|System: Xbox 360, PS3, PC|
|Release: May 3, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language|
by Adam Dodd
We didn't have to wait long between this and Black Ops' first map pack, First Strike, but that doesn't mean Escalation doesn't live up to the high expectations set by previous Call of Duty DLC. In fact, there's a very good chance this is the most interesting map pack we've seen for the series so far, if only because of the fantastic Call of the Dead map for the game's incredibly popular zombie mode. On top of this new zombie map, Escalation adds four more brand new multiplayer maps to play with and against your friends: Zoo, Stockpile, Convoy, and Hotel. So is all this worth its $15 asking price? Let's dig in and find out.
Let's start off with Escalation's new competitive multiplayer maps. Each of them is surprisingly unique. Not only are they radically different from each other in how they look and play, but they also bring a few new features to mix up the gameplay a bit. One trait that can be found in every map is the larger scale. More expansive maps offer plenty of places for snipers, close quarters enthusiasts, or campers.
The first map is the Zoo, and it's one of the more unique levels in the group. It's set in an abandoned Soviet zoo where the cages and exhibits have obviously been void of life for a very long time. (Sadly, you won't come across any zombiefied elephants or tigers.) Arguably the map's most intriguing feature is the monorail track that circles the length of the park. The monorail is the perfect place to get a jump on your enemies, and it's an ideal vantage point for snipers looking for an easy kill. The only tradeoff for the view is that these higher areas offer very little cover from incoming fire.
The next map is called Convoy, and with the exception of a few wide-open places mainly located in the center of the level, this one is all about close-quarters combat. Convoy consists of a large demolished road where a US military convoy was abandoned. There are plenty of buildings for players who enjoy getting up close and personal with their opponents, including a motel and a gas station. The latter also has a nifty feature that warns players in the area when someone's nearby: a little bell rings whenever a player walks to the pumps.
Despite my undying hatred for skilled snipers (due mostly to my own lack of patience and inability to snipe) the Hotel map has become one of my favorites. It's one of the better-looking maps, as it takes place in a deserted resort overlooking a welcoming beach. On either side of the map are elevators that can be used to take you to the second level of the map. Long-ranged combatants are likely to hide up there, since the windows provide fantastic spots for skilled snipers. This map favors mid-to-long-ranged gunplay over anything else, as even the indoor areas don't provide much cover.
The final competitive map, Stockpile, will look familiar to Black Ops fans, since it carries some traits from maps that shipped with the game. It takes place in a small Russian town where a formidable cache of arms has been hidden inside some buildings. One of the buildings has large steel doors that can provide tactical advantages for players who want a heads up when someone's closing in on them or for anyone who's taking fire and needs to hide. This map is great for the Headquarters mode, since the map has a few structures that are perfect for teams looking to hide out. Just watch out for grenades.