Some three months after the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops, the multiplayer was sure to become stale for a great number of players. Endlessly recycling the same maps over and over can wear down even the most hardened of Call of Duty fans.
In order to give Black Ops players (exclusively on the Xbox 360) a much-needed change of scenery, Treyarch has released the First Strike map pack. Boasting four new multiplayer maps and one new Zombie map, the pack should deliver exactly what gamers have been looking for: more content. The question is, at 1200 MS Points ($15), does this first map offering deliver enough variety to make it worth a purchase? Read on to find out.
The only non-multiplayer addition to Call of Duty: Black Ops in First Strike is the Zombie map, Ascension. Set within a Russian nuclear facility, the player must advance through various labs and even trek across the outside grounds in order to survive.
While the other Zombie maps in Black Ops were more dependent on skill, requiring that players use the best combinations of weapons and power-ups in order to hold back an oncoming horde, Ascension brings some new and helpful additions. Throughout the map the player will find various things with which they can interact, like the hovering space pods, and helpful items that work on their own. On top of that, once two or more zombies have breached an entrance, an alarm will sound notifying the player they are in danger. It’s a helpful little inclusion that makes complete sense.
Though the Zombies mode doesn’t get as much love as multiplayer, Ascension is a really engaging map, with plenty of creativity put into its development. It might be a bit heavy on the number of zombie entrances (solo players be warned), but overall it’s just as unique as the other Zombie maps, and worth checking out.
Based on the single player level, Kowloon is a rooftop map, and its crowning achievement is the use of zip-lines. Giving players a new and inventive way to infiltrate the opposition’s base, the zip-lines provide a strategic advantage, for a price. It’s easy to see these zip-lines being altogether ignored, however, as they leave the player completely open to attack without any way of defending themselves.
Kowloon is probably the most visually interesting of the maps, but it will be the one that aggressive gamers will try to avoid. Favoring the more cautious player — one who likes to sit back with a claymore set up — Kowloon will cause some frustration for those players with a more haphazard approach.
Still, the map is solid in every respect, with opportune hiding spots and strategic advantages on either side, and some dangerous ledges to keep the gameplay confined. It won’t be for everybody (not many maps are), but because of its look and its single player correlation, it’s going to be the one many gamers will try out first.
In stark contrast to Kowloon is Discovery, a mid-size snow map with several pinch points and plenty of facilities to hide in. Discovery is like a mix between WMD and Summit, with several areas where a player can fall to their death, and a few intricate buildings to make camp in.
Not favoring any particular play style, Discovery’s pinch points are perfect for the long-range sniper, and its tight caverns are perfect for close range SMG combat. Discovery’s biggest additions to multiplayer are its dangerous precipices, a terrain element which was somewhat absent from the original Black Ops maps. Very rarely are players concerned with where they are stepping, but on Discovery there are sure to be a few areas gamers will want to watch their step.
Unlike Kowloon, Discovery feels like something players have encountered before. Regardless, the map is still well balanced, and it even has the added flourish of several ice bridges that can be completely destroyed, leading to some Cliffhanger-esque long jumps. It’s not a bad map, but it could have been a little more creative.
Stadium is the smallest map of the bunch and the one that had the biggest chance at replacing Nuketown as the “nade spam” map of Black Ops. Fortunately, Stadium has more than its share of side alleys, including a hockey rink, that allow any player to avoid attacking the enemy head-on.
Being a close quarters map, Stadium is going to be the long-range player’s least favorite addition. While some will find success in the high ground, the lack of cover will discourage camping for extended periods of time. Through and through, Stadium is a map where the kills come fast and players will never spend too much time searching for an enemy.
It’s simple in its execution and might have a few secrets up its sleeve (still haven’t made the hockey puck in the net), but what Stadium might lack in large vistas it makes up for with the intense gameplay it promotes. Black Ops was kind of lacking in the fun smaller map department, and Stadium fits the bill perfectly.
Finally comes Berlin Wall, a map that gives players an additional enemy to deal with: the turret tower. As players attempt to trek across an area known as “No Man’s Land,” they will find a hard time surviving. Not only are the turrets accurate, but an alarm sounds the entire time, alerting fellow players that someone is in “No Man’s Land.”
By no means is the turret-controlled area necessary for success, but it will keep gamers from aimlessly wandering through this asymmetrical map. With plenty of large buildings to get lost in and long sections of street, Berlin Wall is the most balanced of the maps, and the one that players will have no problem playing again and again.
Its design feels ripped from one of the early Russian levels in Black Ops’ campaign — mixing an urban environment with a snow-covered exterior — but Berlin Wall has introduced something original: a second opponent. Several times did this reviewer attempt to brave the zone, and never did he survive. It makes the map that much smaller, but it’s plenty large to begin with, and definitely the most well rounded.
If you're still unsure about the maps and want an even more in-depth look, check out the most recent trailer below:
Coming in at 1200 MS Points, the new standard price for Call of Duty add-ons, this map pack isn’t going to be for everybody. Beyond delivering a change of scenery that breaks up the monotony of the standard multiplayer maps, the First Strike pack doesn’t do much to reinvent the wheel, and that is okay.
Gamers aren’t looking for new maps to completely change the Black Ops experience; they only want to recreate the wonderment that comes with exploring every nook and cranny that a new map offers. It’s in this that the First Strike map pack finds its greatest success, and it is here that gamers will fall in love with certain maps and detest others.
Each map will appeal to the various types of Call of Duty players, and some even add their own creative twists. The First Strike map pack is the perfect shot in the arm to get players interested in the Xbox 360's most popular multiplayer title all over again.
The Call of Duty: Black Ops -- First Strike map pack is available now for 1200 MS Points on the Xbox Live Marketplace.