With less than 24 hours remaining until the highly anticipated release of Call of Duty: Black Ops, the latest entry in the extremely popular franchise, there isn’t much time to decide whether or not to purchase game. For those who are still on the fence about whether or not they should pick up the game, let us provide a brief guide as to what is on the menu this time around. For those of you who have already pre-ordered the game or might be preparing for a midnight trek out to your local 24 game retailer of choice, perhaps you would like some light reading for your iPad, iPhone, or hey -- go old school and print this thing out for some tactile reading.
Ever since the 'duck duck goose' formula was implemented, with Infinity Ward and Treyarch passing off development duties on Call of Duty, the games have been an alternating series of experiences. For the first time, Treyarch is moving out of their World War 2 comfort zone and delivering a Cold War era storyline that focuses on the stealth that comes with going behind enemy lines, while still delivering the big time action we have come to expect from the franchise.
As with all of the previous Call of Duty games, the campaign for Black Ops will see the player inhabiting two characters, both of which are members of a special operations team sent undercover to eliminate a weapons threat. Working together, the men will endure some intense situations, including torture at the hands of the enemy.
Most of the gameplay experience will be spent in FPS mode, but trailers for the game have shown several levels in which the player will be operating various vehicles, including a Hind helicopter. Recent iterations of Call of Duty have been able to break up the monotony of the gameplay with segments like Modern Warfare’s AC-130 mission that show off lesser-seen aspects of war.
Though Black Ops focuses on Alex Mason and Jason Hudson, expect the usual bunch of new faces with fully formed personalities to accompany them on missions. World at War survivor Viktor Reznov even makes a return appearance, and is once again being voiced by the great Gary Oldman.
Arguably the bread and butter of the Call of Duty franchise, the multiplayer has come along way since its days on the PC. Taking the top spot on Xbox Live and holding it for months after release, the game continues to dominate with DLC map packs. Expect Black Ops to continue the tradition of dominance, but don’t just expect a regurgitation of MW2’s formula.
Everyone’s favorite modes will be returning in Black Ops, from the always-classic Team Deathmatch to Demolition to Search and Destroy. The newest mode, and the one certain to make the biggest splash, is the gambling-centric Wager Match mode. Playable across several different game types that each involve restricting play to certain parameters, Wager Matches make the best use of the new COD points that add a new mechanic to the game itself.
With a diverse selection of weaponry for killing, what better way to experience your best kills than through your own play by play Theater Mode? Black Ops has adopted the popular Theater replay system present in many popular multiplayer games that lets players capture and share their best moments from multiplayer games. Nothing says gloating like an auto-tuned remix of your friend getting stuck by a Semtex grenade.
In comparison to the selection in previous versions of the game, some might say that Black Ops' map offering is the most diverse yet. Seeing as the game is set during the Cold War and the height of Communism, many of the locales in the multiplayer represent some sort of military installation in either a jungle, in the snow, or in an urban environment. With 14 maps in all and the promise of delivering the most digital content ever, don’t expect to ever get bored with the same old map selection in Black Ops.
In previous Call of Duty games, player accessibility to weapons, attachments, and the like was determined by rank. In Black Ops, certain items will still only be available after a certain rank is reached, but others are strictly player determined.
Black Ops' COD Points system awards a gamer with in-game currency post match that can be used at the player’s discretion. If you are the type of player who prefers going for the ACOG scope right from the start, no longer will you have to work through the scope progression in order to unlock it. On top of that, COD points will be the source for player customization elements in the game.
Within Black Ops, players will have even more access to player customization that will allow them to purchase their own clothes and many other cosmetic options, including the ability to create their own emblems. Similar to the emblem creation found in Halo: Reach, this customizable insignia is representative of your sensibilities as a player and can be emblazoned on your weapon of choice.
Not only will players be able to create their own emblem for the game, but also they will be able to create their very own games to be playable in multiplayer. Every aspect, from score limit to which perks are allowed, will be alterable in a custom game. With so many players giving up on Modern Warfare 2 after unfair exploits, these new custom games should provide a safe haven for affected gamers.
A first for the Call of Duty franchise, Black Ops allows a player to jump online with a friend and experience the multiplayer in a new and exciting way. Whether they want to log in as a guest or wish to earn credit towards their own username, players can enter the battlefield with a leg up on the competition.
Initially there was word that a Co-Op mode that was completely different from Modern Warfare 2’s Spec Ops mode would be including in the game, but the assumption is that the announced Zombie mode was that Co-Op variant.
When it came time for Treyarch to take the reins once again, most assumed that the Zombie Mode that made World at War so popular would make a return but never, in their wildest dreams, did they imagine that it would play out how it has. For a while, Treyarch was able to keep the mode a secret, but once news outlets got a better look at the game, the rabbit finally came out of the hat, and boy what a crazy rabbit it was.
Players will be taking on the role of one of the Cold War era’s notable figures (Nixon, Castro, JFK) as they fight off a zombie onslaught for control of the White House. In what most are assuming is only one of the mode's (hopefully) several missions, expect some of the biggest surprises and the most laughs in the game to come from Zombie Mode.
When it comes to a game with so many iterations in its history, there are a lot of elements that needn’t see any improvement. In order to keep the ball rolling and build off previous years, Treyarch is giving Black Ops its own dedicated servers for the PC version, but that’s not all. The PC version will also have its own mod tools that should keep the experience fresh for much longer than on the console.
Other features that are making their return include privacy settings for matchmaking that can restrict searches to more local parameters, and the Prestige system that resets many of the player’s accomplishments, including COD points and challenges.
Many are anticipating Black Ops to be the biggest release of the year and with pre-orders tracking the way they are, we may just have one of the biggest game releases of all time on our hands.While the standard retail version is certainly going to be the most popular, both a Hardened and a Prestige Edition are going to be available for gamers who want more bang for their buck.
No matter which version you end up choosing, we at Game Rant hope you enjoy yourselves, encourage you to share your impressions of the game, and remind you to keep a look out for our review.
Call of Duty: Black Ops releases November 9, 2010, for PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, and PC.