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November 17, 2010
Call of Duty: Black Ops - PS3 Review
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COD: Black Ops is out now on PS3
Within a matter of years the Call of Duty franchise has gone from a warmly received shooter to the biggest franchise on the market. Indeed last years Modern Warfare 2 has not amassed sales of 24 million units. But this years title, Call of Duty: Black Ops, is from a different studio, Treyarch. Can they keep the series fresh, and the sales ticking. So here we go, the most anticipated release of 2010 is here now...

We'll start this review by talking about the storyline which, let's be honest, hasn't been great in the last couple of Call of Duty titles. This is one area where Treyarch have succeeded this year with the game starting with Alec Mason strapped into a chair and being interrogated about previous missions and a mysterious series of numbers. As he is being interrogated he has flashbacks to previous missions during the Cold War, and it's these missions which make up the single player campaign.

If there was any lingering concern that Treyarch wouldn't deliver the goods with this game then we can absolutely say they can be put to rest. While there isn't a level similar to the Airport one in Modern Warfare 2 to get the mainstream press in a frenzy there are some fantastic moments in this game including storming Castro's compound in Cuba, surviving the icy Ural Mountains in central Russia, holding off waves of Viet Cong in Vietnam, driving a boat down a river taking out all manner of enemies, flying a Hind helicopter over enemy filled jungles and so much more. From the opening moments this is an intense, action packed shooter.

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Black Ops has already sold millions of copies!
The main campaign runs for around 7 hours or so, perhaps just a shade longer than the last couple of games in the series, but the game is unrelenting in its ferocity. Battles are massive but the range of weapons is up to the task with pretty much every weapon available during the Cold War era making an appearance in the game. While there aren't some of the most modern weapons in the game, there were plenty of advancements in this era and the weapons are pretty advanced with plenty of Assault Rifles, grenades and Machine Guns making this game "feel" modern.

While the single player experience is a blast, it's the multiplayer which many of you will be most interested in, and Treyarch have not disappointed. First of all there are 14 maps in total ranging from urban areas, to jungles, to rocket launch site and even a Nuclear Test site with buildings and dummies in place. The game now includes the option to play online with 2-players on a single console via split-screen. There's plenty of variety here and impressively before you go into the next round you can vote to replay the last map, continue to the next map, or randomly select any map.

In terms of game modes, this game delivers pretty much everything you could ever hope for. Game modes include Team Deathmatch, Mercenary Team Deathmatch, Free-For-All, Sabotage, Search & Destroy, and more. Then you get the Hardcore modes, and Prestige modes of the games too. There's so much to do here that anyone claiming they are bored will be lying.

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Attacking from the chopper.
One of the new features in this game is the Combat Training. This is most useful for those not used to the frantic nature (and massive amounts of profanity) in the online world or those needing to sharpen their skills. As well as giving you a selection of Team Deathmatch or Free-For-All modes, you can customise and upgrade your character exactly the same way as you would in the online game. What freaked me out was that this mode names all the bots your PSN friends names - and for me the first person to kill me was Wog_On_Wheelz - a friend of mine that passed away some months ago - but someone that whipped my in previous games on a regular basis. It was like he was back. These AI controlled bots can be set to one of four difficulty levels giving you plenty of practice and a fair challenge.

Next up on the "new item" list is the wager matches. By entering these, and spending some of your credits to enter these matches, you will need to end up in the top three to earn some winnings. There are four new game modes here, each of which has its own charms. One in the Chamber sees you entering the match with three lives, and one bullet in your pistol. Killing someone by shooting them, or meeleeing them will give you another bullet. Sticks and Stones sees you enter the match with a ballistic knife, crossbow and tomahawk. If you kill someone with a tomahawk and they'll be bankrupted. Gun Game sees everyone start with one weapon, and with each kill you move up to the next weapon. The first to get a kill with all 20 weapons wins the game. Finally Sharp Shooter sees everyone have the same weapon which rotates every 45 seconds. Great modes, and great fun.

Contracts are also a new addition to this game where you can take a contract in order to earn COD points (basically the in-game currency) as well as XP. These contracts give you conditions to meet such as winning a certain number of matches or killing enough enemies (often with a certain weapon) within a set amount of time. It adds another layer to the online game.

