Wot I Think: Call Of Duty Black Ops

When I close my eyes, I see exploding limbs. More so than usual, I mean. There’s only been one story in gamesworld today, and while RPS is a site that celebrates and promotes the wildest outliers, it would be remiss of us to ignore this most mainstream of all games. So: after a day mainlining Black Ops’ campaign, I’m ready to KILL YOU SHOOT YOU MAIM YOU DIE DIE DIE. Uh, I mean tell you my thoughts on it. Yes, that’s it.

Note: I could say a report on the multiplayer will follow, but that would be a lie. While I have a very, very good sense of what it is (a tweaked and boosted take on the last COD’s multiplayer), because I haven’t made Modern Warfare 1 and 2’s multiplayer a central part of my life for the last couple of years, I simply don’t feel qualified to discuss what this gets right or wrong. I might as well review boilers, or snow mobiles. I have and will continue to dabble in it, but I’m pretty sure anyone whose primary interest in this game is for the multiplayer has made their mind up about it long before they played it. There’s little sense in playing King Canute here. That said, I understand the new RC bombs are excitingly disruptive and the amount of airborne menaces has been toned down, which is making it a bit more universal a playground than before. Anyway: on with the singleplayer. Thoughts on the Nixontastic zombie mode will follow on Friday.

I didn’t hate it. It’s important to say that up front. I can’t pretend I went into CODBlops with an entirely open mind – I went into it with one unimpressed by the disgusting arrogance and vacant pseudo-profundity of Modern Warfare 2 and made wary by the tedium and frustration of World at War, but nonetheless fond enough of earlier CODs to be curious.

There’s something to be said for low expectations. A pessimist is never disappointed, but he can be pleasantly surprised. There are a thousand delicate places I could put the boot into Black Ops, whose single player game probably breaks records in terms of both amount of scripting and lack of choice. But I didn’t hate it.

Primarily, it’s because it pulls back from the brink of Modern Warfare 2’s blithering excess and self-importance – this finds a narrative focus and it doesn’t have too many ideas above its station. Its tale of macho spies and history-spanning conspiracies remains very much another world compared to the peculiarly restrained war stories of trad-COD, but outside of a surprisingly twisted coda, it’s not interested in being much other than an action movie.

There’s also some psychological melodrama that, by this series’ standards, is fairly ambitious – I’d like to discuss its inspirations, but by doing so would immediately risk spoilers. It’s the meatheaded monster stretching itself a little, but make no mistake: despite a couple of unweildy staggers into Bioshock territory, it never sheds its Big Dumb Blockbuster skin. Attempts at emotional resonance end up ludicrous, though broadly entertainingly so. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of patronisingly reiterated exposition hung around the major revelations somewhat dents their impact. Yes, we get it. Another painstaking replay of a key earlier moment and a looped soundbyte going round and round and round really isn’t necessary to hammer the simple point home.

Still, this is a story game as well as a gun game – and much more so than COD has ever been before. Unlike the shifting narratives of CODs to date, it’s hung almost entirely around the tale and destiny of just one chap, US soldier/spy Alex Mason – fundamentally as personality-free as any other FPS reticule/forearms combo, but granted something like character development due to the echoed agonies of repeated kidnap and torture. It’s not that you care about Mason, not even slightly, but there is a curiosity as to what happened to make him like this and what it’s going to lead to. If you’re looking at CODBlops in the context of great game stories, it has no hope of being anything other than pond life – but in the context of pre-Christmas mega-budget shooters designed to hoover up money, it’s got more than you’d expect going on narratively-speaking.

Oft-leaden dialogue – especially the gamut of rather forced-sounding naughty-swears – and some exceptionally poorly-timed and jarring crap-rock background music threatens to undo this, but some core to the game struggles manfully on, determined to be something like memorable even through enough clichés to fill thirty years’ of Jack Reacher novels.

It’s helped enormously by the art direction – or, to give its proper title, “millions of dollars.” CODBlop’s eyewatering budget means this is an almost comically lavish game at times, presenting sights of a scale and splendour very little else can touch. Neither can you, of course, as you’re bolted tightly to the prescribed path at almost all times, but that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to be a little dazzled now and again.

Being the little snark that I am, I can’t help but look for the shortcuts in such events – sure, there’s a giant digging machine there or a towering space shuttle launch platform here, but the game’s been able to pour all its graphical clout into such eye-catchers by making half the clothing or wall textures lower-res than a Game & Watch.

It’s not a game that stands up well to close scrutiny. It’s a game all about the bigger picture, and if you play it I’d advise you to only treat it as such. Close inspection reveals, as well as mucky textures and forty-eight million scripted events per second, a constant undercurrent of logic collapse. From the absurdly convoluted, science-fictional nature of the baddies’ plans, to finding that shotguns are as effective as sniper rifles in moments where it decides a shotgun should be your main weapon, to a single pistol shot somehow severing a leg and hurling it 20 metres away, it’s all over the place.

Brutish 80s action movie logic presides, but if you can treat it solely on those terms you’ll be okay with it. It’s full of grand sights, and its characters’ mo-capped facial animations are genuinely impressive. The walls of the uncanny valley remain far too steep to climb out of, but CODBlops does its best to make your stay there a superficially engrossing one. The campaign took me about seven hours by the way: I have no idea what the people talking about it lasting four hours are on about, but jolly well done them if they really did do that.

