Special-forces shooting match Call of Duty: Black Ops went on sale today. The latest entry in the phenomenally popular wartime-set first person shooter series sees you donning the balaclava and itchy trigger finger of a not-particularly-covert covert operative, recreating deniable 'black ops' missions from the Cold War era.
Let's take a look at the Internet's first impressions of CoD:BO, and see how it measures up against competitors such as Modern Warfare 2 and Medal of Honour. Oo-rah!
The game currently has a Metacritic score of 89 out of 100 on the PS3 and 90 for the Xbox 360. The national newspapers are particularly impressed: the Telegraph says Black Ops "is a game that will silence any naysayers and beat off any competition", while the Guardian gushes that it's "exhilarating and beautifully orchestrated... the pinnacle of the linear military shooter experience".
3DJuegos calls it "intense, gory and quite brilliant... a must have for any action fan", Planet Xbox 360 praises the "intriguing narrative", and Total Video Games declares "Call of Duty is still the best military shooter out there and by quite some margin".
It's the third game in the series to have been developed by Treyarch, who took over the franchise from Infinity Ward. Fans have been split, but many reviewers think Treyarch is hitting its stride with Black Ops. SpazioGames believes that "after years following in Infinity Ward's footsteps, Treyarch has a chance to show its qualities, and it delivers". Gameblog.fr reckons "we can't say any more that Treyarch's CoDs don't measure up".
Metro GameCentral rates Black Ops as "the best Call of Duty Treyarch has ever made, with several set pieces that are amongst gaming's very best". VideoGamer's reviewer has "considered myself a CoD fan for many years, and I've held a deep-seeded distrust of Treyarch since Call of Duty 3. No longer."
The multiplayer mode in particular has won lashings of early praise. Cheat Code Central asserts the multiplayer component "is so well thought-out that it could have been released as a stand-alone experience". IGN UK puts the game "right up there with the very best... thanks to its superb run of wager matches", which allow you to bet experience points on different types of multiplayer game. Eurogamer Italy reckons "everything on the multiplayer side is pure gold!" even if the single-player mode is occasionally "boring".
IGN is more measured in its praise. Wager matches, "while fun in their own right, don't compare favourably to the high-quality and addictive levelling system and game modes from Modern Warfare 1 and 2", while the single-player mode is fast and large enough in scale to distract from the "lacklustre AI" of non-playable characters. Official Xbox Magazine UK believes Black Ops is "easily one of the best looking Xbox 360 games available" but only delivers "bread and butter gameplay".
Indeed, not everybody is gushing with praise. Games Radar sees it as a "missed opportunity" by Treyarch. Joystiq identifies missing features from previous games, while Game Informer "had a blast" playing the game, but was disappointed that after all the hype, the huge budget had essentially yielded "Modern Warfare 2.5". Giant Bomb is growing jaded with a game that despite "a lot of great moments" feels "cliched and hokey", with the formula "starting to wear thin".
Our magnificent sister site GameSpot is holding its counsel for now, with its famously thorough reviewers wanting to test the multiplayer with the masses before it delivers its definitive verdict. The full review should be up this evening, we hear, but in the meantime, check out its video preview and multiplayer hands-on.
With the game going on sale at midnight, user reviews are also starting to trickle in. Metacritic user Nefilim feels let down by the graphics, as "yet again Treyarch don't seem to be able to provide a CoD game with polished graphics; MW2 was far superior in that department". Meanwhile the very demanding WiseMarosis felt short-changed. All CoD:BO has is "new perks, new weapons, new maps, big deal. Every sequel has that. What else has it got? Refined features? So what." Blimey. We'd hate to have to buy him a birthday present.
Call of Duty: Black Ops is out now for the Nintendo Wii and DS, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC. Have you rappelled into your local game shop to liberate a copy? Taken the day off or itching to get home and start blasting commies? Let us know your thoughts, and whether you think the first reviews are bang-on or way off-target.