Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops – Annihilation Map Pack

Another week, another Call of Duty: Black Ops Map Pack. At least, that’s what it feels like. Following Escalation comes the Annihilation Map Pack, coupled with yet another zombie adventure. It’s hard to continue hyping myself up for these releases when they’re leaked, dated, and released within days of each other. But I soldiered my way through the latest collection via Xbox Live for you, dear readers. Is it worth your hard-earned cash, time, and investment? In a nutshell, no. I can only take so many irresponsibly-placed sniper’s nests, uninspired rehashes, and mundane environments. And Annihilation ‘packs’ all of these into one tidy package.

Let’s kick things off with Hangar 18, which bears no relation to the song of the same name. Unfortunately, this seemed like the most obvious place Treyarch allowed themselves a little creativity beyond abandoned warzones, towns, and typical FPS fodder they’re famous for. Quite a colorful map – gasp! – it manages to combine elements of what I love about Treyarch’s map pack offerings as well as some bizarre, Area-51 styled aspects you wouldn’t typically expect to see in a content pack like this. In the middle of the area an enormous hangar houses some intriguing design elements, like the strange apple located in the back, as well as some other goodies that brought a smile to my face. Of course, upon stepping out of the hangar into one of the pathways connecting both spawn points, you’ll quickly realize that any semblance of lightheartedness has gone away, leaving only a tight, closed-quarters area mainly serviceable for Domination and similar team-based objective games.

Things only get worse from there. Moving on to Drive-In, which at first glance seems as though it could be the perfect novelty map, until you come up-close and personal with the millions of campers perched around the edge of the map. While it’s true it fills the “confined space” niche that I feel has been missing from so many of the prior offerings, it’s also a camper’s paradise, meaning everyone simply flocks to the edge of the map to lie in wait for unsuspecting power-gunners such as myself. At the very least its location is novel — that’s about all.

You may have seen Hazard before in the form of Cliffside, popularized in Call of Duty: World at War. And it was a fantastic new experience back then. Now, turned into a golf course, it’s made a reappearance in the Annihilation pack as a “revamped” addition that, clever remodeling as it is, smacks more of a waste of time. I’m all for reviving the old stomping grounds (let me import ALL of the COD4 maps and I’ll be a happy camper) but the fact that the only real differences between Cliffside and Hazard are purely visual. Beware of snipers. Like most newer maps, this is another location you’ll want to keep quiet and move through the shadows in. Not a fan of rehashing, so unless anything else Treyarch sees fit to release in the future, count me out.

Last and certainly least of the multiplayer offering is Silo, which is just what the name implies: missile silos, underground pathways, and plenty of buildings to camp in. Similar in nature to “Countdown” from the aforementioned good old Call of Duty 4, it takes the title of most unremarkable offering out of the entire package. A confusing layout and utterly obnoxious missile launch signals make this the map you want to back out of immediately, no matter the game.

Finally, we arrive at Shangri-La, which plunges into the world of Nazi Zombies yet again. How long are they going to keep teasing us before they just toss all of these into one game? They’re all anyone’s really playing, anyway. At any rate, Shangri-La looks exactly like you’d expect. Deep in the heart of a jungle complete with temples, gongs, and exotic finery, leading to caverns, caves, and even more bizarre areas to explore – complete with traps! While the bravado and silliness from Call of the Dead is curiously missing here (but thankfully, yet), Shangri-La remains the best piece of this overpriced package, even serving up two brand-new zombie types. Flaming zombies and wind zombies descend upon you or your friends, making Shangri-La one of the more difficult zombie romps, but hey. That just makes it all the more personable.

In the end, I can’t definitively recommend the Annihilation Map Pack unless you’ve just got some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket. I felt gypped with what was offered, even after receiving the product for free for review. Shangri-La is a trip worth your while if you spend most of your online gaming hours socializing and looking to up your high score, but otherwise, I’d pass on this unless you can catch it during a sale.

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