Those of you waiting with bated breath for Activision’s fragile, sequelitis-ridden empire to come crumbling down, know this: It won’t be happening this year. Call of Duty: Black Ops is another solid entry in the publisher’s absurdly popular war-shooter franchise. And yet, for all that it is, it could’ve been so much more. Black Ops’ single-player, especially, falls short of its lofty ambitions, leaving us to sigh and ponder what could have been.
Gray. Dingy darkness as far as the eye can see. The sky is gray. The mountains are gray. Even the snow looks as though Mick Jagger tried painting it black and got bored half-way through. A gruff voice struggles to be heard through a radio, practically clawing its way out of the speakers. “I'm in position! I won't be able to hold it for long!” Helicopters swoop in as orchestral music swells in the background. This should be big. This should be epic. But it isn't, because you're a gamer, and you've been here a million times before. Oh, and here's the kicker: the thing I just described? It's the sequel to a colorful, over-the-top snowboarding game.
Announced during last weekend's Spike TV's Videogame Awards (a whole other can filled with equal parts worms and disgrace), SSX: Deadly Descents is pretty much everything that's wrong with big-name, triple-A game development these days. It's gray! It's edgy! It's realistic! It's... so damn boring that I'm going to stop describing it for fear of falling asleep mid-sentence. Most depressing, however, is the fact that it's certainly not alone. The grand majority of big-budget mega-games – almost regardless of genre – seem to be pandering exclusively to the testosterone-fueled manly man who thinks Michael Bay's filmography is the height of human achievement.
Creativity may not be dead, but it's whistling an all-too-merry tune while digging its own grave. Call of Duty: Black Ops, Medal of Honor, Killzone, Gears of War, Resistance, Halo: Reach -- what do they all have in common? They're the same stinkin' game! But their wide variety of three whole character stereotypes, two level patterns, and one color palette is where the money's at, and when budgets are this over-inflated, one wrong move will make the bubble burst. The bottom line? Caution. No unnecessary risks. Applying the same old formulas to new products over and over and over and over and, well, you get the point.
But hey, there's a silver lining here – and a big one at that. Find out what it is after the break!
COD BLOPS may sound like something you should avoid like the plague (you know, because it sounds like some sort of plague), but that didn't stop one hojillion people from snapping it up on day one. Or, in real numbers: 5.6 million copies – for a total of $360 million.
Last year, Modern Warfare 2 took home the gold-plated space submarine for “biggest entertainment launch of all time” with $310 million. Black Ops, though, has pretty much given it a wedgie, hung it from a flagpole, and stole its multi-million dollar sum of lunch money. Activision, for obvious reasons, certainly isn't complaining.
“There has never been another entertainment franchise that has set opening day records for two consecutive years and we are on track to outperform last year’s five-day global sales record of $550 million,” said Activision head Bobby Kotick.
Between this and World of Warcraft, we don't imagine it'll be long before Activision will have accrued enough capital to secede from the union and form its own nation. Fitting, too, since the publisher's already made enemies out of organized crime and, well, the entirety of Cuba.
Another year, another Call of Duty controversy. This time, though, no Russian – only Cuban.
"What the United States couldn't accomplish in more than 50 years, they are now trying to do virtually," said an article posted on state-run website Cubadebate (via The Associated Press).
The article refers to a mission in Call of Duty: Black Ops that sees players skulking through Havana circa 1961 in an attempt to put an abrupt end to the then-brand new Castro regime. Obviously, you don't succeed, but that hasn't stopped Cuba from taking aim and launching a verbal volley at the mission.
"This new video game is doubly perverse," the article said. "On the one hand, it glorifies the illegal assassination attempts the United States government planned against the Cuban leader ... and on the other, it stimulates sociopathic attitudes in North American children and adolescents."
It then went on to cite studies correlating violent videogames and violent tendencies, claiming that taking an active role in the proceedings gets people's blood boiling a lot faster than kicking back and, say, watching a movie.
If it's any consolation, though, Call of Duty's apparently suiting up to hit the space marine scene, meaning that Castro's probably out of the question for future installments. Well, unless it's, like, a giant space robot version of Castro or something. Actually, on second thought, we really, really hope that's exactly what it is.
Two men toting hand guns walked into a Baltimore area Gamestop and stole 100 copies of Call of Duy: Black Ops the night before it launched, according to a report in The Baltimore Sun.
