The success of Call of Duty Modern Warfare has caused a disturbing trend in gaming. With each sequel in the CoD series, it gets lazier, uglier, and yet more popular. With the release of Call of Duty: Black Ops, we can safely say that Activision’s fans exist for no reason other than to purchase whatever is put in front of them with the ‘CoD’ stamp on it- no matter how over-hyped, cheaply developed, and buggy it is. I really can’t expressed how much it bothers me that with each release the series has gotten weaker and weaker.
It isn’t that Black Ops is a terrible game- it’s decent. But that’s just it- annual sequels shouldn’t just be passable. Call of Duty has become the new Guitar Hero- a series that rose to immense popularity this generation only to gradually crumble due to overvaluation of the market and a switch to an annual release. The worst part? The success of this phenomenon has inspired other developers to the same route.
There have always been game series that suffer from repeated mediocre sequels and spin-offs- Madden, Halo, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, and countless others. The thing is, now we have developers dumping these untested, undeserving follow-ups left and right. It’s a shame that not only are great original games being overshadowed by these cash-cow games, but also truly deserving sequels are being lumped in with this undesirable mess. This brings us to Call of Duty: Black Ops and its many, many problems.
Black Ops wasn’t tested. It just wasn’t. Developers are now convinced it’s alright to release beta versions of games and then earn millions while utilizing buyers as beta testers. After several days of trying Black Ops’ multiplayer, I’m disgusted by all the rough, untested gameplay. If it isn’t the occasional freezes and crashes, the inability to get into a match, or the lag- it’s the terrible design choices. The maps are far too sniper friendly- worse so than in Modern Warfare 2. Actually moving from a hiding spot will get you killed within seconds. It’s disheartening that the only way to enjoy the game is getting together enough friends that agree to not abuse the cheap sniping system.
Put simply, the sniping ruins the online play. In split-screen on the 360 or PS3, this isn’t as much an issue- though that’s when weapon imbalance comes into play. Certain weapons are just so useless that it almost is suicide to build a character with them- whereas others are horribly overpowered. There are times when the multiplayer can be a lot of fun, namely when people are playing fairly as opposed to abusing every bug and imbalance, but these occasions are few and far between. The fact is that if you want your rank to go up, you’ve got to play dirty.
The single player, while not as broken as the multiplayer, has little reason for existing. It really just takes up space on the disc. There isn’t much fun to be had while hiding and shooting your way through the campaign and you only end up wishing they’d used the money spent on the single player to the fix the multiplayer. It’s also worth mentioning that the single player in Black Ops tries to be too cinematic as opposed to genuinely entertaining. The over-the-top narrative and action sequences leave you jaded by the lack of atmosphere or decent story-telling. Sadly enough, anyone that likes the campaign mode can’t even enjoy with co-op or for very long- its pitifully short ending in single digit hours.
I would go on, but there’s really not much more to say. Visually there isn’t much improvement from last year- in fact is actually looks even less polished. The PS3 version is considerably less glitchy than the 360 version, but is just as imbalanced- though it benefits from free online play. The Wii version, while criminally lacking split screen, has by far the tightest and most appealing controls. For Wii owners that missed Modern Warfare 2 last year, Black Ops comes across as a great follow-up to CoD: Reflex, which at least makes it worth purchasing over its HD versions. Also worth mentioning is that the Wii online play is silky smooth and looks just as good as its counterparts- a nice change of pace for 3rd party Wii titles. Curiously, the Wii version doesn’t support WiiSpeak but does utilize the brand new HeadBanger headset which works great. Do yourself a favor if you do want to buy Black Ops, steer clear of the 360 version and stick with either the Wii or PS3 versions- they easily play best.