The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa sits in the tiny town of Ojai about two hours north of downtown Los Angeles. Built in 1923, it features a full 18 hole golf course, a luxury spa and 308 deluxe suites situated on a 200 acre plot with picturesque views of the surrounding forest and mountains. It’s hard to top in terms of amenities and creature comforts, and it seemingly offers everything you could ever want in a vacation spot.
It’s utterly fitting, then, that this is where Activision chose to hold its review event for Call of Duty: Black Ops . The lavish surroundings were no doubt meant to lend a measure of sex appeal and ‘wow factor’ to the proceedings, but it was also a good metaphor for Black Ops: The game is a veritable playground that, like the plush resort where I and a handful of game journos from various outlets were sequestered for three days, seems to offer everything you could ever want in a console first person shooter.
The single player campaign features the most cohesive CoD narrative yet (Xbox 360)
For most gamers, any discussion about Call of Duty starts and ends with multiplayer, but Black Ops features a surprisingly competent single player campaign that features the most cohesive CoD narrative yet. The core plot isn’t nearly as original or as inventive as it could have been, relying as it does on several well worn twists “borrowed” from various movies, and it suffers from a few issues. Certain plot points are clumsily handled; there are still moments where you have to brute force your way to a checkpoint to trigger the next area and they beat you over the head with the final reveal, as if they didn’t trust the average gamer to understand what was going on.
Still, it’s a solid effort overall whose tone and spirit adequately captures the culture of paranoia that resulted from the tense 60’s era cold war between the United States and Russia, the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. Its cast of characters isn’t nearly as likable as Price and Soap et al, but the superior voice acting and motion capture work make it easy to enjoy the seven to eight hour story as it unfolds. It’s especially worth playing because it unlocks a neat little surprise that’s a nice bit of fan service.