As a shooting game, it is a largely relentless ever-forward push against massed foes, in the COD idiom – but it does suffer for enemies that never surprise and for the heights of its tactics only ever encompassing reaching the next brazenly-highlighted waypoint. As with MW2, there’s no particular pride to be had from any kill – it’s Space Invaders stuff, enemies nothing more than pop-up targets, able to overwhelm only by sheer weight of numbers rather than any signs of strategic sentience. Played, as it was for me, in the course of one day, the bulk of its levels seemed interchangeable, something to be carved through to get to the next visit from Basil Exposition. A few bravura moments are interspersed, however – a prison escape in the second level, and an impressive piece of technical show-offery involving a spyplane and a ground attack force. I often felt that there was something bolder struggling to get out, and occasionally it really shows itself.

Puzzlingly, however, the weapons were so crazily plentiful that it seemed impossible to become excited by any particular pickup: so many varieties, even down to variations within a model type (e.g. clip size, scope, grenade launcher). I get that this is a game about gun porn, but in this case it’s a skinflick that almost immediately stuffs so many dangly bits into so many different orifices that any possible excitement rapidly turns into seen-it-all boredom. I just didn’t care about which gun I had, as long as it had enough bullets. They all seemed to kill people pretty well.

I’d also say it’s unnecessarily nasty, crossing the line between gritty realism to teenage salivation over unconvincing gruesomeness. Cutscene and scripted deaths are lingered on and rewarded with pantomime animations and cavernous wounds, and again there’s that sense that no kill matters, there’s no pride in the achievement. It’s not artful in its violence, merely noisy. There’s little to no subtlety in Black Ops, but I’m pretty sure it could have introduced some without negatively impacting the supermacho experience it so doggedly wants to create.

Similarly, its reliance on many, many traditional, fixed-observer cutscenes seems unnecessary and cludgy, given the game elsewhere demonstrates has the tools to tell its tale whilst still allowing you some action. Then again, it is a tale told mostly in flashbacks, with your character’s present largely spent strapped to a chair. Modern Warfare 1 did a stand-up job of reconciling control, scripting and storytelling, but Black Ops seems too artless to reverse engineer that formula.

Again though: despite its handholding gloss and underlying crudity, I didn’t hate it. Once I settled into treating it as nothing more than a well-painted rollecoaster, it became relatively easy to wave away the buzzing hive of concerns. It’s incredibly stupid for sure, but unlike MW2 it isn’t too obnoxious with it. It wants to be straightforward entertainment for a worldwide collective of men who want to live the Arnie fantasy: no more no less.

I find myself theorising whether the reason for Black Ops being relatively unobjectionable is the difference between Infinity Ward feeling as though they owned the world after MW1’s unexpected mega-success and Treyarch feeling desperate to prove to themselves after a parade of mediocrity, but I suspect that’s bollocks. It’s about Activision spending enough money to end worldwide poverty on an annual shooter sequel made by a thoroughly internal studio. It’s Treyarch’s best game in a long time, but there’s still a sense it’s a game made by committee.

That said, there’s a certain prideful backbone to it. Spanning as it does the Cold War, Vietnam and World War II (thanks to a flashback-heavy narrative structure), it quietly puts the boot into all previous – and perhaps even future – CODs. Black Ops does all the wars, and I can’t help but read that as a forceful statement of “Call of Duty is ours now.” Even though the gutted corpse of Infinity Ward is surely working on Modern Warfare 3 even as we speak, Treyarch are probably right. At last, they’re not the guys who got Call of Duty wrong – they’re the ones who pulled it back from the brink of hatefulness.


  1. EBass says:

    Fair enough, about what I expected, I don’t have the time to play FPS multiplayer properly anymore so its far from an essential purchase for me. Might pick it up on budget sometime.

    • SomeCallMeDave says:

      Haha good luck! MW:2 is still £40 (on steam anyways)

    • Tarqon says:

      I picked it up for € 44 at ye olde brick and mortar store. For some reason they always sell CoD games for ridiculously low prices, probably because it helps them sell systems? Could just be the competition with the other two game shop down the road as well.

  2. Robert Yang says:

    I hate being that guy, and I genuinely wish I weren’t, but it’s spelled “Vietnam.

    Anyway. I think the main genre innovation of Blops is the amazing game menu easter egg. Spoilers await: link to g4tv.com … which is a little sad, that the best thing the game has going for it is a menu, but still. Cool beans.

    • Rinox says:

      Wow, that IS cool. Even is a little nod to the PC community in a way, having Zork in there (since I can’t imagine it plays well on a gamepad/without a keyboard).

    • Saul says:

      That is cool. Can I just buy the menu?

    • Boldoran says:

      This really is pretty cool. Nice to see that there still is some humour and silly fun in this.

    • flabbergast says:

      It was cool when Perfect Dark did it.

  3. Brian Manahan says:

    But does it have hats? This is my most important gaming criteria. Poor review.

  4. Imxset21 says:

    Wait, what about the Zombies? That’s not multiplayer, you gotta review the zombies.

    Seriously though, that’s the one (and only) thing Treyarch does better than IW.

