It seems like Treyarch really wants to prove a point. The second downloadable content for Call of Duty: Black Ops, named Escalation, has some of the most original, and compelling content I have ever seen in DLC. It’s actually refreshing to see a developer not recycle the assets from the campaign, and provide content-rich DLC to keep the multiplayer experience from getting redundant. Just like their previous DLC offering, Escalation features five maps, including a hilarious Zombie map named Call of the Dead. And yes, it’s still 1200 Microsoft Points on Xbox Live, and will be available on the PS3 and PC at a later date.
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What’s so special about these maps? They are incredibly detailed down to every nook and cranny and are designed to suit various playing styles. You want to run around and cause carnage with a sub-machine gun? The Zoo map lets you do just that as it is designed for CQC (close quarters combat), and requires high map awareness due to the numerous branching paths. As the name suggests, the action takes place in a Zoo (d’uh) with no animals (Attack Dogs’ killstreak doesn’t count). A strategically placed, non-functioning Monorail above the map offers some good vertical gameplay opportunities and easy traversal. However, it does look a bit generic, like the default maps, due to the dull colour palette.
Next up is the Hotel map, which has a completely contrasting colour scheme to the Zoo. The map is designed with medium-range gunplay in mind, with plenty of camping locations, which can be used to surprise unsuspecting players. I really love this map due to the stunning lighting employed both outdoors and indoors, and attractions like the casino and a large swimming pool in the middle. Nice little touches like flickering lights and smoke effects really set the mood. The camping can become a slight problem, since there are way too many hiding spots available. Oh, and the elevators actually work. The Convoy map is set in broad daylight, and a lengthy broken freeway is the main attraction here. It is a sniping paradise, as you can basically climb up above the freeway and have a bird’s eye view of the entire playable area. It is bigger than the other maps available in the DLC, with emphasis on medium-to-long range gunplay and CQC. Design-wise, I didn’t find anything special here; it’s just an average looking Call of Duty map.
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Stockpile has to be my favourite map. Set in a desolate Russian town, the firefights here can get really intense. A snowy setting combined with a heavy concentration of gunfire in the centre of the map gives you a lot of room to play either offensively or defensively. The two garage doors in the middle of the map can be switched on manually, giving you faster access to the other side, but also making you susceptible to gunfire. I have seen players camp near the doors with claymores and it gets incredibly annoying when you die repeatedly near that area. The map is brilliantly designed, but requires you to have complete knowledge of the layout to be really effective. All the maps support CQC and if you don’t get 3+ bars, you will be at a massive disadvantage.
For players who love to massacre zombies, Treyarch has created a spectacular new experience that is arguably the highlight of Escalation. Set in icy Siberia, the main premise is to run away from a zombified George Romero, who is invincible, while killing low-level zombies on the way, buying guns and unlocking new areas. It’s the usual gameplay that most of you have come to know and love. You get to play as one of the four celebrities – Danny Trejo, Micheal Rooker, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Robert Englund. Zombies literally come out of the ground, and are much stronger this time around. It’s a complete blast playing this with your friends, and having good communication is a must here. Quite frankly, running inside an eerie looking ship with an invincible guy following you can get pretty disturbing. If you shoot him, he roars loudly and charges at you even faster. The first time I saw that was a completely bewildering experience, bringing back memories of the witch from Left 4 Dead; just a much scarier version.
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This is how a DLC should be done; brimming with unique content. Activision’s recent annual report boasted revenues of a massive billion, so it looks like everyone’s already bought Escalation. But if you are on the edge regarding this, rest assured that the five new maps will easily last you till Modern Warfare 3 this November. It’s completely worth the money.