Game Review

Call of Duty: Black Ops Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Jon Wahlgren

Portable ops

Even though they're wheeled out every year alongside their console cousin, n-Space's Call of Duty games on DS never cease to surprise. From making first-person gameplay work well on the unconventional handheld to pushing horsepower limits, each entry seems to have something new to prove. This year, Call of Duty: Black Ops pushes the DS ever more and proves that a portable shooter can be just as feature-packed as on a console.

Black Ops doesn't try to tell the same story as its home-bound counterpart, instead following past Call of Duty DS games by pursuing a new narrative in the same universe across 16 stages. Even though it doesn't run through the same plot, it still follows the same beats: instead of being interrogated between missions you're being debriefed, there's a very familiar underground tunnel section, and so forth. Level design is strong and well paced, more so than before in fact, helping the campaign maintain its fun momentum throughout. Ultimately, it's really not that different from past Call of Duty games besides a few headache-inducing vehicle segments, so if you've played those then you know what to expect – if you haven't, n-Space's years of DS FPS experience poured into Black Ops make it the best place to start.

Much like on consoles, the campaign is a heavily scripted affair with multiple friendly NPCs at your side. While the scripting does allow for some exciting firefight setups, it can just as easily take you out of the game. Your two allies are very capable fighters, often able to take down most of the opposing force without you; that is, when they're not in the way when going through tight corridors. More often than not they're a very useful addition to your battle, and there are indeed times when you battle alone. Handily, you're a killing machine thanks to strong gunplay.

Shooting feels much better than it did in GoldenEye, primarily because it feels accurate and effective; enemies aren't the strange bullet sponges as they were in Bond's outing. In fact, the controls in general feel better, allowing more versatility in the middle of combat thanks to smart touchscreen functionality: there's a quick-turn button and a double-tap brings up your gun sights. As in past n-Space DS shooters, you can choose to aim using either the touchscreen or the face buttons. Stylus aiming is more accurate but is more strain on your wrist, whereas buttons feel more comfortable but less quick. Both work, though, and are ultimately down to preference.

The only times controls become an issue are during the vehicle sequences sprinkled throughout the campaign. Flight sequences are on-rails affairs where you can dodge left and right while aiming at targets with a reticule, but the reticule only moves with buttons — not a problem when you're playing with the all-button option during the campaign, but stylus players may find the change jarring and unnecessary. Mobile turret sections screw up aiming as well: in one battle you fire RPGs at a helicopter from the back of a truck, but it feels like trying to thread a needle that's running in the other direction.

After the last campaign bullet has been fired, Black Ops still has a bundle of extras to occupy your DS with. Arcade and Challenge modes out a slightly different twist on the campaign stages; the former focuses on score and time, the latter providing specific objectives to conquer: use a particular weapon, accrue a certain kill count and so forth. These are fun diversions, but they're not too drastically different from the campaign.

However, the online modes are. Up to six players can compete in local and online multiplayer, complete with an abbreviated version of the console game's leveling and perks system. Friends can even speak to each other in pre-game lobbies over voice chat. If competitive modes aren't your bag then you and a friend or stranger can play co-operatively in Zombies on four maps (three more than on Wii), barricading doors and windows and upgrading weapons. Zombies can also be played solo offline, but we wouldn't recommend it: the undead will drop you in a couple of hits, which wouldn't be a problem if you were properly warned of their location beyond the unhelpful face on the screen.

The same relatively high production values of past n-Space shooters are back and better than before, with more enemies in play at a time and slightly tighter graphics. The only visual issue comes with enemies blending somewhat into the environment, a problem that past Call of Duty games have faced on the platform. Characters are given full voice work, and what sounds like music from the console versions makes an appearance as well.


Black Ops is inescapably similar to prior Call of Duty games on DS, but the improvements made to the campaign and wealth of extra features make it the best of the series and one of the top first-person shooters the handheld has to offer. The numerous modes and options may not be hot across the board, but the strong campaign and bountiful multiplayer options provide a memorable blast through the Cold War.

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User Comments (41)



SwerdMurd said:

Good stuff Jon.

All these games have been surprisingly decent for DS...everytime I've expected a super watered down/lackluster port and I've been greeted with a stellar DS FPS that pushes the genre forward on the console. DS COD games truly set the bar...not that many others attempt to dethrone them.



Shiryu said:

nSpace truly is unrivaled on the DS FPS scene. A great game on it's own.



AVahne said:

Another DS FPS from n-Space showing that the DS has the best Portable FPS controls.



moosa said:

This looks great. I sure hope that Nintendo has the balls to put NST back on a Metroid Prime Hunters game for the 3DS though. That was the epitome of portable first person shooting gameplay.



