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Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation Impressions

by Adam Biessener on May 03, 2011 at 10:47 AM

An afternoon on Xbox Live with today's new Black Ops DLC maps has been instructive. My fellow players were more than happy to provide life lessons 7.62mm at a time, while the zombies preferred a gigantic lightning hammer as their educational tool of choice.

For $15, or 1200 Microsoft Points, you can pick up all 982 megabytes of Escalation. The price may seem steep, but I can see the value for an avid Call of Duty player. It may just be four maps and a zombies level, but at least the content is good.

Each of the four maps – Hotel, Convoy, Zoo, and Stockpile – are Call of Duty maps through and through. They're big – Nuke Town haters can rejoice at the impressive scale in all four – which is great unless you're stuck in a half-full Team Deathmatch lobby. Each has a variety of engagement ranges to contend with, as well as multiple paths between any two points. Every new map is a maze. It'll take weeks to feel comfortable with the layouts. Special features like Convoy's exploding gas pumps are obvious enough, while the functional elevator in Hotel isn't immediately apparent.

Hotel is my personal favorite after a few hours with the game; I dig the dramatic difference between its extensive indoor areas and the more open outdoor landscape. Hotel is also notable for presenting several different looks within a single map. It's nice to have scenery that's neither full-bore brown shantytown nor seizure-inducing Las Vegas glitz.

Call of the Dead, the new zombies level featuring horror legends George A. Romero, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Michael Rooker, and Robert Englund, is a pleasant change of pace from Treyarch's previous zombies offerings. It retains the cash economy and path-unlocking of its predecessors, but adds what appears to be an invincible super-zombie with a giant lightning hammer to the mix. Running away from the juggernaut while maintaining barrier integrity and dealing with the undead hordes is a tall order. Good luck with anything less than a four-person party on this one.

Is Escalation worth 15 bucks? For fans, probably. Injecting fresh maps into a game that fills double-digit hours of your free time every week is an attractive proposition. The lack of a new mode, weapon, or killstreak to shake up the gameplay means that the casual gamers who fire up Black Ops for a round with thier buddies every few months before moving onto the next big thing will likely find better uses for their money.

Check back tomorrow for a video look at Escalation with Reiner and myself on the mic, or head here to see earlier previews and more screenshots of the DLC pack. Escalation is not yet available for PC or PS3, but should be coming soon.