Review: Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation Map Pack

Even when a Call of Duty campaign fails to impress, you can usually count on the multiplayer portion to redeem those hours you can’t get back, even if only for a few hours spent with the maps included on the original disc. I, for one, am usually the one defending the campaigns, despite issues with length and content, and typically shy away from multiplayer; unless we hearken back to the days of old in Call of Duty 4. However, with the rise of Black Ops and its cornucopia of inventive and invigorating additions to the virtual battlefield in the shape of new map packs, I find myself coming back online more often to explore the new frontier set out for me in the form of downloadable content. First Strike, the first Black Ops map pack, made quite a splash, especially the elaborate zombie map bundled with the similarly explosive multiplayer venues. So how does the Escalation Map Pack stack up?

Let’s start with Hotel, first up out of the multiplayer rotation. Not much explanation is necessary – firefights take place inside and on top of a fancy hotel, complete with an empty pool, gambling machines, and the typical amenities you usually find within any standard hotel. There are actually two buildings, with the pool splitting up the area between them and one building housing the rooms, whilst the other is hallowed ground for gamblers. As far as realism goes, Hotel most closely resembles an actual abandoned locale, perfect for a war zone. I found myself utilizing the empty pool more often than not, as I quickly discovered it to be more of a safe zone than anywhere else on the map, ducking in before a wayward sniper could spot me. It’s a larger map, but still small enough to play host to frenetic Team Deathmatches or even larger objective games.

Convoy, for some reason, reminded me most of Crysis 2, a game I wasn’t particularly enamored with. Again, it’s also a pretty straightforward title: you’re centered around an American convoy that’s been ambushed by a gaggle of Soviets. If sniping isn’t your game, you’ll find yourself zipping to and fro between overpasses and the crisscrossing streets, though I certainly didn’t find too much to enjoy with this overly large and drawn-out skirmisher. Great for campers and great for Search and Destroy, particularly if you fancy exploring the overpass most of the time.

Moving onward to Zoo and not daring to break the streak of maps named exactly what the locations are (really inventive, guys), this is my second favorite map next to Hotel, since it does attempt to offer a bit of different scenery rather than the typical wintry scenes, run-down buildings, and urban areas. This is actually a zoo, complete with monorail! It’s a rather ornate zoo, however, unlike what most of us likely grew up around. However, even though a zoo is usually a place you’d celebrate the life and habits of most animals, Zoo completely disrupts that atmosphere with gray skies and a discouraging atmosphere. Forget using the monorail to get around, as you’re just a sitting duck and open to the shot of every poor sap on the map. I say creep around in the shadows and find your opportunity to take someone out with a quick headshots. That’s what makes Zoo ideal for Sabotage, as there are always players who choose to ride off on the monorail, leaving objectives unguarded and letting you move in for the kill.

Finally, out of the four new multiplayer maps, we have Stockpile, quite possibly my least favorite out of the bunch. Based in a small Soviet village riddled with missiles here and there (and would you guess a lot of snow?) as well as fully-functioning garage doors that can be used strategically to keep members of the opposing team away from objectives or to ensure they stay in one place to launch a full-out assault. Despite these mechanics I still found this map to ultimately be quite dull, looking so much like the actual game and maps I’ve seen before. I understand Call of Duty boasts a certain level of realism, but it gets tossed out with the zombie maps anyway, so why not offer some fantastical locations for once?

The best reason to pick up the Escalation map pack is to experience Call of the Dead, the latest zombie adventure, featuring none other than the king of zombies himself, George Romero. But that’s not all. Rounding out the star-studded ensemble are Danny Trejo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Michael Rooker, and last but not least, Robert Englund….Freddy himself! This is the most complicated zombie map ever, featuring not only its own storyline, the original four zombie slayers, and a zombie George Romero, but one of the most painstakingly brilliant process for unlocking an Easter egg that I’ve seen in quite some time. I won’t go into that to ruin anything too important, but aside from busting a cap in the undead that terrorize you on the set of Romero’s latest zombie film, there are tons of surprises waiting around every corner. New weapons, hilarious lines of dialogue, and an explosive cut scene to kick the story off starts things off right. Unfortunately, the accompanying Avenged Sevenfold track leaves much to be desired.

At first glance I assumed Call of the Dead would be less about what we love best about Treyarch’s installments: zombie-slaying, and more focused on the star power that went into creating this round. Instead, it serves up a heaping helping of campy, B-movie horror, which serves as the best-looking and most engaging Call of duty zombie romp to date.

I have to say, I wasn’t that impressed with many of the map locales included in the Escalation Map Pack – most were pretty drab and conventional, even by increasingly familiar CoD standards. With names like Convoy, Zoo, and Stockpile, these newer maps serve their purpose well and give hardcore Black Ops fans exactly what they want – more maps to learn and master for total online domination. They’re not a bad collection of new locales, but if there’s one reason to invest in this DLC, it’s the exquisite Call of the Dead map, which features some of the most famous horror personalities out there, as well as a brilliantly executed story and the engaging zombie gameplay ever seen in a Call of Duty game yet. Those less obsessed with the undead may want to hold off for now, at least until the next inevitable round of maps comes along.

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