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Battlefields are filled with soldiers, and vehicles.
But that's not all. In fact what we loved the most about Black Ops' multiplayer wasn't to do with the actual game modes, but rather the additional stats and movies. Indeed as you play the game online each of the matches is recorded and can be played back in full at a later date. When you play the matches back you can switch between any of the participants, view them in first or third perspective or fly around the entire map. Superb. The stat tracking to is absolutely out of this world with not only graphs showing recent performances in the various game types, nor just weapons stats, but even maps showing your kills and death locations on each map and even a torso showing you where you're hitting enemies the most with your gunfire. It really is insane.

Speculated for months prior to this games release, and confirmed only a few weeks before is the Zombie Mode which sees you trying to hold off increasingly frantic waves of zombies from getting to you. This can be played either on your own, or for up to 4-players in online multiplayer. As you play the game you can purchase new weapons, or pay to open up new locations through doorways. It's fast, frantic, and a game mode that could keep you playing for hours on end. Sadly the Spec Ops mode introduced in Modern Warfare 2 hasn't made the transition to this game which is disappointing, I spent quite a few hours in that mode in last years title, including some fantastic co-op action with friends.

There are a couple of other bonuses which have been revealed since launch. At the main menu, when you're strapped into the chair, you can break free and if you look around you'll see a computer terminal which can be accessed. By typing in "doa" you will start a game called Dead Ops Arcade. Now this is a brilliant top down twin stick shooter which has more then a passing resemblance to Smash TV. Not only is this bonus game visually impressive, but it plays superbly as well. That's not all though as by typing in "zork" you will start up the text based adventure game Zork I: The Great Underground Empire, fun for older gamers looking for nostalgia.

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Black Ops is a great looking game.
So let's talk about the visuals in Call of Duty: Black Ops, and it's fair to say that from an artistic standpoint this game is quite superb with locations not only being varied, but also matching their real-life counterparts. Texturing is superb and animations too look ultra realistic with a wide range of moves while there are also plenty of gruesome parts in the game too - slit throats, limbs blown off, and even entire bodies obliterated. The cut-scenes look gorgeous and are brilliantly scripted and edited too.

There are, however some negatives to the visuals too, primarily with the PS3 version of the game. Unfortunately the game isn't locked in at a solid 60fps, and dips well below that at times. If you're running in 3D (and we've only had a very brief look at the game on a 3DTV) then you can expect this frame rate to even dip below 30fps at times, but the 3D effect is pretty enjoyable. Having said that, despite the cool 3D effect, we'd take a higher frame rate any day. Another disappointment is to do with the games resolution which, before we even did some research, looked low with jaggies popping up everywhere. If you remember Modern Warfare 2 ran at the low 1040 x 600, Black Ops on the PS3 drops that further to 1040 x 544 according to Digital Foundry.

Overall if you only have a PS3 then this isn't a technical disaster and despite the low resolution this is still a great looking title. It must be said though that if you have the choice between PS3 and XBox 360 it pains me to say it, but we suggest you opt for the XBox 360 version. It provides a smoother, sharper, more detailed experience then that on Sony's system. Perhaps Sony needs to send Treyarch a few specialist PS3 developers - this is, after all, the biggest game of the year.

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Taking someone out with the knife.
Audio is one area where the PS3 game does excel, and provides an edge over the XBox 360 version. With support for audio formats including Dolby Digital 5.1, and Linear PCM 5.1 and 7.1 there is no doubt that technically Sony's system is ahead. But technical details mean nothing if the actual audio experience is a dud - that's not the case here with Treyarch producing a booming sound with plenty of impactful explosions, weapons that all sound different, and a musical score that brings home the emotion of the moment. Not to be outdone the dialogue is well written and superbly delivered with Sam Worthington voicing Alex Mason while others including Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, Ice Cube, and Topher Grace voice various roles too. Suiting the time period the game includes music from The Rolling Stones with "Sympathy for the Devil" and Creedence Clearwater Revival with "Fortunate Son".

Make no mistake about it Black Ops is a great game. The flaws we have mentioned above are in comparison to probably one of the best, if not the best, shooter of all time in Modern Warfare 2. If you like that game, and there are millions around the world that did, then this is a more then respectable follow-up from Treyarch. You know you want it (if you don't already have it)...

Review By: Dave Warner

GRAPHICSArtistically great the game is let down by slight resolution and frame rate issues on PS3.
SOUNDEverything in the audio department is top-notch especially the gunfire and explosions.
GAMEPLAYThis is an intense shooter which will have you hooked, and returning for months.
VALUESingle player is around 7 hours, and no Spec-Ops mode this year. But multiplayer will keep you playing for a very long time.
OVERALLCall of Duty: Black Ops is a very impressive game from Treyarch, and fans of this franchise should pick this game up without hesitstion.

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