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Li-Ion 01-08-2011 02:08 PM

Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
It's been a while since I tried to write a review. After reflecting on my time with Black Ops I thought this might be a good opportunity.

----------------

Review: Call of Duty - Black Ops

Now I wanna be your dog.

High: Ich bin ein Berliner.
Low: endless respawning enemies that turn the whole game into a high-tech whack-a-mole
WTF: I torture a guy and seconds after he is on my side?

Sometimes when walking through the park and seeing dog owners with their pets, I wonder how dogs feel when they are being walked. Restricted by a leash which is sometimes shorter, sometimes longer and disappears for a while at certain occasions the owner sees fit. Luckily I now know how it feels. This is thanks to the latest and greatest first-person shooter extravaganza Call of Duty: Black Ops. Black Ops follows the story of a handful of operatives during the cold war era. The player assumes control over different soldiers, mostly Captain Alex Mason. He remains pale as a character, similar to the other people involved, despite the voice talent that has been hired. Only Gary Oldman as Reznov is able to shine with his performance. However: in the shooter-genre, a genre that seems riddled by fan-fiction written by paranoid NRA-members, the overarching story can be considered well above average.

Alex Mason mainly follows orders. That is where the dog-simulator comes into play. Alex is getting ordered around constantly and never allowed to walk astray from his handler at any given time. Most of the game is spent running around a character sporting a yellow dot with the caption ‘Follow’ and doing whatever they say. The experience is streamlined to convert the whole world into one seemingly endless corridor, hemmed in by invisible walls and scripted sequences. To prevent the dog (player) from noticing his limited options, the game throws around sticks in form of explosions and vehicle sections with outlandish controls. Judging by those controls it is no wonder almost no helicopter manages to land intact during the campaign. In the course of the game I can only recall one helicopter on either side of the conflict to perform anything other than a crash landing. And even that helicopter was severely damaged.

Controls for other vehicles are also of questionable quality, but they fare much better than the more frequent helicopter sequences. The ride on a motorbike for example is simply too enjoyable to criticize the physics-defying handling in that section. The stream of explosions, gunfire, smoke, blood and missing limbs hardly ever ceases. Because of this all those effects loose their effect pretty quickly. It is difficult to feel awe when crashing with yet another helicopter. Most games have deliberate downtimes, where the action comes to a halt. Not so Black Ops, where even the loading screens are a cacophony of pictures, sounds and video clips that never allow the eye or mind to rest and reflect on the things that just happened. In retrospect it is difficult to even remember where the action took place and in which sequence the missions were. Only close to the end of the single-player campaign I noticed some sections that were slower paced.

This might sound negative so far, but Black Ops definitely has its strong points. When my mind was able to filter out all the explosions and dismemberment, I enjoyed myself quite a bit. Running, aiming, shooting and reloading feel natural and the controls never obstruct the enjoyment. I still wonder why in times of analogue sticks a button for sprinting is necessary but this would be nitpicking. I played some parts in a trance-like state. In these occasions all the elements come neatly together and deliver an experience on par with or even surpassing the best of the genre. Unfortunately I was never able to stay at this sweet spot for long.

Frequently I was pulled out of the experience like Truman Burbank in The Truman Show. Reasons for this were mainly the invisible walls and the endless stream of identical enemies. It adds a comedic element to shoot at wave after wave of soldiers that look absolutely identical. One might imagine a factory for those clone troopers just across the hill, beyond the invisible walls. Factories that suddenly stop working, as soon as I reached a certain spot that triggered the next event. A certain level of frustration comes from badly distributed checkpoints in combination with the endless respawning enemies. A lot of scripting and endless waves of enemies were always part of the Call of Duty-franchise. After seven years of sequels this approach to level design is becoming archaic. The mission objectives are usually simple, however: at times it isn’t really clear what Alex Mason is supposed to do. This can be nerve-wracking when enemies continue flooding in.

