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Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation
Score: 78%
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4 (Zombies): 2 - 18 (Maps)
Genre: First Person Shooter/Online

Overview - Annihilation:

Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation includes four maps: "Hangar 18," "Silo," Hazard," and "Drive-In." As a unit, the pack is a solid re-working of maps found in previous Call of Duty games, but with a different coat of paint and some new tricks.

Compared to other packs, I didn't like Annihilation as much. While others offer varied experiences, at least half of the included maps are sniper's paradises. Although the general aesthetic is pretty neat - especially "Hazard," which takes place on a cliffside golf course, the sniper maps aren't that much fun. At the start of the match, nearly everyone finds their sniper spot and just sits. A few brave souls will venture out into the map, though any exploration is rewarded with a headshot from a nested sniper.

After Escalation's awesome, star-studded Zombie map, Annihilation's map has big shoes to fill. The new map, "Shangri 'la," manages to match "Call of the Dead." There are a few new weapons, zombies and even a pack of troublesome primates.

Breakdown - The Maps::

This is the smallest of the four maps, and probably one of the smaller maps in the entire game. The area is very similar to "Nuketown," with two main areas divided by an open play area. Unfortunately, "Drive-In" is one of the two main offenders when it comes to sniper nests. One sits near each spawn point, so there's usually a tussle around those two areas early in matches.

However, unlike "Hazard," it is hard for snipers to really dominate the matches. There are a number of interior hallways running along the sides of the map and enough debris between the two spots that smart players will be able to navigate to the sniper spots without too much trouble. I've noticed a tendency for matches to drift more towards the interior sections, which is more fun, though I suspect the reason has more to do with the blind corners. Still, with a well-oiled team, the map is enjoyable.

"Hangar 18":
"Drive-In" is the smaller of the four maps and "Hangar 18" is the weaker. Oddly enough, I ended up enjoying it a little more than the other groups - though, I also grew to like "Stockpile," which features a similar setup. This is a fast map with lots of interior hallways. Most battles gravitate towards the main hanger (which features a SR-71 Blackbird as a centerpiece), though you'll have to keep moving. Even then, the forced sniper areas (they're in every map, unfortunately), crush some of the tactical areas.

Of the four maps, "Hangar 18" is one of the more entertaining to explore. The map is based after Area 51, so have fun taking in the sights (just watch out for the sniper's sights).

I absolutely hate "Hazard," though based on the last few games I played through, this is becoming one of the more popular ones with the player base. If you're a casual Call of Duty player who is on the fence about Annihilation, I'm tempted to suggest passing on the pack just because of this map.

"Hazard" is a rework of "Cliffside" from World at War, but as I mentioned earlier, it takes place on a golf course. The layout is nice; there are hilly areas and a couple of tight areas for fights along the perimeter of the map. This really could be one of the best maps in the game, but every match I played turned into a sniping shooting gallery. If you can't get to a nest early, or don't come with a good scope, you'll die a lot and, quite possible, quit in frustration.

Next to "Hangar 18," this is my favorite map in the bunch. I love maps that encourage tactical play with groups, and that is exactly what "Silo" offers. The setup offers something for nearly every play style, and so far I haven't found one dominant setup on the map. There are a few sniper spots, though sitting and waiting isn't a strong tactic. There's also room for long-range players as well as areas for faster, close-quarters battles. The map is well designed and really makes players think about what they're doing rather than allowing for one tactic.

Breakdown - Shangri' la::

"Call of the Dead" got a lot of attention for its cast, but the actual mission was a standout in its own right. Though it hung on to the core mechanics found on every Zombie map, it brought a number of really cool hazards and featured a neat design. It was harder than any other map, but it was also the most entertaining.

What "Shangri 'la" lacks in stars it makes up for in traps and other dangers. Compared to other maps, it is a much tighter space. It's great for certain tactics and encourages even more team play than "Call of the Dead," though I wouldn't place it as high as "Call of the Dead" as far as difficulty. It's harder than other Zombie maps, though even with a bunch of traps plucked right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, it doesn't offer the same sense of danger. There's nothing chasing you through the map, setting up a slower pace, which is nice.

Aside from the traps, which do require some scouting and smart level navigation, the two biggest threats are the new zombies. One is a napalm zombie, who has a tendency to explode, killing anyone in the blast radius. Not a good thing when you're in tight spaces. The other is a Shreiker, a fast zombie that runs at you screaming. If you're hit with the scream, your vision is temporarily blurred. You can, however, turn the Shreiker's power against other zombies.

"Shangri 'la" also drops in a pack of zombie monkeys. These guys can do damage, but prefer to spend their time snatching power-ups from the map. If they make off with a power-up, you can shoot them to reclaim your power-up.

Game Mechanics:

Call of Duty: Black Ops Annihilation comes with the same basic warning labels as other map packs. Hardcore players have already purchased the packs, though there are still a few players who are still on the fence.

As with other packs, the price tag (1200 MSP or $15) is still pricey, so it really depends on how much you play and, more importantly, what you play. If you have little to no interest in multiplayer, there's really no reason to consider Annihilation. "Shangri' la" is fun, but not worth the asking price. It would be great if Activision could split the Zombie map off as its own entity in future releases. I know a lot of players who want to check out the Zombie stuff, but don't want to pay.

As for players who are into multiplayer, but on a more casual play schedule, I'm going to have to go ahead and make this one your call. It really depends on your play style. If you're a sniper, you'll have a blast with the maps. If, however, you prefer more motion through maps and tactical considerations, you might want to pass.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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