Call of Duty Black Ops: Hands-On Impressions

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Set during the Cold War, Treyarch’s latest entry into the Call of Duty franchise, Call of Duty: Black Ops has a few things going for it.

First, it looks like Treyarch has learned a thing or two from Infinity Ward. Unlike Treyarch’s last Call of Duty, CoD: World at War, there is a much more cinematic look and feel to the game. There also seems to be a darker tone to Black Ops, but that is probably to be expected with the Vietnam War as one of the backdrops. Second, the game looks amazing.  Both of the levels we saw were beautiful to see. The character animation looked crisp, the backgrounds were authentic, and the world seemed fully realized. Third, the game stuck to its roots and retained the classic Call of Duty feel. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.

The first level we saw was called “WMD”, and it began with a pilot in a pressure suit making his way to the cockpit of an SR-71 Blackbird on March 5, 1968. The scene looked like just that- a “scene”, in a movie. The Blackbird was soon in the upper atmosphere, and the camera switched to a screen that showed an area in the Ural Mountains. The gamer then commanded a unit of four soldiers to move to cover. An enemy unit pulled up, and the gamer gave another command for the unit to hide, which began the level in earnest.

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When the scene shifted to a traditional first-person point-of-view, you (or in this case the Treyarch rep playing the demo we watched) lead a team into a heavily defended bunker controlled by the Russians. It began as a stealth mission, as the player used a scoped crossbow to silently take out patrols. Soon the team came to an occupied garage, and the firefight began.

Once the action started, it seemed that those familiar with previous Call of Duty games will feel right at home. With more of an emphasis on the smaller engagements than full scale battles, the game was reminiscent more of Modern Warfare than a World War 2 setting, but the demo was too brief to really make that call.

What we did see was a new crossbow weapon that could shoot multiple arrows, including an explosive tipped arrow that led to some interesting fights, and a bevy of traditional weapons. The unit in the game made their way through a control room, before eventually base jumping off a cliff to end the first part of the demo.

The second level displayed was “Payback”, which was explained as taking place immediately after you and your team were captured and brutally tortured in Laos in 1969. The level begins after you have escaped and found a Russian Hind helicopter. Once you take the cockpit, you have full control over the helicopter, from movement, to machine guns and missiles, opening up ariel-combat- a first for the series.

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Once the Hind began to move, the gamer is told to take out bridges on the way. This is where the graphics really shone. The jungle background featured amazing detail, and the explosions looked fantastic. The movement on the ground was also amazingly detailed, as the gamer flew by and kicked the living hell out of everything that moved. Soon, other helicopters began to give chase and an ariel battle began. Once the helicopters were flaming wrecks, the level- and the demo- ended.

We weren’t able to see any of the multiplayer, the bread-and-butter of the Call of Duty franchise, but what we did see was fairly impressive.

Expect to hear a lot more on this as Activision ramps up the advertising hype for its November 9 release.

Warning: This trailer may not be suitable for all ages.