Game review: Call of Duty: Black Ops (XBOX 360)

Call of Duty: Black Ops, by Treyarch (XBOX 360)

Okay. This is one of the hottest games out there. It beat a lot of release records, and has sold millions of copies. People have strong opinions about the game—they either love it or hate it. There’s not much ambivalence here. A game like this is difficult to review, but I’m doing it. In the following review, I’ll break the game down piece by piece and let you know my opinion of the game. At the end of the review is also an ADHD Factor– things to consider if you’re ADHD, from a fellow distracted gamer. So crack open a can of Amp (the purple flavor, ‘cause it’s awesome) and enjoy!

Synopsis: FIRST PERSON SHOOTER. Set during the Cold War/Vietnam era, this seventh installment of the Call of Duty series is set mainly in the mind of an interrogated soldier, Mason, who keeps hearing numbers in his head. You play the flashbacks he keeps experiencing while he is being intensely interrogated. Occasionally, you also play as other characters within the storyline. What is really going on? Who is interrogating Mason? And what are those numbers you keep hearing?

Features: There’s a single-player campaign, an extensive multiplayer playground, zombies levels, and some little bonus side-games such as Zork and Dead Ops Arcade that are semi-hidden Easter Eggs. The multiplayer game features your traditional TDM, Free-for-all, Sabotage, etc., as well as wager matches, where you can bet your earned COD points that you will place in the top three of several different types of games (I personally recommend Gun Game and One in the Chamber!). There is a multitude of customization available as well, from your gun (camo, reticle shape and color, scratching your clan tag into the side of it, etc.) to your playercard (how your name appears in-game—backgrounds and customizable picture) to your person (outfits and face paint).

Pros: Campaign: Great suspenseful story, deep character development, decent length, good replay value (degrees of difficulty, achievements that encourage different playing, etc.).

Multiplayer: Amazing wealth of customization tools, addition of wager matches, very large community of players, a pretty decent balance of smaller maps and huge maps, the RC-XD self-guided exploding car (best. killstreak. ever), and other self-directed killstreaks such as the chopper gunner.

Other. The Zork and Dead Ops Arcade mini-games are actually pretty awesome. Zork is very frustrating and I succumbed to using a walkthrough in order to figure out what was going on (I know, I know), but it was still fun. (Look online for how to find these games if you’re confused.)

Cons: The campaign probably isn’t for the younger crowd, as there’s a LOT of strong language and violence and gore, as well as (duh, it’s a war game) very violent themes and such. I have to complain about the zombie games as well, although I admit I haven’t played them that much. They seem more difficult than the World at War levels (although some players may enjoy this more). They’re not for me, though. I also wish there was a better way of selecting hosts, since the game glitches a little more frequently than I would like it to.

(These scores are out of 10)

Graphics: 9 Maybe I’m biased because my first real FPS was Call of Duty 4, but I almost always prefer the COD graphics over other games. It just seems much easier to distinguish people from background in these games. I also enjoy the way this game immerses you in that era and right into the middle of the settings, whether it’s the gritty interrogation room or the snowy Soviet settings or the lush jungles.

Storyline: 8 The storyline, to me, was a liiittle confusing at times, with the way it jumped around, but I think it really tried hard to tell a good story. And it did. The whole game is sort of a “what’s going on??” kind of storyline, where you’re trying to figure out what those numbers are, but when the answers start coming, it’s pretty shocking and kind of awesome. I also enjoyed the side characters, who– while admittedly not as developed as in games like Battlefield: Bad Company, but who is?)—made me feel sympathetic and actually care what happened to them, especially Woods for some reason. Probably his awesome bandana.

Gameplay: 9 Through the storyline, you get to visit a lot of different settings and situations. This keeps the gameplay feeling fresh and different. The multiplayer part also has nice gameplay—the maps are extremely varied (tiny, cramped Nuketown versus huge maps like Radiation and Cracked).

Controls: 9 A very familiar layout from the other Call of Duty games, the controls felt comfortable and natural. You can, of course, change them in the Options setting if you prefer a different layout. Like I said earlier, controlling the RC-XD car and other killstreak rewards is so awesome. Driving that little tiny car is probably my favorite part of the game!

