Falling victim to your own grenade spam.

One of the more annoying types of players in first person shooter games is the Grenade Spammer. The very first thing they do when they spawn is toss off any grenades they have in the general direction of where they think the enemy is in the hopes that they’ll randomly kill a player or two. It’s a strategy that fails more often than not, but it’s successful enough to keep people doing it. If you aren’t careful, however, you can have the grenade bounce off something and back at you.

That’s not what happens in this video. What happens instead is a one-in-a-million event that is only viewable thanks to the built-in game playback mode in Call of Duty: Black Ops. Check it:

While that’s an amazing way to blow yourself up in its own right, the other aspect that is equally amazing — to me at least — is the fact that the guy who designed the map took the time to model the chimney in a realistic fashion so that it’s possible for the grenade to fall down it and into the house. I wouldn’t have thought he’d have bothered because there’s no way in hell you could make that shot intentionally.

It also says something about the power of possibilities. The game itself tracks all sorts of details about what weapons you’ve used, how many deaths/kills you have, how many games won/lost, etc. and aggregates them all together. You can see how many millions of games have been played on various screens of the game while it’s loading. From the game’s launch in November to the start of February players had logged some 44,000 years of warfare (roughly equivalent to 161 World War IIs fought every day) with over 1 trillion shots fired. With all that activity the odds of something seemingly impossible happening, like the above video, actually become pretty good.

Details on “First Strike” DLC for “Call of Duty: Black Ops” hits the net.

The folks at Treyarch have released a small video showing what we can expect to find in the first DLC pack for Call of Duty: Black Ops. Looks like they’re continuing to put more interactive features into the maps to keep them interesting:

Zip lines? Collapsible snow bridges? Sounds like fun.

SEB Reviews “Call of Duty: Black Ops” for the PC.

Call of Duty: Black Ops
Published by: Activision
Developed by: Treyarch
Rating: 5/5

I’ve mentioned more than once that I’m a huge fan of the Call of Duty franchise ever since the first game came out. I was also rather disappointed with the last CoD game, Modern Warfare 2, because of a number of decisions regarding the multiplayer half of the game which I felt marred an otherwise excellent game. Needless to say I was rather concerned that Black Ops would follow in its predecessor’s footsteps and end up being another fan unfriendly game. I’m happy to report a lot of those bad decisions did not follow through to BO.

So, for those of you who don’t care about the details and just want to know whether it’s worth your hard-earned cash, here’s the short review: It’s a definite buy.

Campaign Mode

Pic from Call of Duty: Black Ops

I'll hold your legs while you reach down and gra... oops!

The story is set during the Cold War and it opens on February 25th, 1968 with the main protagonist — Alex Mason — strapped to a chair in an interrogation room. He’s being questioned by shadowy figures for what he may know about a number station that’s been broadcasting out of the Soviet Union. Almost the entire campaign is a series of flashbacks to various covert operations Mason has been a part of. A clever storytelling technique which allows the designers to skip around in time and setting at will. Some of the missions will take place in Russia, some in Vietnam, etc. and the variety keeps the game interesting. Before you get to the end you’ll deal with nerve gas, meet President Kennedy, take a quick side-trip to World War II, pilot a Hemi gunship down a river blasting the hell out of everything in sight, and possibly be brainwashed.

I don’t want to delve too far into the story because it’s quite enjoyable and worth playing through without knowing too much about it ahead of time. However I will say that if you’ve played through Treyarch’s Call of Duty: World at War then you’ll recognize at least one of the Russian characters in Black Ops which I thought was pretty cool. It’ll take you around eight or so hours to play through depending on your skill and which difficulty level you choose. That’s a bit longer than some other FPS games as of late. It maintains the feel of a good action movie throughout and is arguably one of the best stories in the franchise’s history.

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One of the cooler things about “Call of Duty: Black Ops”

I’ve been playing the hell out of my review copy of Black Ops and I’ll have a proper review soon, but I wanted to take a moment to mention one of the cooler features it has: Theater Mode. As you play multiplayer games all of the data from the match is recorded by the game allowing you to play it back later. The idea is so you can see how the game plays out from multiple viewpoints and examine your strategy versus the other players. You can watch the whole match from your or any of the other player’s viewpoints or you can take control of the camera and move it around for a bird’s-eye view of the action.

Of course with the ridiculously sophisticated physics models in many modern games these days combined with the — quite literally — millions of matches being played out over the course of any given week, there are plenty of opportunities for Lady Luck to make her presence known. Using BO’s theater mode you can preserve and share these moments with the wold.

For example, here’s one of the more stunningly lucky tomahawk kills I’ve seen so far:

Sometimes you just get lucky. If that had been real life you can bet someone would be giving the credit to God.

CoD: Black Ops commercial “There’s a soldier in all of us.”

I nearly choked on my beverage when I saw this on the TV the other day:

I love the fact that they have basketball star Kobe Bryant and late night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel running around with people from all walks of life. Of course you already know that there are all sorts of people playing with you online, but seeing it represented visually in this way really brings the point home and makes me smile. It’s a fact that’s often easy to forget.

“Call of Duty: Black Ops” adds some interesting new multiplayer modes.

As if the return of dedicated servers and mods on the PC version wasn’t enough to be excited about, it looks like the folks at Treyarch are really trying to bring a little innovation to the next CoD title. Yesterday they unveiled a new multiplayer mode called a “Wager Match” that puts some interesting twists on the usual free-for-all game mode.

Check it out:

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the FFA mode preferring to play on a team, but these variations on it do sound like they could be a lot of fun. Even if they don’t win me over to FFA gameplay it’s still great to see Treyarch trying to bring something new to the fans.

