So Much More Than a Map Pack
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.
Now for the Escalation pack’s most exciting addition: the Call of the Dead map for the zombie mode. There are five reasons this mode is so great, and they’re called: Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Michael Rooker (The Walking Dead TV series), Danny Trejo (Machete), and George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead).
George Romero, whom I affectionately refer to as both my own personal hero and the godfather of the zombie genre, has been given the role of unstoppable antagonist with one of the most amazing introductions I’ve ever seen. Mr. Romero doesn’t just climb out from under a tombstone; he rises from the water with a massive electrically-charged hammer after a bolt of lightning strikes the nearby ocean. Whatever flame of confidence playing as Buffy or the claw-fingered man that haunts our dreams might have given you, it is quickly doused when a ten-foot tall Romero climbs out of the freezing water with the sole mission of completely ruining your day.
This is without a doubt the largest zombie map we’ve seen thus far, and it’s also the most labyrinthine. I suggest sticking close to your allies because it’s incredibly easy to get lost here. It also introduces a new perk, the eloquently titled Deadshot Daiquiri that evolves the auto-aim to focus on the head rather than the torso. There’s also a brand new weapon, the V-R11, that turns zombies into humans who quickly turn and run away in fear once they realized they were about to bite Danny freaking Trejo.
Alone, the four new competitive maps are almost reason enough to warrant a purchase of the Escalation map pack, but it’s the Call of the Dead level that really takes the cake here. The zombie maps have always been a fun and different way to experience Call of Duty with your friends, but being able to play as some of the most iconic characters in film and television proves that Treyarch knows how to give us a stellar zombie-slaying experience. If you’ve since grown tired of Black Ops and are looking for a reason to dust off your copy of the game, or are a fan of horror and all things undead, the Escalation pack won’t disappoint. Just don’t anger George Romero, because, despite his cheerful demeanor, he won’t hesitate to take you down.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.8 Graphics
Black Ops still looks as visually stunning as always, the new maps are all very detailed, and each provides a very different look and atmosphere. 4.8 Control
Nothing has changed here. The game still plays great, and slaying waves of zombies or enemy players online is still incredibly satisfying. 5.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The sound effects and music will be familiar to any Black Ops fan, but it’s the voice work by legendary actors Sarah Michelle Gellar, Danny Trejo, Robert Englund, and Michael Rooker that really takes it to a whole new level. 5.0 Play Value
The four competitive maps add some much-needed variety to the online experience while Call of the Dead’s gives gamers another massive map to explore in the zombie mode. 4.9 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best