    Also, Vietman is not a country.

    • UW says:

      But if it was, that would be awesome.

      He did say at the beginning he’ll be talking about the zombie mode on Friday. (Might have been added after you put in this comment though?)

    • Subject 706 says:

      Considering the alarming gender imbalance at birth in Vietnam, Vietman became a rather fun misspelling.

  5. Jimbo says:

    I got quite annoyed that this didn’t arrive today, before eventually realising that I hadn’t even ordered it. Thanks for nothing, CoolShop.

    3 stars of RAM.

  6. Novotny says:

    That was an excellent read. Thanks Mr Meer.

  7. subedii says:

    I could say a report on the multiplayer will follow, but that would be a lie. While I have a very, very good sense of what it is (a tweaked and boosted take on the last COD’s multiplayer), because I haven’t made Modern Warfare 1 and 2’s multiplayer a central part of my life for the last couple of years, I simply don’t feel qualified to discuss what this gets right or wrong. I might as well review boilers, or snow mobiles. I have and will continue dabble, but I’m pretty sure anyone whose primary interest in this game is for the multiplayer has made their mind up about it long before they played it. There’s little sense in playing King Canute here.

    I’d just like to say that I’m glad you were up-front about this, instead of trying to pretend otherwise and make this a “comprehensive” thing.

    When I read reviews of Starcraft 2 it was really obvious sometimes when a reviewer didn’t know anything about its multiplayer but felt compelled to write that it was super awesome anyway. So I can appreciate your not doing the same.

    • UW says:

      I agree, but I would still like to hear some thoughts on it anyway even if it does have a big “I’m not a CoD multiplayer fan!” disclaimer at the top. Even if it’s not compared to a previous CoD game, just as a standalone thing, there must be something to say.

    • DH says:

      Here’s the first impressions from a former reviewer who is quite familiar with CoD-series multiplayer (full disclosure, I liked CoD2, I loved CoD4, I hated MW2, and I was generally apathetic and bored by WaW):

      Cod:Blops mutliplayer, first and foremost, sets out to fix the mistakes made by Modern Warfare 2. Some of the design decisions might not be appreciated by fans of extreme hardcore hyper-realism (because being completely incapacitated by 1-2 bullets makes gameplay fun, right?), but for the most part, Treyarch has managed to provide most of the fast pace and intensity of MW2 but with an infusion of balance and sanity without sacrificing variety… And hell, if you really crave hyper-realism, there’s always hardcore mode.

      To really see where Blops goes right, we really need to look at where Modern Warfare 2 went wrong. For me, MW2’s multiplayer felt awful for a variety of reasons. For one, most of the weapons killed so quickly that there was no effective difference between one assault rifle and the next. Recoil was so reduced and damage was so increased that no matter what gun you chose, you could kill someone by grazing your reticle over them for a third of a second. It might technically have been “balanced”, but it made weapon choice a near-meaningless mechanic.

      For another, MW2’s multiplayer encouraged camping… very, very badly. Between maps with convenient holes to hide in, weapons with an absurdly fast kill speed, the ability to die from bombs falling out of the sky through little fault of your own, and extra-long killstreak rewards which encourage continuing to survive at all costs over continuing to move around and engage in the sort of high-mobility action gameplay that is actually entertaining (something that CoD4 did very successfully), camping went from being a marginally successful strategy used by bad players to being a disproportionately successful strategy used by almost everyone at least some of the time.

      Cod:Blops, while it doesn’t do anything particularly innovative or original, has used their gift of hindsight to great effect. Looking at the multiplayer, it feels a lot like Treyarch’s gameplay designers simply took MW2 and went down a checklist of everything that was wrong with it, trying to fix things. Perks seem imbalanced and “lesser” perks not getting enough use? Neither stopping power (+damage) or juggernaut (+health) now exist. Killstreak rewards making the game devolve into chaos, camping, and general air-support-heavy madness? They’re all toned down and you’re now expected to shoot people with your gun to get almost all your kills. Weapons all the same because they kill too fast with no recoil? Increase recoil, decrease bullet damage, make magazine sizes an actual limitation rather than a formality, remove stopping power perk. There are more examples, but I won’t list them all.

      I should also mention that Treyarch’s map/level design team has definitely stepped up and done a much better job than IW’s maps in MW2 and Bungie’s map design team in Reach and Halo 3 (in which the vast majority of all maps are terrible, for those PC-exclusive gamers here who might not already know). They’ve still got a handful of Treyarch-ish problems, the most glaring of which is including things like prone-sized holes in fences or walls which are simply invisi-walled off by the map boundaries (why add the visual if I can’t actually crawl under it?), but for the most part, the game has good maps.

      Sadly, the graphics don’t look nearly as polished as MW2, up to the point where it even feels like it affects gameplay… Worse-looking textures, lighting effects that just seem… unnatural, somehow, and more stilted animations to the point that it often looks like someone launches from a standing position into full sprint without any intermediate position, or launches from full sprint into falling backwards from a shotgun blast without any middle ground. That last thing might just be a symptom of lag making everything look terribly choppy, though, but there are still some fully-animated bits that just don’t look quite like they ought to.

