Call of Duty: Black Ops' four newest maps add a healthy mix of new places to run and gun, hide and shoot, play and kill. Here's a first-hand play-through.
I spent a few hours yesterday playing around with Call of Duty: Black Ops First Strike maps for the Xbox 360 in Training Grounds, pitting myself against AI controlled players since the pack wasn't releasing until today.
Kowloon, inspired by the Hong Kong mission found in the game's single player campaign, was one of my favorite in the pack. This deceptively complex map is packed into a relatively small space. While the map's biggest draw for me initially were the two zip lines that bisect the level, it's the rat's nest of walkways, ladders, apartments and rooftops that hooked me. This is the sort of map that's going to take awhile to master, especially when taking on a group of talented players.
The zip lines were slightly disappointing, because of the size of the map. The pay off of getting from the middle to the outer edge of the area often wasn't worth the risk of dangling like a pinata for anyone to take shots at. It was fun to play a bit of chicken though.
Discovery, set in an antarctic research station, seems to be one of the largest of the set. It was a bit disappointing to learn that while the map is indeed divided by a deep chasm there are more than collapsible ice bridges to get across the ravine. In fact, there's only one ice bridge, and it's not too easy to collapse. If you can get past that, the map is a worthwhile addition to the game.
Spread out over a collection of quonset huts, gantries, and walkways, Discovery offers plenty of opportunities for tactical take-downs and strategy. What initially feels like a pretty flat level ends up having a surprising amount of depth because of the chasm, which you can drop down next to to get to that ice bridge.
Berlin Wall is a very different map from the rest you'll find in Black Ops multiplayer, mostly because of those deadly no-man's land sections that split the level. These sections, marked in red on the map and with warning signs in the virtual world, are protected by towers bristling with automatic machine guns. You can actually survive a few hits and the guns don't automatically hit you, so in theory you may be able to run your way through a section to safety, but I'm not sure if it would be worth it. Once you step in the warning area sirens sound, letting everyone on the map know there's someone in that area.
There are three crossing points from East to West, two wide areas located at the edges of the map and a thin trail going through the center, none of these crossings have much cover. Each side is packed with buildings great for hiding and ambushing as well as a few solid sniping spots. It's a wonderfully different map.
One thing I found myself doing early on was forgetting to look left and right when I ran through those safe channels, because on some level I thought of them as essentially walls. Of course someone can easily snipe you from across the map if you're not paying attention.
Finally, there's Stadium, my least favorite of the set. The map is built around an ice hockey stadium and rink, though you can't go on the ice. It's a fairly bland looking map with a lot of opens spaces surrounding by buildings and hiding spots. Not my cup of tea.
First Strike also comes with a new zombie coop map called Ascension. The level drops you down into a missile silo and has you fighting your way out of it, unlocking doors to try and make your way to the power switch located on the roof.
It is, so far, my favorite of the zombie maps.
Still no word on when or if this pack is hitting the PC and PS3, but it should be available today (if it isn't already) for the Xbox 360 for 1,200 Microsoft Points, or about $15.