Almost three months since its initial release, Call of Duty: Black Ops is getting the jump on players worldwide in First Strike, a 360 DLC exclusive right out of the gate, with PS3 and PC versions coming out in future months. With four new competitive multiplayer maps and a new co-op zombie map at a commanding 1200 Microsoft Points, will players answer the call of duty for one more tour, or should they leave this black op in cold storage?
Two of the five maps offered in First Strike, "Kowloon" and "Discovery", are inspired by the locales from a couple of the missions in the single-player campaign, which may evoke some mild feelings of nostalgia for those who haven't stepped into Mason's shoes in quite some time. "Stadium" and "Berlin Wall" are original concepts depicting, not surprisingly, a hockey arena and the Berlin Wall. A new co-op zombie mode map is also included called "Ascension", which takes place in a dilapidated Soviet cosmodrome during the Cold War. While those descriptions may seem a bit terse and simple, multiplayer maps tend to be less about premise and more about the flow of action, and it is definitely in this regard that developer Treyarch has been able to deliver in spades.
Though each of the four competitive multiplayer maps is categorized as "Medium" in size, almost every new environment has a special quirk about it that has an interesting impact on how players maneuver in the game. "Berlin Wall" includes a large swath of kill-zone areas (marked in red on the mini-map) that will almost instantly tear players to shreds unless either of the Marathon/Lightweight Pro perks are equipped. The machine-gun towers that populate these kill-zones also appear to be indestructible, presenting the interesting scenario of how a player can most effectively utilize these no-man lands to their advantage. "Discovery" has destructible pathways along some of its choke points, which can provide some awesome and dramatic opportunities for ambushes and killstreaks with some well-placed explosives. "Kowloon" offers thrilling rooftop battles and zip-lines that allow players to cross large parts of the map in a very short amount of time, perfect for catching an unsuspecting enemy off-guard in the distance and knifing them in the back. The only map that seems to be lacking a unique feature is "Stadium", unless you count the Zamboni located in the middle of the map.
For fans of the "Zombies" mode available in Black Ops, another humorous and frantic scenario of the zombie apocalypse is provided through "Ascension", as well as a couple of new super-weapons at your disposal, such as the Gersch Device (which creates black holes) and those cute Matryoshka nesting Dolls (a playful take on a murderous cluster bomb) . There is an increased focus on visual flair throughout "Ascension" in comparison to the current zombie mode maps, though having JFK, Richard Nixon, and Fidel Castro side by side killing the undead in the Pentagon is a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, rocketing across the map and laying to waste hundreds, if not thousands of zombies and infected space monkeys can provide a genuinely hilarious break from the somewhat more serious competitive nature of shooting other humans in the face online.
Overall, this DLC pack is a good choice for those seasoned in Black Ops multiplayer, being introduced far enough out of the game's initial release to not feel like a dubious cash-in, but not so long after the fact that we still care about the game's competitive offerings. However, anyone else who hasn't invested at least a couple dozen hours online or who hasn't yet reached their first prestige level will likely contemplate whether just a few more maps will justify 1200 Microsoft points, and they would be right to do so. With over a dozen multiplayer maps of various sizes and at least two huge zombie-filled frag-fests included with the initial price tag, increasing your offerings by 33% for only 25% of the cost of the original game may sound good on paper, but is largely unnecessary in practice for the inexperienced black-ops agent; for everyone else who knows their way around an AK74u with rapid fire and a FAMAS with the Sleight of Hand Pro Perk, First Strike will offer a new and interesting romp through the urban jungles of modern warfare, where danger follows you around unexpected turns and victory is always a hair-trigger away from defeat.