      Speaking of lag, it’s worth mentioning that the release-day server lag is horrible. Things can get very choppy or seem unresponsive, even when you’ve had a good ping only moments before. I expect that this problem will fix itself in the coming weeks.

      *Short form*: It’s not as good as CoD4’s multiplayer, but it’s a damn sight more fun and balanced than MW2, and it manages to be a lot more fast-paced and smooth than CoD:WaW, though it’s still far from perfect in that department. A fun shooter all-round, with generally solid gameplay design, despite being a bit lacking in the graphical department.

    • UW says:

      That’s a pretty in-depth breakdown.

      As someone who has very similar views to you of the CoD series until now , I find this really interesting and useful.


    • DH says:

      Pleased to help… I often find myself needing an outlet for my analysis, and this one is just as good as any other. Better, even, since RPS tends to have a pretty solid community.

      Though reading over it now, I find the writer in me annoyed by how much editing it needs… but, hell, no one’s paying me for it, so I suppose I shouldn’t worry about it.

    • seras says:

      @DH “camping went from being a marginally successful strategy used by bad players”

      you just lost all credibility as a competent reviewer of Tactical FPS multiplayer games.

    • DH says:

      @seras: Look mate, camping might be realistic and tactical, but frankly, it slows down the pace of gameplay, and anyone can do it. You might think you’re being a clever little tactical soldier when you camp, but it’s really not a hard concept for anyone to figure out.

      That’s two negative points against it right there: Boring gameplay, reduction of skill-based gameplay. I don’t care how true-to-life camping might be, those are two things you don’t want in any shooter. (well, except maybe America’s Army or something, since the entire point of that is attempting to have realism) The bottom line is that it makes things less entertaining/fun, and that’s by far the most important factor to consider in multiplayer gameplay design.

    • Janxer says:

      @DH: Doesn’t matter if you consider camping fun or not. Saying it was only done by bad players in CoD4 is calling tournament-winning players bad.

    • DH says:

      @Janxer: Ah, i figured someone might bring that up.

      I’m not trying to review promod. That would be pointless, as it’s a completely different game, and what happens in it reflects more on the mod’s gameplay designers than it does the designers of the core game.

      What I’m talking about is core gameplay on an average server. “Camping” is a whole different beast when everyone on the map has high enough awareness and accuracy to easily pick you off if you don’t set up properly. Hell, in that sort of pro game situation, it can even create fun or excitement through the use of tension and suspense… but on a server where the average player is of roughly average skill level, feeling tension and suspense from camping or feeling like camping is necessary for survival probably means that you’re below-average. Put a pro who might “camp” in high-level play into an average server full of normal players, and there’s a damn good chance they’ll run around the map out-shooting people and generally being very mobile.

      Also, to clarify, when I talk about “camping”, I’m not referring to something like finding a building and setting up and defending it, nor am I talking about fairly normal sniper gameplay with claymores and such. “Camping” in this sense is the passive activity of waiting in one spot for someone to run into your field of view. On well-designed maps, camping like that is only barely possible and is generally not all that effective, due to areas having multiple entry/exit points. In this sense, Modern Warfare 2 failed at map design in a disappointingly large number of places.

    • Theswarms says:

      DH: The prone holes you can’t travel through are actually for the remote control cars, which can go outside the boundaries of the map then re-enter for a little surprise.

    • thermo says:

      If camping is actually a viable strat to win tournys in CoD, well that is extremely lul worthy. Thanks for the MP write up though

  8. Oak says:


  9. Rinox says:

    Good article. Actually quite content to hear it isn’t trying to be more than a testosterone-fueled Arnie-like fantasy. If there’s one thing I hated about MW (2 in particular) was its tendency to say ‘YEAH TAKE US SERIOUS WE’RE MATURE 4 REALZ’ on a completely unhinged plot without any depth. With a story like that, I’d rather they do away with the story althogether and get to the manshooting already.

  10. Cerebrium says:

    I wanted to hate it. I really did, especially after the tirade of hacked-together “profound moments” in ModWar2. But it plays like every big budget action movie. There are some parts (The prison break level mentioned in the article especially) that you can’t help but grin like an idiot all the way through. I wanted to hate it, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

    • Jac says:

      I don’t understand why you’d buy a game and want to hate it? Seems a strange attitude to have.

  11. noobnob says:

    That said, there’s a certain prideful backbone to it. Spanning as it does the Cold War, Vietnam and World War II (thanks to a flashback-heavy narrative structure), it quietly puts the boot into all previous – and perhaps even future – CODs. Black Ops does all the wars, and I can’t help but read that as a forceful statement of “Call of Duty is ours now.

    Now this is relevant, as it seems Treyarch tried their best to include content that received positive feedback from WaW (zombies, zombies and more zombies) and include/fix whatever that was missing/broken from the PC version of MW2, ultimately creating the CoD experience that most fans expected from the last game.

  12. The Juice says:

    This game is so over the top ridiculous, it’s like they are making fun of the Call of Duty franchise. Call of Duty has become a caricature of Call of Duty.

  13. Navagon says:

    Don’t forget to review the Smash TV bit, Zork and yes JFK gunning down the zombies. We need to know these things.

  14. Ridiculous Human says:

    But is it straight up beastin’?

