Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation DLC review

The second map pack for the critically acclaimed Black Ops is available, and brings a bunch of multiplayer maps and a brand new Zombie level, Call of the Dead, with a few faces you might recognize...

Convoy is a medium sized level, based around a destroyed highway, upon which is the aforementioned convoy. It consists of mainly medium to long combat, with the two bridges at either end of the highway being the hotspots of most matches, with snipers and assault rifles using the cover and range particularly well. This is especially clear when playing domination, as point B is dead centre between the two bridges, on the raised highway. The outskirts of the map contain some small interiors, but the focus definitely sticks to the highway.

Zoo is arguably the best map of the lot, giving you the chance to fight it out in an abandoned Soviet zoo. The exhibits are empty, the fences broken and the monorail shut down. It takes quite a while to explore and find all of the best spots, with some hidden inside animal enclosures, and it has great areas for all players. Snipers can make use of the raised monorail track, submachine gunners can tear it up outside and shotgunners can cause some real damage inside one of the many buildings.

Zoo really shines when you play Domination. It's non stop action with the majority of the focus on B, but with small skirmishes happening all over the map. There are so many ways from which to approach point B, that there is gunfire from every direction, and trying to capture and defend it is hectic. Other gametypes on this map are fun, but nothing comes close to being as much fun as Domination. 

Stockpile is the third new map, and is slightly disappointing. It's not a bad map, it just lacks the spark that is present in the other offerings. There isn't a memorable part of the map, which instantly sets it apart from the others, in such an amazing map pack. It is set in a small village, at the centre of which is an ammunition and weapon stockpile. There are a number of heavy doors, and the ability to open and close them really mixes up the action and requires fast tactical changes. The action takes place mainly around this building, but not so much inside. This is mainly because it's a very small interior and people don't tend to stick around very long, apart from the odd camper. It's a solid map to play, it just lacks creativity. 

Hotel is the final map, and you will probably find yourself loving it one moment, and hating it the next. The map is located at the top of a skyscraper hotel, and includes a pool, hot tub, casino (with a broken into vault) and steam room. At either end of the rectangular map are two tall buildings, making the map almost perfectly symmetrical. Inside these buildings are elevators. That's right, fully working elevators. The novelty of actually using them wears off soon enough, but tactical use of them is always worth trying. Lay a claymore or C4 in the elevator and carry on playing. Maybe you'll get a kill, maybe not. At the highest available floor in each building are rooms with huge windows, offering a great view of the other hotel and the space in-between (the pool, bar and small rooftop above the sauna changing rooms).

This is also why a lot of the games can become infuriating. Snipers have a fantastic view of over 50% of the map, giving all other players no option but to stick to the interiors and small pathways to the sides of the map. The most interesting section of the map, the pool etc, is pretty much no man's land. This causes the biggest problem as point B in Domination is located in the swimming pool, in clear view of both windows. Whilst it's a shame when this does happen, the map is still extremely fun when it doesn't. It looks and feels great, and the symmetry allows you to learn the map very quickly. The only other problem is that huge parts of the map are often untouched. For example, in 90% of the games I played, I didn't see a single person in the casino. It's one of the biggest interiors on the map, complete with great cover and enough space for a decent sized skirmish. Obviously, this isn't down to the map design, but it is still a problem. 

Call of the Dead is the new zombie level, and is the most ambitious to date. Treyarch decided to get some help from a certain movie director, who you could say has had some experience with the genre. You could say he was the king of the genre. That's right, George A Romero. He writes and stars in this new level, but that's not all. The four playable characters are Danny Trejo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund and Michael Rooker. All stars of cult action movies and shows, this cast is amazing and the virtual recreations are astoundingly good. 

The level is set in Siberia, meaning it is cold and dark. Perfect for a zombie attack. The level starts with Romero being bitten and transforming into a zombie, and he will stalk you for the entire level. It is possible to slow him down whilst you progress, but I won't give away any spoilers. You start at the bottom of the level, overlooking some unpleasant looking water. From here you can visit a lighthouse, ship, caves. It is a huge map, with amazing detail and so many Easter eggs that they are still being found. To truly see everything the map has to offer, you would have to play for a long time. Not only do the Easter eggs take a while to complete, but you also have to watch your back and kill any zombies that might get close. Ziplines and launch pads make it easier to get around the map, and it's a good job that they're there. It would take so long to get from one side to the other that it could get boring. As an overall experience, Call of the Dead is amazing. The characters and actors used just take it to the next level, and here's hoping that more developers use more famous actors in games. 

The Escalation pack is great. The four multiplayer maps will keep you busy for long enough, with Call of the Dead adding hours upon hours of lifespan. As far as map packs go, this is one of the best. 


by Louis Gardner

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