Call of Duty: Black Ops Review for PS3

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Call of Duty: Black Ops screenshot
Call of Duty: Black Ops screenshot

Call of Duty is obsessed with fear. But while Modern Warfare and its sequel exist as a paean to America's current socio-political nightmares, Black Ops chooses to tap into the nation's Sixties terrors: Cuba, the Vietnam War and, primarily, the ever-looming threat of Soviet conflict.

Part of Treyarch's current problem, then, is the format's inherent need for escalation. In a series defined by its rigid spectacle, and one that's already detonated a nuclear missile in your face and had you squeeze the trigger during a controversial airport massacre, there was always going to be a certain onus on the developer to come up with the next headline-grabbing scenario. And they certainly give it their all: within thirty minutes of Black Ops' start you've already shot a slow-mo bullet through Fidel Castro's noggin and escaped a Russian gulag. The series' most precious tactic is to whip its audience into stimuli overload with ceaseless audio-visual spectacles; while Black Ops offers up its own distinctive take on the formula, it's ultimately no different.

It comes as no surprise that the game leads you with gusto through its artificial scenarios, with mid-mission cutscenes herding you from each meticulously designed set-piece to the next while avoiding - though briefly acknowledging on occasion- the dramatic constraints of things like commuting, or the unpalatable taste of moments where things aren't exploding.

Treyarch manages to successfully avoid the jarring disconnection endemic of its previous work by, ironically, focusing on the same whooshing cinematic segues which World at War employed with such abandon. But where World at War's cast were lifeless husks for the player to fleetingly inhabit, its cutscenes far more concerned with style over any tangible substance, Black Ops revolves around a small cast of characters, going to extreme lengths to burn their names and faces into the minds of the player.

Most of the campaign is set in 1968, though events are primarily told via the flashback sequences of protagonist super-soldier Alex Mason, who in turn spends the game strapped to a chair while being pumped full of experimental drug cocktails. Briefing screens have been replaced with a grisly-voiced mystery interrogator barking questions at Mason, who then promptly recounts the sequence for him and, by extension, the player.

Much like the rudimentary stove I used throughout most of university, Black Ops' 15-level campaign takes a fair while to heat up - with some rote corridor-blasting exemplifying the initial stages - but it's also blistering hot when it hits its stride. Perhaps most interesting are the seeds of doubt Treyarch plants: Mason's skewed take on events are shown as foggy and imprecise, and his unreliable narration convinces neither the mystery interrogator nor the player. Unlocking the actuality of Mason's situation becomes the thrust of the experience, and when the curtain is finally lifted the conclusion is satisfying though predictable.

The supporting cast features Ed Harris as spooky spook Hudson, who at one point actually puts on a pair of sunglasses to show that it's time for action, and there's also the excellent return of Gary Oldman's beleaguered and world-weary Viktor Reznov - the requisite decent-ish Russian character to prove they're Not All Bad. This neatly brings us to the pantomime villains of the piece: a pair of (surprise, surprise) nasty Russians - Dragovich and Kravtchenko - and an unrepentant Nazi.

Though many of its narrative progressions are absurd, anchoring the proceedings to an identifiable protagonist helps to ferry the story onwards. Mason and his frequent travelling companion, Woods, are routinely subjected to torturous events: dangerous scenarios slice open muddied skin, knees buckle under the strain of exertion and blunt trauma is applied with alarming regularity, all accompanied with performance-captured expressions of pain and audible grunts. Their pain is definitely felt.

In forcefully unlocking the secrets buried within Mason's head (including the most important string of numbers since Lost ended) the game, like its politically-charged ancestry, actively trades in sentiments the USA would often rather not think about. Vietnam is a major stop-off point, for instance, and while the startling sights and sounds of a burning Hue city are remarkably impressive, those shocking images can't quite muster up the same evocative weight of Modern Warfare 2's suburban America reduced to rubble.

