Impressions: Call of Duty: Black Ops – First Strike Map Pack

With the dizzying success of Call of Duty: Black Ops, it only makes sense that another set of maps should be released. Me? I’m still chilling on Call of Duty 4 most of the time, but Black Ops is a winner in my book, especially when I’m jonesin’ for a good ol’ fashioned zombie massacre. The very first Black Ops map pack, entitled First Strike, comes packing five different maps, four intended for multiplayer and one new zombie adventure for those of us ready to take another stand against the shambling undead. For the first round of extra content, it’ll set you back roughly $15 (depending on platform; Xbox 360 version reviewed), and it’s one of the better offerings I’ve seen in quite a while, especially if Treyarch’s blockbuster is still in your nightly multiplayer game rotation.

The first map on the list is Berlin Wall, pretty self-explanatory if I do say so myself. Said wall separates the eastern and western sides of the map in this winter un-wonderland, complete with spots of land between the walls where manned turrets will happily fill you full of holes. You can check out where these areas are located by pressing Start, something prudent players might want to consider, as heading into these areas guarantee instantaneous death. Hurray! Varied sniping areas make this snowy playground ideal for players who couldn’t be happier planting a bullet between the eyes of a target they can barely make out several yards away, and the terrain here is ideal for sniping. Using a formidable combination of perks makes surviving the areas on the map a cinch, especially if you’re in a Team Deathmatch, which makes things quite a bit easier. On slower objective game modes you might have some issues with these spots, but that little extra mile that can quickly turn a game in the other team’s favor is interesting and part of what makes the First Strike map pack more interesting than previous offerings.

Next up is Kowloon. Remember your fearless sprint through China with the formidable dual-wielding guns of glory? Yeah, this is that same city, only now you can slow things down a bit and take your time…as long as you don’t sit still for too long. Complete with ziplines (don’t bother to use them unless you’re planning on playing an objective game where teams are spread further apart), Kowloon has to be my favorite map of First Strike, mainly because of the varied areas you can scout out to make a quick kill. Plenty of rooftops, nooks and crannies, and hidden, out of the way pieces ensure even run-and-gunners get some love, as there are tons of hiding places to ensure a swift death is delayed, even by a few seconds. The hustle-bustle feeling of the city is an interesting change of pace as well, and I enjoyed being able to play through it again without playing through the campaign mode in that level so quickly. Unfortunately, the same nooks and crannies that make Kowloon great are the ones that cause players to get mad and rage-quit when they’re unsure their killer is planted. Get used to the map, though, and you’ll enjoy it too.

Discovery, next on our list, is the polar opposite in my book to Kowloon. It’s another snowy offering, perfect for snipers. In fact, it seems to have been designed mainly FOR sniping, a pet peeve of mine. It’s certainly not my forte, as I’m not the one to typically scout out the best vantage points, so when I was continually downed in the abandoned German research facility’s limits I found myself wishing the other players would simply fall straight into the enormous chasm in the middle of the map. The fall could be facilitated by a grenade carelessly tossed onto a rickety old bridge and it’s the end of the line for any poor schmuck near the explosion. It’s an interesting exercise in implementing destructible environments in multiplayer maps, but as this was the only real example of that mechanic within the map pack, I was left wanting to see much, much more.

Stadium seemed to be much more my speed; a hockey rink in the Stadium, smaller, closed quarters, and plenty of ways to zip around the map going on killing sprees. It’s a faster, quicker map that I enjoyed with friends having knife fights, and one that I could always count on games ending at a brisk pace in. Other than these perks, there really wasn’t much more to the map than that, though it felt distinctly like a Call of Duty map, if you get my drift. It seemed like it was made for the franchise, where I could have easily seen the previous three maps transplanted into other similar shooters. I love it when that flavor is easily detected, and Stadium seems to ooze that charm.

Finally, we have Ascension, the much-anticipated zombies map. Easily the best part of the entire map pack, it brings new perks (PhD Flopper, Stamin-Up), new weapons (Matryoshka dolls, the Gersch device, or ‘Black Hole bomb’), and an entirely new premise. Players take platforms that hover inside a strange laboratory to get from point A to point B rather than the more “traditional” teleporters. These may seem rather unorthodox, but are an interesting augment to a trend that was beginning to stagnate for me. Toss in some evil, evil monkeys (Chris from Family Guy would be proud) and some new achievements, and this is one of the best zombie slaughtering maps you’ll find within the Call of Duty universe.

It makes for a great addition to an already zombies-packed game (especially with Dead Ops included with the single-player campaign) and it even brings with it some brand new achievements. “Abracadaver” is a haunting, eerie song, and when you get it spinning while headshotting hapless brain-guzzlers, it’s an experience nothing else quite measures up to. I was extremely pleased with Ascension, and if it’s any indication of what a full-featured zombies release could be, color me interested.

With four new quality maps, a fantastic zombies offering, new achievements, and more, there’s plenty of fun to be had with Call of Duty: Black Ops’ first-ever map pack, and First Strike really hits the spot. It’s still a bit pricey for simple maps in my opinion, but at least in this case you get five high-quality, playable maps that are worth trying out with friends, even if you’ve had your fill of Call of Duty for a while. The pack’s biggest highlight is the new zombie-packed Ascension, which adds new perks, weapons, and even more zombies to help create one of the best living dead gaming experiences yet. With any luck, ff this map pack is successful (as it likely will be) we may finally see a full and proper zombies game in the near future. Because you know that’s what we all want. Right?

Comments are closed.