Criticisms on level design do not apply to multiplayer, where Black Ops truly shines. Unfortunately I don’t play much multiplayer. But even I found myself enjoying browsing through the sheer number of different multiplayer modes. For fans of multiplayer this game is a good option to spend some time with, but there are better ones out there. I find it hard to recommend for its singleplayer campaign alone, which is infuriating at times due to aforementioned problems. This installment of the Call of Duty-series is, as usual, a well made shooter with high production values. It has a great audiovisual package, excellent controls and a story that is surprisingly good for a shooter. What it is lacking is progress. One of its predecessors, Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare, was a landmark game and Black Ops is on par with it. But being on par with a previous iteration is not enough for enduring success. In the end it feels like the same Call of Duty I played for the last two years already. I loved the game two years ago, but now it's starting to get stale.

6/10

Disclosures: This game was obtained via [retail store] and reviewed on the [PlayStation 3]. Approximately 6 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time) and 2 hours of play to multiplayer modes.

Parents: Extremely graphic violence including dismemberment, one interactive torture scene and regular use of profanities. This game does not belong in the hands of children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game has subtitles for all dialogue.

banditkings 01-08-2011 06:31 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
You say that the player takes control over different characters. After reading the dogwalking comparison, it makes me think taking control means walking the dog, which is to say that the player is a different character that commands Alex Mason. Maybe you can say the player assumes the role of different characters.

It wasn't entirely clear to me what this helicopter was. Is it one of the enemies you have to shoot down? Is it transportation for the operatives? Does the player have direct control over its operation?

When people say their options are limited, they mean it as a bad thing, but do you? You mention how the explosions and the vehicle sections serve to distract players from being reminded of their limited options, as if they need this to keep from getting frustrated about it.

However, you go on to say how the explosions are overdone and the helicopter crashes too many times; and that only after tuning these things out were you able to immerse yourself into the game. Now you're back to being a dog on a leash.

Li-Ion 01-09-2011 04:07 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by banditkings (Post 190257)
Maybe you can say the player assumes the role of different characters.

good point, thanks!

Quote:

It wasn't entirely clear to me what this helicopter was. Is it one of the enemies you have to shoot down? Is it transportation for the operatives? Does the player have direct control over its operation?
Pretty much every helicopter (friend and foe) in the game crashes at some point. I can only recall one helicopter to actually land without crashing ;)
I should point that out better I guess...

Quote:

When people say their options are limited, they mean it as a bad thing, but do you? You mention how the explosions and the vehicle sections serve to distract players from being reminded of their limited options, as if they need this to keep from getting frustrated about it.

However, you go on to say how the explosions are overdone and the helicopter crashes too many times; and that only after tuning these things out were you able to immerse yourself into the game. Now you're back to being a dog on a leash.
That's a really good point. I think I should use a different word than 'immersion' because I don't really mean that I'm immersed in the game world, but more that I found myself tuned to the rhytm of the game with running & gunning... until some weird trigger pulled me out of the experience again.
I definitely have to work some more on that part. Thanks a lot for the input! :)

Li-Ion 01-15-2011 07:17 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
made some changes:

Review: Call of Duty - Black Ops

Now I wanna be your dog.

High: Ich bin ein Berliner.
Low: endless respawning enemies that turn the whole game into a high-tech whack-a-mole
WTF: I torture a guy and seconds after he is on my side?

Sometimes when walking through the park and seeing dog owners with their pets, I wonder how dogs feel when they are being walked. Restricted by a leash which is sometimes shorter, sometimes longer and disappears for a while at certain occasions the owner sees fit. Luckily I now know how it feels. This is thanks to the latest and greatest first-person shooter extravaganza Call of Duty: Black Ops. Black Ops follows the story of a handful of operatives during the cold war era. The player assumes control over different soldiers, mostly Captain Alex Mason. He remains pale as a character, similar to the other people involved, despite the voice talent that has been hired. Only Gary Oldman as Reznov is able to shine with his performance. However: in the shooter-genre, a genre that seems riddled by fan-fiction written by paranoid NRA-members, the overarching story can be considered well above average.

