While Black Ops
' campaign hits and misses, its multiplayer is just great. Headquarters, Domination, and all of the other Modern Warfare
modes are implemented well and just as addictive and rewarding as ever. One small issue: The Hardcore playlist is a little thin, allowing for only Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and Free for All. Treyarch has said that they can patch in playlists in real time, but it will be disappointing for Hardcore fans to load up the game and see the new versions of their favorites missing.
The switch to a "CoD points" currency was a wise move as well, allowing you to choose your unlocks more freely, rather than just waiting to reach a certain rank. Ranks are still in, and you still feel them strongly -- I had to wait until level 14 to unlock my FAMAS, and even things like customizing your Playercard don't unlock until level 10, no matter how much money you earn (reticule customization doesn't start until level 25, though it is a welcome cosmetic reward when you get there). But money does allow you to go for accessories and perks that you'd rather have earlier, so you can buy the Second Chance perk or an ACOG sight right away if that's how you choose to play. Consequently, the challenges are slightly less meaningful, but the new Contracts fill in that gap by allowing you to put up some of your money for a bigger reward if you can pull off a certain goal.
Money also allows for the clever new Wager Matches that have everyone anteing up some CoD points and divying them up among the top three players. Sticks and Stones was probably our favorite in the group of people I played with -- it gives you a crossbow (with a sticky explosive bolt) and a tomahawk that bankrupts anyone you hit it with. One in the Chamber was another favorite, giving everyone one bullet in a gun, leaving you to use your knife if you miss that first shot.
Unfortunately, Black Ops
doesn't seem as technically sound as some other titles in the series -- the framerate would occasionally drop, and lag was sometimes a problem. Treyarch has implemented a "Combat Training" mode with bots to encourage players uncomfortable with the online game to jump into multiplayer, but the they're a little jerky, and it doesn't help that the modes are completely separate -- you can customize and level everything in Combat Training only to step out to a completely default multiplayer mode, and vice versa.
Treyarch has also added a Theater system with an intuitive and impressive editor, and the ability to share screenshots, clips, or full games with the rest of the world. The fileshare only holds six shots, movies, or custom games on default, but browsing the system and watching movies or loading up custom games was quick and easy, and should get us a lot more videos like that knife throw from MW2