Wow. I can pick what camo I wear, but not hat, goggles.. oh, hell- I'll just say it. It's nothing like R6V2. Anybody who claims to be customizable needs to look hard at R6V2. THAT was customizable.
Destructible enviroments. I love in BC2 I can breach the side of a building with some C4 or an M203. I love shooting down trees that obscure my vision. What I don't love is running around an indestructible maze like I'm playing Lazer Tag or paintball. To be fair, there are barrels, windows and parked cars you can blow up/destroy, but it's just not the same. I want to level a building.
Closing doors. Oh, God, the doors. Why taunt me with a door I can't open or close? R6V2 had doors you could open or close. Which was great for alerting you to someone coming up behind you. You could hear them coming.
Driveable vehicles in the game. They made such a big damn deal about the Jeep Wrangler being in the game. Oh, it's in there- parked. You can hide behind it, or blow it up, but that's about it. It might as well be on a billboard, like R6V2's in-game advertising. Not to mention that 4-door Jeeps are a fiarly recent addition to the Jeep lineup, and not a staple of the Cold War.
Final Decision Time
So, do you buy or rent this? Is it Call of Duty: Blagh Ops, or Call of Doody: Brown Oops?
You have to remember this game has the Nazi zombies. A superb game mode. Not $65 superb, but lots of fun. I would much rather have seen Treyarch just release new levels with new weapons for COD WAW, then make me buy a whole new game that doesn't recognize my prior COD gaming (Battlefield players are rewarded veteran status for previous incarnations of the game played).
I only play a few hours friday and saturday. I don't have time to rank up like the kids that don't work. BC2 solved that problem like driving games do- they let you buy the weapons other folks boost to unlock. Sure, sure, that means spending even more money on an already over-priced game. But in BC2's case, it made all the difference and I started actually enjoying the game. More than this stinker.
Bottom line; rent before you buy, unless you have hours and hours of time to rank up.