Stirring story setup; one of the best multiplayer experiences on Wii; strong pointer controls; and high-octane action
Inconsistent graphics; bad checkpoints; vanilla main character; and too much follow the leader
Activision and developer Treyarch kept Call of Duty: Black Ops for Wii undercover up until its release. Radio silence on a key title usually points to a less than stellar game. However, after the latest Call of Duty game’s full disclosure upon release, that is not the case.
The setup for Black Ops works well, gripping players from the get-go. You assume the role of Capt. Alex Mason, who is a hostage and being tortured for mysterious numbers. Mason has no idea why he’s strapped to a chair, or whose voice is blaring through the speakers in an augmented way. Questions immediately flood your head as the captors interrogate Mason, who recounts what he remembers. As such, Mason’s memories and past experiences comprise the missions of the game, allowing for the story to jump between years and locations and provide gamers with a huge variety of first-person shooting mechanics.
While the setup works well, the actual execution of the story falters on occasion as the game progresses. Mason comes across like vanilla pudding– stereotypical for a first-person shooter game, and without anything distinct to separate him from the countless other grunts populating this genre. But the ultimate downfall resides with the fact that it’s hard to relate to the man. Yes, watching someone get tortured is horrendous, especially in first-person, but if you cannot relate, at all, to the person, you hardly care.
You do start to care, though, when bullets begin whizzing overhead. Black Ops’ missions and environments are on par with a Hollywood action blockbuster. Whether it’s the Arctic Circle or the jungles of Vietnam, players constantly jump from amazing set piece to amazing set piece. As Mason (and another character or two), players will partake in a high-speed motorcycle chase, strategically plot real-time strategy points from a Blackbird SR-71, and invade an enemy base to take out a spacecraft rocket.
Unfortunately, in the graphical transition from Xbox 360/PS3 to Wii, some of the spectacle is lost in regards to visual clarity. The game is basically ported and fitted for Wii, which is not optimal for Nintendo’s home console. As such, there is choppy frame rate in places, as well as muddy textures, graphical clipping and some drab locales. On the other hand, some environments translate well to the white console, specifically the Project Nova mission in the Arctic Circle and the Victor Charlie level in Vietnam. The latter, in particular, sports lush greenery that appears wet, with waterways streaming ahead with good physics. These high peaks and low valleys make one wonder how stunning and more consistent a Call of Duty title could look on Wii with a game built specifically for the system. Treyarch obviously did everything the company could to make it work on Wii — and it succeeds at times — but the thought still lingers.
On the other hand, the controls receive a noticeable boost by bringing Black Ops to Wii. The title proffers numerous control options, even allowing players to customize every button and adjust dead zones. The reticule still acts a bit jumpy and not as buttery-smooth as in other Wii titles (namely The Conduit), but it is still works really well. Treyarch even allows people to plug in their Classic Controller Pros for those uncomfortable with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk setup.
The audio also migrates to Wii well, though lacks 5.1 surround sound because of the console’s specifications. Even so, the superb voice acting of Ed Harris and Gary Oldman (reprising his wonderful role of Sgt. Reznov from World at War) help you come to the front lines of the battlefield. Reznov is the most engaging character of the game, but Harris delivers his lines with enough emotion to stand out. The sound effects and soundtrack are as over-the-top as the action, but that’s not a bad thing. The weapons pop with various sounds for each and every gun, giving your ears a little happiness with each new firearm acquired. The importance of each gun sounding realistic and different from its peers really demonstrates the detail instilled into the aural experience.
The same attention to detail does not come across in the most frustrating aspect of Black Ops — the checkpoint system. Yes, there is a plethora of save points spread across each level. But too many times after dying, players are welcomed back into the action with bullets in their faces from opposing forces. Not only that, but some checkpoints happen before pivotal cut scenes, which leads you to watch a scene over and over and over. For example, in the Missions level, a checkpoint occurs before a significant death, and the action resumes with players on a rooftop with all kinds of enemy fire. Countless times Mason died within 5 seconds after the cut scene ended, so the process repeated with the once poignant death becoming just dreadful and frustrating. Needless to say, the checkpoints break the illusion of the grandiose story.
Another element that breaks the illusion of Black Ops rests with the gigantic, yellow text that says, “FOLLOW,” above a fellow soldier’s head throughout numerous levels. Basically, players have very little creativity in tackling levels because they are bluntly told to follow-the-leader. With all the amazing dialogue and graphical cues, this implementation of ugly text comes across as poorly designed. Placing a mission objective is one thing, but this seems a bit too ridiculous.