Hokori said:

man! the tag line "Portable Ops" makes me want 3DS version of MGS Portable Ops even more



Slapshot said:

Great review Jon!

I think I'm sticking with the console version of the game, but it's certainly great to see that the games aren't cheap shovelware. I enjoyed the first Call of Duty on the DS, sore wrist and all, and glad to see they just improve with each release.



G-MaxiMillion said:

I've played the zombie mode, and find it irritating that I only need one hit to get killed by one. I suppose I'll have to co-op play with someone before I can really even enjoy the Zombie modus.



Varoennauraa said:

DS's controls are the closest thing, I mean almost exactly like mouse and keyb, if you use thumb strap. Graphics are mess, but you can aim for your self -> more fun. Once again fast and precise, and people who have only played with dual analogs might need a little accustomization but works without compromises. I wait great things from 3DS's FPS front...if only they could bring the thumb strap back.



LuWiiGi said:

I'll wait for the 3DS before I get a handheld FPS, but I'm glad n-Space did so well considering the DS's limitations.



Pokeman said:

That is one good grafic ds game. That surprises me because i only play these pixel games on the ds with sucky blocky grafics



Nintendoftw said:

I play PC and DS FPS. The DS's controls are far better. Wii's controls are undoubtedly the best of all time though.



xPOTATOx said:

Ehh, looks like a huge improvement from the last CoD games on DS. This game has better controls and graphics, but don't expect anything newer. Looks great, though. Good Review!



Vinsanity said:

This just makes me want to see a DS FPS with style or original ideas. I'm so g--damn sick of US military shooters ruling the market...or rather, Call of Duty and a bunch of imitators clogging up said marketplace. I'd rather see a new Turok for DS. A shooter where you need some imagination to come up with the weapons? Where your enemies are interesting creatures like aliens and dinosaurs? THAT'S the kind of FPS that should be celebrated, not this creatively bankrupt garbage.

When you can point to games in this genre from about 15 years ago with far more imagination, you're in trouble...but of course, all that matters is the bottom line and as long as there are enough fools to make these games bring in record-breaking sales, this is all we're going to get for awhile. sigh

So Turok: Disney, get N-Space and make it happen! You already are working with N-Space on Tron: Battlegrids for Wii...



Dave123 said:


I wouldn't get it purely for zombies mode, unless u have wi-fi or someone to play co-op with, because the review is right playing zombies in single player is pretty bad.



Bassman_Q said:

@briunj04- I do.

Great review! While I won't be buying this game (since the review mentions it's very similar to previous CoD DS games and my DS can't connect to wifi), it's great to see how this one is just as good as the previous installments on the DS. I have both Modern Warfares on the DS, and they're both quite excellent (the second being loads better), and will probably wait for MW3 on DS, whenever that comes out.



Azikira said:

@Vinsanity: Lol, im actually making designs to submit to Nintendo for such a type of game.

I was thinking of picking this up but wasnt sure, seeing as how nobody likes to review DS games. But dude, Nazi Zombies... PORTABLE? Heck, i'll go see if I can try a demo or something.



ReddLionz said:

I don't get that one.

But I'm guessing the Zombie maps are completely different from console verions. Probably no Five, or Kino Der Toten.



Nintendoftw said:

The single player is somewhat similar but the multiplayer is COMPLETELY revamped. It actually feels like a true FPS online shooter. Such amazing online play justifies the buy itself. The single player is different too... Really, it just has a different feel in comparison to all the others... The maps are bigger and sniper rifles are actually really fun to use. But I have only played it for ONE DAY. Mostly because my suckish DSi had some kind of stroke.



paperskyx said:

Wow. Those graphics are extremely impressive for the DS. I wouldn't ever have expected there to be a CoD game on the DS. It makes me want to try it, even though I hate these types of games!



Greenday1300 said:

this game is a really good one to keep u playing.
its got a nice campaign and when u finish that u can play it again, do a different difficulty, or just play the levels u like.
its not every day you see a fps on ds but this one worked well.



Supremeist said:

Looks okay. I'll wait and see if MW3 comes out portable for 3DS though, which will probably be much better than this.

I was thinking of purchasing when I read the review when it came out, but I never ended up doing it.



MosesAltmann12 said:

The game rocks!
Great job N-Space. But the only other FPS games I like are Heavy Gear II, Halo 3, Metroid Prime Hunters and Bionicle Heroes DS.



Foot77 said:

@multimariosonic What the heck is "WAT" supposed to mean?

Anyway, I prefer Brother's In Arms DS instead of the other COD DS games but this game was 1000 times better! I highly recommend buying this. It has great replayability.

Still, GoldenEye is the best fps!

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