Activision hasn’t done right by gamers over the past few weeks, but they have pleased many a Call Of Duty fan by making 2010’s Black Ops backwards compatible on Xbox One, almost a year after it was first announced as a flagship title of the feature.
For someone who still goes back to Call Of Duty 4 every now and then, Black Ops really doesn’t seem all that long ago. Sure, we’ve had six (!!!) Call Of Duty games since then, but for some reason the older games left a longer lasting impression on me. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I wonder if Call Of Duty gamers in their early teens appreciate those earlier entries as much as I do, and if they crave the new Call Of Duty in the same way I did at the end of last decade. I’m sounding really old now, eh? Okay, no more buzzkill!
Now that it’s here and playable on Xbox One, I highly recommend that anyone that hasn’t played it give it a chance and jump in. That’s right: after the release of Uncharted 4 and DOOM, and on the day Homefront: The Revolution is released, I want you to drop everything and go back to a game from 2010. Here’s why.
1. It Brings Call Of Duty Back Down To The Ground
It’s been almost three years since we last got a boots-on-the-ground Call Of Duty game, and few people want to remember 2013’s Ghosts. While Black Ops 3 and to a lesser extent Advanced Warfare have plenty going for them, the chain-movement system that is incorporated in more recent entries is becoming tiresome for many, igniting plenty of hostility and frustration, as can be seen on Infinite Warfare‘s reveal trailer. It’s great then to be able to return to a grounded Call Of Duty experience. It will be interesting to see whether or not it feels like a step-back from the jetpack-boosting, wall-jumping shenanigans of recent entries, but there’s no denying that with that grounded gameplay comes a more balanced multiplayer experience.
MORE: Modern Warfare Remastered: The 10 Best COD4 Maps We Want To See
2. The Action Is Pretty Fantastic
Whether you’re in the campaign or in multiplayer, the environmental level design keeps the action close, explosive and fast. More recent Call Of Duty games have gone down the Michael Bay route, essentially jumping the shark in the process, but Black Ops keeps the action explosive enough without going overboard. Fantastic sound effects, solid visuals, and a gritty yet contextual color palette compliment the constant barrage of explosive firefights and close-quarter multiplayer matches.
3. It Has One Of The Series’ Best Campaigns
So this one is obviously up for debate, but there’s no denying that Black Ops was the most ambitious Call of Duty up to that point. Call Of Duty 4 and its sequel in Modern Warfare 2 were really just giving gamers what they wanted in a modern warfare setting, but Treyarch’s Black Ops took us across multiple time periods and to eras rarely touched upon in games at that point. It’s a campaign filled with mystery and intrigue, not to mention fantastic pacing despite its weaving in and out of different time periods.
4. Zombies Mode Really Evolves Into Something Great
Zombies was introduced in World At War, and its creation is somewhat an act of luck. A number of Treyarch employees were working on a Zombies mode in their spare time, and when the higher-ups at the studio saw the work that had been put into it, they decided to include it in the final game. With Zombies’ in Black Ops, we truly saw the beginning of what would be an important pillar of the Call Of Duty franchise for years to come. Fantastic DLC, great map design, tense levels, fantastic weapons and just an all-round fantastic cooperative experience really helped set the tone for the mode over the years. If you want to see where it all began, there’s no better place to start than with Black Ops.
5. CoD Points System Is Still The Best System
I really liked the introduction of the CoD Points system because it dictated a more refined and focused approach to loadout creation. In turn I think this really helped shape the community skillset. It has returned in Black Ops 3 but I think with less effectiveness. Points are also used with Contracts (which I discuss below), so Black Ops really forces upon the player a balancing act between wagering on your own skillset, versus using your Points to upgrade and buy weapons and other resources.
6. It Actually Takes Some Pretty Big Risks
As I mentioned above, Black Ops takes us through multiple time eras in the campaign, and still manages to do a fine job of making main character Alex Mason likeable and engaging. Moving across Russia, Cuba and Vietnam during the Cold War was not that revolutionary (pun kind of intended), as so many other Call Of Duty games move across the globe throughout their campaign. But it was Black Ops‘ confidence to tell a story across eras that made it so impressive. And then in multiplayer you have major changes with the likes of COD Points, an improved Zombies mode, and arguably the most diverse range of weaponry across the entire Call Of Duty franchise.
7. Contracts: Where It All Began
Contracts were reintroduced in Black Ops 3 but they started back with Black Ops in 2010. The idea that you had to pay to participate in a challenge added an element of risk and reward not yet seen in a Call Of Duty game. The idea that you could risk 250 COD Points, only to get back 4000 and 4000 XP if you completed the contract created a real dilemma for players, and put the challenge right to the community to entrust their own skillset.
8. The Killstreaks Are Goofy, But In A Brutal, Highly Effective Way
The RC-XD remote-controlled explosive car was great fun for frustrating opponents, while the Attack Dogs, admittedly overpowered, were a fantastic killstreak for players good enough to work their way up to 11 kills. Black Ops really seems to have the last “good” list of killstreaks before the series went a little overboard in Modern Warfare 2, and before going completely balls-to-the-wall crazy in Advanced Warfare. Contextually relevant killstreaks gave the game a memorable feel, while the amount of kills attached to each killstreak was balanced enough so as to stretch them out across the duration of a match.
9. The Original — And Best — Nuketown
I’m not going to lie: I absolutely hated Nuketown. The worst sort of Call Of Duty map for me is the one with large, straight lines — think Estate in Modern Warfare 2 — or the one that is so small and tight that all action is centralised in an orgy of grenade throwing and random firing. It was a “fun” map, sure, but it required little in the way of strategy, and it really depended on which team had more momentum from the start. Once a team took control it was hard to wrestle it back, and while I understand that this was the philosophy behind the map’s design, it didn’t make it all that enjoyable for me. Nonetheless, I have looked forward to returning to it, because it was so heavily favoured by the community, and as such I tend to appreciate it for that reason alone. And comparatively next to the other iterations of Nuketown, this version is undoubtedly the best. Black Ops II turned it into a major noobtube fest that made it utterly impossible to play.
10. It’s The Perfect Test Before Modern Warfare Remastered
Black Ops and Modern Warfare are similar in a number of ways. Most Call Of Duty entries prior to Ghosts are in that they tended to take the same features and tweak them slightly for a more unique experience. Black Ops also has Combat Training, which is a fantastic offline component that lets you test your skills against the AI. Hitting the ground and relying on sprint, walk and slide might be tough to return to for those who spent considerable time with Black Ops 3 and Advanced Warfare, and if you intend on going back to the big re-release in Modern Warfare Remastered (and you damn well better! *shakes fist*), then Black Ops is the perfect way to ready your skills and get used to the style.
Call Of Duty: Black Ops is now available on Xbox One via backwards compatibility.