Alex Mason mainly follows orders. That is where the dog-simulator comes into play. Alex is getting ordered around constantly and never allowed to walk astray from his handler at any given time. Most of the game is spent running around a character sporting a yellow dot with the caption ‘Follow’ and do whatever they say. The experience is streamlined to convert the whole world one endless seeming corridor, entrenched by invisible walls and scripted sequences. To prevent the dog (player) from noticing his limited options, the game throws around sticks in form of explosions and vehicle sections with outlandish controls. No wonder almost no helicopter manages to land intact during the campaign. In the course of the game I can only recall one helicopter on either side of the conflict to perform anything else then a crash landing. Controls for other vehicles are also of questionable quality, but they fare much better than the more frequent helicopter sequences. The stream of explosions, gunfire, smoke, blood and missing limbs never really stops and hardly ever ceases. Because of this all those effects loose their effect pretty quickly. It is difficult to feel awe when crashing with yet another helicopter. Most games have deliberate downtimes, where the action comes to a halt. Not so Black Ops, where even the loading screens are a cacophony of pictures, sounds and video clips that never allow the eye or mind to rest and reflect on the things that just happened. This makes it difficult to even remember afterwards where the action took place and in which sequence the missions were. Only close to the end of the single-player campaign I noticed some sections that were slower paced.

At the point where my mind was able to fade out all the explosions and dismemberment, the game allowed me to actually enjoy myself. Running, aiming, shooting and reloading feel natural and the controls never obstruct the enjoyment. I still wonder why in times of analogue sticks a button for sprinting is necessary but this would be nitpicking. Obstructions that break the little bit of immersion there is come from other sources. Frequently I was pulled out of the experience because of invisible walls or the endless stream of identical enemies. It adds a comedic element to shoot at wave after wave of soldiers that look absolutely identical. One might imagine a factory for those clone troopers just across the hill, beyond the invisible walls. Factories that suddenly stop working, as soon as I reached a certain spot that triggered the next event. A certain level of frustration comes from badly distributed checkpoints in combination with the endless respawning enemies. A lot of scripting and endless waves of enemies were always part of the Call of Duty-franchise. After seven years of sequels this approach to level design is becoming archaic. The mission objectives are usually simple, however: at times it isn’t really clear what Alex Mason is supposed to do. This is especially nerve-wracking in combination with aforementioned, endless respawning enemies.

These criticisms do not apply to multiplayer, where black ops truly shines. Unfortunately I don’t play much multiplayer. But even I found myself enjoying to browse through the sheer number of different multiplayer modes. For fans of multiplayer Black Ops is a good option to spend some time with, but there are better ones out there. I find it hard to recommend for its singleplayer campaign alone, which is infuriating at times due to aforementioned problems. This installment of the Call of Duty-series is, as usual, a well made shooter with high production values. What it is lacking is progress. It feels like the same game I played the last two years already.

6/10

Disclosures: This game was obtained via [retail store] and reviewed on the [PlayStation 3]. Approximately 6 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time) and 2 hours of play to multiplayer modes.

Parents: Extremely graphic violence including dismemberment, one interactive torture scene and regular use of profanities. This game does not belong in the hands of children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game has subtitles for all dialogue.

Li-Ion 01-18-2011 04:45 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
I see nobody really likes my review :(

Pedro 01-18-2011 03:35 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
I hadn't read it, as there is really no likelihood of me playing this game :p

It is a little difficult to criticise your review, as I can't really put my finger on where it falls down. Don't get me wrong, it is well written, but for me it is a little heavy in tone - maybe the text is a little dense.

You could split the second paragraph into two paragraphs, one about walking the dog, and one about the clunky controls.

I would also say that you could put some more light-hearted stuff in there. You skip over the 'positive' aspects of the game very quickly and concentrate on the negative aspects. I know it's a 6/10, but I think you need to emphasise what the game does well to stop this being a one-note review. Maybe try and lighten the tone between the second and third paras.

Now, take this with a pinch of salt as I could be talking through my hat. Other opinions would be welcome.

Also, of course I should mention that the dog-walking conceit is a good one and it is pretty well written overall; you get your opinion across very well. Just needs some 'balance' to make it easier to read.

banditkings 01-19-2011 12:17 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Li-Ion (Post 190782)
It adds a comedic element to shoot at wave after wave of soldiers that look absolutely identical. One might imagine a factory for those clone troopers just across the hill, beyond the invisible walls. Factories that suddenly stop working, as soon as I reached a certain spot that triggered the next event.

