There are a thousand reviews for Call of Duty: Black Ops out there, I figure it would be nice to take a look at a different aspect.

The Call of Duty series has gone through a great many changes over the years, and with every new installment we see improvements and alterations that will forever impact future games in the franchise. So lets take a look at a few of these changes and how they’ve affected the games that followed.

The original Call of Duty (2003) was definitely not the first World War II shooter, but its thrilling plot and unique take on realistic combat blew the competition out of the water. The original CoD multiplayer was fairly simple, a few game modes, a nice selection of weapons, and the ever-exciting killcam the kept players coming back for more time after time.

The importance of the original CoD can’t be overstated, it’s true legacy is the influence that it had on future games. Call of Duty became the game to beat (it’s pretty much stayed that way too) and developers started to emulate them by creating more realistic and gritty games.

Call of Duty 2 followed up on the original with more explosive action and an even better story, the real gem however was the multiplayer.  Call of Duty 2’s singleplayer captured the hearts of gamers and the multiplayer (while really just an improved version of the original’s)  kept us glued to our seats for hours on end. I still go back and play CoD 2 from time to time, and I can honestly say it’s one of my favorites in the series.

Call of Duty 3 was the first in the series developed by Treyarch (Big Red One was really more of an expansion), it’s also arguably the worst in the series. Multiplayer on the other hand had it’s upsides. Call of Duty 3 introduced a class system to the multiplayer system that while limiting, was key to the development of the games that followed.

Gamers love choice, the more options a game gives us, the easier it is for players to personalize the experience and play the game the way we want to play it. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was the bright light at the end of the Call of Duty tunnel. The multiplayer had an extensive class creation system and introduced the perk system which allowed players to customize their gameplay experience and tailor it to exactly the way they wanted to play. The addition of Killstreaks completely altered the way people played, finally players were rewarded for killing sprees in a fashion that actually matters.

Call of Duty: World at War brought us back to WWII but kept the additions and improvements from Modern Warfare, unfortunately the multiplayer was riddled with bugs and glitches that completely offset the flow of gameplay. On more than one occasion I killed a guy only to watch him spawn directly behind me and shoot me in the back on the killcam. The best thing to come out of World at War was undeniably Nazi Zombies, it added a cooperative aspect that Call of Duty had previously been lacking.

Modern Warfare 2 once again pushed the engine to its limits while further improving on already established elements of multiplayer, killstreaks became customizable so new or casual gamers could still achieve them while hardcore gamers could end the game with a 25 killstreak tactical nuke. While not competitive in nature, the spec-ops missions reinforced the continued effort to bring coop into the mix.

Black Ops hasn’t really added all that much to the series in terms of gameplay mechanics, instead the folks over at Treyarch took a more aesthetic approach to the customization factor by giving players the chance to change the way both they and their guns look. While choosing the color of your scope reticle and putting your clan-tag on your weapon may not seem like much in the way of improvements, what they really give the player is more choices, again letting players customize the game and their character to the exact way they want to look and play.

We heard a great deal of speculation regarding a complete character creator for Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops (its just one of those things that players talk about) but in the end neither panned out. With the addition of aesthetic customization seen in Black Ops, perhaps we’ll get a taste of full customization in the next Call of Duty which is already underway.

– Nick Barker

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