Call of Duty: Black Ops review roundup

Call of Duty: Black Ops has arrived. So what do critics have to say about the follow-up to the top-selling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2?

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    Call of Duty: Black Ops has arrived. And reviews of the latest Call of Duty game are overwhelmingly positive.
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Last year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 nuked all sales records to become the most profitable entertainment product launch in history. On Tuesday, Activision will release Call of Duty: Black Ops, a kind of prequel to Modern Warfare 2, set at the height of the Cold War. So is Black Ops even better than the last installment of Call of Duty? (Read our review roundup of Modern Warfare 2.) Let's go to the reviews.

"Call Of Duty: Black Ops is superb," writes Nick Cowen of the UK Telegraph. "The experience of playing the game, thanks to the modified World At War engine, is comparable to the best in what the franchise has had to offer up until now. The meaty kick of the guns, the blistering pace of the action and the sterling soundtrack of explosions, gunshots and whistling bullets all serve to quicken the player's pulse and tighten their grip on the controller."

Cowen notes that as in previous Call of Duty games, "introspective considerations" are "dumped to one side as Black Ops' gameplay plugs directly into the player's primal need to make it out alive... There is nothing gratuitous about the violence in the campaign, however. While it contains its fair share of graphically violent scenes, there is nothing on the level of the cheap theatrics of the 'No Russian' level of Modern Warfare 2."

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In a five-star review at the Guardian, Keith Stuart praises the narrative of the campaign mode of Call of Duty: Black Ops, which has the gamer playing as special ops veteran Alex Mason. As the action "ping-pongs between Cuba, Vietnam and Russia, an interesting tale plays out concerning dodgy CIA dealings, Nazi experiments and communist expansionism, all bubbling beneath the accepted 'facts' of the era," Stuart writes.

In the end, he adds, the campaign boils down to a manhunt, "but while some elements get lost in the rush, this is easily the most cogent and well-constructed story we've seen from this franchise in a number of years. Although it's not quite the time-travelling psychedelic drug orgy some were expecting, there are several well-handled plot twists that make Modern Warfare's narrative battering ram look even more brutish and incoherent."

And what about the content? Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 drew its share of criticism for a scene involving a shooting in a crowded Moscow Airport. At Kotaku, Brian Crecente warns that Black Ops is "the most adult game I've ever played and not just because it has you killing and avoiding being killed. The intensity of the game is only matched by how vicious those moments between battles can be."

He continues: "The action, the torment, the kills are so brutal at times that you'll want to look away from the screen. If you're worried that it's too much for you, you can go into settings and tone down the game's brutality. Doing so doesn't just turn red blood to green or remove curse words, it changes the cut scenes, removing the overt torture and gore without changing the story."

As for the multiplayer mode – the reason many gamers will purchase Black Ops – Mike Snider of USA Today has nothing but praise. Among the best parts of Black Ops multiplayer, Snider says, are "the wager matches in which you bet in-game currency points on original contests such as 'gun game' in which you start with a pistol and upgrade to a higher weapon with each enemy you dispatch. There's also split-screen multiplayer on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3."

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