"Black Ops" definitely not my cup of tea

"Black Ops" definitely not my cup of tea

Sorry, I haven't written in a bit. I've been struggling to put together a review of "Call of Duty: Black Ops."

Yes, I could have skipped it and written about something else, but it's sort of stuck in my head, an obstacle I must surmount before I can move on.

Ordinarily, it wouldn't be such a chore. But it has been for me this time around because, while I can see there's plenty of stuff for players to enjoy, I just don't like the game. I don't like it at all.

Yes, the single-player mode tells a more coherent story than "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2" did, but it fails to interest me. Too many tropes, too much predictability. And, yes, I could see the "startling" revelations about the player's interrogators and comrade coming from miles away.

Plus, the AI is atrocious. Sorry, but if the point was to make me feel like I was playing as part of a team, a well-honed military unit, it would be nice if my squadmates didn't ignore most enemies, run past them and take cover literally alongside them on occasion.

I'm particularly angry about one large battle I had to repeatedly attempt, because on several occasions, all my allies spent the entire time cowering against walls, barely firing any shots at the Vietcong walking past them into our base. Meanwhile, I was trying to get to some napalm-filled barrels to use against the enemy, but it's kind of hard to do without any covering fire. Thanks, guys. 

Really, if we're going back to the old "one-man army" style of first-person shooters, why bother putting me with a squad? Also, how in the (expletive) did Infinity Ward in "Modern Warfare 2" and Treyarch here break the excellent AI that made the original "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare" such a joy to play?

Aside from one cool "Apocalypse Now" moment (courtesy of the Rolling Stones), the single-player game is worthless.

Some of you probably want to rush to "Black Ops'" defense: "Multiplayer is the real point of the game," you shout.

And I agree. But while I don't hate the multiplayer — well, I don't hate it like I hated it in "Modern Warfare 2" — it has some huge balance problems because of the "perk" system.

Call me crazy, but I just don't like a shooter where sprinting players (using the lightweight pro and marathon pro perks) can easily gun other players down without even breaking stride. Sorry, but even if the perks pretty much allow infinite sprinting, players using this advantage shouldn't be able to aim accurately, except for some reason they can in "Black Ops." And a tiny bit of lag implicit in the game makes it so that the runner can see other players before he's drawn on their screens, giving him another advantage.

I prefer tactical, realistic combat, not this unfair arcade experience where my only chance to truly be competitive is to slog through enough matches to unlock the same abilities — abilities I frankly don't want to use like that.

Plus, I don't really have an appreciation for the killstreaks here. OK, yes, I can take some pleasure from ruining some other guys' match by blowing them up repeatedly with bomb-equipped RC cars or having a helicopter chew them up with endless gunfire. But it just doesn't gibe with me that the game rewards capable killers with tools that allow them to further pad their kill-to-death ratio. The guys who need the killstreak tools are the ones who can't generally earn them. How odd.

I do deeply appreciate the "Barebones" mode offered, where you can play the multiplayer games without perks, weapons modifications and killstreak awards. There, it's purely skill versus skill. But I hate that I had to wade through 15 levels in the regular game to obtain this mode. And it's not so great that it overrides my enjoyment of "MAG."

I'm more impressed that "Black Ops" offers a potentially single-player version of the multiplayer game, where you — alone or with actual friends online — can play any of the online matches against a team of AI-controlled bots. And you get to set the difficulty. It's called "Combat Training." Honestly, I get more enjoyment and challenge out of that mode than I usually get from real players, which is really kind of sad.

Of course, there's one other little mode in "Black Ops," where you try to survive against endless waves of zombies, alone or with three friends. And it's completely hilarious that you are playing as four notable historic figures. But maybe I'm becoming too jaded, because even played with friends, the whole thing bores me after a few minutes. If I'm going to deal with zombies, "Black Ops" is a pale substitute for "Left 4 Dead" and its sequel.

I realize this has been more of a rant than a review. And, yes, "Call of Duty: Black Ops" sold more than 8 million copies in its first five days and has made tons of money for Activision. Nonetheless, I don't really like it at all. It's a pale imitation of the original "Modern Warfare."

Feel free to rip into me for this one.

OK, rant over. I can move on. I'm free!

P.S. You can now follow Playing Critic on Twitter or Facebook.

Image courtesy of Activision
You and your teammate, Sgt. Frank Woods, search for a Russian defender during "Call of Duty: Black Ops." Woods was named "character of the year" on Spike's Video Game Awards, and I don't get it. He's far from an iconic game character, and in my game, he tended to be useless.


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