The third in the semi-regular procession of Call of Duty: Black Ops map packs is here. It consists of four multiplayer arenas, and a zombie survival map set in the made-up, booby-trapped temples of Shangri-La.
Best pack a portable stove and some marshmallows, because we're going camping: the new maps are perfect for snipers and hidden bastards who like to find a corner and wait for prey to pass by.
The wide-open golf course of Hazard is the worst for this. Overlooked from both ends by marksmen, it's virtually impossible to cross from one side to the other without a sniper adding an extra hole to the green, by way of your face. For a while the bright, undulating fairway and abandoned golf carts may fool you into thinking it's an entirely fresh map. In fact, it's a crafty re-hash of World at War's Cliffside arena. This map pack costs £11, by the way.
Hazard's bright and airy style at least provides a break from the dreary greys and browns of Black Ops. The same can't be said for Drive In, or the military labs of Hangar 18. Drive In's burnt-out arcades are suitably post-apocalyptic, and the enormous stealth bomber in the middle of Hangar 18 provides a striking centrepiece, but both maps suffer from the same problem. As Black Ops' visuals become more interesting, the map layouts themselves become more and more remorselessly predictable.
Let me give you a guided tour. Here's the big open middle bit overlooked by elevated hidey holes. I like to call it “doom alley.” Nobody goes there. Next up, the warren of rat-runs around the outside where the actual fighting happens. Let's go take a look at – oh dear, we're dead. Turns out there were men hiding in two of the nineteen corners of this room we wondered into.(opens in new tab)
The sprawling, monolithic Silo come closest to providing something new. Its maze-like geography and huge concrete installations funnel players into a series of small and difficult skirmishes, but until you learn its complex, fiddly floor plan, you'll find yourself getting shot in the back by unseen opponents over and over and over again.
Which leaves Shangri-La, Black Ops' latest zombie offering. The lush jungles and ancient stonework make this one of Black Ops' best-looking zones, and the addition of spike traps, zombie-bothering golden gongs, infected monkeys and even a shrinking ray, help it to stand out from the game's bizarre selection of zombie levels. It's silly, funny and surprisingly nerve-wracking, but is it worth £11? No.
Black Ops' competitive maps are becoming more and more like novelty paintball arenas. Visually fancy, geographically familiar, and as frustrating as ever for non-snipers. The ambitious zombie level doesn't even come close to justifying the ludicrous price tag.