Monday, November 15, 2010

Call of Duty Black Ops (Wii)

Type: Review
Publisher: Treyarch

Game: Call of Duty Black Ops, Reviewer: Michael Mordenga
November 15th, Rochester, Mission: to review this game.

Back in the early 2000's, games were gaga for the soldier outfit.  Medal of Honor, Call of Duty (original recipe), Army, Brothers in Arms and Spectrum Warrior were hugely into military forces.  Since the late 2000's, the new trend is to focus on special forces.  This includes Tier 1 or Black Ops members who are so secretive that even Obama doesn't know they exist.

This new trend is getting eaten up like hotcakes in Georgia and the Wii, aka the little brother, wants a piece of the action.  This is the first time that the Wii has gotten a straight port from the next generation systems that also included a zombie mode.  I wanted to review this game on the little brother because I knew the other reviewers would jump all over the next gen, but I was curious to see how Activision would get around making a version of this game even though the Wii wasn't really built for it.

The big drawback is the graphics and the Wii does not disappoint in its attempt to fail at them.  Now I am not saying that the Wii did a worse job than the PS2. but I am saying that no special attention was remotely applied to helping the Wii overcome this handicap.  The game is unashamedly gross in all its non-HD glory.  Muddy textures and grainy objects rule the day.  The problem is not that its Wii technology because we know that Metroid Prime and The Conduit made some very good looking games.  But the problem is that Activision would have had to build the game from the ground up in order to make it look good.  With the lack of lighting and the resolution that the Xbox360 and PS3 take for granted, the game is a mere shadow of its glory.  The ironic part is that some of the cutscenes use FMV footage from the next gen version, which gives you glimpses of how the game really should look.

Which brings up my next big point.  Without the flashy dramatics and HD graphics what exactly is a new Call of Duty sequel?  Here's what's required by law to be in all COD sequels.

1. Snow Level
2. Campaign involving Russia
3. A few scenes involving time slowing down
4. A handful of levels where you blow up at the end of the mission and the enemy captures you
5.  A few scenes where you are in front of the enemy and someone tosses you a gun to fight them
6. Recon planes
7. An underground bunker level
8. loading screens involving detailed global map graphics
9. A flashback
10. That one mission where your team mate gets captured and HQ tells you to forget him, but you disobey orders to save him.

You'll read the story from 100 reviews and articles so I am going to skip to the parts that I thought were interesting.

I feel like Treyarch just finished a Saw marathon and thought, "How can we incorporate this movie into our game?"  I'm not going to pretend to know what the 60's black ops missions were really like, but I think COD really stretches its creative license.  This game is one part Manchurian Candidate, three parts Saw and just a hint of the X-Files.  As Treyarch starts to step away from the historicity in favor of the mood inducing drama, you start to feel that this game is no longer a shout out to history.  The time period is just a backdrop to feed the audience that this is an adult game.

Treyarch may have played their cards a little too rough in this one.  The game is just too dark and when it isn't being dark its too much of a stretch in the sci-fi department.  The Cold War, JFK and Vietnam parts of the game weren't even necessary because Treyarch totally took this game off the beaten path.  This could have been in the future.  This is why I favor Medal of Honor's dose of reality than COD off the wall plot--you can actually relate it to facts.

The voice acting was a little weak, considering that your NPC's all had nothing better to say than "blow the $%^& out of this wall," or "give me cover fire."  I have yet to take an NPC seriously when they ask for cover fire or for you to watch their back while they are reloading.  It's also required by law that your NPCs say the following.

1. "I'm reloading"
2. "Hey, I'm on your side."
3. "Give me some cover fire."
4. "Flank left."
5. "Suppressing fire."
6. "Sniper on your six."
7. "Weapons Free!"
8. "Tango down."
9. "Contact."
10. "Good shot."

