Call of Duty: Black Ops – First Strike DLC Review and Tips (Updated)
The first downloadable content for Call of Duty Black Ops went live yesterday, and FPS fans around the world rushed to try out the First Strike pack, with four new multiplayer maps (Discovery, Kowloon, Stadium and Berlin Wall), and one new Zombie map (Ascension). But was it worth the 1200MS points?
First Strike overview:
The first challenge is to download the map pack, and actually get into a game as everyone rushes to try and get the new maps on the first day. I don’t know how much Activision made, but there were around 1 million gamers in Call of Duty: Black Ops the entire time I was online.
Having downloaded the pack I was greeted by the message that the servers were down, but got in after switching from a local game, and once 3 of my friends had overcome the same problem, we were ready to go into Team Deathmatch, only to find there’s no First Strike playlist, and the first match was on two of the old maps.
Having had a quick look around in combat training while everyone else arrived, I have to say my initial response was one of disapointment. The zip wires in Kowloon were made out to be a huge feature, but are actualy just a couple of short zip lines which last a blink of an eye. And the auto-turrets in the Berlin Wall map just annihilate everyone, whether using Ghost Pro or not, so you just end up funneled into the 3 crossing points for head-on collisions with the enemy team. It wasn’t looking good.
Besides the lack of a specific playlist, and the disapointment at the zip lines, auto turrets, and the lack of anyone bothing to blow up the ice bridges in Discovery, the maps were definitely much needed and have reinvigorated CoD:Black Ops a bit. Whether they were worth 1200 MS points is another matter.
Update – I’ve finally figured out a better method for tackling Kowloon….
As I mentioned above, the auto-turrets basically kill everything and everyone, meaning that you’re left with a road at either end, and a narrow crossing in the middle to travel between the two parallel streets on the map. It reminds me a lot of Overgrown from Modern Warfare 2, in that you’ve basically got a couple of crossing points, and then two long streets which teams will tend to congregate on in the best camping spots.
It’s definitely been designed for camping and snipers, although strangely, the chances to snipe across the turret area are fairly slim, especially when compared with Overgrown, which means it oftens turns into a killfest when you try to enter the actual street.
Slow and cautious seems to be the way to go – in line with all the other Black Ops maps, there aren’t many places where you can camp in saftey, and there are always ways to get in and surprise someone, but at the same time, there are so many angles to cover when you enter a room that you’re quite likely to miss someone.
Recommended Loadouts: Sniper rifle or Assault Rifle with Acog scope (Possibly Red Dot or Reflex). A Suppressor isn’t a bad idea as an attachment, and I’ve tended to use Ghost Pro, Hardened Pro and Ninja, or Ghost Pro, Warlord, and Ninja.
Possibly my favourite of the new maps, and definitely the better of the two bigger locations. The backdrop to the map is open sky, which makes it the most relaxing and least claustrophobic map in Black Ops. It also seems to have a better balance between long distance sniping from one edge of the map to the other, and buildings giving enough cover for a more aggresive approach. There are definitely some better buildings to hide out in, and the riskiest area seems to be getting caught on the long metal walkway, or if someone is waiting in the long ice tunnel at the edge of the map.
Definitely a map which encourages team work, like Berlin Wall, but the games feel more fluid and less prone to hurling yourself against a rock hoping for a breakthrough.
Recommended Load-Out: See above for the Ghost loadouts I’d tend to use. You can probably get away more with mixing it up with non-scoped Assault rifles on most of the map, and therefore using some other perks (Hardened Pro isn’t a bad perk to help nail bad guys more easily).
Billed as the close-quarters map, it’s not as small as Nuketown, and actually feels less random than some of the original maps. It’s the one map that everyone on my team agreed was a good addition, and is really suited to a mix of ‘run and gun’ and slightly more circumspect load-outs. There’s a good mix of places to stop and reload, with the aid of some claymores, whilst also giving you the chance to run about without constantly getting caught from a mile away.
It’s a bit disapointing that you can’t run across the ice and slipslide your way towards the enemy (If it wasn’t for the signs, and the inaccessible rink, there’d be no indication a stadium was involved), but it’s a great map, and one which goes a long way to justifying the map pack.
Recommended Loadout: The AK74su works well here, along with Assault Rifles, and even the Shotgun (If you’re a fan). Dual Wielders also seem to like the layout of the map, and if you’re planning to do the running man, Lightweight Pro and Marathon Pro are essential. I tend to use Hardened or Sleight of Hand to help with the frantic action, and Dual Mags/Extended Mags are also your friends. If you’re moving more slowly, the Famas, Aug or Galil are good choices to be able to spray plenty of bullets quickly, rather than trying to reload the M14 as someone stabs you.
The weaker of the two close-quarters maps, and one that really hasn’t grabbed me yet. It’s all close quarters stuf, and the disapointment of the zipline was a little depressing. Kowloon is a multi-level rabbit warren with a couple of roofs which look tantalisingly reachable until you jump, die, and realise they’re actually off the map.
Running and gunning seems the only solution, as there’s very little chance to set yourself up with a useful view.
Recommended Loadout: SMG or Shotgun, with Lightweight Pro, Marathon Pro and whatever second Perk you fancy.
Update: If you’re running and gunning, the supressor is extremely useful. The other alternative is to head up to the neon sign area and use your own claymore or motion detector (or get other team-mates to donate some), and then pick people off if they come to that side of the map.
Was it worth it?
On balance, Discovery and Stadium are great new additions. Berlin Wall and Kowloon are average. And you might have noticed I haven’t spoken about Ascension yet as I couldn’t get a whole team together to try it, and single-player zombies isn’t exactly an objective experience.
The cost of 1200MS points is potentially a little high, but it does bring a little more variety. I’d have liked to have seen a couple more maps included for the price, particularly as the access to guns via CoD money means that you end up using the same few weapons, and there isn’t much that changes over the course of the 15 prestige levels. Even a couple of the Modern Warfare 2 or World at War (Treyarch’s last CoD game) maps would have given a bit more variation in game styles and tactics which would have been welcome. But it doesn’t mean I won’t be jumping online as soon as possible for the First Strike specific playlist to work out better ways of tackling Kowloon in particular. And if you can help, leave a comment, or drop some forum posts on this thread.