I hate military shooters. These games have never really been that great, are highly repetitive, and largely stereotypically. I tried to stay away from the latest in the Call of Duty line of games, but with the record-breaking sales numbers and the gross media hype, it would have been neglectful to have not given the seventh game of the Call of Duty line a try. Believe it or not, I had fun. Playing Call of Duty: Black Ops’ single-player campaign felt like I was the star of a military feature film; the Matt Damon, if you will, of video games!

Joking aside, that is how the single-player campaign plays out. You are the star of an episodic made-for-tv psychological thriller. Most of the time you play the role of Alex Mason, ex-military special ops badass that is being mind-probed by some apparently unknown assailant. This allows you to re-live a number of Mason’s memories in the form of 15 episodes that make-up the 9-hour rollercoaster ride through the Cold War Era.

For the most part, the single-player campaign is quite fun. You play a more passive role than one might expect. Black Ops has a lot more stealth than previous Call of Duty games. You mostly follow a pre-made script moving back and forth between watching the story unfold before your eyes and participating in the adventure. It can be a bit frustrating at times when you are forced to needlessly die because you try to advance down a corridor before the script says you should, or if you lag behind when the script suggests you need to make a run for it. There was even one instance in a later campaign where you round the corner and on the cliffside are two enemies with a rocket launcher aimed for you. You can try to kill them, but that is not possible because the script says they must instead destroy the bridge in front of you. If you try to run ahead of your party to cross the bridge before it is destroyed, you are met with an invisible wall that forces the script to play out as planned. So don’t confuse this single-player campaign for a roleplaying game. You are here to go along for the ride.

But the ride is fun and exciting! If you haven’t seen perhaps one of the cleverest promotional videos to date, Activision released this television short that shows a bunch of everyday people running through the warzone with the tagline “There’s A Soldier In All Of Us”. This in essence is what makes the Call of Duty games fun. We get the excitement of being a military hero minus all of the life-threatening dangers.

In the single-player campaign, you will of course shoot people, but you also get to do other cool stuff like drive a car, drive a tank, drive a helicopter, and drive a boat. Basically if you can drive something with a gun on it, you will do it! Oh, I also forgot to mention, you get to fly a stealth fighter and guide infantry troops moving on the ground. It is a naturally exciting Hollywood-like experience.

Unfortunately as fun as the single-player campaign is, a 9-hour game does not warrant a $60 price tag. That is where the multiplayer comes into play. For the PC, however, the multiplayer experience has been riddled with bugs, crashes, and numerous people, including myself, unable to even launch the game. Multiple patches have been released to address these issues, and things are coming along, but releasing a game with this many bugs is inexcusable. The highly popular graphic glitches that plague the game are one thing, but not being able to start the game is a frustrating experience for a player who races out to grab the game on release day. Come on guys, this isn’t an MMO game!

Luckily, the single-player campaign worked pretty well on the PC, but many players, including myself, suffered from graphic glitches that required patience as they deployed patch after patch. I was forced to play the first mission three times as my party members would “get stuck” in the final part of the mission. My only option was to choose “restart mission”, which would effectively restart the game for me. Coupled with the fact that you can’t skip many of the game’s cinematics, being forced to start over moments away from the final checkpoint is highly frustrating. Eventually everything was ironed out, and I was well on my way by day 7 to being a military super hero.

Glitches aside, the graphics in the game are spectacular, if not only a notch above the last Call of Duty game. My GTX470 couldn’t handle shadow effects being turned on, but it really wasn’t noticeable when shut off. Numerous reports from PS3 players suggest the game is taxing the hardware, but a few patches have addressed these issues for the most part. By in large the frustration comes from the fact that while Call of Duty: Black Ops is a fun sequel, it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre that won’t by in large be forgotten when the next Call of Duty game is released. They probably could have just released this game as an expansion, perhaps there would have been less bugs, but ultimately nobody would have noticed a difference.

The multiplayer game has 50 player character ranks plus all the usual maps and games that you will remember. Once again, the whole experience feels like a mild upgrade from the last Call of Duty. I personally hadn’t seen the “one bullet” twist before where players have a single shot in the barrel before they are forced to melee their enemy for another bullet. I’m sure it has been done, but it was a nice surprise all the same. After a few hours, though, you win enough rank to get your favorite guns, and then the whole repetitiveness of it all begins to set it. It is pretty cool how the game lets you wager your points against other players. I learned that I am a really bad player when there are prizes on the line.

Call of Duty: Black Ops brings back the zombie event that fans of World of War probably remember. You take on the role of history’s greatest, and defend against invading zombies. However, unless you are playing with a group of friends, the single-player experience goes from very boring to highly frustrating as zombie after zombie assault until you really just can’t handle it anymore. The concept is fun, but without someone to watch your back, it becomes overwhelming quite quickly. The multiplayer experience is worth a few hours of zombie killing action, though. Valve may have done it better in the Left4Dead series, but the whole zombie invading idea is still fun and brings a little extra value for the game’s hefty price tag. There is also an unlockable “third map” that is called DeadOps that plays much like an arcade style top-down shooter, which is also pretty fun for a short period time.

In conclusion, Call of Duty: Black Ops is the next step in a long line of military shooter games that we’ve all grown up loving. Its greatest flaw is that it brings nothing new the genre and will most likely be forgotten in a few years when we are playing yet another Call of Duty with slightly better graphics, cooler guns, and a few new maps. My recommendation is to wait until the game is on sale and grab it.

Graphics: A B-
Gameplay: B-
Story: B-
Enjoyment: B-
Replayability: C+