Percentage of it that actually has anything to do with your mission: 40%
Percentage of it that is stuff you already know: 99.9%

The single player gameplay is broken up into 3 types of levels: vehicular, corridor shooting and stealth.  Corridor shooting seems to rule the majority of the levels and you can sense that Treyarch wanted to make the gamer feel like the single player campaign was not too short.  After like the fifth corridor level you feel like you are just going through the motions.  Vehicular levels have a little spin on the usual aim and fire.  You actually get to navigate the boat, helicopter or car that you are traveling in.  Stealth only takes up like thirty percent of the game and it usually ends in giant firefights anyways.

Treyarch may have been a little over ambitious in some of their "Hollywood moments" of gameplay.  Slowing down time in certain battles, getting attacked at the end of a level and watching your character struggle and falling on the ground with only a pistol and  a bunch of bad guys is a repeating theme.  It's like dark chocolate, it's good in small doses, but this game has full servings of it.  Also, it doesn't help that the Wii can't make it look pretty.

The game definitely upped its difficulty.  In the more chaotic firefights, you will be sent to a lot of cheap graves via an unknown shooter.  I had trouble on Recruit mode.  On the flip side, the yellow markers that tell you what to do seem kind of ambiguous and insulting, as if they expected that you were playing your first FPS ever.

Controls are always an issue when you only have a Nunchuk and a Wiimote.  Like previous Call of Duty games on the Wii, you get to change every part of the sensitivity until its the way you want it.  Frankly, the Wiimote has become second nature to me.  I still hate having to use the d-pad to change weapons and do melee, but that can be changed as well.  An inclusion of the pro pad controller is also allowed if you want to be old school.

Needless to say, single player is the weakest part of this sequel on the Wii.  But, the multiplayer is still dynamite.  Two kinds of multiplayer are available: Zombie and deathmatch.  Zombie is the coop portion, playing like Horde Mode from Gears of War 2.  You have to pool your resources together, survive the undead and buy new weapons.  It's good fun for you and some online buddies.  Since the Wii does everything by the friend code, don't expect to be playing anyone familiar (or American).

Death match is still kicking after all these years.  The gameplay is balanced so you can net a few frags at any level and the killstreak bonuses still make it the best multiplayer experience out there.  Some added additions is the ability to buy weapons with currency you gained from winning matches, new classes like Scavenger and the RCXD explosive car.  You can even practice killing bots before you go into a real game.  Is it just me, or could COD totally be a standalone multiplayer?  The Wii only lets 10 people into a match, which makes the levels a little bit like a ghost town, but not for long.  It seems like the Wii nailed more from the multiplayer than the single player.

Where does this FPS fit in the Wii's conservative lineup of FPS's.  Well...this game isn't terrible by any means, but it is going against Metroid Prime 3, Golden Eye and Call of Duty 4.  If you own those games than you probably don't need this one.  If you never played a Call of Duty game than this shouldn't be your first one.  This game is mostly for Call of Duty fanatics and fans who need a reliable death match engine.

Caution:  Treyarch might be thinking that they have the perfect formula, but they also have some serious campaign flaws to work out.  COD Black Ops has a story that edges closely to the realm of silly writing and I fear a sequel might push it over.  How dark can a game get before it is completely unbelievable?

What does it mean?
So what's the big deal about these covert ops type games?  Black Ops netted millions in the release.  There's something special about being given a secret assignment and handling something too heavy.  Just like in the first level where you have to assassinate Castro, your team members are the covert squad who have to do it.  I think men like that kind of responsibility and I think video games seem to be the only outlet for it.  But in reality, we need special squads to help the cause of the homeless.  We need covert teams to push back the enemies of sex trafficking.   We need tier 1 operators to fight off the affects of poverty.  Call of Duty will make any man feel like a hero and a servant to his country, but only God truly calls us to be the few and faithful.  We are not called to stop missiles, kill Castro or lay down suppressing fire, merely to understand that God made us for something special.

The Score Card:
+ Great multiplayer
+ Lots of online replay value
+ Lengthy campaign mode
-You probably don't want this for the Wii if you have a stronger system
- The story needs work
- Corridor shooting gets monotonous


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