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.

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.

Game review: Scratches (PC)

Scratches: Director’s Cut, by Nucleosys (PC)

So I’ll be honest here. This is one of my favorite computer games, but it isn’t for everyone. I happen to be one of those people who enjoys both intense action games AND the slow-paced mystery-solving games. Scratches is one of the latter. 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 Dr. Pepper and enjoy!

Synopsis: HORROR/PUZZLE/SUSPENSE ADVENTURE. In this first-person game, you are Michael Arthate, a horror novelist who goes to stay at Blackwood Manor, a crumbling old Victorian manor, in order to get past your writer’s block. While there, however, your attention is drawn away from your novel to the mysterious past of the house, compounded by creepy diary entries and strange scratching noises at night. What happened to the Blackwoods? Where are those scratching noises coming from? Are you alone?

Pros: excellent story with much suspense, great setting with beautiful scenery (if you like creepy old decrepit Victorian mansions, which I do), surprisingly good voice acting, realistic puzzles (mostly).

Cons: some of the puzzles are so difficult they’re mostly a cycle-through-your-inventory-trying-everything-you-can thing, the point-and-click screens do not allow for very good mobility and exploring.

(These scores are out of 10)

Graphics: 9          For the most part, the game is very lovely. The decrepit mansion, which is the game’s setting, has the right feel to it: spooky and old. The point-and-click method of moving around the game, however, is less than perfect, which is why the graphics lost a point there.

Storyline: 10          I admit it—I LOVED the storyline of this game. It’s mysterious, suspenseful, and keeps you guessing until the very end. Where are those danged scratching noises coming from?! The storyline really made this game, I think. Speaking delicately so as not to give anything away, it was one of the most awesome/terrifying/mysterious endings to a game I’ve played yet. Seriously, this game is worth it based on the story alone. The characters are extraordinarily fleshed out, considering you never really see any of them and mostly read their writings or hear their voices on the telephone. P.S., with the Director’s Cut version, you also get a sort of “epilogue” mini game where a reporter returns to Blackwood Manor to find out what happened. Worth it!

Gameplay: 7         The gameplay itself is relatively simple: you point-and-click from one screen to the next, moving around the mansion and its grounds, in search of random objects with which to interact. You might find a boring tool somewhere in a drawer that will come in useful later on when trying to poke a hole in a can, or you might find a diary full of strange, crazed ravings. Items you pick up are stored in your inventory (Michael must have HUGE pockets) and can be used when the time is right. For some gamers, this is not the right game—it can be boring or monotonous just wandering around for three in-game days clicking on objects. For others, it may be way too difficult and require the use of an online walkthrough.

Controls: 9.5        As with the gameplay, the controls are relatively simple, just pointing and clicking. You have a cursor shaped like a hand that will change shape when you scroll over something with which you can interact.

Replayability: 7.5  This was a hard one for me to decide. I had to take my own feelings out of the equation and think like an average gamer. I actually love playing Scratches over and over. I guiltily admit that I required liberal use of an online walkthrough the first time I played the game, and so replaying it gave me the chance to try and remember what I did the first time by myself. Occasionally, I will still get stuck and have to refresh my memory (I’ve played it through maybe seven or eight times now). Some people will play it over and over; others will put it back in its box and never glance at it again.

TOTAL SCORE: 43/50= 86 (a solid B)


The ADHD Factor: Sorry, Scratches. As much as I love this game, it took a toll on my ADHD. The wandering and the getting-stuck-at-10am-on-Sunday-and-not-being-able-to-find-a-use-for-the-stupid-rope made me get up and leave my laptop in frustration several times. As previously mentioned, I started using a walkthrough guide after hitting my frustration level several times. There is also not a lot of flashiness (although there are some cool moments during the dream sequences). This game is a test of endurance and patience as well as skill.

Reminds me of: Scratches reminds me of Myst (PC).