Plugged In

This week in games: Black Ops proves solid gold

Plugged In

Call of Duty: Black Ops

Platforms: X360, PS3, PC, Wii, DS

Call of Duty: Black Ops launch trailer

Debuting a year ago this week in what would later be called the biggest entertainment launch in history, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 is a hard act to follow.

That goes double when you consider that Call of Duty: Black Ops developer Treyarch had to take the reins from much-loved (and now-gutted) Modern Warfare studio Infinity Ward -- and simultaneously face down new
competition from rival EA's revamped Medal of Honor, which launched last

Nevertheless, Black Ops released this week amid much hype and fanfare, and the
critical verdict on the new game is in. Much to the relief of fans --
and, we're guessing, Activision execs -- it's pretty clear the new game
is just as spectacular as its predecessor.

In fact, according to its critical reception, the transition has been
practically seamless. Though Black Ops hops back some 50 years to the
Vietnam War and the opening adventures of the U.S. Special Forces, it's
impressive how well it fits into the Call of Duty series -- and even
surpasses 2009's mighty Modern Warfare 2, in places.

CVG weighs in with an impressive 9.3, praising the game's innovative single-player
campaign, which opens with the player recalling past special ops
missions, mid-interrogation. It's "the coolest Call of Duty yet," says
writer Andy Robinson. "It's action-packed, inventive, interesting and -
for the first time ever in this series - actually offers something
resembling a compelling narrative... it leaves Modern Warfare 2 looking
like a comparatively mindless shooting game."

"Our first experience of Vietnam," says the Guardian's
Keith Stuart, "is so fecund with clichés - from the topless soldiers
laying out body bags in the sun to the trippy southern rock soundtrack -
it's like mainlining every 'Nam movie ever made in one three-minute
mega-fix." Apocalypse Now, Platoon, The Deer Hunter, and even non-period
dramas like Lost and 24 are also referenced, Stuart writes.

But for many Call of Duty fans, the game's storyline (strong as it might
be) will be a distraction. The real meat -- and lasting appeal -- of the
game is delivered in its multiplayer modes, and here the game impresses
again. The game's absolutely packed with content, according to many
critics: it includes most of Modern Warfare 2's modes, a top-down
arcade-style mode, new "wager matches" which let you gamble with your
accrued points, and a mammoth quantity of customization options.

Even new Call of Duty players need not fear. Eurogamer's
Tom Bramwell was rougher on the game than other critics, calling it
"not exactly brave and bold" and awarding it an 8/10, but even he liked
its new Combat Training mode, which lets novices "play against
computer-controlled adversaries, allowing you to get a taste of every
mode and ability before you head online and start playing for real."

Gamesradar, in an enthusiastic 9/10 review, weighs in on some of the more esoteric of
its features. Nazi zombies -- something of a Treyarch trademark -- are
back, but, says writer Nathan Irvine, "there's
a new zombie mode too where you play as one of Fidel Castro, JFK,
Richard Nixon or Robert McNamara to defend against the invasion inside
the Pentagon." The mind boggles, but the praise is widespread.

How widespread? Enough for it to be currently scoring a 90% on review aggregation site And while that's not as high as Modern Warfare 2, it's way ahead of competitor Medal of Honor, which scrapes its way into a disappointing mid-70s performance. Head-to-head sales data should be available soon, but preorder numbers
indicate Black Ops could be an even bigger hit than MW2. This war's
over, and it's all too obvious who won.

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Also Available This Week:

Nightfall Mysteries: Curse of the Opera

Platforms: Yahoo! Games

Nightfall Mysteries: Curse of the Opera

When an Opera troupe is invited by a reclusive Count to his isolated village, performers go tragically missing! Help a lowly stagehand uncover objects and solve this deadly mystery before it's too late.

Download from Yahoo! Games


Platforms: Wii

might not set the world on fire with its gameplay (which, as the name
suggests, focuses heavily on flinging and smashing), but we're betting
FlingSmash is going to be a smash hit anyway. Why? Because it bundles a
Wii remote. The last game to do that, Wii Play, became one of the Wii's
biggest sales hits -- and FlingSmash goes one better by including
Nintendo's all-new model with integrated MotionPlus technology.

Just Dance Kids

Platforms: Wii

of this as the Just Dance version of those Kidz Bop albums you've seen
on TV: same gameplay as Ubisoft's other dance games, but with cover
versions of family-friendly hits performed by a chorus of tweens. It's
either a perfect holiday-season release or a reasonable substitute for
one of the circles of Hell, depending on your point of view.

Get More Game Details | Buy from Amazon

Family Feud Decades

Platforms: Wii

not the sort of family feud that'll result from playing Just Dance Kids
in front of your drunken, sweary uncle. This is the more the kind of
Family Feud you'll see on TV. Based on the Emmy award-winning show, this
Wii release features thousands of questions from the past four decades.

Get More Game Details | Buy from Amazon

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