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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Call of Duty: Black Ops - The Review

Due to unemployment (I now have a job) I had to put off playing the newest entry in the Call of Duty franchise. Thanks to a friend gifting me the game on Steam I was finally able to play Black Ops.

The middle of last year when Black Ops was announced I was really excited to play it. I came away from Modern Warfare 2 with a bad taste in the my mouth. I think Infinity Ward really dropped the ball on that one and I was hoping Treyarch could right the wrongs that were done in MW2.

I'm going to skip all the stuff every Call of Duty games has, if you're reading this then I'm going to assume you know the series and what it's all about but I will sum it up. You go to war, shoot dudes and then you save the day and that's about it.

Black Ops takes place in the 1960s a time frame not really explored by FPS games or really game in general. You play Alex Mason a super secret black op soldier who does all the dirty work the US government doesn't want people to know is going down. The game starts out during the Bay of Pigs invasion you and you're group are sent in to kill Castro, that goes sideways and then it's full throttle for the rest of the game.

Two things I think Black Ops gets right are the story and the overall action of the game.

The story is really well told and the time frame is actually fresh for a war FPS game as many people haven't messed with it in the past. You start out in an interrogation chair being tortured about Alex's past. Through that series of interrogations we learn all the stuff Alex has done over the years, I liked the way it was presented it felt fresh for the series.

After Modern Warfare 2 was basically a walk through the park Black Ops tries to bring the series back to the brutal difficulty it's known for and while it's a tough game it's not as brutal as COD2 or 4. As you go through the levels the fighting feels really nice, the enemies are well placed and the levels are all pretty cool. This game does suffer from Call of Duty's version of war where you poke your head out and the entire enemy army turns on you and begins to fire, it feels really unrealistic, all the COD games do it but I think it's garbage.

As we follow Alex's missions we go to very different locations and times. As I said above you start in Cuba and eventually make your way to Vietnam and onwards. When Black Ops was first announced it was rumored it was all going to take place in Vietnam. Vietnam hasn't had a really good showing in video games with only a handful of mediocre to downright crappy games and I thought this was going to be the one to be awesome. Now the Vietnam levels are the best levels in the game with some of the most brutal things like the sneak assassination of some Vietcong soldiers. It really should of been the full focus of the game. I know the Vietnam war is a soft spot for a lot of people but I think if done right it's time for a good full on Vietnam game.

The one thing I took away from Black Ops was one of the characters, Frank Woods. Frank Woods was an awesome character and one of the most believable the series or really any game has every seen. As I was playing I felt like this was a guy I could follow into hell and no matter what we'd both make it out. James C Burns did his voice and it was an outstanding performance. I'd have to put Woods easily in my top ten list of best video game characters, no question.

Finally the multiplayer. It's Call of Duty, it's an almost exact copy of Modern Warfare 2, it seems like they shoehorned guns that aren't from that era so they could include them in the multiplayer. One gun is the Steyr AUG, the game doesn't go any later than 1968, the AUG wasn't in service until 1979. It's a nitpick but they shouldn't of had it for continuity sake but I guess I'm expecting to much from a Call of Duty game. So really, if you like the MW2 multiplayer you'll like this, if you hated the MW you'll hate this too. And as far as Zombies go I didn't really spend a lot of time with it but I liked World at Wars better and of course you have Left 4 Dead which is way better, so go with those for Zombie killing fun.

I know a lot of people don't like COD after 4 but this one is actually an decent game. It does somethings the series hasn't done before but it does keep with it's traditions. So take that into account if you decide to pick this one up.

Call of Duty: Black Ops - 7 out of 10

Thursday, June 23, 2011

15 Years Ago... Quake

I can still remember it, I came home to find the newest issue of PC Gamer in my mailbox. This was back when the magazine still came with a CD with a couple game demos on it. The month I'm remembering had something I was so shocked to see and I had no previous knowledge of it being included on the disc.

PC Gamer came with a demo for the first Quake.

I was so excited to finally have a chance to play id's newest first person shooter. I like many others was a gigantic Doom fan and couldn't wait to sink my teeth into their first truly 3d game. A quick install and I was into it. It all passed by way to fast but I ended up playing that demo over and over again as the next few weeks passed by.

Eventually June 22nd 1996 came and the full version of Quake was unleashed on the world. Just a couple days after my senior year of high school I was spending the first nights of my adult freedom playing the living hell out of Quake. At the time I only had a 75mhz Pentium 1 with 4 megs of ram and no 3d card. I ended up getting 4 more megs of ram to help run the game better but without a 3d card I was unable to experience Quake in it's full graphical glory but the game was still amazing.

I spent the next month going through Quake several times, finding secrets and mastering the various enemy types. Eventually my playing took me into the realm of online playing.

Quake was the first game I played online and even though my 56k connection and my weak PC made it a chore at times to play I still had a blast. Reaching out and killing guys in other states from the comfort of my bedroom, it was amazing.

The first Quake holds a special place in my gaming history and it was a game that got everything right. The single player was great, it was for many their first online experience and it set the stage for how online gaming would be for a long time.

For me though the Quake series began and ended with Quake 1. I didn't really care for Quake 2, I wanted more demon's and Lovecraft influenced monsters but what we got with Quake 2 and 4 was a typical space alien enemies shooting game. I never cared for them. And as far as Quake 3 was concerned I liked it but at the time I'd rather of played Unreal Tournament and that's usually what I did.

In a recent interview John Carmack mentioned that id was thinking about doing a "remake" of the first Quake with the Cthulhu inspired demons and gothic setting and I am so excited to hear about that. It's the direction I've wanted to see that series go and I hope we'll finally see it happen.

I recently replayed Quake about 2 or 3 months ago and it still holds up. It's a timeless game in an age when many older games have a hard time holding up as the FPS genre evolves but Quake can still stand side by side with the best of them. If you've never played Quake (shame on you) do yourself a favor and grab it off of Steam, you will not be disappointed.