    • GoodPatton says:

      This is essential information which was omitted :(

    • Bhazor says:

      There is still no patch that can stop the beastin’.

    • gerafin says:

      Alec Meer was straight up beastifyin’ the game the whole way through.

    • DMJ says:

      Sounds like a fine way to spend an evening.

      I had prepared a long post full of vitriol and snark but I changed my mind. It has all been said before, many times on this site.

      Please take a few seconds to think about kittens instead of reading the wall of text I have decided not to post.

    • DMJ says:

      That wasn’t meant to be a reply!

      Fickle, fickle Reply Gods.

  15. Stu says:

    Well, this isn’t very hip. Do you even know how to write a PC game review, Alec?

    • Lord_Mordja says:

      “Call of Duty used to be cool until they went all mainstream.”

      *fliks ciggarrette @ u”

    • Rinox says:

      I hope you said that in the voice of the spy from TF2.

      ‘Oh please….’

    • Stu says:

      Yes, that would’ve kept things sufficiently hip. There’s still a distinct lack of gaming-related trivia though.

    • Dozer says:

      Alec must read some gaming books or magazines to learn how to be hip.
      How do you grade it for excitement?

    • Xercies says:

      How much RAM do I need? I must know!

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      I bet he used optional books and magazines.

  16. d00d3n says:

    This was a well-argued and insightful review.

    Would anyone agree that the level design is worse in codblops than in the modern warfare games? The missions seem longer and more repetitive and there is also less variation between missions.

  17. malkav11 says:

    I don’t get the emphasis on how linear and scripted it is. That’s been the COD modus operandi at least since COD4 (I never played the first 3 due to my vast and total apathy towards WW2 games other than Men at War). It’s what the COD games have to offer, and what people playing the singleplayer are presumably looking for. Frankly, in a shooter market increasingly turning towards more expansive, open, and player-guided experiences (even when misguided – see the recent Wolfenstein), I find it a comfort to have at least one series I can count on for straight up man-shooting in spectacular set pieces. (And I have nothing against those more open games. I adore the hell out of Stalker and Far Cry 2. I just don’t want that all the time.)

    • DH says:

      It’s been common in the others, but in this one, there’s just *more* of it. In some levels, you hit a scripted event at the end of nearly every room or corridor… and they’re often not just Cod4-ish scripted events like a patrol walking past or some allies running in, but events that either force you to wait on a teammate or actual in-level cutscene-style events that wrest control from the hands of the player. It’s all in the name of trying to be more of a cinematic action movie blockbuster, but it slows the gameplay down a LOT.

  18. jti says:

    I still want to know, why does anyone want to buy this?

  19. Ybfelix says:

    I’ve played through the campaign, IMO it’s a giant wasted opportunity.

    Without spoiling anything specific:

    the ops are not “black” at all, was hoping for some deniable operations mixed with conspiracy history, instead there are even more large scale front battles than MW/MW2? Despite what the trailers may say, the protagonist exists, and his existence is so firm might as well say “Manson, Alex Mason”. The antagonists are simply forgettable. Also the premise of the entire plot is stupid, even more so than MW2. And you can’t shake the feeling that Treyarch made the levels first, then thought of something to fill them out.

    Graphically it starts low, quite low, but get progressively better until reaching MW2 single player graphic quality in later levels. Strange, why? (I played both on xbox)

    And epilepsy inducing flashing flashbacks are out of style, didn’t you get the memo Treyarch?

    • Ybfelix says:

      And I hated That Russian Guy ever since his first appearance

  20. Warduke says:

    Played a couple hours of mp this morning and my buddy and I thought it was a bit of a laggy mess. At this point I’d say MW2 was the better pick but hopefully they’ll fix it. I don’t really care about sp more of a mp guy.

    • cliffski says:

      The lag currently makes multiplayer on PC a slide show. this is a cheap, quick hacky console port that was never properly tested on the PC.

    • rocketman71 says:

      @cliffski: but, but.. that can’t be!. They said they loved the PC!. They have (pay only) dedicated servers!. They even added mouse support!

  21. GoodPatton says:

    And here I thought this might be the game in the series to break the mold and step into it’s own, boy do I feel ridiculous. Back to playing VVVVVV and waiting for SMB.

    • gerafin says:

      Waiting for SMB has become something of a hobby of mine. I’m frequently asked by friends why I didn’t go out with them to , and I generally always reply “Oh, y’know, I was just sitting at home waiting for Super Meat Boy.”

    • GoodPatton says:

      My eyes are dry from staring at my Steam waiting for an Add to Cart to appear…

    • KillahMate says:

      You lucky bastards at least have a Steam page to go to. Fate of the World hasn’t even been added yet!

    • Tusque d'Ivoire says:

      VVVVVV is completely on rails. it’s scripted scene, corridor, scripted scene. might as well play that Die Hard 2 on rails shooter…

  22. Adam says:

    Come on man. You got to get in on the multiplayer. Thats where the true COD fun is to be had : )

    • Asami says:

      And this is the problem with FPS games today.

    • Jad says:

      Today? We’ve been excusing mediocre single player with great multiplayer in FPSes since at least Quake 1.

    • Fitt3 says:

      “Come on man. You got to get in on the multiplayer. Thats where the true COD fun is to be had : )”

      That’s not for you to decide.

