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Call of Duty: Black Ops

Score: 67%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Activision
Developer: n-Space
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: First Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

Call of Duty: Black Ops for the DS doesn't surprise in the graphics department. It's a 3D shooter that reminds you more of Wolfenstein 3D than, well, Call of Duty. It still gets the point across, there's just not much in the way of detail. Not that you normally spend a lot of time looking in these types of games, but you won't be able to see much in the way of facial detail, and there's no real variety in enemy bodies. Textures on walls show the differences in say, brick versus wood, but not much more. It doesn't make much of a difference in a simplified shooter like this anyway. Almost nothing in the background is something you can manipulate. As far as doors and any other entranceway goes, if you can go through them, they will be open already.

The voice acting is pretty good, considering the graphics it goes along with. You might be a little lost because the story is so minimal, but there's definitely some real emotion behind everyone's lines. Gunfire, however, is tinny and very underwhelming. Sometimes you might wonder if your teammates have stayed behind to goof off with some firework snappers.


Call of Duty: Black Ops is a very elemental first person shooter. There's no real frills here. Collect weapons and scavenge for ammo as you go, and take down pretty much every enemy you meet in order to survive. The now standard health recovery system is in place here as well - if you need to recover health, you can simply sit in cover for a little while and you'll be fine. You'll travel through secret bunkers, escape from prison, pretty standard action fare.

It's hard to associate this game with its big console cousins because it just is so simple. You're told to complete missions and rescue operatives, but you're really not given a deep story beyond this. It seems you're expected to get this from the "full game" on the consoles. You're told that you need to complete the mission, rescue the "operative," but that's about it. You're really not given much in the way of context or detail about what you're doing and why. That's just a little disappointing, especially if this is the only version of the game you're going to buy. Yeah, you're not really buying this game for the story, but hey, this is a series that has built up some of the biggest plot twists, the biggest shockers we've ever seen.

Beyond the campaign mode, you've got a couple different Single or Multiplayer modes. Within the regular Multiplayer, you've got several game modes you can go into like Death Match, Capture the Flag, and Sabotage (a defend the target from the other team game). There's also the famed Zombie mode, which is available in Multiplayer and Single player modes. It's just what it sounds like: you must survive against a slow moving, but numerous horde of zombies.

On the single player side, there's several Challenge modes, but unfortunately these are pretty much rehashed versions of the Campaign mode. Arcade mode adds a timer, another mode adds a specific number of kills to obtain, etc. There's also an extended Training mode that has you take down pop-up targets. It's called Killhouse. It's a pretty over-dramatic title for this kind of thing, for sure.


Call of Duty: Black Ops is not a difficult game on the easiest level, but it's by no means a downhill ride. Much of the difficulty comes from the control scheme, which can be tweaked quite a bit, but still takes a whole lot of getting used to. When you have teammates, Easy mode means they'll pretty much clear the room for you, given enough time. You can sit back and relax behind cover while they do the work.

Overall, this game isn't difficult, but it just doesn't operate smoothly. You have to tap the touchscreen to do things like climb ladders or jump over obstacles when it seems like a simple button press might have been easier. But to the game's credit, this sort of shooter eats up buttons fast, so it's understandable. Still, the clunkiness of the controls make it hard to even think about pushing up the difficulty level until you've had a whole lot of practice.

Game Mechanics:

Call of Duty: Black Ops gives you two different control schemes to choose from. You can use a stylus-based control scheme or a button-based one. I found the stylus based one very frustrating to the point of being useless. Actually, if you're left-handed, I think it would be pretty much impossible to use because it has you using your left hand to move your character around, and your right hand for "head" movement by using the stylus, while at the same time using the left hand to fire your weapon with the left trigger. Ok, if that sounds confusing, it is. It also makes it hard to hold the DS while you do these hand gymnastics. The button-based scheme is better, but requires a lot of tweaking to the speed to make it useful at all.

Even after tweaking the speed and other options, I often found it hard to do simple things like strafe sideways through a doorway. In fact, it feels like your character must have a giant turtle shell on his back, because he always seems to get stuck on everything you can't see.

This isn't a terrible game, but the controls really make things difficult and frustrating. As soon as I found myself getting into things, I'd be slowed down by some invisible obstacle. And because of the simple graphics, it's pretty hard to keep yourself oriented and going in the correct direction sometimes. This game is very simple, and doesn't make much effort to "pull you in." You've really got to make it your own mission to stay interested in this one, and that might not be a mission you want to take.

-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Related Links:

Sony PlayStation 3 Call of Duty: Black Ops Sony PlayStation 3 Dead Nation

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