You ever see the movie The Truman Show? Jim Carrey plays a guy that is raised from birth in a huge staged world and thinks everything is real until he starts to notice peculiarities, like cars and people appearing and disappearing en masse.

A strength of the Call of Duty series is its ability to make you think the combat is true to life, but I guess the illusion is spoiled when the pace and quantity of the respawns isn't handled well.

Li-Ion 01-31-2011 05:53 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Thanks for the input!
Another version. I borrowed the Truman-reference, I hope you don't object banditkings :D

Review: Call of Duty - Black Ops

Now I wanna be your dog.

High: Ich bin ein Berliner.
Low: endless respawning enemies that turn the whole game into a high-tech whack-a-mole
WTF: I torture a guy and seconds after he is on my side?

Sometimes when walking through the park and seeing dog owners with their pets, I wonder how dogs feel when they are being walked. Restricted by a leash which is sometimes shorter, sometimes longer and disappears for a while at certain occasions the owner sees fit. Luckily I now know how it feels. This is thanks to the latest and greatest first-person shooter extravaganza Call of Duty: Black Ops. Black Ops follows the story of a handful of operatives during the cold war era. The player assumes control over different soldiers, mostly Captain Alex Mason. He remains pale as a character, similar to the other people involved, despite the voice talent that has been hired. Only Gary Oldman as Reznov is able to shine with his performance. However: in the shooter-genre, a genre that seems riddled by fan-fiction written by paranoid NRA-members, the overarching story can be considered well above average.

Alex Mason mainly follows orders. That is where the dog-simulator comes into play. Alex is getting ordered around constantly and never allowed to walk astray from his handler at any given time. Most of the game is spent running around a character sporting a yellow dot with the caption ‘Follow’ and do whatever they say. The experience is streamlined to convert the whole world into one endless seeming corridor, entrenched by invisible walls and scripted sequences. To prevent the dog (player) from noticing his limited options, the game throws around sticks in form of explosions and vehicle sections with outlandish controls. Judging by those controls it is no wonder almost no helicopter manages to land intact during the campaign. In the course of the game I can only recall one helicopter on either side of the conflict to perform anything else then a crash landing. And even that helicopter was severely damaged.

Controls for other vehicles are also of questionable quality, but they fare much better than the more frequent helicopter sequences. The ride on a motorbike for example is simply to enjoyable to criticize the physics-defying handling in that section. The stream of explosions, gunfire, smoke, blood and missing limbs never really stops and hardly ever ceases. Because of this all those effects loose their effect pretty quickly. It is difficult to feel awe when crashing with yet another helicopter. Most games have deliberate downtimes, where the action comes to a halt. Not so Black Ops, where even the loading screens are a cacophony of pictures, sounds and video clips that never allow the eye or mind to rest and reflect on the things that just happened. In retrospect it is difficult to even remember where the action took place and in which sequence the missions were. Only close to the end of the single-player campaign I noticed some sections that were slower paced.

This might sound negative so far, but Black Ops definitely has its strong points. When my mind was able to fade out all the explosions and dismemberment, I enjoyed myself quite a bit. Running, aiming, shooting and reloading feel natural and the controls never obstruct the enjoyment. I still wonder why in times of analogue sticks a button for sprinting is necessary but this would be nitpicking. Some parts I was playing like in a state of trance. In these occasions all the elements come neatly together and deliver an experience on par with or even surpassing the best of the genre. Unfortunately I was never able to stay at this sweet spot for long.

Frequently I was pulled out of the experience like Truman Burbank in The Truman Show. Reasons for this were mainly the invisible walls and the endless stream of identical enemies. It adds a comedic element to shoot at wave after wave of soldiers that look absolutely identical. One might imagine a factory for those clone troopers just across the hill, beyond the invisible walls. Factories that suddenly stop working, as soon as I reached a certain spot that triggered the next event. A certain level of frustration comes from badly distributed checkpoints in combination with the endless respawning enemies. A lot of scripting and endless waves of enemies were always part of the Call of Duty-franchise. After seven years of sequels this approach to level design is becoming archaic. The mission objectives are usually simple, however: at times it isn’t really clear what Alex Mason is supposed to do. This can be nerve-wracking when enemies continue flooding in.

