This review takes into account only the single player and not the multiplayer aspect of the game
Despite all their differences, console and PC gamers are regarded as brothers from another mother. They may share the same passion, but their approach and sensibilities have been diametrically opposite. Like an oil slick in the ocean, they have remained immiscible - both camps maintaining their own set of idiosyncrasies, which set the PC and console gaming titles noticeably apart.
As old schoolers grew up and the gaming industry matured in the '90s, gamers dropped their platform inhibitions and opened themselves up to console as well as PC gaming. This is when the industry saw the advent of platforming games on the PC, and that of FPS genre on the cumbersome gamepad interface of the consoles. Just when everyone was piggybacking on the status quo, the cross platform genres mutated even further and created an even more twisted mishmash of platform specific elements.
To get how all this relates to the review, it's crucial to understand what separates the two camps. On an average, console demographic has traditionally shown more affinity towards a cinematic experience, while PC gamers have preferred more emphasis on gameplay and balance. Just like consoles got the FPS treatment over the years, it's the war shooters that gave PC gamers a taste of cinematic experience.
These games rely more on scripted events than cutscenes, which limits the gameplay and replay value to some extent, but still leaves the player in total control for the most part. The problem with scripted events is that they involve triggers. These triggers are more intuitive in games like Half Life 2, but lately the war shooter genre is riddled with an elaborate brand of scripting, which isn't as intuitive or unobtrusive as it should be.
Even with all their brilliant presentation and production values, the Call of Duty (CoD) games have gradually fallen in the latter category, with each subsequent release. PC gamers haven't taken favorably to this, which is evident in the sales disparity between the console and PC versions. When an Activision sales rep, in her quest to find an answer on 4chan of all the places, tried to connect with the PC gaming community, she got trolled by the Anonymous instead. However, beneath all their mockery and sarcasm, there lies a genuine gripe that PC gamers have with CoD's brand of gameplay, or rather the lack of it.
Call of Duty: Black Ops follows SOG operative Alex Mason in a series of clandestine black ops missions throughout the backdrop of very recognizable and historically authentic events and places. The game menu itself is in the form of a fully rendered and interactive scene from the game, wherein you're strapped to a chair inside what appears to be an interrogation room. It looks just like the one pictured in the movie True Lies, replete with the same interrogators using voice modulation to mask their identities.
This little detail somewhat ruined the game for me, even before it began. If you're a military and espionage nut, you'll understand why Treyarch's accurate depiction of the interrogation setup spoils a crucial plot twist. Well, there aren't too many intelligence agencies that use that kind of a setup, so the mystery interrogators sitting behind frosted glass routine weren't really a mystery to me. It's the same deal with the Black Ops' well woven plot.
Despite all its crispness and cinematic flair, its premise isn't something Hollywood hasn't done before. If you have watched either of The Uninvited or High Tension, you'll see the pivotal plot twist from a mile away. However, that still doesn't take away anything from the intricately woven storyline, which ranks amongst the finest in the gaming industry.
Selecting a new campaign begins the game right from the menu itself, without the need for any load screen. It's 1968 and you find yourself (Alex Mason) bound in an interrogation room at an unknown place, and questioned by silhouettes with funny voices behind frosted glass. The interrogators seek information about the numbers you keep hearing and seeing throughout the interrogation.
What are the numbers and why do you keep hearing them? Are these hallucinations the effects of a truth serum? Are they trying to brainwash you into betraying your country? These questions become clear over the course of the intricately woven, but never confusing, plot that unravels as the interrogators dig deeper into the darkest recesses of your brain. Each interrogation session leads to a flashback that takes you through the theatres of various wars and important historical events like the Bay of Pigs (Cuba), Vietnam, Gulag and World War II.