The robbery took place just as Gamestop employees were getting ready to lock up and head home. That's when two men wielding semi-automatic handguns barged in an stole four cases packed with the Black Ops games, as well as some cash and game consoles. During the heist, two customers walked into the store, who were then led to the storage area (along with the employees) at gunpoint.
Black Ops retails for $60 pop, meaning the two men walked away with over $6,000 in goods and cash. And for you job seekers out there, this is actually the second time a Hartford County Gamestop store has been robbed in the past three weeks. Just something to think about.
And here we thought videogame cut-scenes were the most ridiculous thing Activision would ever suggest we'd spend money on. Turns out, that was just a warm-up. The main event of this incredibly avant garde assault on our wallets? A Call of Duty: Black Ops-branded 2011 Jeep Wrangler. That's right: a friggin' truck. And the price of admission for entry into this very, very exclusive sect of the Call of Duty fan club? Oh, nothing too big. Just $33,500. Pocket change, right?
So, what kind of crazy-cool gadgets and Mountain Dew-fueled rocket boosters are you getting with your Call of Dutymobile? Well, uh, there's some Black Ops art on the roof and front quarter panels. And also... oh, wait. That's it. If it's any consolation, though, the car's going to be drivable in Black Ops – hopefully in the game's Cold War sections to promote the 2011 Wrangler's new addition of a flux capacitor.
"It was important for us to make sure that the Jeep partnership would be authentic and enhance the setting we immerse our fans in with Black Ops," said Mark Lamia, studio head at Treyarch. "Our work with the Jeep team focused around using the Jeep Wrangler in our levels, and gameplay experiences, and translating the style and look of the vehicle in Black Ops to the Jeep on the showroom floor that our fans can own."
So, er, yeah. This is happening. We pinched ourselves just to make sure and everything. Granted, we expect to see someone ride by on a unicorn before we actually catch a glimpse of one of these things in the wild, but still.
Last year, Modern Warfare 2 attempted to permanently pull the plug on dedicated servers. “Bad Infinity Ward! Bad!” PC gamers shouted in response. “Don’t make us roll up this Internet petition and hit you on the nose with it!” Fortunately, Treyarch is not Infinity Ward. Treyarch has apparently played a multiplayer PC game before.
"I think dedicated servers are excellent. I don't see any reason not to [include] them unless... well, I just don't see any reason not to,” said Treyarch studio head Mark Lamia.
"We do work very hard to reconcile the desire to manipulate and modify those dedicated servers with offering them the persistent experience and benefits that the console system provides,” he added.
So best of both worlds, basically. Which is a good thing, because we really don’t know how to Internet petition harder than we did last time – short of tying it to a brick, throwing it through a window, and kidnapping/hoping it hits Activision president Bobby Kotick. Which would be fun, admittedly, but if Bobby Kotick fires men who make him billions of dollars, just think about what he’d do to kidnappers. Yeah.
Update: Here's the trailer, which is sure to blast the sleep from your eyes with fast-cut camera work, ominous music, and loud explosions. Sorry Starbucks, your services won't be needed today. Better still, it actually looks quite good, if you ask us. The game appears to be set in modern times, as well, which is a bit unexpected considering the connotations that go along with a potential Vietnam setting. Enough from us, though. Go see for yourself.
Original Article: While Activision scrambles to pick up the pieces from Infinity Ward’s slow-motion explosion, Treyarch’s picking up the slack. As was rumored, the latest entry in the ridiculously popular shooter series will be subtitled “Black Ops.” Videogame publishers who are not Activision, take note: Black Ops is launching on November 9. You can go ahead and delay your games now. We’ll wait.
Problem is, that’s all we actually know about the game right now. Fortunately, the debut trailer is dropping later tonight, so we’ll be sure to update this post as soon as it happens. For now, though, we’ve got some not-quite-concrete info in UK retailer GAME’s near-confirmation that the game will be set in Vietnam, Cuba, and the Arctic – among other locations. But that information has since been pulled.
So yeah. Keep an eye on this space. Huh? What about the other eye? Well we just assumed that you were a normal human whose eyes worked in tandem. What kind of weird alien are you, anyway? Geez, Call of Duty really does have a lot of fans, doesn’t it?