Featured Discovery

Published on February 4th, 2011 | by Ben Gray


Review: Call of Duty Black Ops: First Strike

Release Date: February 1st (DLC) November 9th 2010 (Game) Genre(s): Shooter Publisher(s): Activision Developer: Treyarch Rating: Mature


Black OpsBlack Ops has become a household name in the games industry in recent months, after topping the massive sales of its modern predecessor and ranking top of Xbox Live activity for 2010, despite only being out for the last two months of the year. That’s what the power of the Call of Duty franchise is doing – if those three common words are labelled on any game, people will buy it. If they released a game that was an hour long and had the worst gameplay in recent years; with the CoD prefix, people wouldn’t hesitate to pick it off the shelf without a second thought. These people tend to be the easily swayed ones that don’t look much further than the big name franchises. There was no doubt that after the sales of Stimulus Package and Resurgence Pack for Modern Warfare 2, Activision were going to be planning another line-up of add-ons for Black Ops, and at the previously controversial price of ten bucks, they’ve released First Strike – the first offering of content for the biggest selling game of all time. Despite having just five maps for the hefty price tag… it was rather mixed. This time around, Treyarch are offering four multiplayer maps and another addition to the popular Zombie mode, which fans were demanding for the game since World at War took the zombie-slaying sub-genre by storm. There’s quite the variety for all different types of player; Stadium, Discovery, Berlin Wall, Kowloon and Ascension, each carrying their own level designs that are tailored from the close range encounter types to the sit-in-a-corner sniper types. The first thing to mention about this content is that it won’t convert anyone on the fence about Black Ops. Whilst the maps on offer are some of the best in the game, there’s nothing majorly game-changing that will suddenly convert haters to like the game, so if you didn’t like Black Ops, or just dislike Call of Duty in general, it’s advised to not pick this up, especially at ten bucks. Spend it on a chocolate bar or something.


However, fans of the game are in for a real treat, should they decide to spend the cash. Let’s start with talking about Stadium, which if you didn’t guess by the obvious title, is set in and around a stadium. This battlefield caters to those with a fetish for shotguns, and whilst the map does have its high vantage points, you’ll rarely find yourself racking up the kills by sitting in a lone crevice of the map killing opponents that are being funnelled through a narrow gap. Tedious sections of the map where players would camp on a stairway overlooking the entrance to the stadium found themselves delighted when the opposition was literally running into their deaths, and I found it annoying how a single person could literally take control of an entire building or particular spot when they knew what they were doing – which didn’t take much more than a claymore. The two major clash points are usually the interior of the stadium or the fountain outside, with little action taking place anywhere else. Whilst the map has plenty of opportunity for flanking and beneficial side-routes, players are almost advertised in a sense to take the same course every time. Next up is Discovery, which is one of the biggest maps on offer in First Strike. Set in a snow blanketed military compound, the average player will decide to take the open and vulnerable routes, whilst the more adventurous will be rewarded with safer and occasionally quicker routes throughout the area. I’m not sure I see the point in the small ice bridge that runs under the centre of the map; it’s quickly destroyed and rendered useless within seconds of the match starting. Had it not been destructible, it would have offered a good alternative to the main route whilst still having the element of vulnerability as you cross it. The map is occasionally one sided, with one team awarded a protected bridge overlooking the centre, whilst the others are forced to find other ways to progress as they’re left in the open. There’s no denying that it’s indeed a fun map to play on, with some experimental routes offering a mix of gameplay, but I did feel caught in the middle of a camper’s paradise at times, being used as their target. Snipers will love it.


Berlin Wall is a curious thing, and the fans must like it – almost every time it showed up for voting it was selected against the other maps. The battlefield is divided by (doesn’t take a genius to work this next point out) a giant wall, with only three routes at all through the centre; two of which are funnels with little to no cover – one of which even has auto-turrets grinding at your toes i you do not get a move on. I can see why people find this map somewhat appealing; watching my team run through the centre at the start of the game was like watching the start of Saving Private Ryan – they were mowed down by machine guns, leaving a fresh pile of bodies, followed by the inevitable teabagging of some CoD fanatic. It’s definitely a different experience to what most maps offer, but I suppose it’s a matter of opinion as to whether you’ll like Berlin Wall. I found it way too linear to be fun, but it must be being enjoyed by some out there. Kowloon offers the new gameplay mechanic of ziplines, one of which does more harm than good, whilst the other offers a quick way through the cluttered rooftops. What I am saying is, the map offers two ziplines with fairly close proximity to each other. One gets you from point A to B but drops you slap bang in the middle of one of the map’s most populated routes, whilst the other is so pointless, it’s safer and more beneficial to just run to where it stops – it practically takes the same amount of time and offers less danger. Varied terrain and monkeys in cages offer a nice change of scenery, and there’s a lot of mounting involved. During the trailer, it was stressed that there was a sense of danger when traversing the map, which isn’t the case. Some areas may be close to the edge, but I felt stable all the time, and there’s about as much danger in terms of lethal drops as Discovery. This map fills in the gap between snipers and shotguns – for those who fall in the middle of that range.


