by Ryan Phillip Hardesty
previewed on PC
But what would a great story be if it was attached to some god-awful gameplay? Thankfully, the gameplay shown in the demos and trailers looks like it will take care of itself. Diversity seems to be the keyword when it comes to the action, as large-scale battles from the previous CoD games have been traded in for more personal excursions set across Russia, Cuba, Vietnam and the Arctic, with each mission involving a unique, refreshing goal.
In “WMD”, you’ll guide troop movements aboard an SR-71 Blackbird before making it to the ground and rappelling into a snowy Soviet radar station situated on the side of a steep cliff. As you move further into the station you’ll have the options of going guns-ablazin’ or swim through the shadows, two paths Black Ops should offer quite often. In “Slaughterhouse” you’ll take part in the Battle of Huế, one of the numerous events that occurred in the bloody and devastating Tet Offensive of 1968 Vietnam.
“Payback” wound up being the most visually impressive for me, as it shows your character assaulting a small enemy contingent in a Laotian jungle and high jacking their Hind helicopter. You fly off from there (you have horizontal freedom but, unfortunately, not vertical freedom), and wind down a river and take on other enemy helicopters and RPG emplacements. Trees shred as streams of bullets rip through, beastly plumes of water erupt from errant missiles, planks from a destroyed bridge fly up and into the path of your chopper, and all while waterfalls tumble beautifully in the background amid some gorgeous jungle foliage.
Gunning with Friends
In terms of multiplayer, the two pillars outlined by the developers are “customization” and (believe it or not) “socialization”. Customizable guns and multiple ammo types will be available to you, such as the outlandish and strangely real Dragon’s Breath ammo for shotguns. Create-a-Class returns (being dubbed Create-a-Class 2.0), this time with options on modifying your character’s appearance as well. A stand-alone co-op for 4 players online will make an appearance, 2 players at home can go split screen, and the PC version will get dedicated servers. Though most of the press given to Black Ops has been dedicated to its unique approach to the typical CoD gameplay, multiplayer hasn’t been given the short straw. Black Ops’ multiplayer has been in development since day one, and the team behind it is twice the size of the one that worked on World at War, the last CoD game Treyarch developed.
Forging a New Path
Though often derided as “that other” Call of Duty developer, (as opposed to the original developer, Infinity Ward), it’s not hard to look and see all the enthusiasm Treyarch has for the franchise. This is the first time in the company’s history where all employees have been devoted to one game with no other projects going on at the moment. But despite this dedication, it’d make sense for the common CoD fan to be worried. While every game before it has featured grand enumerations on the war-is-hell theme, games full of relentless war machines and waves of bodies, Black Ops will be a tighter, more focused endeavor and use the most stealth tactics of any game in the franchise and, therefore, it will become the most unique game in the franchise period, allowing fans some room to fret. But with such a thrilling, refreshing change of pace, as well as plenty of action-oriented set pieces that hearken back to the older games, Black Ops is looking to be a fantastic mix of innovation with enough of that old spirit to prefix itself with Call of Duty.