Call of Duty: Black Ops - 2010
First-Person Shooter (2010)
Black Ops is an intensely ridiculous game, and I love it for that. All the machismo that Duke Nukem Forever wished it had, was here all along. The series has always loved its "Bro Moments" -- the lingering gun-tosses and manly hand-holding rescues -- but Black Ops is Bro-ier than fraternity of soldiers bare-knuckle brawling, which is pretty much describes every character in the game, come to think of it. It's positively Bro-Mosexual.
For example, one scene in particular trumps virtually all other Bro-Moments -- not just in the series, but it gives Michael Bay a run for his money. Both MW1 and MW2 have the hand clutching rescues, but in Black Ops, one intensely dramatic scene (MID-LEVEL, mind you!) has THREE men in a chain of white-knuckle rescue, hanging high above Kowloon streets, on TOP of which, one man is shot through the head, mid-rescue resulting in a Slow-mo Triple Bro "Nooo-o-o-o" Mo. It was SO dramatic, I had to pause the game for laughing. Don't get me wrong -- this is what makes the game so bloody awesome.
Yes, if you have a conscience, murdering the rainbow can be disturbing -- but that's not what you came here for. From a gaming perspective, it's nice to have a little more variety of targets than the primarily middle eastern palette of the MW games and the entire Bavarian population killed off in the series' previously WWII-centric titles. What this also means, however, is that the levels are the most widely varied in the series -- and scores highly against the FPS genre in that regard. Levels range from the Arctic to the jungles of SE Asia, wild to urban, exploding battlefields to tight rat holes, flat to hilly to outright vertical, engaged in stealth ops with a single partner to a mass prison break from a Soviet gulag. It has the kind of spirit of adventure more commonly seen in pure fantasy.
One of the things that the Duty franchise is most known for is its use of heavy "scripting" in levels -- progress-triggered events from the release of the next wave of enemies, to lines of dialog, cutscenes, explosions, helicopter crashes, and so on. Now me, I mostly love 'em. A lot of gamers don't because they interrupt the action, and siding briefly with them, the levels DO tend to include a lot of unskippable scenes, which is an unfortunate choice for a series that so consistently makes fast, fun choices.
At the end of the day, no, Black Ops isn't the hardest game, and that gains it a lot of scorn from the boy-men who want to keep the rest of us out of their club, but in terms of just plain having fun, that's exactly the way I like it. It's a speedball mixed from pure Bolivian Michael Bay and uncut Afghan Paul Greengrass, wrapped in bacon and fired up your ass with a roman candle to the beat of "Like A Rock." It's intensely dramatic, or maybe dramatically intense, yet impossible to take seriously except when it breaks. The story is the best in the series, which isn't saying much, and the always good story-TELLING (game narrative) is the best its been -- aided in no small part by the best defined and best expressed characters yet. Call of Duty: Black Ops isn't so much a game you PLAY, as much as it overwhelms you in a manly fashion -- and like most "manly fashion," it can be thoroughly silly to behold.