  23. Jetsetlemming says:

    Wait, Alex Mason? So not only is he a Martian freedom fighter, but a time traveling CIA agent as well? :O

    • trooperdx3117 says:

      Thank god, I was beginning to think I was the only one who had noticed

    • GoodPatton says:

      The Space Asshole is back!!! I fully expect destructible everything in this game now, not just baddies faces. There better be a sledge or at least an ostrich!

    • GoodPatton says:

      Also, just to be “that guy”, it is actually Alec Mason.

    • Tusque d'Ivoire says:

      I’m sure it was Alec Meer!!!

    • Devenger says:

      Alex Mason is going to turn out to be the main villain in the Red Faction/Call of Duty crossover game, which has Russians, generic Middle Eastern insurgents and time-travelling Nazis allying with the Earth Defence Force to create the ULTIMATE ENEMY. Or something. And Alex Mason will be RF:G’s protagonist’s father. Noooo, etc.

      Hell, I’d play that, if I got to keep the sledgehammer from RF:G, and the less shoddy-feeling gunplay of the CoD games.

  24. Isaac says:

    I’ve seen this before on this site: the implication that a lavishly detailed game must cost a lot of money. This doesn’t really make sense with video-games the same way it does with movies, at least not with short modern games. Creating more artwork and more detailed artwork takes more man-hours, but not more physical resources. There are lavishly detailed free mods in existence and plenty of so-called AAA titles that copy-paste their artwork to pad out 10 hours. That being said, big-budget games have no excuse _not_ to be visually amazing. I’m looking at you, Bethesda.

    • EBass says:

      To be fair Oblivion was fairly visually spectacular on its release, doesen’t seem to make sense to make a whole new engine when you’ve got a perfectly servicable one already, especially in a mammoth undertaking like one of Bethesda games that are liable to be buggy no matter what you do, and liable to be doubley so if you make it while wrestling with new tech.

      Though yes I do feel the engine is past its sell by date now.

    • Ybfelix says:

      The character animation is bad since the beginnning.

    • Shadram says:

      “I’ve seen this before on this site: the implication that a lavishly detailed game must cost a lot of money. This doesn’t really make sense with video-games the same way it does with movies, at least not with short modern games. Creating more artwork and more detailed artwork takes more man-hours, but not more physical resources.”

      But the man hours are what costs the money. The more cinematic you want your game to be, the more artists you’ll need to get it done in time. The better the artist, the more they want to be paid. The more artists you have, the more office space, hardware and software licenses you’ll need, the more coffee you need to provide. The more you put on screen, the more programmers you need to tie it all together and testers you need to examine every tiny part of what’s going on in any scene. So yes, more detail = more money. It’s not the same as a modder reskinning a game with higher res textures, or adding a couple of new models or animations into the game.

    • Dozer says:

      With mods, the modders are donating their time – lots of time – and skills to create game assets (such as high-res textures) and calling it a hobby. The developers have to pay artists to do exactly the same, and they call it work.

  25. Cronstintein says:

    That’s sad. The most enticing aspect of the campaign was the idea that it wouldn’t be rambo but more subtle. I’ve never actually gotten through a COD single-player experience they’re so repetitive and shallow. If I’m going to shoot pop-up targets I’d rather just go to a shooting range.
    The multiplayer’s always been pretty good though, especially MW1.

    • DH says:

      If you’ve never played through Co4:MW’s multiplayer, you really ought to. It’s the one that’s actually good.

      You’ve probably already seen it, but midway through, the game throws out a damn impressive “fuck you” to America’s warmongering and faulty-intelligence-laden foreign policy at the time. There’s almost no other game I know of that’s done something to that degree, and it’s a refreshing message coming from a genre that’s generally known for its thoughtless gung-ho nature and general romanticizing of war.

  26. Brumisator says:

    This franchise is so predictable even the RPS review is paint-by -the numbers.
    Nothing wrong with your writing, Alec, the burden rests solely on the developer/publisher consortium.

    I may buy CoD: African American Law Enforcement Officers in a bargain bin some time down the road, but by the time the price goes down I’ll probably have gigatons of games that push it under my radar.

  27. Iggy says:

    Another interesting thing they did for the game: this quite pleasant advertisement.

  28. Spiny says:

    sp & mp marred by horrible lag issues. Big thread on steam forum about it. Bah.

  29. Anthony says:

    “It’s about Activision spending enough money to end worldwide poverty on an annual shooter sequel made by a thoroughly internal studio.”

    Excellent writing, sir.

  30. mandrill says:

    How can anyone think that this isn’t a telling satire on Treyarch’s part about the state of the games industry today? I mean its acronym is CODBLOPS for Wolfenstien’s sake. You can’t get much more ridiculously obvious than that. Say it out loud, Go on. CODBLOPS. Its surreal. I grin every time I read it.

    This game is the Pop Will Eat Itself of gaming. Gorged on the inanity that the mainstream portion of the industry peddles to teenaged drones brainwashed by huge marketing budgets and formulaic products.

    My hat is off to Treyarch for producing such a masterful ‘up yours’ to for Activision who’s suits probably came in their pants when the first rough drafts were presented to them. That they don’t see the satire is the satire. Treyarch are taking the piss and I applaud them for it.