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Highest Rated Comment

CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ SexyJams

If you could afford a top-spec rig I'm sure you wouldn't waste time reminding all the "console kiddies" how superior you are, Jams. Bloodstorm doesn't constantly Lord it over us the way Highwayman obviously is doing, so why can't more of them be like him?
Posted 14:26 on 30 November 2010

User Comments

topgamer's Avatar

topgamer

Hi everyone! Sorry to be an idiot, but does anyone know the password to the GKNOVA6 website? It ties in with Black Ops 2 Zombies. It says insert your age and when you type your age in the screen goes blank. Can someone help? :( :( :( :(
Posted 11:11 on 12 July 2012
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Which was 11 days earlier....
Posted 15:02 on 03 September 2011
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams@ Bloodstorm

I didn't bump, I was replying to the guy who bumped above my comment.
Posted 20:57 on 02 September 2011
topgamer's Avatar

topgamer

I think COD:BO is a godd game by most standards I have got up to level 29 in Zombies, Unlocked everything in Team Deathmatch but the downfall of the game is the actual Campaign itself. I didn't think there was much of a plot and the controls were unresponsive and difficult to use. I would rate this game overall a 7.

Topgamer
Posted 14:37 on 21 August 2011
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm

Why bump?

What do you expect for a game that was rushed?
Posted 04:24 on 30 June 2011
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams@ Tron

The graphics in Black Ops were actually very poor in my opinion. I could see the age of the engine, and I didn't appreciate it. Some of the textures were borderline awful.
Posted 23:03 on 29 June 2011
Tron's Avatar

Tron

best game i've ever play on ps3!!!! it's amazing, and only a 9 in graphics, are you sane??!!!
Posted 00:17 on 18 June 2011
ghostdog25's Avatar

ghostdog25

a 9 for graphics? LMAO oh wow
Posted 17:01 on 29 March 2011
burridge's Avatar

burridge

this game is amazing but there bringing out modern warfare 3 whitch i hope its good as this because modern warfare 2 was quit crap after a bit like. hope the killstreeks are the same tho coz modern warfare 2 killstreks are difrent to black ops
Posted 22:30 on 07 January 2011
SexyJams's Avatar

SexyJams@ Bloodstorm

Haha, I'm sure it's well deserved.

@Endless, although I cannot see myself spending more time on each PC game, I can certainly see myself spending a hell of a lot less. It seems like PC games are always half the price of console games, and that's excluding the absolutely ridiculously good Steam sales!
Posted 18:37 on 30 November 2010
Bloodstorm's Avatar

Bloodstorm@ CheekyLee

You flatter me good sir.
Posted 15:14 on 30 November 2010
Endless's Avatar

Endless@ CheekyLee

Not to mention console gamers could afford a gaming spec PC in no time if they bought less console games. PC gamers generally buy a fraction of the games a console gamer does. Because they generally spend more time on each game and, imo, the games offer a longer lifespan than console games.

I remember buying one PC game every couple of months, let alone one or several a month. And the games are cheaper in general.

Anyway... PC FPS experience > console FPS experience if what you're looking for is uber fx and L337 headshotz-kiddies.
Posted 14:58 on 30 November 2010
CheekyLee's Avatar

CheekyLee@ SexyJams

If you could afford a top-spec rig I'm sure you wouldn't waste time reminding all the "console kiddies" how superior you are, Jams. Bloodstorm doesn't constantly Lord it over us the way Highwayman obviously is doing, so why can't more of them be like him?
Posted 14:26 on 30 November 2010
Tsar_Chasm's Avatar

Tsar_Chasm

Actual game play less than an hour? I give to you 10 out of 10 journolisms!
Posted 14:11 on 30 November 2010
MARTINFB's Avatar

MARTINFB

played through and found it boring with to many cut scenes unneccassary actions like stagering through corridors doing nothing, actual game play less than an hour.
very disapointed. 1 out of ten for the graphics.
Posted 13:49 on 30 November 2010

Game Stats

9
Out of 10
Call of Duty: Black Ops
  • Excellent customisation options
  • Multiplayer changes are for the better
  • Single-player is very entertaining
  • Takes a while to kick off
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 09/11/2010
Platforms: PS3 , Xbox 360 , PC , Wii , DS
Developer: Treyarch
Publisher: Activision
Genre: First Person Shooter
Rating: BBFC 18
Site Rank: 2,223 15
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