Call of Duty: Black Ops

[DLC Review] Call of Duty: Black Ops Escalation Pack

We played the Escalation Pack extensively. Here's what we think.
Author: Parjanya C. Holtz
Published: June 18, 2011
Whatever you may think of the Call of Duty franchise, there is no denying Call of Duty: Black Ops is among the best multiplayer games ever made. Sure, it's basically Modern Warfare 2 repackaged and rebranded with new maps and a few little tweaks and additional features here and there (such as the excellent Wager modes), however, if you're building on such a strong foundation, little can go wrong, which the game's popularity seven months after release certainly attests to.


With so many people still regularly playing Black Ops, it comes as no surprise that the Escalation Pack is Treyarch and Activision's second piece of DLC, with a third one already announced for Xbox Live. Consisting of five brand new multiplayer maps, four of which add to the competitive experience, while one enriches the Zombies mode with another cooperative scenario to escape from, Escalation adds quite a bit of content to the main game. The following is a map-by-map breakdown of what awaits you for $15 worth of downloadable content.

Hotel

“Hotel” may be the best of the new maps. Located on the roof of a Cuban luxury hotel, the map is clearly divided by an open space in the center while two buildings with large glass windows provide elevated positions for snipers on opposing ends. Toward one side of the center a terrace provides players with yet another sniping position, even if significantly less protected and only half as high from the ground. A pool and bar in the center, and a few crates and walls give players some protection from the snipers above, and as a result no side feels overpowered. In fact, snipers tend to be so busy focusing on each other at opposing ends, that running around in the open center isn't nearly as dangerous as it may sound.

Definitely worth mentioning, and more than just an interesting gimmick are the the fully functional elevators on one side of the map leading up to the second floor on which you will almost always find someone hanging out. Without going into too much detail, let's just say claymores tend to play an important role here.

Convoy

“Convoy” is another excellent map. Located on, around and under a highway overpass, the map seems smaller than “Hotel,” but is full of great little spots to hide in. While it's not nearly as sniper-friendly as “Hotel,” it definitely isn't impossible to find a good place or two from which to shoot across the entire length of the map. It's a map that works well with Team-Deathmatch, as well as objective based modes such as Search-and-Destroy or Domination.

What's interesting is, that just like “Hotel,” “Convoy” is structured almost symmetrically, which seems to be a good formula for an interesting map. While not nearly as far apart from one another, two relatively small pedestrian bridges are located on opposing ends around which much of the action usually tends to revolve.

Zoo

“Zoo” is a map that players of Modern Warfare 2's Resurgence Pack will feel quite familiar in. Reminiscent in look and feel to the abandoned amusement park map “Carnival,” it doesn't feel entirely original, yet still plays extremely well. The map isn't very large, but it offers an incredible amount of variety when it comes to not so obvious hiding spots.

But especially the creepy, disconcerting atmosphere the abandoned Zoo environment emits make this a great addition to Black Ops.

Stockpile

“Stockpile” is by far the least interesting of the new maps. Located in a small snow and ice covered Russian town in which the “evil” Soviets are hiding a bunch of WMDs, the map offers nothing we haven't seen done significantly better before. The most exciting thing about this very unexciting map are the automatic garage doors you get to open and close. However, they add little to the actual gameplay experience as the small building has at least five other entrances for you to use.

What ultimately kills this map is its lack of focus. Everyone usually runs circles around the building in the middle, waiting to stumble into an opponent, while every now and then someone gets lost on the inside and closes the garage door simply because they can. It's not a terrible map, but certainly also none you will remember for very long.

Call of the Dead

“Call of the Dead” is a Zombie map featuring the (playable) characters of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Robert Englund and Michael Rooker, as well as horror movie director icon George A. Romero who stars as the (almost) unbeatable nemesis zombie with electrical super powers.

The map is set in Siberia, and offers quite a few cool little easter eggs, not to mention an astoundingly well designed background story. It's the kind of stuff videogame nerds will get all excited about and end up investing hundreds of hours into only to figure out all the secrets, gameplay strategies and story elements so they have something to brag to their clueless girlfriends about. Great stuff.

Final Thoughts

There is no denying that $15 for five maps is quite the price to ask, yet nonetheless Escalation is a great piece of downloadable content that fans of the franchise will be happy to get their hands on. It may not be the best value on the PlayStation Network, but it certainly will do to keep the CoD addiction alive just long enough until the next map pack arrives.
The Verdict
8.0

Escalation's maps are great additions to the main game, however the $15 price tag is still at least $5 too high. Ultimately it's a matter of supply and demand, and Activision is well aware of this, but who are we to blame them?

8.5Graphics:

Black Ops is a decent looking game, but the engine is starting to grow old, and it shows.

8.5Sound:

Nothing has changed from the main game, which means weapons still sound good.

9.5Control:

To me the Call of Duty series has always been about fantastic control, and Black Ops was no exception when it released last fall.

8.0Gameplay:

Black Ops didn't reinvent the wheel, and neither does this DLC. In fact, everything is exactly the same, but that's to expect from a map pack.