Nothing stops the gaming world in its tracks like a Call of Duty release. Other franchises don’t even try to compete head-on, they either release games weeks beforehand or push them back, to when some of the excitement has died down. But at that point the excitement probably hasn’t died down all that much–COD‘s single-player campaigns might only be popular for a few weeks after the release, but the multiplayer stays strong until the sequel comes out.No matter how the game came out Black Ops was going to be an interesting release. After all the craziness with Activision and Infinity Ward and the fact that the franchise was back in the hands of Treyarch, there was much more to this release than just another FPS game. But let’s face it, the vast majority of gamers don’t care about those things and it was the last thing on their minds when millions of them went out to by the game the first week it was out.[Note: There will be some light spoilers ahead. They will be thematic though, not about specific events in the game.]CampaignLet’s get this out of the way from the very start–Black Ops has the best story of any Call of Duty game. It’s a complex tale, but it’s not too hard to follow if you are paying attention, and it won’t leave you filled with questions like some previous games. Through flashbacks, the game takes place all over the world. It’s sort of a “Best of the Cold War” so you are fighting in Cuba, Laos, Russia, and so on.The story is a bit trippy, bordering on sci-fi at times, but it’s in keeping with the times. The story is set in 1968, back when things like MKULTRA were quite serious and seen as important to national security (or they would have been if they weren’t highly classified). Seen in this light the story, which prominently features mind control, seems much more related to its times than just a clever take on the Cold War.One thing you’ll notice about BlOps is the that game is always running at 100%. There are no calm sections or moments when your team is fully in control on the situation. Just about every moment has you running for your life, completely overwhelmed by your enemies. No one is looking for boring segments in a first-person shooter, but the game is always set to 11 so there is rarely any build up. You jump right into a crazy fight, shoot your way through impossible odds, and then wake up from your flashback.Because the game take places in flashbacks, this is almost excusable (you wouldn’t be flashing back to what you had for lunch the day you blew up half of Vietnam with a stolen helicopter), but it means the best action sequences don’t have the impact they should have. After all, if you’ve been an inch from death for the last 5 hours, another big firefight isn’t going to be enough to get your adrenaline pumping. During some fights the music will change and you’ll know you should be pumped up, and maybe you will be, but then you’ll probably die a few times and the moment will be lost. As always, the Call of Duty formula works, but I didn’t always feel I was getting the full impact.So while the story is strong, the pacing is poor. Black Ops is a surprisingly varied game, with a few vehicle segments of varying lengths. Some of the gun battles seem to go on forever, with you running from place to place down corridors that give you no path options whatsoever. Then there is a really cool section that places you in an SR-71 BlackBird, that is way too short. The result is the feeling a jumping around a lot, never quite knowing how close you are to your final objective.Overall the campaign is really good, but there are some painful moments. At times you’ll be faced with a never-ending legion of enemies, which means you have to run forward in order to make any progress. This can be a problem if you like to be more tactical and not just sprint into extreme danger. Some of these sections can be brutal, with you dying without knowing why, until you learn the enemies patterns and can run through with little difficulty.MultiplayerIf you liked previous Call of Duty games’ multiplayer then you’ll enjoy Black Ops. In fact you’ll probably like it more because BlOps fixes a lot of what went wrong with Modern Warfare 2. The big changes are that there are now COD points which are used to acquire, well, anything and that killstreaks don’t stack, so kills you get in a killstreak don’t count towards that streak. Overall this means killstreaks, while still important, have much less of an impact on the game. Past that it’s pretty much business as usual.The mutliplayer is very good, as you’d expected from COD, but there are problems. In fact, things almost seem crazier than ever. Maybe I’m just not used to the maps yet, but the level design doesn’t seem as good as that of Modern Warfare or MW2. On the whole things seem less organized than before, complete with exploding RC cars racing about and problems with spawn killing, so strategy players are in for a bit of a shock.The Treyarch team doesn’t seem as technically proficient as Infinity Ward. The level designs aren’t my favorite and the guns tended to feel similar to each other, which takes some of the fun out of the COD points system and leveling. Of course some of this has to do with the entry-level weapons being poor performers, so stick things out until you get the AK47u and FAMAS. The game also has had some performance issues and lag on the PC, but those largely have been resolved at this point.The introduction of COD points is big for a few reasons. This change is about depth. So not only are you fighting it out with 15 or so other people, but during each match you create wagers to earn extra cash. This means you aren’t just trying to rack up kills, you might want to get them with the ASP pistol in order to complete a contract. It doesn’t exactly promote teamwork or optimum player performance, but it keeps things interesting for the individual. My problem with COD points is that they artificially limit the guns/upgrades you have available. In previous COD games you were level-limited, now you have to use points to make a purchase, but you are level-limited as well. Why not just fine-tune the pricing and only use that? Let me skip the Enfield and other guns I don’t plan on using in order to save up for the AK47. I also have to wait until level 22 to unlock weapon camo and 25 for the custom reticule. Why have money except to unlock nonfunctional things like these when I can afford them?As for those guns, one thing I can’t abide by is that the M16 was completely nerfed. What was arguably the best gun MW2 (and my armament of choice) is a shadow of its former self. Some people have attributed this feel not to the M16 being any worse, but to one of the biggest changes in multiplayer–the lack of Stopping Power. This perk, which made your shots more powerful, was mandatory for most builds but is gone now. Without that the M16 lacks the punch it had and the day of the burst-fire weapon might be over.With the entry-level assault rifles being rather bad, players are pushed towards the SMGs, which are quite good relative to past games. They work especially well on small maps and are very effective with the high-speed load-outs many people have been using. Quick load-outs work well with the shotguns too, which are now primary weapons as opposed to secondary ones. There are no broken dual-shotguns as in MW2, but a properly used shotgun with a player who likes to hide can create major havoc.As far as problems, right now the big ones have to do with spawn killing (there is a lot) and match-making problems. The match-making can be really bad at times, and I’ve run into some seriously horrendous matches. These can result in one team just being completely rolled over and the other team essentially kill-farming to pass the time. After a few minutes some people will leave from the losing team and things will get even worse. It can take the fun out of the game for any of the players that do stick around (on the losing team that is).Overall multiplayer is very good, and there seems to be little chance that people will be reverting to MW2. I’d like to see some new maps, especially some MW/MW2 maps, but I’m sure those will come with time. And I’d love some larger maps, where the pace of play can slow down and the snipers can have some room to operate. There is almost no role for snipers in Black Ops right now. Despite this, the game seems surprisingly balanced given some of the problems we’ve seen in the past, and while some tweaks to spawning would be nice to see there aren’t really any glaring problems (like javelin hacks).PC vs ConsoleI played through the campaign on the PC and have been playing multiplayer mainly on the Xbox 360. While the PC game has the ability to hop on specific servers, which has its advantages, Black Ops seems best played on the consoles where the UI is better, load times are quick, and lag is minimal. As a dedicated fan of playing FPS games on the PC, I’ve been surprised to find how much I preferred MW2, and now prefer BlOps, on the console. It’s the way the game was designed to be played.jfk_castro_blackopsjfk_castro_blackopscodblackops_wallpaper_14_1280x1024codblackops_wallpaper_02_1280x1024blops5blops4blops3blops2blops11280x1024_sittingbullThis article is based on a retail copy of Black Ops provided by Activision.