It has been a week since the first map pack for the wildly popular Call of Duty: Black Ops has come out, so the question remains, was it worth the 1200 MS Points? Unlike MW2’s map packs, Treyarch has given us 4 brand new maps and 1 zombie map to play. I have had one week to play these maps to death, so let me start out with giving an impression of the new maps.
This map is not based on anything that we have seen in Black Ops and features the infamous Berlin Wall that was put up to separate East and West Germany during the Cold War. The two key features of the map is the size and the “No Mans Land” in the middle of the map that has auto turrets that fire on anyone trying to brave through it. Easily the largest of the new maps, this makes for a great sniper map. However, unlike Array which allows for people to see large areas, this map utilizes long stretches which forces snipers to move around to view different angles of the map. I like to snipe on certain maps and after sniping a few times on Berlin Wall, it has definitely become a favorite of mine. The size also allows for a lot of great objective based gameplay like CTF, Domination, HQ, or S&D. The NML area of the map seems somewhat gimmicky, but allows for an interesting contrast between separating the two sides of the map without blocking out the middle of the map with invisible barriers or a deep ravine. Also you can make it through NML with a bit of luck and teammates that offer themselves as cannon fodder for the turrets. My friends and I have made a game out of it and often run through it to see who makes it. If I had to rank it, it would be my second favorite of the new maps.
Discovery is somewhat based on the arctic based campaign level Project Nova, but offers a unique layout with walkways that can be destroyed allowing for people to fall into a deep ravine if they miss the jump. This map is like a smaller version of Berlin Wall and has many more ways to get from one side of the map to the other, which can allow the more sneaky players to get to the other side without garnering much attention towards them. This map is also quite sizable and does have a lot of long views which will make it a popular sniper map for those willing to take on the challenge. The destructible walkways are very gimmicky though. Unlike Berlin Wall which uses NML to divide the map into two, the walkways (when destroyed) do nothing to prevent players from crossing. If they made it so crossing a destroyed walkway makes you have to press jump twice (meaning you had to grab on to the ledge and pull yourself up), it would make destroying those walkways a more tactical choice instead of just for shits and giggles. It is so easy to jump over the destroyed walkways that only the noobiest of players will be effected by it.
This map is loosely based off of the campaign map Numbers and offers a rooftop combat with ziplines, complex paths, and verticality. If I had to say one thing about Kowloon, it’s that it is a complex map that will challenge the best of players to defend or attack certain areas of the map. Kowloon is my favorite of the new maps because of the complex nature of it. If you like playing objective based modes, this will make it very difficult to attack because an entire team of campers will make it hard to attain the objective; that makes S&D, HQ, and Demolition modes some of the most challenging you’ll find. With Domination and CTF, there is a give and take ability that is wildly fun as both teams will have to play both offence and defense. The ziplines are a lot like the destructible pathways in Discovery, meaning they really are nothing more than a gimmick and will hardly affect the outcome of the game, however, the difference is that I found the ziplines a lot of fun to use. That makes the ziplines more entertaining and can create a lot of laughs when you see the guy with the flag in CTF use it instead of just running through the back pathways of the map.
Stadium is the smallest of the maps and feels like a lot like playing Nuketown and Firing Range. The difference is that instead of splitting the map into relatively medium size combat areas, Treyarch split the map into several mini combat zones and left only the middle of the map as a larger open area. That makes this map ideal for HQ, Domination, and Team Deathmatch. Since I like playing CTF and it really lacks good CTF zones, this is my least favorite of the new maps, but when I played a few rounds of HQ, I fell in love with it. The only problem I found with this map is that it took the trouble of adding a hockey rink, but does not allow for players to run around, slide, and fight on it. With all the other levels having some kind of gimmick to them this feels like a wasted opportunity.
Since World at War, Treyarch’s most notable addition to the Call of Duty franchise is the addition of a zombie mode. What makes this map stand out from the other eight is the size, the types of zombies, the new perks, weapons, and the Lunar Landers. The size of the map might seem daunting, but it makes for some fun moments when you are forced to run away from zombies when you start to get overrun by them. It also makes it more difficult to defend against the zombie space monkeys. That is right, I said zombie space monkeys. The zombie space monkeys are unique from both Dogs and the Pentagon Thief because instead of just attacking you, they also attack perk machines. The only perk machines you have to protect are the ones everyone in your team has and if you fail to protect them, then the perk of the machine you fail to protect gets taken away from everyone. However, if you successfully protect them all, you each get one random perk. There are five total perks, however you can only have four at one time. They took out double tap, adding both PhD Flopper and Stamina-Up. PhD Flopper gives you the ability to dive off of a platform and produce a mini-explosion killing all zombies near you. It also allows you to take no damage from Ray Guns and any explosions caused by you. Stamina-Up gives you the ability to run faster and longer, which helps because of the size of the map. There are also two new weapons, first being the Matryoshka Doll, which replaces your tactical grenade. Once thrown, it produces 4 random grenade explosions. The other is the Gersch Device, which also replaces your tactical grenade and once thrown generates a mini-black hole sucking up all the zombies around it for a few seconds. This provides a great distraction and if a player jumps in it, they randomly teleport to a different location on the map. Finally, the Lunar Landers, which is the thing you come down on at the start of the map, allows for players to fly to different areas of the map. This can not only save you in a time of need, but can create many funny situations.
After playing this map several times, I definitely believe this is my favorite of all the zombie maps. The new perks and weapons are a lot of fun and the map offers many locations that can be selected to defend on. The Lunar Landers offer a lot of fun as well. When I was downed on the Lunar Lander, my teammate, trying to raise me, accidently used it causing us to fly off and separating us from the other two. It was funny as we tried to race back fighting off the zombies and this was at a higher level too. One level when we were being overcome by the zombies, we also used it to try and save ourselves. There where even times where we had to leave people behind. Ascension is a map that is just a lot of fun and if you are a fan of the zombie mode or even someone who just likes to play it from time to time, this is one map you can’t miss.
So was it worth it? If you’ve read all of my post, you can probably tell by now what I am going to say. First Strike might have a lot of gimmicks in it, but it really does offer a lot of great maps for $15 and none of them are repackaged from previous games. If you do not play a lot of multiplayer in Black Ops, then I understand why spending $15 on this piece of DLC might not be worth it. If you do, then you probably already bought the maps, but if you are still unsure then I highly recommend spending the money. If not for the multiplayer maps, do it just for the zombie map. The zombie map alone is worth $5, which makes 4 multiplayer maps for $10 a great deal.