Treyarch has a hit on their hands with Black Ops

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“Call of Duty: Black Ops” is the seventh game in the Call of Duty franchise, and by now you’d think this nearly yearly series would start to lose some of its appeal–but that’s what you get for thinking.

Developed by Treyarch, the studio behind “Call of Duty: World at War”, “Call of Duty 3”, and a variety of licensed games, “Black Ops” doesn’t necessarily have a strong lineage. World at War was a solid game to be sure, but it seemed to mostly be running on the charisma and fundamentals of “Call of Duty 4”, without the refinement that Infinity Ward puts into their games. World at War felt like CoD4 with a new coat of paint, and while that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, it felt like the majority of what made World at War good was actually due to Infinity Ward’s work. No longer just the younger brother of the “Call of Duty” franchise, with Black Ops, Treyarch has proved themselves as a real, talented developer.

The campaign takes place throughout various secret missions and battles in the 1960s. Starting in Cuba with an assassination attempt at Castro, the game has the player eventually go to Russia, Vietnam, Laos, and back to Russia. It doesn’t focus on Vietnam too much, which is definitely a good thing. The covert operations theme allows Black Ops to experiment and get creative with its locations.

The story has enough twists and turns to make talking about in detail without spoiling anything somewhat hard. It easily has the most engrossing and character driven story in the franchise, and also has the best performances thanks to actors such as Sam Worthington, Ice Cube, and Gary Oldman.

Black Ops does something that no other CoD game has done: the main character actually talks. For some reason, every single protagonist in the CoD franchise has been completely mute while you are controlling them. It’s a big change for the series, and Black Ops makes great use of it. The main character, voiced by Avatar star Sam Worthington, does a great job at making the main character actually feel human for once.

Black Ops multiplayer is a love letter to anyone who has enjoyed the “Call of Duty” franchise at any point in its lifetime. It’s the most balanced and refined that CoD has ever been. The weapons selection includes a variety of CoD favorites along with new experimental and exotic weapons like the crossbow and ballistic knife. Also, players can now customize their emblems with an editing tool and place the emblems (along with their clan tags) on their guns.

Several things from Modern Warfare 2 that gave players endless grief have been removed. These things include the perks One Many Army and Commando, along with game ending nukes. Also, killstreak rewards no longer allow you to unlock other killstreaks, which forces players to actually move around the map during a game, rather than camping in one area as hard as they can.

The new maps encourage movement over camping, which makes for face paced, tense game play. There are very few locations in any of the maps where players can easily camp for long periods of time. Camping was a serious issue in Modern Warfare 2, where in some maps, a team could control one point of a map indefinitely with very few ways to force them out. It made for slower, much less interesting game play. That is almost entirely removed from Black Ops, as every good sniper perch has at least two good flanking spots.

However, the core game is basically the same as it was 3 years ago with the release of CoD4. If you didn’t like the last three games, you probably won’t be thrilled by Black Ops, as it’s essentially the same game with a new can of paint and a lot of refinements. However, if you’re in the group that loves the fast paced action of the CoD franchise, you’re doing yourself a disservice