As is becoming traditional I got the latest instalment of the Call of Duty franchise, Black ops, as one of my Christmas presents. What follows is some brief comments having finished the single player campaign last night. I don't think I've been overly hammering it but I reckon it took around 16 hours of game time to finish.
The CoD series have traditionally alternated developers between Treyarch and Infinity Ward. While Infinity Ward's original Modern Warfare was fairly ground breaking for a FPS their engine is now used for both streams of development. Some people claim to prefer IW's games but I can say since the original MW I've been happy with both development houses which is just as well as most of the MW developers at IW have left Activision following disputes over bonuses.
The game itself is set in the cold war period following World War II. The plot is driven by the interrogation of the main protagonist and flash-backs to earlier events in which he or other members of the team were involved with. The story is a classic cold war conspiracy thriller set to a large over the top action movie. Considering the game format I think the story worked well and gave me some degree of sympathy for the main character.
The combat is as sharp as you'd expect from this successful franchise with a decent range of weapons to choose from. There are a number of quick time events sprinkled throughout which keep you immersed in the game during cut-scenes although are occasionally frustrating when you want to shoot something. I quite enjoyed the Mi-24 Hind section which allowed a not quite on rails degree of position control as well as full control of the weapons systems. It's still not quite as satisfying and MW2's AC-130 section though.
There are one or two niggles I have with the game though. There were one or two places where I ran into invisible walls at the edge of the game area. Admittedly this was mainly due to me getting confused in a fire-fight and running in the wrong direction. The other thing that annoyed me was occasional infinite enemy re-spawn sections. While the game rewards using cover and not being a damn fool this can mean you are occasionally in a nice comfortable shooting position wondering why the same soldiers just keep running into your kill-zone. Eventually you just have to charge forward and kill anything that spawns behind you and hope the spawning stops at that point. These niggles didn't massively detract from the game but it was slightly disappointing. I suspect some of that is just due to my dislike of re-spawn mechanics.
All in all I enjoyed the single player campaign although it seemed a little short to me. Having said that I'm not a completionist so I may well have missed some chunks of content in my head-long rush through the game.
Of course in terms of gameplay the single player campaign is more about setting. Most of the time a player will spend with the game is in multi-player mode. I've only played a few games so far so haven't had a chance to explore the range of multi-player yet. I did have a quick play with the Zombie modes which are fun although I suspect better in a party setting. Playing it on your own is ultimately frustrating as there is no win condition, eventually they will eat your brains...