Released on February 1st, First Strike marks (as the name might suggest) the first downloadable content for Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops. Weighing in at a hefty 1200 Microsoft points, First Strike comes with four new multi-player maps and new Zombie stage.
Lets start off, with a visit to Kowloon.
If you’ve played through the campaign, then you’ll know that one of the protagonist’s missions is set here and the rooftop combat is what inspired this map. That’s right. On Kowloon, you’ll be fighting on the rooftops of buildings (as well as in and around some), meaning.. if you fall off.. you’ll die. There are several zip lines that allow the player to go from point A to point B rapidly but leaving them exposed while they make the journey. Although this so far has shaped up to be perhaps the worst map for me performance wise, I can’t help but enjoy it. The surroundings are great and there are a lot of little nooks and crannies. At least one of the buildings have caged chickens, (Don’t worry Peta, you can’t kill them!) which are rather lively and might just muffle the sounds of an approaching enemy behind you. Throw in those zip lines I mentioned earlier and Kowloon is a solid outing.
Berlin Wall is undoubtedly my favourite map from First Strike. The stage as a whole is wonderfully designed and captures the essence of Berlin Wall. It’s a large map (something that is always welcome in my eyes) that features a lot of strategic fighting points. Running right through the middle of the map is the divide – there are several “safe” points to cross (provided that route isn’t in the scope of an enemy sniper!) from one side to the other. For the rest of area, which I’ll call the “red zone”, entering it will see the auto turrets placed on the overlooking towers attempt to gun you down. If you move fast enough you might just evade them and reap the dividends. My two complaints about this map? The tanks don’t feel very ‘tanky’ (It could just be because they sit there doing nothing – I don’t know) and I would have liked to see maybe a sewer route linking both sides of the wall.
Discovery is a weird one for me personally. I haven’t had nearly as many games on this map in comparison to the others. My impression is that it just doesn’t seem to be all too popular, as at least for me it seems to lose the next match vote quite a lot. Set in an abandoned Nazi arctic research station, Discovery takes the total of snow maps in Black Ops to four (Five if you count Berlin Wall) and is a large map. I think it terms of if this map was good or bad, I’d say it is distinctly average. Discovery was billed as a map made for snipers (by some) and for me, while it is a large map, it feels a little too busy. There’s not really a good deal of open space and there seems to be a lot going on.
Stadium is the smallest of the four new multi-player maps from First Strike and is one that I was first excited about (see here) then, when it was released I heard people talking about it and my feelings were that this was a map I might want to avoid. But I gave it a run anyway and while it’s not my favourite, it’s a solid stage. The fighting takes place outside the Stadium and just inside the entrance (So, no fighting over the hockey rink, which is a shame). Due to the size of the map, in a full 6 v 6 game (TDM or objective based) fighting can feel fast paced, furious and the stage a little claustrophobic (like Nuke Town in a sense).
Ascension is the final piece of the DLC puzzle I’ll be talking about and, if you only bought the standard edition of Black Ops, this’ll mark the fourth zombie stage for you to play on. Or conversely if you grabbed yourself a limited edition, this’ll be your eighth. I have mixed feelings about Zombie stages in Black Ops as a whole. They’re wonderfully designed and Ascension is no exception to this standard (it’s also quite large once you get to opening up everywhere) but I feel that Treyarch have rested on their laurels a little and Zombies hasn’t drawn my attention as much as it did in World at War. Ascension adds in a new enemy type but it hasn’t really added a whole lot to the Zombie aspect of the game in my opinion.
I’d hope that the developers take a look at Zombies and see if they can add something new, even if it is only to say increase the amount of players who can join in on a zombie game (which would work out nicely on some of these larger ones). I’m also reminded of a PC MOD for World at War called Zombie X. I’ve not played it (Was told about it by a friend) so check out this YouTube video.
Overall, this was a good addition to Call of Duty: Black Ops. It would have scored higher, but a few niggling things (that I’ve mentioned earlier) and the price tag of 1200 Microsoft Points let it down. If you’re already a Black Ops fan though, First Strike might be just what you need to inject some more variety and longevity into the game.