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With the end of October just around the bend, Call of Duty: Black Ops is on the horizon and has been widely touted as a quality successor to the Call of Duty franchise. As the seventh instalment in the series, Black Ops follows a variety of Special Forces operatives over the length of the Cold War as they participate in secret missions behind enemy lines. The characters players inhabit will have their own voices and shadows, adding a level of development that is commonly not in Call of Duty, a series that often makes the player feel like a faceless observer in great historical events (although the new focus on a more individual story in MW and MW2 reflects a change in direction). However, Treyarch’s Black Ops marks a return to the original mold as it seeks to continue the pedigree set by COD: World at War, a Pacific WWII-themed title, a game that is more in line with the missions in Call of Duty 2 rather than the more contemporary and plot-driven Modern Warfare 2.
The primary characters that players will control are Alex Mason and Jason Hudson, two members of the SOG (Studies and Observations Group), an organization that sends operatives into frequently communist enemy-held territory to accomplish objectives seen as too sensitive to secure openly. During development, Special Forces veterans Major. John Plaster (Ret.) who participated in SOG during Vietnam, and a former Spetsnaz officer Sonny Puzikas; both provided valuable tactical information and reactions that were then implemented in the AI. Despite having real soldiers provide background on the types of missions and tactics, Treyarch created its own fictional scenarios for players to participate in. Some more gruesome scenarios include interrogation scenes in which the player can utilize the environment as tools of “persuasion”.
The core gameplay remains unchanged, with the player able to hold two weapons at a time, three firing positions (standing, crouching or prone), the ability to temporarily sprint, and health regeneration marked by the amount of blood spatter on the screen. New weapons have been introduced to follow the secret operations theme, including such wacky and (real-life banned) treats as a crossbow that can fire explosive-tipped arrows, flamethrower Dragon’s Breath shotgun shell, and the ballistic knife that shoots out the blade at over 60km/h at the press of a button. There will be sequences not unlike the C-130 sections from Modern Warfare in which the player gets to pilot a Hind gunship and guide troops from a sky-high view of a recon aircraft. A cool new graphical improvement is the inculsion of 3D visual effects in some areas with pronounced depth and particle effects; of course you’ll need to have the appropriate 3D glasses to notice such effects.
As always, the multiplayer component is often the biggest part of any Call of Duty title, and Black Ops does not disappoint. The persistent experience, unlocks and ranking system is maintained from MW2, but also includes new features that emphasize customization. In addition to personal items and face paints that players can outfit their avatar with, they can also decal and customize their weapons to their liking, including writing, emblems, camo paint and of course attachments. Many of the weapon attachments have more than one version that serve the same purpose but have a different visual look for the player’s personality to shine through (if you think your personality is best depicted by weapon accessories).
Another new feature is the “COD Points” system, in which players can purchase new equipment for their weapons and avatars. As these points are earned in normal multiplayer combat, players are granted the choice to bet their points in “wager matches” where more points can be won or lost depending on the success of the player in either killing other players or completing objectives. For a more intense and productive game, “contracts” can be individually purchased ahead of a game that grant the player individual objectives to complete for added rewards. A oft-requested feature allowing players to record matches for later viewing has been included, and a new “combat training” mode allows for solo or co-op online play against AI opponents that is tracked on a separate experience system. Offered exclusively through Steam, PC users will see some features that were sorely missed in MW2 will be re-integrated into the franchise, including the ability to lean around corners, modding tools, console and dedicated servers.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is set to become the newest incarnation of the highly popular series that has taken the world by storm. After touching on many of the major battles and wars of the last century, Black Ops visits the Cold War, a time in history that isn’t often focused on in gaming. Call of Duty: Black Ops is set for release on November 9, 2010 for PC, Xbox360, PS3, Wii, and an n-Space developed version for the Nintendo DS. Have Fun!