The Game Jar Files: Call of Duty Uprising DLC

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 31/05/2013

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Treyarch have been quite vocal about their new Blacks Ops 2 downloadable content, Uprising. According to them, it’s the most fan-centric DLC yet, and also one of the most diverse, but does it live up to their hyperbole? In this review, I take a look at both halves of the DLC, to see just what 1200mspts buys you.

The Mob of the Dead

Treyarch’s zombies mode has mutated over the years, from a simple survival mode to a progressive campaign, moving around various maps. Tranzit, Black Ops 2 standard Zombies mode, does have some story attached to it, but it’s pretty vague, and in the end what your left with is little more than a survival mode that wanders from one location to another. Thankfully, Mob of the Dead does a much better job of introducing a story to the zombie slaughter, and keeping it all tied to together. The opening cut-scene introduces you to the four characters, and their plan to escape incarceration. Not everything goes according to plan however, and before you know it, you’re hip deep in zombies.

Apart from all the usual Zombies mode mechanics (buying better guns, repairing entry-points etc), Mob of the Dead also features environmental traps scattered around the prison, workbenches to build weaponry on, and an out-of-body ghost mechanic. At various points around the prison there are electrical junction boxes which allow you to electrocute yourself (yes, really) and enter a ghostly form. Once in ghost form, you can pass through special doorways to operate switches and the like, vital if you ever want to escape the iconic prison.

Mob of the dead may have been given a sprinkling of Hollywood glamour, but that doesn’t mean it’s shallow. Alcatraz provides a perfect backdrop to the undead carnage, the run down prison looks fantastic, and does a great job of adding to the sense of terror. Without giving too much away, there are other locations, but Alcatraz is definitely the star in my opinion. I’m not entirely convinced that Treyarch have done a thorough enough job of explaining what you’re supposed to do to progress through the story, but overall the Mob of the Dead is a great extension to the Zombies mode.

The maps

Magma is set in Japanese town somewhat unbelievably located right next to a volcano, and is the first Call of Duty map to feature lava as an environmental hazard. Despite the rather cheesy scenario, the map plays very well. The layout allows for both short and long range combat, and as a result I had a great deal of fun with my Overkill based class. Equip a shotgun or SMG with an assault rifle or Sniper rifle, and you’ll be able to exploit layout to it’s fullest.

Encore is an outdoor stage and arena themed map, set in a rather gloomy looking London. Slightly grey looks aside, the circular style map plays quite well. The central stage area has a nice wide view of the battlefield, and the outer ring backstage area provides much needed cover, and the odd building for close quarters. It may not be the prettiest of the four, but it’s well balanced, and fun to play whether the mode is straight up Deathmatch, or objective based.

Vertigo takes place at the top of a futuristic office block in India, and in my opinion, is the weakest map of the four. My main problem with it is that the quality of the games I’ve played on it have been quite hit and miss. There’s lots of right angles and short sight lines, so close quarters fighters will have a field day. Again, based purely on the games I’ve played so far, it seems to work far better for Free For All matches than Team Deathmatch as finding other players feels easier, but maybe I just need to play it more.

Studio is set in a film lot in Hollywood, and features several different themed film sets, all joined together to create one big playground. Judging by lobby voting trends, this map seems to be the most popular of the four, and it’s easy to understand why. The layout is well thought out, the design is vibrant and interesting, and the terrain is varied. Whether you’re a sniper, or a shotgun wielder, Studio is fantastic fun to play. Easily my favourite map of the four.

Summary – Whilst I find the cost of the DLC a little too high, I cannot deny that the actual content is really quite good. All of the maps, whilst not being instant classics, are worthy additions, and the Mob of the Dead part takes the Zombies mode in an interesting and fun direction.

Good Points – Adds some great maps to the game, The Mob of the Dead is well realised.

Bad Points – Perhaps a little too expensive,

Why an 8? Four solid maps, and a fresh take on the Zombies mode make this a DLC worth buying – despite the somewhat high price tag.

