- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 20, 2013

A massively popular first-person shooter franchise gives gamers a new downloadable pack of possibilities in Call of Duty: Black Ops II - Uprising (Activision and Treyarch, reviewed for Xbox 360, Rated Mature, 1,200 Microsoft Points or $15).

Built for the lover of multiplayer firefights, the game extension provides four new maps and an intriguing zombie apocalypse set at a famous landmark.

First, let’s touch on the new locations to play war.

  • * Studio offers an enhanced remake of “Firing Range,” a fan-favorite multiplayer map from the original Call of Duty: Black Ops. Now stuck on a movie backlot more active than Universal Studios Hollywood theme park, warriors shoot it out amidst a selection of cinematic themes that include sci-fi, the Wild West and a Jurassic Park. So get ready for an animatronic T-Rex, skeleton pirates, spaceships and a town sized for Godzilla.
  • * Magma presents a beautiful, modern Japanese village embellished with volcanic eruptions that carve out living magma barriers for the unlucky combatants to get a permanent hot foot. I liked the close quarters and fiery traps.
  • * Vertigo is a futuristic Mumbai Skyscraper and a place John McClain would feel very at home fighting bad guys. It features some dizzying vistas, a landing pad and multi-tiered pathways.
  • * Encore is the least impressive of the quartet and takes place in a deserted, open-air stadium that hosted a London music festival. Maybe a guest appearance by KISS might have spiced things up?

Though the maps are a welcomed addition to the multiplayer mode, most important to this slayer of the walking dead, Treyarch taps back into the celebrity pool for its latest zombie map, Mob of the Dead.

It takes place in the famous prison Alcatraz during the prohibition era and, as you can guess, it offers up to four players control of a quartet of some of Hollywood’s better-known mobsters.

Now I would have loved to seen Joe Pesci or Robert De Niro taking down some flesh eaters, but I’ll settle for a distinguished cast often known for their excessively violent exploits on screen.

The group includes Ray (“Goodfellas”) Liotta, Chazz (“A Bronx Tale”) Palminteri, Joe (“The Sopranos”) Pantoliano and Michael (“Reservoir Dogs”) Madsen.

As they roam around a creepy Alcatraz trying to survive glowing eye, barb-wire-covered monstrosities, an actual story develops.

The actors, playing the roles of such thugs as Billy Handsome and Al (“The Weasel”) Arlington must collect parts to assemble a crude plane and reach the roof to escape their hellish circumstances.

It is truly frenetic horror show for the wise guys wielding weapons such as a Tommy gun, a Blundergat (a fancy shot gun turned gatling gun eventually upgraded into a sticky-acid bomb launcher) and a burning, boomerang-style tomahawk.

Players will smile early and often not only because of the characters humorous, profanity-laced dialogue but setting traps to walk zombies into acid baths and large spinning blades and watching the creatures get munched on by a flaming wolf’s head popping up around the shadowy locations. I’ll warn in advance to watch out for the undead warden, who appears out of nowhere and stampedes around like a linebacker on steroids.

Additionally, dying is now quite the Shakespearean moment as players become spirits and float around the action. It is critical they engage in some poltergeist shenanigans to help open doors and blast power outlets and zombies with electrified blue plasma. They have a set amount of time to return to their bodies or really lose a life.

Mob of the Dead may not be as pop culture iconic as watching Sarah Michelle Gellar, Robert Englund, Michael Rooker and Danny Trejo fighting off George Romero-controlled walkers (reference the Call of the Dead map), but it’s easily the most enjoyable Call of Duty zombie experience to date.

Parental advice: The ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board), after watching thousands of soldiers crumble over and die by the commands of Call of Duty devotees, decided to label this downloadable content package “M” and that stands for mature — adults 17-years and older need only try to quell a Call of Duty: Black OPS II, Uprising. Parents should be well aware of the excessively violent Call of Duty franchise, especially its constant killing of virtual humans from a first-person perspective. Additionally, although obviously hyper-fantasy action, even Mob of the Dead revels in the gratuitous slaughter of creatures in a R-rated story setting that director Robert Rodriguez might concoct at a grindhouse theater near you.



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