Now that you’ve read the news that Black Ops (which is launching on the 9th of November) will have local dedicated server support through MWEB, it’s finally time to breathe easy. And then, when you’re done breathing easy like some sort of relaxed person, start inhaling air maniacally in anticipation of this game: it’s going to be a big deal, and I’d like to tell you why, in order of importance as declared by me:

Zombies!

Here at NAG, we’re as close to being retarded for COD: WAW’s Nazi Zombies mode as is humanly possible, given the fact that videogames cannot actually make you retarded (although the presence of a lot of certain types of online gamers would seem to indicate otherwise). Anyway, zombie mode is a big thing for the following reasons: 1) It’s Terrifying, 2) it promotes insane levels of team-work, 3) it’s complex, and 4) it contains zombies.

When I say Terrifying, I make no mistake in slapping that upper-case “T” in there like some sort of monolith to the dark lords of Chaos. Zombie mode is chilling right from the start, when there are just a few of the squidgy undead lurking about and a pistol or bolt-action rifle is sufficient to bring the bastards down. But “chilling” soon turns into “pants-wetting, paralysis-inducing horror” as the zombie hordes grow more numerous, stronger and faster – the result requires that you not only get better weapons, but force yourself to deal with the situation in as calm a manner as possible. If you panic, you’re food.

A screenshot from World at War's Nazi Zombie mode. This is not a recommended method for dispatching the undead.

I’ve always maintained that co-operative play versus the A.I. is the best way to bring a team together. Online competitive gameplay has its perks, but playing against an artificial enemy makes it a battle of man (or women) versus machine, instead of “us against those f**king sniping, camping clannies.” It’s pure; it’s like the human rebels of the future battling against the machines after the inevitable technological singularity. Human beings fighting against each other is so passé, anyway.

“Complex” probably isn’t even the right word for zombie mode. Chess is complex; golf is complex; relationships are complex. Zombie mode is like taking golf, having the players complete a game of chess between each hole, and talk to each other lovingly so as to not disturb the fragile bonds they share. And instead of a putter, they have a lawnmower with angry cats duct-taped to the handle. As each game of zombie mode continues, new areas of the level need to be opened up; players must discover new weapons, points of entry and methods of dispatching the ever-more-resilient hordes. And they have to do this all while trusting that the guy who claimed to have their backs, or watch the windows to the side, hasn’t picked up and decided that he’s going to do a box run in the middle of a dog round.

Finally, it does indeed contain zombies, although we’re not quite sure what type of zombies to expect this time. The previous Nazi Zombies eventually expanded to include undead of the Japanese variety. To be perfectly honest, it doesn’t really matter what their cultural background was, who they once persecuted or with what utensils they used to eat their dinner; all that matters is that they’re dead, they’re hungry for brains and they get put in the same room as me, three team-mates and a pile of guns.

Multiplayer!

Despite our constant whinging about campers, snipers, tubers and general clanny politics, Call of Duty: MW2’s multiplayer component has occupied more of our time than any other game currently available (we six core players in the office have over 3,000 hours between us). Taking a look at all of the awesome new stuff to keep one occupied in the multiplayer component of Black Ops, we anticipate an even higher level of addiction.

Pictured: Something awesome, but not something that you can do in multiplayer.

Possibly the biggest point of attraction, at least for the first couple hundred hours of game-time, is going to be the level of customisation available to the player. Gone is the linear unlocking system for weapon attachments, equipment and kill steak rewards; now players can spend COD Points (CP) to unlock access to anything they desire, be it an ACOG scope, a pack of murderous mutts or a deployable spy camera. Players can also create a custom logo from a huge variety of clipart, which can be coloured, scaled and rotated with other clipart to form almost any shape you desire. Throw in customisable reticles, camo and face paint, clan tags that can be attached to weapons and any combination of all of the above, and you’ve got one hell of a customisable multiplayer experience.

Something that’s really piqued our interest is the addition of Theatre Mode. This feature automatically records all ranked games and allows you to play them back at your leisure. In addition, players can splice together clips from multiple games to create a montage of expert warfare, a promotional clan video or just a funny collection of noob tube headshots. Clips can be viewed from any player’s perspective or through a freely-controlled camera. Best of all, your favourite videos can be attached to your gamer profile page, allowing those who visit it to get a good idea of just how awesome you are. Videos can also be shared by either giving other players the raw game footage, or the rendered sequences can be shared as video files for uploading to the web (or even the NAG cover disc!).

Pictured: A HUD-less bullshot, but close-enough to what multiplayer will actually look like.

The last especially cool thing about Black Ops (excluding the awesome gameplay, game modes and weaponry, of course), is the ability to take out contracts. Think of contracts as a customisable rewards system. You get to choose what you want the game to reward you for by taking out contracts prior to jumping into a game. As an example, if you’ve just unlocked a new shotgun and want to earn some CP or even a few XP while you’re playing around with it, take out the contract that rewards you for performing x number of headshots with a shotgun within a certain amount of time. Fancy yourself the ultimate flag-runner? Then put your money where your mouth is by taking out a contract that requires x flag captures before the timer runs out. These contracts vary greatly in cost (each requires a few CP to take out) and reward, and there are plenty available to give yourself the opportunity to earn based on your individual skills.

Single Player!

I could blab on about the story and setting, but if a picture is worth a thousand words, then here’s about a billion words on how awesome the single player campaign is going to be:

[youtube]OPTOVQFRggI[/youtube]