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Call of Duty: Black Ops

It’s been a rough year for the Call of Duty franchise. Certainly not financially, as last year’s Modern Warfare 2 made a ridiculous amount of money and Blops here seems to be on its way to surpass it. No, Call of Duty had a hard time because series developer Infinity Ward basically imploded after some nasty firings. Treyarch, the guys responsible for “off year” Call of Duty games, is now stuck being the series’ veteran developer, with what remains of Infinity Ward being left an odd mystery. Is Blops a step in the right direction, or does it just continue the fall from grace?

Set during the Cold War, you mainly play as Alex Mason, an Australian-American soldier who played a crucial role in some of the most important conflicts of that era. How crucial? The first mission of the game has you (seemingly) succeed in killing Fidel Castro. Mason has been captured and is interrogated in a dark TV-filled room by an ominous Saw voice about these mysterious numbers. Mason reflects on the last few years of his life, taking us back to Russia, Vietnam and some other places that I probably shouldn’t mention here.

The story allows for some fun set pieces, although the writing is pretty macho and predictable; certainly the biggest twists in the plot are fun to play out, but you will see them coming. Some moments are accented by chunky guitars and there’s even some rap in this business. The Vietnam stuff actually tries to seriously use “Fortunate Son,” which is pretty played out if you ask me. It’s that kind of game. Mason is played by Sam Worthington and is not actually supposed to sound Australian, Worthington just can’t help it. Poor fella, being all rich and famous. Ed Harris plays a CIA bad ass, frequently called the “ice cube,” despite the fact that another character is actually played by Ice Cube. Gary Oldman returns as Reznov, a character from the last Treyarch game, Call of Duty: World at War, I guess he’s their Captain Price.

Gone is Spec Ops, the amazing co-op mode that was easily the best part of Modern Warfare 2. Instead, Treyarch went back to zombies, putting out a survival mode that is just a pain in the ass. Sure, there’s some campy fun in the concept, especially the second map you unlock when you beat the campaign that features JFK, Castro, Nixon and Secretary McNamara defending the White House from Nazi zombies. But the mode did not do it for me, especially after multiple playthroughs.

The classic Call of Duty multiplayer sweet is present, of course. Treyarch changed leveling, now you earn CoD points which you can spend to upgrade what you want, really streamlining the experience so you can play how you want relatively quickly. You can also gamble those points in wager matches, where if you don’t place in the top three you’ll lose whatever you wagered. It’s all perfectly fine, if this is your thing, then by all means, enjoy.

Black Ops is a good game with an enjoyable single player and the same multiplayer that made Call of Duty 4 a hit. That’s fine, for now. But if the Call of Duty series doesn’t do something new and exciting next year, Infinity Ward’s year, then the franchise is in trouble. It’s already getting kind of stale.