Many gamers were up in arms after Modern Warfare 2‘s policy of providing three new maps, and two old ones in their DLC packs. Thankfully, in a step away from Infinity Ward’s repackaging strategy, Treyarch has opted to provide four brand new maps and a new zombie stage in their first DLC pack, entitled First Strike.
Considering a lot of Call of Duty fans are on edge, I’m sure many are wondering “is the First Strike pack is worth my hard earned $15″? The answer is pretty simple if you’re a fan of Black Ops: yes.
The most sensible way to break down this review is map by map, so I’ll cover all four multiplayer stages, and the new zombie offering.
All the multiplayer stages are of medium size, meaning they can be cycled in both Ground War and Team Deathmatch gametypes, among others.
Discovery (Pictured Above)
This map looks and feels like the single player mission “Project Nova” (the Reznov camp raid). Set in a snowy mountain-top, Discovery hosts a military complex divided by a steel bridge, which has an additional ice bridge underneath. An aurora borealis lights up the sky, adding a pretty neat effect to the map, and there’s plenty of places to hide, including various factories, and even an ice cave.
The aforementioned ice bridge is destructible (which has been showcased in all the game’s trailers), but it really isn’t that big of an addition. Players can simply use the right or left access ridges, or the entire center bridge to get to the other side. Additionally, the ice bridge itself is really small, the path is very open to gunfire, and it’s fairly easy to blow up with a few rockets and grenades (meaning Warlord Pro users can knock it out pretty much instantly on their first spawn).
While the ice bridge’s lack of flair isn’t anything to write home about, Discovery itself is a solid map, and it sets an interesting precedent for destructible environments in future Black Ops map packs. I, for one, hope we see more of it in future iterations.
Berlin Wall is another city-type map, and hosts a good balance of open areas and buildings. Just like the on-disc Havana map, there are various nooks and diners to hide in if you want to get off the streets. A lot of detail was put into this one, as it showcases some nuanced aesthetics of East and West Berlin, adding a unique feel to objective gametypes.
The wall itself is in the dead center of the map, and a small break allows you to walk a thin line between the two gun zones. Machine guns are posted at the two watchtowers in the center of the map. Thankfully you won’t get shot down randomly, as zones that are machine gun territory are marked in red on your mini-map. It is possible to run past them (especially in larger games where their fire won’t be focused solely on you), but survival isn’t likely.
No doubt this will be a hot spot for objective based games, and the machine gun placements really add a fresh element of natural danger to Black Ops; something the on-disc maps didn’t really provide.
Based off the campaign mission “Numbers”, Kowloon is a rooftop map that contains a new feature: ziplines. There are two in total on the map, and both of their inception points are located in the dead center of the stage, going in opposite directions towards either edge.
Using them will leave you completely wide open to attack, but they’ll allow you to gain quick access to the map’s edges. While in theory they are kind of a neat addition, it would have been nice if we were able to at least utilize a sidearm while using them. Despite my qualms with this new gimmick, the map is absolutely superb, and really differentiates itself from the on-disc maps, most notably because of the tight-knit layout, and weather effects.
With low visibility due to rainfall, and tons of tiny shacks, one thing’s for sure: Kowloon is a window camper’s paradise.
Stadium, or more precisely, “Chance Stadium” is one of the more orthodox maps featured in First Strike. This one doesn’t pull any punches or have a unique gimmick: and a result, it’s probably the weakest selection in the pack. Fans of CQC and the AK74u are sure to have some fun here, as the only real open area is in the center of the map: the rest is blocked off by various buildings, and high outdoor walls.
If you were expecting to actually set foot on the ice rink, prepare to be disappointed, as it’s completely blocked off. While the various training rooms and areas are well detailed, the actual layout itself is pretty standard. While it isn’t a “bad” map per se, it is more of the same, and at $15, Activision needs to do a bit more than that to sway people who are on the fence.
Ascension is a unique zombie map set in a space station, and adds a whole assortment of weapons and mechanics to Black Op’s zombie mode. In what is described by Treyarch as a “Wizard of Oz” effect, until you turn the power on, the map is rendered completely in black and white. This aesthetic succeeds for two reasons: one, it invokes the classic feel of old school zombie flicks “I Walked With a Zombie”, and “White Zombie”, which stays true to the mode’s throwback roots. Second, it helps add to the tension, considering it’s harder to discern friend from foe in the monochrome abyss. Once you turn the power back on, all hell breaks loose, and the game returns to color.
“Ascension “also stays true to it’s name, as it features an assortment of multi-tiered complexes and flying platforms. In addition to the level’s myriad of staircases, it also features a ton of open areas, two new perks, and a few new weapons. The most notable addition is the Matryoshka Doll bomb, which actually features multiple bombs that pop out of each other in hilarious fashion. The Gersch Device, another new addition, is a portable black hole that allows you to suck zombies into the dark depths of nothingness, and can be utilized as a portal by players. Because of these features, Ascension draws comparisons to World at War’s best zombie map, Der Riese: and that’s a good thing for fans.
With all these open areas, it’s just as well that there’s plenty of room to move around, considering the agile Zombie Monkeys have replaced Hell Hounds – these crazy space monkeys hop around like mad, and are pretty tough to spot. Mechanics wise, instead of the teleporters from Five and Kino der Toten, Ascension features a hovering platform (pictured) to allow players to move back and forth across the map. While you’re hovering (which takes around ten seconds per ride), you can shoot zombies below. There are three access points, and once you’ve taken all of them, the Pack-a-Punch room opens up, and allows you to upgrade your guns. Like Kino der Toten’s teleporter, the hover platform is also on a limited timer.
Overall, Ascension feels like a perfect blend of old and new, making it a must play for zombie fans. If you don’t play Zombies, this does nothing to sweeten the deal, but considering this is probably the most accessible map yet, it’s worth a try.
Gamer Limit gives First Strike an 8.5 out of 10.