This is no Sunday school picnic!
In case you haven’t noticed, Activision released new Black Ops downloadable content earlier this week on Xbox Live. Escalation, the second map pack for the popular shooter, contains four distinct multiplayer maps and, of course, one for the ever-popular Zombie mode.
[image1]Convoy is a map for everyone, as it offers high vantage points on either side for long-distance shootouts and close-quarters combat for the aggressors. Most of the action takes place on a stretch of freeway that runs through the middle of a town which has fallen victim to an unexpected attack on U.S. Army convoys. A number of buildings surround the highway, but the majority of them will be on one side, such as a motel, a diner, and the State Highway Patrol building, while the other side consists of open storage containers, dirt paths, alleyways and more hidden corners. Don’t forget to check out the billboard that reads: “Death is watching you. Take the corners slow.” How fitting.
A thin layer of snow envelopes the barns, sheds, and other farm structures in Stockpile. While this desolate setting seems innocent enough, a WMD facility disguised as a warehouse is located in the center of the map where most firefights take place. There are two operational garage doors that players may open and close, thus blocking or trapping enemies. The warehouse seems small, but the many rooms and entrances make the area difficult to defend. Stockpile is my least favorite map due to its generic environment and lack of variety, but there will definitely be some intense shootouts.
[image2]Next up is the Zoo, which you would normally think is a happy place. This particular one, however, is quite neglected: Busted animal cages, empty aquariums, and broken props now give way to unbridled warfare. The dark clouds hovering above create the perfect ominous atmosphere, enough to have made me jump a couple of times when an enemy caught me off guard. Most players try to defend from above in buildings or zoo attractions, but there are many accessible pathways and windows which make it easy to break into their defense. There is also a short section of a monorail which players can take advantage of to look out over the area below, but the catch is that it's very exposed. One thing is for certain at every zoo: It’s the perfect place to play hide-and-seek.
The Hotel map takes the fight to new heights. Unlike other maps, Hotel offers brighter scenery, accentuating what was once the ritzy lifestyle of the rich and famous on the roof of a grand hotel. The outdoor pool, complete with side bar, marks the central location of the map. On either side is the El Royale casino and across is a building that holds bedrooms. These three areas have a prominent part in sniping, since they include balconies and windows, while players on the ground patrol the perimeter to take care of any flankers. The design is well done, considering the many ledges and platforms that can be used as shortcuts to surprise an unexpected enemy camping the main pathway. Don’t forget to take an elevator to an upper floor; taking the stairs is so overrated.
[image3]Zombies are the most universally loved/hated enemy in contemporary fiction, but have they become overdone? Treyarch can answer that, as they have brought something new to the table for the beloved survival-horror mode, highlighting why fighting against zombies never grows old.
The new Zombie map, aptly named "Call of the Dead", is by far the largest, featuring a Siberian outpost which has been long forgotten. When the scenery includes several shipwrecks, bodies of icy water, an eerie research facility, and a lighthouse struggling to light the dark area, you're just asking for a zombie outbreak. The new characters you control include Danny Trejo, Robert Englund, Michael Rooker, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, who I suppose can use her vampire-hunting skills toward killing zombies?
This celebrity cast offers some witty one-liners for your entertainment. Some additions to assist with your survival consist of two new weapons, semtex, and a new perk called Deadshot Daiquiri. Instead of teleportation, you have ziplines and catapults as transport to different points on the map. Chances of survival here are slim, considering the zombies coming from many directions, including beneath you!
I should mention that there is one particular zombie who is with you from the start: None other than the man who created zombies himself, George Romero. Yes, bow down now and pay your respects. Depending on how you treat him, he might either cause damage or offer some assistance in defeating the other zombies. You will just have to play to find out.
Escalation demonstrates new content that players want to see: multiplayer maps that clearly distinguish themselves from one another by delivering variety in both gameplay and design. I would have liked to see more interaction involved within the map environments, but overall Escalation surpasses expectations. And if a zombified George Romero isn’t enough for you, then perhaps you should stick to hosting Sunday school picnics.