Black Ops: First Strike DLC Review — Is This Call of Duty Map Pack Worth It?

Posted on February 2, 2011
Black Ops: First Strike DLC Review -- Is This Call of Duty Map Pack Worth It?
Treyarch are up at bat again with the first DLC released for Black Ops in this First Strike DLC review. Coattail riders. Second fiddles. Copycats. Johnny come lately. The folks at Treyarch have been called a lot of names since they starting working on the Call of Duty series, but with Call of Duty: Black Ops, they proved that they aren’t just second banana by stepping up to the plate and delivering a solid game that takes the franchise in new directions while giving gamers what they want.
The First Strike map pack (which drops first on the Xbox 360 and then a a later date on the PS3 and PC) provides players with four new multiplayer maps and a new zombie encounter, all wrapped up in a package for 1200 MS Points, or $15 in real world dollars. But is it worth it? That’s the same price as the recent Battlefield: Vietnam DLC pack, which provided weapons and vehicles in addition to new maps. With First Strike, you just have four new maps and the Ascension zombie map/experience, so at first glance it seems like you’re getting less content for the same price, which is already at the top of what gamers seem to be comfortable paying. So it is worth it?
Treyarch has put so much work into these maps with intricate details and pathing, that it’s definitely worth the investment. Each level is different enough from the other to feel that a lot of foresight was put into planning these out, and the color they’ve tossed in for realism brings the whole package home.
Speaking of that package, here’s what you get for your dough:
  • Berlin Wall: This map takes place at Checkpoint Charlie, straddling the line between West and East Berlin. There’s a lot of gray in this map, and there’s the deadly addition of turrets that will open fire on you if you stray into the neutral zone. There are three safe paths across the zone, and multiple buildings with dual levels that provide plenty of places to run and gun. There’s even a record shop featuring “Musik Bombe!” and “Der Doktortitel and Freunds” on vinyl. Perfect for mid-sized games.
  • Discovery: A German research station locked on the edge of polar ice in Antarctica provides the setting for this map, and one of the most striking features is that you can look up into the sky and see the aurora borealis shimmering overhead. Pretty nifty. This is a fairly large map, riddled with deep crevasses that are extremely easy to fall into (you won’t survive that fall, by the way) and modular research buildings in a roughly rectangular playfield. There’s an ice cave you can venture through, as well as a metal gantry that runs the entire length of one side of the map, linking the two starting areas. Snipers, you’ll love this one.

Black Ops: First Strike DLC Review -- Is This Call of Duty Map Pack Worth It?

  • Kowloon: Set high in the skies like Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back (nerd ref: factor five), Kowloon looms out of the fog and clouds and looks like a shantytown ripped straight out of Blade Runner. The map literally scrapes the sky, with a 747 nearly grazing the level as it comes in for a landing during the loadscreen. There are multiple paths around and through this map, include ziplines that let you quickly move from one part of the map to another. The only trouble being that you’re a sitting target while that’s happening. While this is also a good map for sniping (particularly under the large neon sign with a convenient ladder underneath), the symmetrical gameplay makes it very run and gun friendly as well.
  • Stadium: Bringing the fight to the United States, Stadium is set around a minor league hockey team in New York City. It’s a bit incongruous of a level, as there’s an enormous hockey statue behind one starting level, while the rest of the map is bunched up in front of the main entrance to the Stadium itself. Team offices and training rooms ring the outer edge of the map, and there’s a nice sniper’s nest made out of plywood in front of the main entrance to the rink. Of course, being made out of plywood, it doesn’t provide much cover. Sadly, the rink itself is inaccessible, which is a total missed opportunity. Take away some traction and make that rink playable! It’s the smallest of the maps, and plays fast, but if an architect designed this in real life, he’d be fired.
Besides that, you’ll also get the brand-new Ascension zombie mode, which puts you at the bottom of a gigantic research station, complete with a whirling cyclotron that will kill you if you stray into its path. But this map shakes things up by presenting the level entirely in black and white, until you’re able to turn the power on. But once you slap the power on, you’ll start getting attacked by Zombie monkeys. Yes, really. Additionally, they’ll attack both you and the perk machines you’ve unlocked, so kill them quickly. As with all the zombie maps, play this with friends, as it is massive and has a ton of doors to open. Luckily, there are some good spots to hole up in.
Any complaints? Besides the rink being inaccessible in Stadium, I found myself wishing that Berlin Wall had some sort reason for you to sprint across the neutral zone. It pretty much means instant death, but it would be nice if you could sprint to a sniper nest and lose most of your health in the process, trading off a vantage point for vulnerability. It’s a small nitpick, but it would make that zone and the turrets a bit more strategic. Also, I wouldn’t mind being able to hop into those turrets myself and pick off enemies.
Black Ops: First Strike DLC Review -- Is This Call of Duty Map Pack Worth It?
All of these maps are now in favored rotation on the servers, although things were a bit choked on launch day which led to some disconnected games and the maps not showing at all. If you download the pack, these maps should come up over the others, although there is unfortunately no DLC-only playlist right now. With the bonus zombie mode, this map pack is definitely worth more than the Modern Warfare map packs, particularly since these are original maps and not ports from previous games.
If you’re a true CoD-head, there’s no way you can pass up this DLC. Casual players may not want to pick this up immediately, but if you’re turned off by multiplayer fragging and bagging, the Ascension zombie mode is well worth it. I could listen to the hilarious voiceover from that for quite awhile before being bored of it. If points are burning a hole in your virtual wallet, this is well worth it.



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