Gamers are a funny old bunch. They spend the best part of twenty years banging on about how gaming should be accepted by the masses, and now that it has - primarily through Call of Duty - they spend half their lives drawing devil horns on pictures of Bobby Kotick. So it goes.
I've always found the easiest way is just to conform - because isn't it nice playing a multiplayer game that's well made, blisteringly fast, and always entertaining? So, yes, I like Call of Duty. I like it as much as I liked Counter-Strike a decade ago. Admittedly it often enrages me to a point that I'm worried my heart will pop and my grip is a few scant newtons away from compressing the 360 controller into diamond, but that's all part of the game.
I suppose you can call me a card-carrying member of the Call of Duty fanclub. And you probably are, too. The first step is admitting that you like Call of Duty, which usually encourages about fifty people to turn up and call you names for a couple of hours. Then it's the admission that yes, actually, you would be prepared to spend about ten quid on getting hold of some more multiplayer maps, which will usually cause another gaggle of naysayers to start chiding you. The third step is working out how to mute your headset so you don't have to listen to hordes of whiny chavs saying 'bruv' all evening.
Regardless of which way you cut up the costs, though, 1200 points is fair chunk of actual money, and if you're not a particularly big fan of Zombies mode then you're getting an even worse deal. Still, for me at least, any opportunity to get away from constant cycles of Nuketown - by far Black Ops' most popular map - is well worth the investment.
If Nuketown is what you like, however, then First Strike probably won't be your cup of tea. There's nothing here that offers its miniscule size, funnels streams of foes down tight corridors, or gives you nearly as much of that sweet, sweet XP in glorious showers of frenzied bullet fire. Instead you get more thoughtful maps such as Berlin Wall, which immediately strikes as a mid-size offering built with Crossfire, Havana and Invasion in mind. East and West Germany make up both sides of the map, with the central corridor - by far the loveliest and most dependable of all multiplayer map conceits - has been replaced by a perilous no man's land with automated turrets ready to spin up and grant free suicide deaths at a moment's notice.
You can scrape by without being shot to ribbons if you're fast enough, but this also triggers a map-filling warble so everybody knows exactly what you're doing. There are only three truly safe zones to cross, and the action is neatly concentrated into these spots - with the middle path containing a rather dangerous capture point in Domination, too.
Berlin Wall also heralds something of a renaissance for Black Ops snipers, with some crafty spots for everyone's favourite cowards to take up residence and grab twice as many kills as everybody else. Thankfully, however, there are enough twisty indoors corridors to manoeuvre around without putting yourself into the path of constant long-distance headshots.
Head over to Kowloon and you've got a similar blend of outdoors and indoors environments, alongside some more vantage spots for crafty snipers. There's a far greater emphasis on vertical traversal, however, and there's a confusing abundance of ledges, windows and rooftops to scramble over to reach the map's all-important vantage points.
Kowloon also brings with it a zip-line, which flings you across the map but leaves you wide open to enemy fire. It's gimmicky enough that everyone will try it a couple of times, but its usefulness is something that I'm yet to ascertain. Even in objective gametypes, when speed is of the essence, I've found myself preferring the longer, safer route around the map.
Moving across to Stadium brings you much nearer to intense, close-quarters scraps between two forces, with the rhythms of action recalling certain aspects of Nuketown and Terminal. A raised level inside the hockey rink gives you a good view of the overlooking environment, but this area is easily-accessible and frequently subjected to speedy raids from players looking for quick kills.
Stadium is probably the most familiar map to pick up and play from the offset, with years of muscle memory etched into the nerve endings of ardent FPS players. The feel of it is a little bit pedestrian for my tastes, but it's by no means of bad design - it just lacks the sparkle and creativity of, say, Berlin Wall. Still, for a by-the-numbers exercise in shooting other players it ticks all the requisite boxes. And you can shoot the puck in the hockey rink.
Rounding out the package is Discovery, a snowy German outpost with a good view of the emerald Northern lights glimmering in the distance. It's a bigger map, and a bit slow in standard TDM, but take it into a bigger game of Domination or Headquarters and you'll notice how the designers effectively funnel big packs of players through compromising positions.
Discovery's intricacies only become apparent in bigger, objective-based sessions of play, and it's nice to see Treyarch cater to these modes instead of bunging in another XP-grinding murder-shower a la Nuketown. Wing enough explosives onto the central bridge and you can collapse it, which makes for a jolly good chuckle (perhaps you know it as a ROFL) when everything goes to plan.
The cream of the crop is undoubtedly Berlin Wall, however; for someone who plays Black Ops everyday its arrangement of death-dealing delights will vindicate the asking price single-handedly. In terms of straight up map democracy, Treyarch has added in a fair mix of styles to cater for all tastes across its four maps, which was undoubtedly their intention the entire time.
Ascension brings up the rear, allowing the original Zombies quartet to blast their way around a baffling Russian cosmodrome and fend off waves of space monkeys trying to steal off with your perks. Yes - I said space monkeys. On the flipside, there are no Hellhounds.
Elsewhere you've got the ability to summon black holes to fend off the walking dead, look at teddy bears carrying sickles, and chuck Matryoshka doll cluster grenades alongside two new perks - PhD flopper causes you to generate explosions when diving from heights, and Stamin-Up is basically Lightweight for Zombies. It's still a gloriously silly mode, with you now zipping around the level in bizarre Russian launchers and setting off rockets as you progress from monochrome to resplendent Technicolor.
Overall, then, it's a fairly robust package with a steep asking price. Adding novelty additions to the mix might incense the grumpy critics, but these map-specific gimmicks seem to be going down genuinely well on Xbox LIVE - just like the blast doors on Radiation or the space rocket on Launch. But if you're going to be one of the people who can't get over the price, well, you can probably go back to doodling those devil horns.
Still, if you like Black Ops - and I assume you do, to be honest - then First Strike will quickly get its hooks into you. Right now I'm playing it in the mornings before work, trying to prestige before the Double XP weekend starts. Feel free to leave your vitriol in the comments below, angry internet people, but no matter how loud you shout you'll always be drowned out by the unstoppable drone of the masses.