I’m going to try and type this post without going into full-on editorial rage mode, but it’s going to be difficult. Guinness World Records recently held a vote to determine which video game had the best ending of all time. A number of “gamers” (13,519 to be exact) cast their ballots and came up with the Top 50 Video Game Endings of all time.
There are some pretty decent choices on the list like Shadow of the Colossus, Portal and Red Dead Redemption but the game that tops the list is last year’s Call of Duty: Black Ops. That game had a decent ending, but I wouldn’t put it at the top of any list, much less a list of the supposed best endings in the history of gaming. This isn’t the only puzzler either as Sonic Adventure 2, The Force Unleashed II and Super Mario Bros all make an appearance. I could rant forever about why the Force Unleashed doesn’t even deserve anything but a quick trip to the incinerator, and Super Mario Bros doesn’t even have an ending.
Call of Duty is something of a phenomenon, a strange black hole that gamers throw their money into year after year. No matter how tired we get of the previous entry, there’s something that keeps us coming back to the franchise even when we swear that we’re done. It used to be the tight, focused single player mode, but that’s given way to the addictive multiplayer component. Now that Modern Warfare 2 has bruised our fragile psyche in that respect, it’s fallen to the underdog, Treyarch Studios, to breath life back into the franchise.
Even though Treyarch is pegged as the B-team for Call of Duty, churning out sequels in the off years, they’ve never really had a chance to strike out on their own. Seemingly forced to make games based on World War 2 after their audience had moved on, every Call of Duty that didn’t have the Modern Warfare moniker was almost destined to fail. Something different happened this time, though, and this new Call of Duty is set on the sidelines, focusing on the deadly Black Ops special forces soldiers who went behind enemy lines and did the dirty deeds no one would know about. With a new era and a new focus, does Call of Duty: Black Ops deliver the goods?
Only in this fast-paced, Internet-savvy world in which we live could a series that is only 7 years old warrant a retrospective, but in all honesty, it’s probably a good thing that GamePro has created one. Personally, I didn’t pay attention to Call of Duty until the first Modern Warfare, mainly because I had been a Medal of Honor fan and after I soured on that franchise, I wasn’t looking to get into another World War II FPS. But after borrowing Call of Duty 4 from a friend, it only took an hour of multiplayer and I was hooked. It also helped that I tried the game out on a Double Experience Point Weekend.
After that, I rented World At War and was pleasantly surprised and I own and still play Modern Warfare 2, although I know many of you are still upset with that one. Now I am looking forward to playing Black Ops when I get it for Christmas. So that’s my personal Call of Duty dossier. What about yours? After reading the retrospective, I realize I missed out on quite a bit. When did you enter the series? What was your favorite entry? Answer now, that’s an order!
Call of Duty: Black Ops is finally out my friends, and it’s getting good reviews across the board. From what I’ve seen, the praise is ranging from “best Call of Duty yet” to “It’s OK, but it’s Treyarch so it’s better than I expected”. Honestly, I think by this point that Treyarch have proven themselves to be a competent studio. Sure, Call of Duty 3 was a little rough, but for a franchise off-team, they’ve managed to turn things around pretty significantly (I mean, they’re no Obsidian).
In honor of this monumental release, I thought I’d get a little roll call going. Who has Black Ops, and what do you think of it? Have you tried the campaign, multiplayer or zombie mode? What do you think of all the new additions that Treyarch has made, and what about the omissions? I was a little disappointed to hear that Spec Ops mode isn’t making a return. Lastly, what platform are you gaming on? Personally, I’m going PC, but I’m tempted to pick up a 360 copy just for the achievements. I know, I know, I’m terrible. Alright, hit me!
If you’re into online First Person Shooters, you’ve probably come to accept that all of them incorporate some sort of XP progression/unlock system at this point. This fad started gaining steam with Call of Duty 4, and it has been carried over to almost every other shooter since then. Fittingly, Black Ops takes this into the ridiculous territory with the customizations that will be allowed in game. Call of Duty usually avoided having the player customize their in-game avatar, but Black Ops will allow you to give your persona everything from face paint to armor and customized sights for your guns. Seriously, this video borders on ludicrous once the developers start detailing the different kinds of emblems you can emblazon your firearm with. Take a look:
While this is really cool, I think they lost me around the custom red-dot sight part. At some point you’re just adding too much to the investment system, and constantly dangling carrots in front of people gets annoying more often than not. As much as I love Halo: Reach, the poor design of the rank/armor system has really been rankling me (it takes forever to make it past Warrant Officer). Hopefully Black Ops will not suffer the same fate by making more options available faster. So, see anything that catches your fancy? Are you getting sick of shooter with a huge focus on ranks and unlocks?
One of the surprise features in Treyarch’s 2008 Call of Duty entry World at War was the inclusion of the four-player co-op mode Nazi Zombies. Fans of CoD were originally dismissive of this offering, but those of us who played it quickly fell in love with the shambling hordes of Third Reich undead. Nazi Zombies featured a scaling difficulty that meant later rounds necessitated a good team working together, otherwise your soft flesh would quickly provide sustenance for the ravening swarm.
Nazi Zombies quickly gained in popularity throughout World at War’s life-span, with Treyarch adding new maps and even a mythology behind the game. Now that the Call of Duty off-team is up to bat again, they’re putting Nazi Zombies into Black Ops, but tuning it up for the upcoming release. Studio head Mark Lamia gave this little snippet in regards to the return of the walking dead:
“Zombies have been such a hit with our community that we were committed to bringing brand new zombie experiences to Call of Duty: Black Ops. We’ve taken extra special care to retain the essential ingredients of our Zombie game, and have also crafted a nice surprise for the fans.”
There’s nothing else beyond that, but one can only imagine what Nazi Zombies (or Communist Zombies?) is going to look like after two years in development. There have been a lot of changes to Call of Duty since then, so one can only suppose that the mode will change to compensate. I know that my purchase of Black Ops hinged on a Zombie mode, but what about you guys? Ready to kill some whiskey deltas? When more details unfold, we will be sure to include them. If you’re the kind of person who likes a good teasing, Call of Duty: Black Ops site GKNOVA6 has what you’re looking for.
EA recently launched a new initiative a while back in which a unique code (such as Bad Company 2’s VIP or Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus Network) would incentivize purchasers not to trade their games back in by offering exclusive access to downloadable content (used game buyers would have to pay a fifteen dollar fee to access such a service). EA Sports also branched out with their own version of this program with the Online Pass, a one-time use token that would allow gamers to play the online portions of upcoming sports titles like Tiger Woods and Madden. Naturally, there was a bit of a backlash, but EA is just trying to protect itself from the ravenous jaws of the used game industry. So far, this is the only solution put forward by a publisher to actively combat trade ins, but is it the best one?
Enter Mark Lamia of Treyarch Studios, currently the developer of the upcoming Black Ops and potential savior of the Call of Duty series’ image amongst gamers. He maintains that a strong multiplayer segment and good post-launch support is the key to keep people playing your game long past the point of considering a trade-in. Teryarch still has a section of their studio working on keeping World at War fun, and they expect to dish out a lot of content for Black Ops. Instead of moving on immediately to the next project, they will be focusing on keeping fans engaged in the hopes that they’ll continue playing without gimmicks like VIP passes and online access codes, even if you bought the game used. With the new additions to multiplayer features like Wager Matches, replays and bringing back dedicated servers on the PC, Black Ops looks like it’s shaping up to be a proper title.
What do you guys think about his statement? What incentives would keep you from trading a game in? Online codes for first time purchasers, or a lot of DLC regardless of how you came by the title?