Progress Report: Call of Duty – Black Ops

I’ve been getting a little tired of staring at my computer monitor lately (and sitting in my uncomfortable wooden desk chair), and I noticed that the consoles hadn’t been getting much love lately. Therefore, I decided that it was time to boot up an unfinished console game to see if I could strike another one off the backlog. I do love the refined controls of the PC, but there’s really nothing like sitting back in the comfort of an armchair and getting to enjoy a game on a 55″ flat screen TV.

Call of Duty: Black Ops probably feels like a bit of an arbitrary choice, but part of me wants to blow through my unwanted titles first so I can sit back later and enjoy the games I actually want to play. Also, CoD games are notorious for their short campaigns, and that’s perfectly okay with me. I now own Black Ops thanks to my brother, who also owned an XBox 360 at one point. When he eventually sold his console to a friend of ours, I wound up inheriting some of his games, and it’s been sitting in my library ever since. Strangely, I now own almost every CoD game with the exception of Black Ops 2 and Call of Duty 2, even though I’m not a particularly avid fan of the series.

To me, Black Ops is a mediocre game by most measures. Perhaps the multiplayer was its main selling point, but since I’ve fallen out of the habit of playing CoD games merely for the multiplayer, this really means jack squat to me. So far the level design hasn’t offered anything innovative. Some of the environments are pretty interesting (the cosmodrome level was a very cool environment to traverse), but progression hasn’t evolved much from find cover, shoot, advance. Just last night I couldn’t help but sigh as I was told to jump on a mounted machine gun to defend an area from a wave on oncoming Vietnamese soldiers. The weapon set has arbitrarily changed once again, pointless since you don’t really need much besides the nearest semi-automatic rifle.

Even though I didn’t play them much, I actually enjoyed the Modern Warfare franchise. Besides basically reinventing the FPS genre with Call of Duty 4, it’s depiction of the outbreak and escalation of a World World 3 scenario put a unique twist on the genre while still sticking to the series’ roots. And of course, at the center of the action throughout all three games were John “Soap” MacTavish and his gruff, boonie hat-toting mentor, Captain Price.

Black Ops, on the other hand, decided to go its own route with some bizarre alternate timeline Cold War storyline with a banal conspiracy twist. Your character is basically Generic Heroic Marine and he’s being held captive by Big Bad Government Agents. Each chapter is experienced via flashbacks of the marine’s military service, while in between chapters your character is interrogated in a torture chamber by some unseen agent behind a voice modulator. Sadly, these scenes provide nearly zero exposition since its impossible to figure out what they are talking about half the time. Oh, and I think there’s some sort of conspiracy theory involving JFK. How original.

I actually had a small save file on my hard drive from playing it at my house several years ago. I didn’t get particularly far and got stuck on an incredibly frustrating segement at the end of the cosmodrome level. It turns out that I was quite the glutton for punishment back then, since I had set it Veteran mode. I turned down the difficulty a notch and beat the level in two tries. After that it took me to a Vietnam level in Khe Sanh, where I began having trouble at a segment which requires you to climb down a hill against advancing enemies. I dropped the difficulty down to Recruit to save myself the frustration and pushed through until the end of the mission. The next level dropped me into Hue City during the Tet offensive, and I got a shotgun with incendiary rounds that proved surprisingly effective at mowing down enemies (even at range). I beat the level and decided to call it a night.

No video or screenshots this time around. I didn’t feel like hooking up the capture software and I certainly wasn’t in the mood for doing voice commentary. Looks like you’ll all be using your imagination for this one. Stay tuned – possibly the end of Super Meat Boy later this evening!

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