Finally, Ascension adds the third arena to Zombies. The first thing you’ll notice about this map is its size – IT’S DAMN HUGE. On your first few playthroughs, you won’t even scratch the surface of the map, and you’ll likely be overwhelmed in the first two or so rooms. A giant spinning machine is satisfying for zombie decapitation but also poses danger to yourself, especially when you’re running from bloody thirsty undead. The flying platforms don’t necessarily offer chances to rain down fire on the zombies; they’re rather used to traverse around the map or as a quick getaway. I’m not too keen on the greyscale scheme at the start before you flip the power switch, but it doesn’t render it unplayable. This is by far, my favourite zombie map in terms of variety, magnitude, and just plain old fun, but it’s advised to think about the routes you take. First Strike offers variety for existing fans, but some elements were exaggerated when it came to usage, such as the ziplines in Kowloon or the linearity of Berlin Wall. Zombie fans can rejoice with the addition of Ascension, but you’d have to be mad to shell out the bucks for just that. Overall, it’s a worthwhile addition for CoD addicts, but map design on the whole needs improvement to be the best it can be. For those who refuse this offering, use the cash to buy me something instead.

The Good

  • The variety of arenas
  • The massive Ascension
  • Catering for the fans

The Bad

  • Average level design
  • Overhyped new mechanics
  • Linearity of Berlin Wall

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About the Author

  • Albertmena1992

    Good Review of the map pack. i like your opinions about the map Berlin Wall. i see videos of it and it does look to linear.
    Twitter: @Zerospartan

  • Great review! Never had a add on for Modern Warefare 2 because of price but the zombies give it what its priced at! Also hoping to win contest before i buy so twitter=@Ryan_Nick.

  • I think its a fair review, whoever it will be behind the next Call of Duty game really needs to step up and change the game in some awesome new way or it is going to go downhill real quick for them.

    Twitter: @jonhendrix

  • Shiftymorgan

    Sounds good, I bet the ice has none cross it because of the destructible nature of it.
    “it’s advised to not pick this up, especially at ten bucks. Spend it on a chocolate bar or something.” made me laugh, for ten bucks thats one heck of a chocolate bar! 😉
    Already read that kowloon has claymores waiting at the bottom of zip lines, which is a shame as it cuts that out completely.

    Twitter: Shiftymorgan

  • K3v81

    good review great to see the not so good parts mentioned.
    twitter @k3v81

  • elusiveaura

    Actually, the map pack is 1200 points, or $15 so you can grab a drink AND that chocolate bar you wanted lol

  • Chris Hofer

    The DLC sounds fun, and from the Tweets I’ve seen, Ascension must be really cool! This would be a cool win for me to go along with the Prestige Edition of Black Ops I won a while back. Thanks for the contest and consideration of my entry.

    Twitter: @PriusGuy2004

  • My thoughts on the First Strike map pack so far is simple. It seems pretty awesome. And the reason? Treyarch actually put some time and thought into making the maps not to say that they didn’t with World at War. I enjoyed the fact that they used real world locations to make maps should as Berlin and Kowloon and included in-game changing environments with the ziplines in Kowloon and the destructible bridges in Discovery. Berlin Wall seems to be the smallest map with it being a small square and the “No Mans Land” being a part of the map that is ‘inaccessible’. The other three maps seems to be quite linear. The new Ascension zombies seem to be the best part about the map pack. After watching tons of videos of the map it has me itching to play the map as it is probably the best zombie map that Treyarch has made with new environments, perks and enemies! I hope that I can win the contest for the First Strike DLC!
    Twitter: @garrettyu

  • The First Strike DLC I think is just above average. I am not saying that it is bad but it might have been a bit overhyped. The price is also a concern as if they sell 2 map packs it is pretty much the same price as buying a new full retail game. The maps are pretty average in my opinion and I think they could have added more to the maps. When I saw the overview of the maps they all seemed very linear to me. Hearing and watching the videos other people made for Ascension it looks like the new Der Riese from World at War. The way they integrated the new perks, equipments, enemies and easter eggs show us that they put a lot of time into the creation of the zombie map. Overall I think that they could have made the maps more asymmetrical for objective game types.

  • eugaet

    Your review echoes what I’ve heard about Ascension. Still find it very difficult to spend $15 on a map pack. Not worth it.
    Twitter: @eugaet_aux

  • totoguy

    What I’m interested the most about is that crazy easter egg in Ascension, looking forward to checking it out.


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