Replayability: 10 As with a lot of these multiplayer games, the replay value is high. The campaign itself is good for maybe a few playthroughs, especially if you like to try all levels on Veteran, and/or if you are collecting all the achievements. The multiplayer game, however, has high replay value. With all the customization tools available, you’ll have a lot of fun trying out different guns, and there’s no shortage of people online at any given time, so you shouldn’t have a hard time getting into a match any time you want.

TOTAL SCORE: 45/50= 90 (A-minus)

The ADHD Factor: Keeping up with the storyline in the campaign was a little difficult at times, since I tended to stop paying attention during a few of the cutscenes (i.e. “bathroom breaks”). The mystery factor was good enough to keep me somewhat engaged, however. Because of the way array or features available in the multiplayer part, I would say ADHD gamers will not get bored during this game (unless people in your lobby KEEP voting for Firing Range…).

Reminds me of: the other Call of Duty games.

New Droid R2D2

Okay, so for my birthday I got a new Droid R2D2– permanently sealing my fate as a certified geek. Yes, I admit it– I’m a big-time Star Wars fangirl. This is my first Droid– I had a Blackberry Pearl before, so this is a pretty big change. I’ll definitely be blogging about all the stuff I learn along the way… Already downloaded a few (free) apps from the market, and I have to say I’m pretty impressed. I’ve gotten Handcent SMS (changing the LED to flash a nice customized purple color when I get a text message was pretty awesome) and Rainy Days (I’m still trying out different weather apps to see which is the best for me) and Anycut, even though I haven’t figured out how to use that one yet. Oh yeah, I also downloaded RadarNow (another weather one) but it required me to do some kind of wifi GPS something-or-other to set my location, so I decided to delete that one for now. If anyone knows of some awesome free apps, let me know what they are and what they do!

First thoughts on RB3

Okay, so I haven’t started my official review of Rock Band 3 yet (I just got the game yesterday), but I played it some last night, and I just have to post a few thoughts that have already come up.

First of all… What is the deal with not being able to form a band online anymore? My cousin and I had a band together on RB2, and now we can’t form a band together. And if we play together online, we don’t even see each other’s stand-in band members. I really do not like this feature at all– the whole point of the game Rock BAND is that you play as a BAND, am I right?

I must say, I do like some of the new outfits that come with RB3. Unfortunately, many (most) of the clothing is the same as RB2, but there are a few extras that aren’t too bad. Instead of being able to purchase clothing, however, you have to play certain challenges or whatever to unlock certain items of clothing. It’s a little strange, but not that bad, I guess.

Of course, the best thing about the game (other than the KEYBOARD parts, of course!!) are some of the songs. BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY, YES!! Also, Werewolves of London– one of my weirdest favorite songs. Although the keyboard part is amazingly repetitive, it’s so addicting! And Andrew would want me to mention Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” one of his new obsessions.

I’m still mad about the new band thing. RB4 better fix this, or I’m totally not buying it. Otherwise, so far, it seems like it’s going to be a great game.

My football teacher

So yesterday, I got the call that my cousin Russell passed away. Since I’ve moved to Virginia, away from my parents, he’s basically been my father over here. Every Sunday, I would go over to their house and spend time with Russell, Vickie, and Andrew (who’s my age and is my best friend-who’s-related-to-me). While Andrew and Vickie would take naps on Sunday afternoons, usually, Russell and I would watch the football game together. I’d say, “Why are they kicking the football instead of throwing it?” and he’d patiently explain what punting was. He would tell me the name of the plays, and what the object of the game was, and why the players were doing what they were doing on the field. He even answered my stupid questions like, “What’s a first down?” and “Why did they just get a penalty?” (This latter question would almost always be answered with, “Because they’re the Redskins, and the jack*ss referees are always wanting to penalize ’em.” Russell was a die-hard Redskins fan.)