Games I’m Looking Forward To: “Call of Duty: Black Ops”

Long time readers already know I’m a huge fan of the Call of Duty series of first person shooters. So it should probably be no surprise that I’m looking forward to the next iteration in the series coming from developer Treyarch.

Actually it might be a surprise given the fact that I have a massive Love/Hate relationship with the last CoD title: Modern Warfare 2. In my review of that game I praised the improvements to the game over its predecessor while also bemoaning what I considered to be huge steps backwards in the decision to not support dedicated servers or allow for kick votes on troublesome players and cheaters. It didn’t help that it was only a matter of hours from the game’s release till there was a fully functional aimbot/wallhack cheat for it which would take weeks before the Valve Anti-Cheat system would get around to detecting let alone actually banning anyone for. This was such a huge problem for the PC version of the game that I did something unprecedented (for me) and wrote an entry prior to the review in which I ranted about how Infinity Ward had fucked over “Call of Duty” fans who play on the PC. I believe I titled that entry:

Infinity Ward has fucked over “Call of Duty” fans who play on the PC.

It goes without saying that I was a tad bit pissed off at the time that I wrote it. Rereading it now I have to say that I stand by almost everything I said in that entry and the review that followed it. MW2 is a great game as evidenced by the fact that, according to my Steam profile, I’ve racked up over 590.1 hours of play time in the game (compared to a mere 68.6 hours in Borderlands which is another great game). In that time I’ve discovered another reason why the lack of dedicated servers is a problem for the game.

The way multiplayer is handled is that the game tries to figure out who has the best PC/connection and makes them the host. Depending on how many games are in your general area of the Net this could mean you get stuck with a shitty connection between you and the host which will make the game pretty much unplayable. If you end up being made host you have a huge advantage over most of the other players as your machine is the one that has final say on where the bullets land. Both of these factors together results in a situation where some nights you’ll have a great gaming experience and many nights you won’t without lots of quitting and trying to find a better game to join. With dedicated servers you could see which ones offer the best pings for you and play with other people who are also getting good pings making for a more level playing field. Having said all of that, I will say that the amount of cheating seems to have decreased since the game was released. I”d like to say that is because of increased policing by IW and Valve, but the truth is other popular FPS games have come out and siphoned off some of the cheaters.

It would be very cynical of me to suggest that the real reason Infinity Ward decided not to support dedicated servers and, by extension, player modifications is because they had planned to sell Map Packs for $15 a pop after the game was released. It would be very cynical of me, but it would also probably be the truth. IW has released two such packs so far which total up to half the cost of the original game itself for a mere 10 additional maps of which several are ports from Call of Duty 4. As you can probably guess the price point is a matter of some contention among fans, but that hasn’t stopped IW from selling a shit load of map packs and raking in millions in the process. I got a review copy of the game, but I have purchased both map packs because I do play it quite a bit.

So why, you may be wondering after all of that exposition on all that is wrong with MW2, am I looking forward to the next CoD game? Haven’t I learned my lesson and sworn off the franchise in a fit of pique?

There are a number of reasons the biggest of them being that Treyarch are not Infinity Ward. The developer was brought in by Activision for Call of Duty 2: Big Red One which was the series’ first entry to be console-only. It was a sort of sequel/spin-off of the PC’s CoD2. They also developed Call of Duty 3 which was also only available on consoles. Neither game was particularly well received and word has it this resulted in some bitter feelings at Infinity Ward that a successful franchise they had started was being tarnished by a different company. Thus one of the great gaming rivalries was started and among fans Treyarch has often been considered the lesser of the two developers.

When Treyarch took on Call of Duty: World at War, which followed in the footsteps of the ridiculously successful Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, they ended up licensing the latter game’s engine from IW. Arguably a smart move as it allowed the multiplayer half of the game to offer a very similar experience to CoD4 only set back in World War II. CoD:WaW was pretty successful though most fans still seem to consider it the lesser game compared to CoD4. Personally I thought it was just as good as CoD4 in most respects and I played the living hell out of it just as I had CoD4. Whatever faults Treyarch’s earlier attempts at CoD may have had, World at War showed they were progressing as a developer. Of course having the CoD4 engine didn’t hurt.

The point I’m trying, and failing, to get to is this: Other than having licensed the CoD4 engine, the folks at Treyarch are their own team making their own decisions about their game. Infinity Ward wouldn’t have helped Treyarch if they’d been asked as they don’t exactly have the warm fuzzies for the company. That means that whatever stupid decisions Infinity Ward may have made won’t necessarily be made by the folks at Treyarch.

For example, they’ve already announced that Black Ops will see the return of the ability to lean around corners (not in MW2), the ability to mod the game, and — most importantly — dedicated servers. Additionally they’re expanding the “Create a Class” function from the previous games to include not only the ability to change your weapon load outs and options, but also make cosmetic changes such as decals and custom text on the weapons as well as modifying what the red dot in a sight looks like. There’s some question on how modifiable the game will be, but Treyarch has confirmed that some form of mod tools will be made available after release.

Then, of course, there is this:

Oh yeah, that looks pretty damned sweet! RC car that you can drive up behind the baddies and explode? I am SO THERE!

It also looks like Treyarch is really coming into their own as a CoD developer which is probably lucky for Activision considering that most of the top talent that produced the sales record breaking Modern Warfare 2 up and quit after Activision unceremoniously fired two of IW’s founders.  There’s still lots of people left at IW and the “official” word is that it’ll be business as usual and they plan to have their next CoD title break even more records, but that remains to be seen. Given that a part of Treyarch’s advancement is undoubtedly due to licensing Infinity Ward’s game engine it’ll be interesting to see if they’re able to step up and take the reigns if what’s left of IW falters. There’s the possibility that this could be the last great entry in the franchise. Or it could be the start of a whole new CoD empire.

Either way, I’m seriously looking forward to this game.