    I will be playing it tomorrow and expect it to be just as much mindless fun as CoD4 and MW2.

    • TonyB says:

      I hate to be that guy*, but technically CODBLOPS isn’t its acronym. Its acronym would be the entertaining-in-its-own-way CODBO.

      * This is a lie, I love being that guy.

  31. Junch says:

    This may be one of the greatest reviews I’ve ever read.

  32. KilgoreTrout XL says:

    I never had a problem with a COD game because of the story, because the narratives and characters were always so fucking asinine that I didn’t pay any attention to them.* Exorcised from any exception to tell even a tiny story, the cutscenes were made kinda sweet (like when you are in the gilly suit in Russia in MW- that was awesome. And I had NO IDEA why I was in a gilly suit, OR why i was in Russia.) Note that this ambivalence did not make the airport in MW2 any less fucked in the head awful.

    The main reason I hate COD campaigns is the infinite enemy respawns if you don’t keep moving forward. I don’t like to play FPSs like a rambo asshole.

    I’ll admit that I’m a huge battlefield fan and I think those campaigns aren’t so great either.

    • KilgoreTrout XL says:

      “expectation to tell a tiny story”, i meant. Also, a recent “AAA” game that I thought had a pretty engaging story was Splinter Cell Conviction. Fun too.

    • Anthony says:

      I agree totally about Conviction. It was pure Clancy, but done well. And an absolute blast to play through, even with the ‘press x to bash’ interrogation scenes (the second Kobin scene was brutal). I have no problem with this sort of cinematic gaming if it remains totally in character and doesn’t pretend to be anything other than it is. If it’s slick, well-presented and keeps my attention via awesome, I’m not going to go art critic on the thing.

      It’s also one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy a proper action movie. Sometimes I want to see implausible and awesome. I’m not expecting Oscar-winning material, and would never judge those sorts of films as such.

  33. Jad says:

    As with MW2, there’s no particular pride to be had from any kill – it’s Space Invaders stuff, enemies nothing more than pop-up targets, able to overwhelm only by sheer weight of numbers rather than any signs of strategic sentience.

    I will note that this is not necessarily an issue. Space Invaders, or its more advanced “bullet hell” shmup children, is a good association, as they both are basically defined by masses of dumb enemies. Change that dynamic and you effectively have an entirely different game. Despite all the real-world weapons and locations and ponderous storylines, I’ve always associated the COD games with the Serious Sam/Painkiller side of the FPS spectrum with their over-the-top arcadey-ness.

    I feel like both manner which that reviewers and many other people play these games is ill-suited for the style of game: one or two long, sustained gaming sessions, with full critical faculties brought to bear, and then putting it aside. One of the best things about COD single player since COD 2 is the mission select screen: I’ve played through the campaign of each one once, but most of the individual missions dozens of times. That’s because while I have plenty of RPGs and indie games and other, smarter FPSes that make me think, sometimes I just want to shoot lots and lots of dudes. Not explore, not deal with fiendish AI, not juggle resources and production queues, just turn my brain off and blast away for 20 minutes before moving onto something else. And the COD games do that very, very well.

    I know that you largely said this in the review, Alec, I just wanted to state why I, personally, like these games and how I like to play them.

    • poop says:

      its on the serious sam/painkiller level except you spend all of your time hiding waiting to regenerate health and throwing grenades at unseen enemies inbetween shooting at them with a billion identical hitscan guns

      so basically it is like serious sam/painkiller except not at all

  34. MountainShouter says:

    It is current in a ditch full of crap.

    Unusually, however, multiplayer works better than singleplayer for me.

    Though having stuttering lag while aiming down the sights can be a tad bit annoying.

  35. Noct says:

    I think a relatively inexperienced overview of the multiplayer would still be interesting, particularly to others like me whose CoD multiplayer experience is one or two hours on modern warfare.

    At the very least it would be filled with stories of hilarious, horrible death.

  36. deejayem says:

    This is the most positive review ever to make me not want to buy a game. Just as Walker’s Alpha Protocol review was the most negative review ever to make me want TO buy the game. That’s what I love about RPS.

    “I get that this is a game about gun porn, but in this case it’s a skinflick that almost immediately stuffs so many dangly bits into so many different orifices that any possible excitement rapidly turns into seen-it-all boredom.”

    Oh, and this is also what I love about RPS. Brightened up a too-early Wednesday morning, that did.

    • Wulf says:

      I wonder if Quinns negative review of New Vegas had that effect on people too? I’m not sure why, but whenever I encounter an Obsidian game, it feels like the most intelligent thing I’ve played in a while. Alpha Protocol was a step up, and then New Vegas was many steps up over that. I’m still playing New Vegas, I’ve completed it a couple of times and I’m still bloody playing it.

      I can’t help but think though with the nature of that game that it’s a game for people who’re looking for something more in their games, who want their games to actually mean something. With the ending of New Vegas, if you do everything right, by all factions, and with all of your companions… the ending you get is really powerful stuff. So much so that when I encountered one part of the ending that did go bad, I went back and redid things, just for that.

      I don’t know how they do it though, but I really care about the characters of New Vegas, so I had to do right by them. Still can’t decide whether I have the most love for Gannon or Raul, though. Raul was a wonderfully appealing character, and it was fulfilling to restore his confidence.

