I’d like to break something down for you readers, clarify a point reviewers aren’t, perhaps, quite laying out in black and white.
Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops is now available to purchase in the UK, and if you buy the game (which carries a £55 RRP) for its campaign only, you’re buying it for 7-8 hours of walled-in, rock-to-rock blasting broken up by alternately hard- or soft-boiled flights of political fancy, and spells behind the wheel of a vehicle with an abbreviated name. You’re buying it for the tedious ebb and flow of red damage pigment, for the rough caress of invisible walls, for the meticulously patterned failings of NPC goons.
You’re buying it for a competent variation on yesterday’s shooter, in other words – for blandness, filler. You’re buying it because you need something to do with your hands while you watch Rambo III.
Buy Black Ops for its multiplayer, by contrast, and you’re buying it for thousands of hours of some of the finest online competitive or cooperative action the industry can offer. You’re buying it for heaps of unlockables – perks, weapons, avatar accessories, killstreaks. You’re buying it for a cornucopia of modes, some familiar, some not-so-familiar, all compelling.
You’re buying it for maps you can replay and replay till your thumbs bleed and still get ambushed and stuffed at the outset of the next match you join. You’re buying it for zombies, and Nazis, and Nazi zombies. You’re buying it for those sweet, sweet words “triple kill” and the accompanying rumble of a Cobra attack helicopter.
You’re buying it, in other words, because you have some grasp on the notion of value-for-money, dislike head-butting spawn points, appreciate a bit of actual, genuine variety and are eager to have your wits – rather than your patience – tested.
Now call me presumptuous, but I’d lay heavy odds that those of you buying for the second reason out-number those buying for the first. I’d lay heavy odds that Activision and Treyarch know it, too. They ought to. Multiplayer has been the franchise’s meat, potatoes, peas and ketchup since Modern Warfare, at least. Even the Man in the Street (the one who isn’t queueing for a midnight launch, that is) should have cottoned on by now, and these days, most Men in the Street have steady broadband connections.
So, my little devil’s advocacy routine of the hour is thus: why do we tolerate the existence of a Call of Duty single player? Is that shell-shocked corridor anything more than an introductory formality? Shouldn’t Activision learn a few lessons from the success of Battlefield 1943, and strip the dead wood out of its biggest action franchise? Share your thoughts below.
And watch out for our own Black Ops review shortly.