The Game Jar Files: My love/hate relationship with Call of Duty

Originally published on The Game Jar.com – 23/05/2013

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My relationship with Call of Duty began with the pre-launch hype for Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. I’d never played a CoD game before, and wanted to try a previous edition to get some sort of idea as to what the series was like. Interrogating my friends revealed that CoD 2 was preferred to 3, so I picked up a cheap second-hand copy, and dived in. They say your first love is the deepest, and I’m beginning to suspect it’s true, because I fell in love with the game immediately. Parts of that game are still indelibly etched upon my brain. Right from the start with the Normandy beach assault, Call of Duty 2 hits you with brutal set-piece after brutal set-piece, and I can still remember the joy I felt when I ticked off the last achievement. The passage of time would eventually reveal that Infinity Ward weren’t that happy with the game, but I loved it, so I ignored CoD 3 and waited for the next game.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare eventually arrived, and when it did, it transformed the first person shooter landscape. In my opinion, CoD 4 is one of the very best first person shooters ever made. Infinity Ward grabbed the genre by the balls, and forced it evolve to a higher level. IW introduced several features to Modern Warfare that are still influencing the way shooters are made today. And than there was the maps. I honestly don’t think any other Call of Duty has replicated the sheer quality of CoD 4’s maps. Overgrown, Vacant, Crash, Strike… the list goes on and on. I tried quite hard to pin down my favourite, but only ended up concluding that the only one I didn’t really like was Bloc.

Little did I know that my love affair with Call of Duty was about to come to a crashing halt. My friends were moving on to World at War, and cautiously I followed. As I’ve already mentioned, the general consensus amongst my friends was that Treyarch didn’t make good Call of Duty games, so I approached World at war with some caution. Looking back, coming off the high of CoD 4 maybe wasn’t the fairest lead up, because I didn’t take the return to world war II very well. I found WaW bland, generic, and unoriginal in the extreme. I tried to commit to the multi-player, but after one too many deaths to map glitchers, I snapped. The game disc came out of my Xbox, went back in the box, and never saw the light of day again.

If World at War was the stormy break-up, Modern warfare 2 was the ill-advised reconciliation. Burnt by my experience with the last game, I bought MW2 hoping that the return to Infinity Ward meant a corresponding return to CoD 4’s quality. Still fixated on the idea that Call of Duty games should have decent single player campaigns, I felt let down by MW2. The story was simply ridiculous, and I never really took to any of the multi-player maps. At this point, I had hatred in my heart for Call of Duty. To my mind, World at War and Modern warfare 2 were living off the glory of CoD 4, and offered nothing new to gamers, so I swore off the franchise completely. I ignored Black Ops completely, despite my friends recommendations, and poured scorn on Modern warfare 3. I had become a Call of Duty celibate.

And then one night, while my friends were all out with their new Black Ops 2 girlfriends, I got all jealous and lonely. I wanted to date Call of Duty again, so I warily picked up a copy. At first, I made the mistake of playing the campaign. My first impressions weren’t good. The story made very little sense to me first time around, and subsequent play through didn’t really improve things. Today, I’ve concluded that my confusion is a result of one of two things: I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to it while playing, or that I was missing some crucial piece of story from the first Black Ops. Whatever the reason is, I stopped caring. The idea that Call of Duty wasn’t really about single player campaign any more was just starting form in my mind. I resolved to explore the multi-player before passing judgement, and I’m glad I did.

It’s hard to admit you’ve made a mistake sometimes, but deep down I knew I had. I’d come to realise that my problem with Call of Duty was that I was expecting too much from it. Somewhere, over the course of my journey with the franchise, I’d failed to notice that the game had changed focus. It had morphed into being a multi-player centred game, that also has a campaign mode attached. Once I stopped being angry about that, I remembered how good the multi-player really is. Everything just clicked. Call of Duty is the best at what it does, plain and simple, and you’ve only got to look at the influence its had upon other games to gauge the impact it’s had.

I know that in certain corners of the internet its fashionable to hate on Call of Duty’s for a variety of reasons, but after my conversion, I can’t help feeling that a lot of the haters are missing the point. Whilst I still have a problem with the business philosophy behind the game, I’ve stopped blaming the game itself for consistently remaining at the top of the pile. Almost every one of Call of Duty’s rivals has been content to ride it’s coat tails in the hope of getting a slice of its profits, and as a result innovation has suffered. Only when a serious challenger arrives will Call of Duty really start to flex its creative muscles again.

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