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It's officially been a week since Treyarch released Black Ops, and I can finally recount the number of things I've neglected due to its multiplayer: talking to my girlfriend on the phone as she teaches overseas, hunting for a job, ghost-writing essays for my sister, and of course, writing for myself as a hobby and career (with the exception of writing for Halfbeard's HUD — when it comes to meeting deadlines for other people, I don't want to disappoint.).
Since I finally found time to drum up something of my own, I wanted to share a few of my views on how Black Ops' multiplayer works. You see, I go quite a ways back with this series. I am a subscriber to Machinima on YouTube, a large community of video-game commentators and directors. Call of Duty is a big deal to some of the more popular channel posters. After the razzle-dazzle of Modern Warfare 2 wore off, everyone came to the realization that while it had a lot of pizzaz, the title was horribly chaotic and unbalanced. I came to the same realization after a chopper gunner reduced me to dust for the 86th time.
After a week of playing Black Ops online and knowing where I've been with Call of Duty 4, World at War, and Modern Warfare 2, I can safely say that Black Ops' multiplayer is the most satisfying experience since the first Modern Warfare.
Double-rainbow levels of satisfaction here!
Mo' money, mo' fun
The biggest change you've probably heard is the addition of an in-game economy, which we'll call CoD points.
Most features still unlock as you rank up (by earning experience through playing well). Black Ops' infamous perks unlock all at once, however. You can't use any of these goodies without spending the CoD points, even if you've unlocked them through experience.
This is one of many steps toward encouraging creativity and diversity among players. You might want to buy the classic AK-47 when you hit level 38, but you'll always find a spendthrift who's saving his CoD points for something else. So, he makes due with the default M16.
This is my weapon
Gamers deemed Modern Warfare 2 an "easy-mode shooter" largely because most of the guns lacked any serious recoil. The most popular guns were the SCAR-H and ACR because they were basically laser accurate. And since those two guns lacked kick back, the few weapons that did have recoil, like the F2000 or TAR-21, went overlooked because they couldn't compete with such an advantage.
Weapon balance is much better this time around because each gun has its own feel, but none are overwhelmingly different in terms of getting the job done. It's a lot like an idealized setup for fighting games: Every character (or in this case gun) has its own strengths and weaknesses, but none are capable of dominating every aspect of the experience. Of course, this isn't taking into account that many feel Treyarch has gimped sniper rifles, but aside from them, the choice between the FAMAS and the Galil is entirely up to preference.
It's one of the perks
Quick question: What was the number-one, most-used perk in Call of Duty's past three multiplayer efforts? The answer is Stopping Power. This perk increased bullet damage…pretty obvious choice. A close second was Juggernaut, which gave the player increased health and theoretically canceled out stopping power — at least until Modern Warfare 2 removed it. Simply put, if you wanted to be competitive, you had to use Stopping Power.
This is my favorite thing about Black Ops. Removing Stopping Power as a choice has made perk selection more about flavor and play style and less about competitive necessity. Deciding between Sleight of Hand or Steady Aim means something now because perks no longer influence the base damage of all weapons.
Running into a game with Hardline, Sleight of Hand, and Hacker isn't some kitschy gimmick anymore. It's a legitimate class that helps me stay alive and earn longer killstreaks.
Enemy UAV is online!
Speaking of killstreaks, tell me if this sounds familiar to you: You respawn after an enemy Predator drops a missile on you head in a round of Domination. You sprint towards the mid-map flag after respawning because the enemy is capturing it. Then, an airstrike strike falls on you while a lingering harrier guns down your thick-headed teammates. Ten seconds later, an enemy Apache is inbound, and your entire team becomes cannon fodder for it. Then, you sell the game for $40 on eBay.
Many people used killstreak setups like this because it basically makes it easy to snowball kills from your first killstreak to higher-tiered bonuses. Not so in Black Ops,. You need to earn those killstreaks yourself, and no amount of bomb-strapped RC cars will help you earn those napalm strikes. If you get a gunship after 11 kills, those were 11 kills you earned while dodging enemy fire, grenades, and exploding RC cars.
Unless of course you get lucky with Hardline Pro while reshuffling care-package contents.
Despite some cool air support, like a Huey armed with a minigun, they're never so powerful that it permanently cripples your team. The Huey is much easier to avoid and shoot down with anti-air missiles because it moves in a predictable circle around the map. That said, it's still a gratifying experience to rain down virtual death on the poor schmucks below.
It took a while before people stated abusing Modern Warfare 2's more glaring balance flaws. After a while, everyone started to groan when another nuke ended the game prematurely. Sure, Black Ops just released, and it still needs more time to be judged, but it seems like few of the cheap tactics of Modern Warfare 2 are possible in Black Ops. Even grenade launchers, or "noob tubes," are less effective because of new limitations: their expensive price point and not being able to scavenge extra ammo for it.
Next time you start playing Black Ops and start cursing that blasted RC car, remember that it's much better than having a chopper gunner spawn camp you…followed immediately by a game-ending nuke.
Did you like Modern Warfare 2? Do you like Black Ops better than its predecessor? Did you like that balls-to-the-wall feeling of pulling out a laptop that let you control the gun of a helicopter? Or do you think the personal view from a minigun on a Huey is much better? Do you even agree that Black ops features better balance? Feel free to share in the comments below.