He also taught me how to play billiards. He took Andrew and me to a pool hall one night and set up the balls for me, and said, “Okay, hit that one into the pocket.” I shot and missed. So he set up the balls again and said, “Okay, try it again. But aim this time.” Mystified by the advice, I tried to figure out how to aim differently than I had the first time. I shot again, and missed again. “Nope, you’re not aiming. You gotta aim, sugar. Try it again.” Although I never actually did learn how to aim, I did learn how NOT to aim, and I had a lot of fun in the process.

It was hard to watch him be in pain after he got sick. I wanted to hug him every day, but he got so thin I was afraid I’d break him. But you know what? Even when he was in so much pain, he would still smile at me every time I came to see him, and he’d tell me I looked beautiful, and he’d give me more lessons about football, and he’d try to pronounce Troy Palomalu’s name and get it wrong (“Palawala… Pamalama… Pokehiku… whatever the hell his name is…”). Or, after a rough coughing spell, he’d mutter a string of curse words, followed by a “Loooord Miss Annabelle!’ which is, apparently, an “old saying” that no one’s ever heard of. This got to be a joke with Russell and Andrew and me. Right in the middle of a long string of curse words, he’d just pop that phrase in there, and it was so unexpected that we couldn’t help but laugh, which in turn would make him laugh as well.

Lord, Miss Annabelle… I’m gonna miss that man.

Cake decorating FTW!

So my brother and my sister-in-law recently shipped me my birthday present from them, which was… drum roll… a cake decorating kit! YES. Lauren’s been making and decorating cakes up in Boston for a while now, and actually has been selling them and making some pretty decent money. Very cool. So now I’ve caught the cake decorating fever!

I’ll definitely have to post pictures of my cake-making endeavors on here. I made a cake last year for my birthday party… The party theme was the video game Portal (the cake is a lie), and so of course, the birthday cake was a replica of the Portal cake. Here’s a picture of that wonderful cake:

the cake is a lie...

So now that I’m armed with a super-duper cake decorating kit, think of all the awesome possibilities. 🙂 I’m thinking some awesome video-game-themed cakes in the near future… yeeees.

(P.S. If you want a recipe for this cake, hit me up in the comments section. My mom and I basically invented our own recipe based on my personal taste in cakes and the pictures of the cake in the game. It tastes REALLY GOOD.)

Jumanji!

I love this movie. It’s one of those movies that I can pop into the DVD player just about any time and watch it. It just never gets old. I call it one of my “cleaning movies”– whenever I get on a cleaning kick (to be honest, that’s really rare…), I stick one of these movies in and go to town. It’s usually either Jumanji, the first disc of the sixth season of Scrubs (by far the best disc of the best season of the best show– I mean, it’s got the episodes “My Musical,” “My House,” AND “My Best Friend’s Baby’s Baby and My Baby’s Baby”– all really stellar episodes on one disc), or my personal favorite– Twister. Arguably the best movie of all time. Srsly. (And by srsly, I mean… it’s srsly arguable. It’s probably not the best movie… but it is awesome. I mean, rockin’ tornado effects, a trite plotline that you don’t have to pay attention to in order to understand the movie, flying cows, and… anyway… I digress.)

Anyway. The point is, I’m currently watching me some Jumanji, curled up in my favorite leather chair in my Star Wars pajama pants, wrapped up in my Super Mario Bro. fleece blanket, with the extremely pungent but pleasant scent of Mrs. Meyer’s Cleaning Day Countertop Spray wafting from my newly-sparkling-clean kitchen, and a container of all-natural Choban greek yogurt (pineapple!!) on the table beside me. Ahhh, what a good way to end the evening.

Ahahah. I just LOL’d… I happened to look up from my blog just in time to see the part of the movie where the two monkeys on a motorcycle speed by the cop and Alan in the police car. I can’t help it. It makes me giggle every time. Silly monkeys.

Anybody out there have a movie/movies that you can just watch over and over again? Anyone? Bueller?

YEAH!

I just pwnd at some Search & Destroy on Call of Duty 4 with my peeps. ‘Tis a good evening. That is all. Thank you.

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