Every year, it’s the same thing: a new Call of Duty video game and several map packs. Treyarch, the developers of World at War, Black Ops, and this year’s Black Ops 2 are known for creating four map packs, each with four multiplayer maps and one map for the Zombies mode. This game is no exception. Well, for the most part. With all four map packs now available for the Xbox 360 (PC and PlayStation 3 users will have to wait until later this month for the last pack), it’s time to see how they stack up against each other. As well, I’ll give my opinion on which one provides the best value for money. For those who only want to plonk down $15 for a single pack, this may help you decide which one is most worthy of your money.
Revolution — Jan. 29 (Xbox 360), Feb. 28 (PC, PS3)
The first map pack is indeed revolutionary as it provides a first for the Call of Duty franchise: in addition to the maps, it gives players access to an all-new weapon, the Peacekeeper submachine gun. This SMG has next to no recoil at the cost of only moderate damage. It acts like a bridge between the SMG and assault rifles, combining aspects of both weapon classes.
The four multiplayer maps are also quite solid. “Grind” sees players battling within a skate park, “Downhill” takes players to a ski resort with instant-death chairlifts, “Hydro” introduces deadly water to players fighting at this dam, and players truly experience a “Mirage” when shooting each other at this luxury resort in the desert. “Grind” and “Hydro” are mostly close quarters, while “Downhill” gives the game a fresh of breath air with its long-range battles. “Mirage” offers players both close and long range combat Not only are the maps of extremely high quality, they’re also quite varied, meaning any kind of player can find something to enjoy.
The Zombies map, “Die Rise” takes place in two destroyed Chinese high rise apartments. One of them is leaned against the other, with several floors at an angle. After the mess that was Tranzit, players are able to experience something closer to that of the previous games’ Zombies maps. The map focuses on verticality, as each floor is quite cramped. The community took well to the map, although I really can’t stand it, even before playing the other downloadable Zombies maps. Zombies also sees the addition of a new mode called “Turned,” where one player controls the zombie and the others try to kill it. Players take turns as the zombie, but this mode is largely forgettable.
Uprising — April 16 (Xbox 360), May 16 (PC, PS3)
The second map pack almost feels skimpy on the quantity of items included, as it resorts back to the classic four multiplayer maps and single Zombies map. However, the quality is upped even more. The four multiplayer maps are even more solid than the last offering: “Vertigo” takes place on top of a skyscraper and offers frantic (but not mindless) fun, “Encore” gives players the chance to kill each other at a concert venue, and the aptly-named “Magma” gives players another environmental hazard to avoid. The fourth map, “Studio,” is a remake of fan-favourite “Firing Range” from the original Black Ops. It’s now a movie studio lot with sets and props from several different movie genres. These maps feel even better in nearly every game mode compared to the last pack, with the exception of “Magma.” While not bad, the map simply feels like a bit of a letdown compared to the other three.
The Zombies map is no exception to this pack’s high quality. “Mob of the Dead” takes place in 1930s Alcatraz and introduces four new characters, each played by a film actor known for gangster movies: Ray Liotta, Michael Madsen, Joe Pantoliano, and Chazz Palminteri. The voice acting is great, as is the personality of each character. The map, while quite easy, is much more cinematic and atmospheric than most. The classic Zombies formula is back in full force with a few new additions, like Afterlife mode (your character becomes a controllable ghost when downed) and the ability to end the map by completing the storyline easter egg. Overall, this is one of the most enjoyable Zombies maps made, though repeated play sessions may certainly make the map seem less exciting.
Vengeance — July 2 (Xbox 360), August 1 (PC, PS3)
The third map pack is a large dip in quality in the multiplayer department. There’s another Black Ops remake here, with the snowy “Summit” being turned into a Malaysian jungle facility in “Uplink.” “Cove” lets players duke it out on a tropical island complete with a downed airplane, “Rush” takes place at a paintball field, and “Detour” sees players battling on and under a bridge with a giant hole in the middle. These maps are almost exclusively close quarters, meaning shotguns and SMGs reign supreme. Each map also encourages mindless rushing, allowing a single style of play to dominate. Unless you’re 12 years old or have ADHD, it’s hard to really enjoy these maps as they offer no potential for different play styles.
Thankfully the Zombies map is a completely different experience, bringing up the overall score of this less-than-inspired map pack. “Buried,” which takes place in an underground Wild West town complete with a haunted mansion and hedge maze, is another solid offering. While even easier than “Mob of the Dead” at times (there are several safe areas to camp and mow down zombies in addition to a friendly giant that can hold the last zombie in place, allowing players to freely roam the area without more zombies spawning), it’s simply one of the most fun Zombies experiences available.
There’s also a new weapon for Zombies mode: the Ray Gun Mark 2. It’s a burst fire version of the classic Ray Gun and can blast through several zombies if they’re lined up correctly. It supposedly makes an appearance in every other Zombies map in this game if the pack is purchased, though I’ve only ever acquired it on the “Buried” map.
Apocalypse — August 27 (Xbox 360), expected September 26 (PC, PS3)
What a finale to the paid downloadable content. Four amazing maps and quite possibly one of the finest Zombies maps ever made across Treyarch’s “trilogy.” The four multiplayer maps include a whopping two(!) remakes alongside the two original creations. “Takeoff” is a remake of “Stadium” from Black Ops, this time imagined as a nuclear launch facility. “Dig” is a reimagining of “Courtyard” from World at War, transformed from a Japanese courtyard to an archaeological dig (based on those map names, who would have guessed?). “Pod” is a failed utopian community consisting of… well… pods. “Frost” sees players hopping over a frozen Amsterdam river to fight in and around buildings in the winter. All the maps feature close to medium range combat, perfect for just about any play style. The only complaint is “Dig” becoming a haven for Target Finder kids. The original “Courtyard” was quite fast paced, at least in my experience. Now all I see in “Dig” are head glitchers with their precious sight that picks out targets for them, eliminating half the work. This is less a problem with the map and more a problem with the community, however.
The Zombies map, “Origins,” is where it all began: France during one of the Great War’s winters. This map has it all: buildable Wonder Weapons for every player, thousand-metre-tall robots that can crush you at any moment, a tank to ride around the map, and an answer to the Zombies storyline. It plays like a dream and is perhaps the most atmospheric of all the maps, even more than “Mob of the Dead.” There is nothing whatsoever to complain about with this Zombies map, unless you want to talk about the difficulty. It can be hard and quite unforgiving at times, but unlike most maps, immediately playing it again and getting set up doesn’t feel like as much a chore.
Best value for money?
It may not have received a perfect score, but if you can only buy one map pack, buy the first one. The four multiplayer maps are very solid all around and most people enjoy the Zombies map. It’s also nice to get a new weapon that feels pretty unique. For $15, you can’t really go wrong with the sheer amount of replayability and fun this map pack can give. Of course, if all you care about is the quality of all the maps, go for the fourth and final map pack. While you only get four multiplayer maps and one Zombies map, it’s by far the most fun. In the end, of course, it’s up to you.
Just avoid the third map pack if you can only buy one. You’ll like the Zombies map, but the other maps are pretty dull and are nearly as bad as most of the on-disc maps. It’s definitely not worth the money if you aren’t planning on buying all the packs.