Black Ops is a curious title. Ever since hype for the Call of Duty franchise really picked up speed, I have avoided it like the plague. Firstly because its popularity means that it is now the staple game of every Tom, Harry, and, most importantly, Dick, it means that I am rubbing shoulders with the great pricks of the internet. Thankfully most of them play the console version, but there is still an unpleasant image lurking around the series. The second problem I have had with it is the actual gameplay – as an elitist CS:S player, I am required to loathe COD’s unbalanced and cluttered multiplayer. It sounds like the sort of game that any fool could be good at, just by using one of the many exploits and stupidly powerful perk combinations.
However, picking my way through Black Ops for the last two weeks, I find little to complain about. Herein lies the issue: It is still not something to play ‘competitively’. The weapon balance is skewed beyond belief, with one LMG easily being more powerful than the top assault rifles. Getting in a helicopter is like climbing into a flying target, painted red and filled with dynamite, and there is something seriously wrong with any game where your knife is your most effective weapon.
I was having trouble accepting Black Ops’s multiplayer, alternately switching between total pwnage and being totally pwned, but I had just blown up a helicopter and set fire to a roomful of foes when I suddenly realised: Hang on, this is actually fun. And by that, I mean, a lot of fun. It is one of those games packed with epic moments, to be recounted later to envious friends. I wish I could share some of them here, but I fear I would rather bore you.
It’s not a game to play seriously. It’s not a game to agonise over your K/D ratio or spend hours perfecting your aim, because there are simply too many variables for them to ever be taken seriously. You can get ‘better’ to a certain extent, but it will never have that hard edge on which your skill is tested. It is a game played for fun and giggles. Gameplay-wise, Black Ops is more akin to Team Fortress than CS:S.
Oh, and how I wish I could end it there! But sadly, this is of course the age of the console. The PC is a second-hand platform now, it seems, and support for it has been atrocious: Laggy and unreliable connections, constant and infuriating game crashes, and just plain old glitchiness. To enraged cries, Treyarch recently released a patch to improve performance on multiple cores (Forgetting on their initial release, I presume, that such things exist) which has reduced crashing… a little bit. But made the client far more jumpy.
My copy still crashes every now and then. But for all its flaws, for all the faults and misfires, the unbalanced gameplay and the incessant undergrowth of noobs that make up the general multiplayer populace… it is a loveable game.
I’ll let you know what I think of the Single Player soon enough.