COD: Black Ops First Impressions – Beautiful, But More of the Same

Last night I finally plopped in the inevitable highest selling game of all-time, Call of Duty: Black Ops.  I’ve had a hard time getting excited for this game because I’m finding myself becoming bored with the COD franchise.  Although, I do recognize its insane popularity, so I had to play it to not feel like the left out kid talking about the new cool toy at recess.  I must say, if anything, Call of Duty: Black Ops is by far the best looking and sounding game I’ve played on the Xbox 360 to date.

Even though the game play may be getting stale, this COD title by far has the best looking visuals out of the entire franchise.  You will be blown away by how crisp and smooth the frame rate is in every aspect of the game.  I didn’t see one screen flicker or screen lag while playing in the campaign and multiplayer.  The frame rate is so smooth I thought I had my HDTV’s 120hz super-duper refresh rate setting turned on, but I did not.  Even the menus were done in a way that highlights how well this game looks.  The visual aspect of this game is definitely superior to others, and so is its sound.

Grant it I just purchased an awesome new 7.1 Pioneer surround sound system, but I think that only helps to execute the supreme sound work put into COD: Black Ops.  I credit the game’s beautiful looks and impressive sound to the fact that you can calibrate all of these aspects to match your setup.  At the beginning of the game you do more than just adjust your TV’s brightness settings as most every other HD game does.  Beyond that you also set a sound profile and your screen size.  With this feature in place I feel like Treyarch made it possible for every gamer to squeeze the best looks and sounds out of their game no matter what type of setup they have.

The sound was so loud an intense I had to turn my receiver nearly 20 decibel levels down, so I could hear myself think.  The surround profile is out of this world with voices, explosions, and other war time noises coming at me from every corner of my man-theater.  I was blown away by how powerful the sound is in this game.  I felt as close as possible to being in the game with the protagonist.  If you’ve ever needed a reason to buy a surround sound system, COD: Black Ops is it.  You will hate yourself for not having a surround sound system hooked up to your HD setup when you hear the game as it is meant to be heard.

The visuals and sound are by far the most impressive part of COD: Black Ops.  Outside of those improvements I pretty much felt like I was playing just another COD title.  I think I’m starting to get that burnt out feeling that is brought on by a game being released every single year in the same franchise.  The same thing happened with the Guitar Hero franchise, which also happens to be distributed by Activision.  Who is well known for exploiting popular franchises for a few extra bucks.  Don’t get me wrong, this game is probably the best in the COD franchise, even better than Modern Warfare 2, but I just didn’t feel that same sense of awe while playing it.  Black Ops recycles the same premise from all of the other COD games.  Secret Ops guys versus the commies or terrorists seems to be the status quo for all of these games.  Sure I’m being a little picky, but in my opinion the game play gets pretty old after the initial WOW factor wears off from the intense visuals and sound.

On the upside the story seems to be semi-intriguing.  It’s being told in a creative fashion, which I won’t spoil here and ruin for everyone else.  I haven’t completed the game yet, but so far the story is compelling even though the game play is just more of the same.  It will be enough to motivate me to get through the game, but I doubt it’ll warrant a second play through unless I need to clean up some cheves.  The staleness factor just kicked in for me, and I know I’m in the minority.  This game is getting its digital balls sucked by the mainstream gaming media, which is to be expected.  It is wonderful looking and has all of the bells and whistles that make up a triple-A FPS, but I won’t feign my fanboy love for it over that.

I also played some multiplayer, which also received a massive face lift as far as visuals and sound go.  It runs almost as smooth as the campaign as far as frame rate goes, and the menus are beautifully animated and organized as well.  If you’ve played MW2 most of the multiplayer features are in tact if not enhanced.  I like the new upgrade system, which requires money versus rank, so now crappy n00bs like me can get that red dot sight without having to rank up to a certain level.  The matches themselves play just like the other COD games, so if you’ve enjoyed them you’ll enjoy Black Ops.  I haven’t played any of the new wager matches, but I did try some contracts, which are a nice little feature to keep your motivation up while playing multiplayer even if you blow.  I found just like the campaign I was getting fairly bored pretty quick while playing the multiplayer.  I’m sure a good chunk of that is due to the fact that I suck for some reason at these games now, but I’ve heard from other gamers that they too feel a little bored with it.

I haven’t had a chance to do any of the zombie stuff yet, but from the looks of the cheves and knowing how these horde rip-offs play, I’m sure it could be a good time.  I will comment on how cool the freaking main menu is though.  If you have the game try moving around at the main menu.  You’ll find that it’s more interactive than just selecting a new game.  It’s another nice touch from Treyarch, but not enough to make me go all fanboy for this game.

Again, these are just first impressions.  Once I finish the game I may change my tune, but I just didn’t feel that WOW factor like I did with MW and MW2.  Treyarch has done a fantastic job with the visuals and audio pieces of COD: Black Ops.  I will say in full confidence that it is the best running game on the 360.  You’ll get a bone over the frame rate, and you’ll have an eargasm over the sound profile.  Outside of that, if you’re not a full on COD fanboy, you may find COD: Black Ops to be just another COD title.  Same franchise, just a different year and developer.

I know I’m in the minority with my opinion, but that’s what makes the E.B. real.  I have no ties to the industry, so I say what I feel and not what a developer may want to hear.  I’ll give Call of Duty: Black Ops an 8/10 for its outstanding graphical package and sound programming.  If I felt that the game play was something new I’d probably give this game a 10, but it just feels blah.  None of this will stop the fact that this game will probably sell more units than any other game in history, so you might as well play it.  You’ve been given a great looking game if anything…

The Good: Amazing Visuals, Creative Story, Intense Sound

The Bad: Stale Gameplay, Feels Unoriginal

E.B. “Making you a better geek, one post at a time!”

E.B. Original


Tags : CODfanboysgamingreviewXbox360
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.