      So I can only hope that the negative New Vegas review lead people to buy that game.

      I suspect I’ll have much love for that game for years to come. New Vegas might just be my new Mask of the Betrayer. It certainly feels that way, it’s a very affecting game, the sort that tends to stick with me for years.

    • Heynes says:

      A bit of a tangent here, but I was personally somewhat disappointed with the New Vegas endings. Sure it can be a rewarding bit of fluff, but I was expecting something more profound after putting ~100 hours into a playthrough. But I guess that’s the trade-off you end up with having multiple endings, and the possibility of plot extension through DLC.
      Alpha Protocol seemed somewhat interesting as well, but ultimately I could not suffer through the gameplay to delve deeply into the game.

  37. poop says:

    this is probably one of the most indifferent/uninterested reviews ive ever read, i dig it!

  38. outoffeelinsobad says:

    69 comments? This interview is not controversial enough. RPS is going downhill…

  39. apa says:

    The review sounds good but the real question is: Which one is better:

    This CODBLOBS or the newest Medal of Honour?
    Which one to get for my PS3 for christmas?

    • bjohndick says:

      I’ve played the single player campaign of both – I’d say Black Ops, easily.

  40. Lobotomist says:

    MW2 is the game that brought FPS shooters 10 years backwards.

    Its a shame that so many are now trying to copy the formula. Its almost like WOW forcing 6 years on MMO drought on us. While everyone tried to copy and failed. Not because its such a good game. But because its simplistic game for people looking for simple thrills. And they do not need another one (that would complicate things)

    • Ted says:

      yeah MW2 was a disgrace, several steps back, but this game is about the same number of steps forward, bringing back servers on the PC, (mod tools coming or out now) and now for console versions, I can play online with a friend on my couch with me, which is awesome aswell.

      this game games greatest strength is its MW2 – the mistakes it made and its greatest weakness is its like the 7th CoD game.

  41. megaman says:

    Thank you, this was a great review.

    Unfortunately, it confirmed most of the prejudices I already had about that game. This game has so much of what I hate that a nice sight-seeing tour just can’t iron out.

  42. Ian says:

    “I might as well review boilers”

    Do want.

  43. Okami says:

    I just remembered why RPS is the first page I load in the morning. Very good and insightfull article. Well done, Mr. Meer.

  44. Urael says:

    So, dumber than a bag of hammers, and about as subtle, but fun if you enjoy hammers, which many of us do.

    “Popcorn” gaming?

    • Cerebrium says:

      Exactly. Don’t go into this expecting a gripping plot and well-rounded characters. DO go into this expecting a shotgun that fires shells that set folk on fire. It’s that kind of game.

  45. KillahMate says:

    The most interesting thing about this review (and the comments) is that it confirmed Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare as still standing head and shoulders above all other CoD games in every respect, including gameplay, story and production value, in both singleplayer and multiplayer.

    Since that’s the only CoD I’ve ever bought I find this confirmation of my biases to be quite pleasant.

    • Lilliput King says:

      It really wasn’t as good as 1 or 2.

    • KillahMate says:

      Hm. That might depend on how much you like WW2 games. I’ve actually played both, and enjoyed them a lot, but I consider 4 to be better.

    • Shakermaker says:

      So far I prefer this campaign over the one in CoD:MW. It might even be the most enjoyable CoD ever for me.

  46. Langman says:

    As others have mentioned, multiplayer isn’t really my thing either so I’ll be giving this game a miss – especially considering the price.

    It’s a no-brainer really. One-off single player shooting gallery: No thanks.

    Although, fair play to the online game – the product becomes much better value for money if you indeed buy the game mainly for that.

  47. bob says:


  48. Alaric says:

    I know this is probably not the ideal place to post this, but today is the 10th of November, so…

    Happy 235th birthday, USMC!

    Here’s to all the Marine gamers! Wishing you high pings, lots of experience, many achievements, and a boatload of frags. And in the game!

    • Sigh says:

      Sorry to disagree but I am going to wish them Low Pings.

    • Alaric says:

      That was before my morning coffee. Of course I wish them low pings. =)

    • Sigh says:

      Yeah sorry, I just thought that was amusing when I read it. Enjoy your coffee and the Birthday!

  49. Sigh says:

    *Insert sardonic venom towards WaW & MW2 balanced with sentimental hearts-on-sleeve comments about MW1 and the early roots of the series here*

    *Mention hats here*

    *Choose between: “it’s dumb but fun” OR “I will never buy it because even with a gun held to my head because…” here*

    *Closing comments referencing Micheal Bay here*

  50. Nova says:

    It’s not a game that stands up well to close scrutiny.

    It shares that with all the other console titles out there.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      You’re vile attitude towards their game must be why Treyarch named the deadly nerve gas after you. At least you got name checked though…congratulations!

    • DH says:

      …You realize that you’re saying that *all* console titles don’t stand up well to close scrutiny, right? That there is not a single game on consoles that has genuine, lasting quality?

      I genuinely hate this phrase, but in this case it applies: You are what is wrong with the PC gaming community.

    • Nova says:

      Alec was talking textures (from what I understand) there and I’am, too.