Overall, Black Ops presents a stirring story setup that falters from time to time because of generic characters and a few bad design choices. The checkpoint system will frustrate you at some point, and may lead people to forgo the campaign and put their time into online multiplayer or Zombies. There also is not much reason to replay the single-player campaign, since the game relies on so much on the linear, follow-the-leader mechanic in most levels. However, the high-octane set pieces are wonderful and the mixture of game elements — for example, motorcycle chases — keeps the first playthrough fresh and entertaining.
Black Ops gives players one of the best, if not the best, online multiplayer experiences for Wii. Roughly 90 percent of the online content made the jump from Xbox 360/PS3 to Wii, which means Nintendo owners have access to Wager Matches, lobbies, DLC, custom killstreaks, crazy stat-tracking and a smorgasbord of modes and maps.
A lot of success rests in the decision to nix Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection for dedicated, Black Ops-specific servers (which is similar to Monster Hunter Tri). These servers allow for the game to be updated by Treyarch, which has already been patched once, as well as easier DLC in the future. The menu for the online multiplayer is a bit clunky at times, especially for newcomers, but after a bit of time, it’s clear how impressive the interface and servers are for a Wii title.
With the latest patch (yes, it’s possible) for Black Ops, the online portion seems to be going along swimmingly. After diving in and spending about 7-to-8 hours in competitive bouts, there was just a tad of lag from time to time. The slowdown happens usually when the maximum of 10 players are in a match, chucking tons of grenades into one specific area. Even then, the game runs rather well, and it becomes clear that a lot of the development focus was dedicated to the online aspect for Black Ops on Wii.
And players will be spending a lot of time reaping the benefits of Treyarch’s hard work. Black Ops features a multilayered leveling and economy system, which is a first for the franchise. Thus, you not only earn experience points but also COD Points. The money allows for many perks and weapon upgrades to purchased at the beginning, giving players a ton of customization. The amount of options, courtesy of the new economic system, seems a bit overwhelming, but the ability to immediately create your favorite and best character is welcomed. The title also still places primary weapons behind level barriers, so everything is not necessarily available from the start.
After creating your perfect class, users may notice the better visual clarity online. The maps boast a much more consistent and clear graphical interface than the single-player portion. There are not as many drab textures, and there even are a few nice particle touches, as well as some striking uses of lighting. The online visuals are by no means groundbreaking or significantly better than the single-player campaign at its high points, but just more consistent and complete as a package.
The only complaint to be hurled at Black Ops online rests with technical faults. Host migration is not available (at least not yet) and leads to many matches ending prematurely. This is frustrating when on a hot streak and racking up kills. There had also been a couple of problems with simply joining a match, though this issue seems to be resolved from the latest patch.
More patches will hopefully be on the way, thanks to an impressive community for Black Ops on Wii. After two weeks on store shelves, the server numbers have come close to 10,000 players numerous times. These figures are not much when compared to its Xbox 360/PS3 brethren, but for a ported Wii game, that is a great following, especially considering the additional players joining the fray after the holidays.
Online multiplayer is where Black Ops delivers for Wii owners. Everything comes together to create an addicting and highly competitive, yet still fun, gaming experience.
Competitive multiplayer is not the only way to enjoy online play with Black Ops. The Zombie Mode that grew to fame from World at War makes it debut on Wii. Up to four players join forces in a cooperative operation to stop AI zombies from killing everyone. Along the way, you rack up points that act as currency to purchase new weapons and gain access to additional rooms.
The mode relies heavily on team communication and collaboration, which becomes a bit of a problem on Wii since voice chat is not the norm across the board. Black Ops does feature PDP Headbanger support, but not everyone has the accessory. Thus, finding a few friends to join forces against the vicious undead is recommended. But even without friends, the mode serves as a fun diversion from the online matches and gives players a small taste of the tower defense genre.
While the inclusion of Zombie Mode is welcomed, there is only one map to tackle for Wii. Having only one map for Black Ops seems silly given the fully featured online multiplayer mode. The level packs variety and depth, but in no way can carry the entire mode. Basically, the lack of locales makes this portion of the game feel more like a demo.
Not only that, but jumping into a random bout with other players takes a lot longer to join as compared to online multiplayer. There were times where Black Ops spent multiple minutes finding a match to partake in. This mode needs to be as accessible and quick as its multiplayer counterpart.
Even with these design drawbacks, the Zombie Mode offers another slice of variety and fun for players. The feature adds to the Black Ops experience, though it does not feel as fully realized as the campaign and multiplayer.
Call of Duty: Black Ops on Wii features an amazing amount of high-octane action and content. The online multiplayer carries the game with its addictive leveling aspects and competitive and fun game modes. The campaign delivers a fantastic story setup — as well as amazing set pieces — but fumbles a bit too much. The visuals, while good in places, are just not consistent enough throughout the package and make one curious about the possibilities of a Call of Duty game exclusive for Wii (or created visually specific for the system).
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.