‘Call of Duty: Black Ops’ a killer of a game

jheeter@macon.comNovember 19, 2010 

Treyarch’s first crack at the “Call of Duty” series resulted in a solid effort.

The company’s World War II-set game “World at War” probably didn’t receive as much attention as it could have because it was sandwiched between Infinity Ward’s two “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” entries. The second game in that series severely cut into the life of “World at War” as many gamers dropped Treyarch’s game for the more popular “Modern Warfare 2” this past November.

Infinity Ward is no longer associated with Activision, the company that distributes the “Call of Duty” series. That places the series in the hands of Treyarch, which had the pressure of delivering a game on par with the ones from the “Modern Warfare” series.

From a sales perspective, Treyarch did just that with the recently released “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” The game sold 5.6 million copies and grossed $360 million on its first day in stores, according to Activision, besting the launch numbers of “Modern Warfare 2” by nearly a million copies. Those sales would rival any entertainment-related launch in history -- although it’s hard to compare a game that costs $60 to a movie with a $10 admission.

The huge launch day sales suggest that most consumers were buying the name rather than a game with strong buzz. But the game actually lived up to the hype.

“Black Ops” might not be better than “Modern Warfare” or “Modern Warfare 2,” but it’s close enough. The new game is different in some ways than the other popular games in the series, but it meets expectations with a strong single-player campaign and the dynamite multiplayer mode that has defined the series.

“Black Ops” takes place during the Cold War and spans several missions, from the Bay of Pigs invasion through the Vietnam War. The protagonist Alex Mason, voiced by “Avatar” star Sam Worthington, recounts his involvement through many of the key events of the Cold War.

The story has plenty of surprises, which has been the case with this series. But it ties together more smoothly than previous games because the story focuses on Mason rather than having the player control several random characters. The campaign largely eschews the shocking moments for tighter storytelling.

The multiplayer is exactly what you would expect. The only changes from previous games are different weapons that reflect the technology available at the time. Leveling up and unlocking are a tad different with the introduction of “Call of Duty” points that are required for purchasing new weapons. The online interface looks a little different, but it works the same.

The developers brought back the popular zombie mode. There are three different options, including one that allows the players to control John F. Kennedy, Fidel Castro, Robert McNamara and Richard Nixon in an attempt to defend the Pentagon from zombies.

The exchanges between the former presidents and Castro are pretty funny, and Nixon has some great one-liners. You can play zombies by yourself or online.

“Modern Warfare 2” holds a slight edge as the top game in the series because of a third game mode, the co-op “Special Ops” mode. But if this is a sign of things to come for Treyarch, then the series is in great hands.

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