Criticisms on level design do not apply to multiplayer, where Black Ops truly shines. Unfortunately I don’t play much multiplayer. But even I found myself enjoying to browse through the sheer number of different multiplayer modes. For fans of multiplayer this game is a good option to spend some time with, but there are better ones out there. I find it hard to recommend for its singleplayer campaign alone, which is infuriating at times due to aforementioned problems. This installment of the Call of Duty-series is, as usual, a well made shooter with high production values. It has a great audiovisual package, excellent controls and a story that is surprisingly good for a shooter. What it is lacking is progress. One of its predecessors, Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare, was a landmark game and Black Ops is on par with it. But being on par with a previous iteration is not enough for enduring success. Ultimately it feels like the same game I played the last two years already. I loved the game two years ago, but now it's starting to get stale.

6/10

Disclosures: This game was obtained via [retail store] and reviewed on the [PlayStation 3]. Approximately 6 hours of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 time) and 2 hours of play to multiplayer modes.

Parents: Extremely graphic violence including dismemberment, one interactive torture scene and regular use of profanities. This game does not belong in the hands of children.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing: The game has subtitles for all dialogue.

Pedro 02-03-2011 02:04 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Very good review. It gets across both the good and bad aspects of the game, which is great. The sentence construction is a little strange in places, as you aren't a native English speaker, but overall I think it is a strong review.

Li-Ion 02-03-2011 04:12 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Thank you! Can you please point out a specific example for weird-sentence-construction? I might find other things strange in my current text that you might find strange after all ;)

Pedro 02-04-2011 12:21 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Now I have to read it again!! :mad:

Only joking....nothing serious below:

Quote:

Most of the game is spent running around a character sporting a yellow dot with the caption ‘Follow’ and doing whatever they say.
Quote:

The experience is streamlined to convert the whole world into one seemingly endless corridor, hemmed in by invisible walls and scripted sequences.
(entrenched means dug in and immobile rather than surrounded by or hemmed in but still able to progress.

Quote:

one helicopter on either side of the conflict to perform anything other than a crash landing
Quote:

The ride on a motorbike for example is simply too enjoyable to criticize the physics-defying handling in that section.
;-)

Quote:

The stream of explosions, gunfire, smoke, blood and missing limbs never really stops and hardly ever ceases.
Choose one phrase or the other, or clarify that the action is relentless and the player is being pushed forward all the time, if that's what you mean.

Quote:

When my mind was able to filter out all the explosions and dismemberment, I enjoyed myself quite a bit.
Quote:

Some parts I was playing like in a state of trance.
I played some parts in a trance-like state.

Quote:

I found myself enjoying browsing through the sheer number of different multiplayer modes.
Quote:

Ultimately it feels like the same game I played the last two years already.
I know this 'already' is an Americanism, it probably scans ok to a US citizen, but it looks odd to me. What game are you referring to - that the franchise hasn't progressed from World at War (or whatever one came out two years ago)?

Li-Ion 02-05-2011 07:08 AM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Haha, I made you read it once again! :D
I'm always trying to improve my English. One of my 'problems' is being a non-native speaker dealing on a daily basis with other non-native speakers in English, which then reflects on my way of speaking. For example Russians seem to have a general problem in pronounching beach, peach and bitch differently :o
Quote:

Originally Posted by Pedro (Post 192299)
(entrenched means dug in and immobile rather than surrounded by or hemmed in but still able to progress.

I didn't actually know this expression.
Quote:

I know this 'already' is an Americanism, it probably scans ok to a US citizen, but it looks odd to me. What game are you referring to - that the franchise hasn't progressed from World at War (or whatever one came out two years ago)?
I'm mainly referring to Modern Warfare, which I mention two sentences before. But essentially it's the same Call of Duty experience as can be found in all the CoD games that came out in that time period.

p.s. updated the opening post with the newest version

Pedro 02-07-2011 02:41 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
12 votes! How do you get the Critics to take a look at it now?

Li-Ion 02-07-2011 02:42 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
Bribery and extortion?

Li-Ion 02-12-2011 06:01 PM

Re: Please rate this review: Call of Duty: Black Ops
 
18 votes and still nobody checking :(


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