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Verhille: The new Black Ops II downloadable content doesn't disappoint

BY DAN VERHILLE | JANUARY 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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To the untrained ear, Downhill, Grind, Mirage, Hydro, and Die Rise might sound like words you’d expect to hear from an X Games announcer, but they’re actually the brand-new Call of Duty Black Ops II multiplayer and zombie maps from the Revolution add-on.

In the past few years it has pretty much become the norm for developers to follow up major releases with major downloadable content releases available for an additional purchase. Firms collect some bonus cash after the original release, and fans get some premium content that’s (hopefully) been catered exactly to their tastes because the developer has spent time digesting feedback.

In my review of Black Ops II, I commended Treyarch for redirecting the Call of Duty franchise back toward close-quarter maps with clear team “sides” and choke points, rather than large myriads which equated to the player being shot in the back more often than not.

The new maps take the concept players love and push it to fruition, eliminating much of the superfluous running about and twiddle-your-thumbs time that occurred in many previous titles while you waited for the player you just killed to respawn and run a mile back to where you could re-engage him.

While some of the new maps may come across gimmicky at first, their commitment to theme is what makes them stand above other levels. For example, Grind, a Venice Beach skate park, is full of half-pipes, rails, and cool skateboard graffiti while Hydro, a Pakistani hydroelectric dam, dares players to cross the spillway running through the center of the map in the intervals between violent torrents of water.

Downhill and Mirage were my less preferred of the four, but I will admit that the attention to detail on the architecture and layouts in these maps is still nothing short of impressive. However, if four polished maps aren’t enough to sell you, it may be time to switch over to zombie mode.

Die Rise is perhaps the most innovative installment in the entire series, because all of the perks available for purchase are completely mobile. Players will find themselves fighting zombies in every nook, cranny, and corridor of this massive, nonlinear level.

The difficulty of this new zombie map — even on easy — is no laughing matter. The level contains countless doors to be opened, a smattering of new weapons, and maddening elevator mechanics that make the Tower of Terror elevator ride at Disney World feel like a leisurely stroll in the park.

The entire map has a way of giving the player the feeling that he’s walking a tightrope or crawling through a cave, but with a hungry hoard of zombies in tow in both cases. And by the time the player has his bearings and thinks that he has a chance to buy some upgrades, the rapid frogs attack.

Well, they aren’t actually rapid frogs, but a new type of zombie called a “minion” attacks the player every five rounds using a technique that resembles what a giant frog on rabies would use if such a thing were possible.

If you hate surprises, be prepared to despise this dastardly alien-amphibian hybrid.

The only things left to ask Treyarch for is a chance to actually win the stinking game. Sure, I have fun exploring and mowing down zombies, but I feel like the potential for a big resolution is being overlooked.

I want the ability to survive the zombie attack by solving some puzzle within the game mechanics, or the ability to permanently apply perks from the game’s outset as a reward for reaching a certain level. Regardless of how exactly it’s done, zombies mode desperately needs to give us something to aspire to besides being eventually rundown when the clip is empty.

Many critics will denounce this and other downloadable-content releases as shameless attempt on the part of developers to milk every last dollar from their customer base, but Treyarch has done a laudable job providing fans with more of what they actually wanted.


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