Color me completely impressed. This comes from a staunch hater of the recent price hike in Call of Duty DLC, so take that in mind as you dive into this review. I didn’t purchase any of the MW2 content simply because I felt it cost way too much. $15 is a lot to ask for five maps. As our own Erik Norris put it in February’s Gaming Guide:
"While we’ve voiced our opinion on the ludicrous pricing of Call of Duty map packs before, there are some people out there that just don’t care one way or the other. More Call of Duty means more Call of Duty and people are going to throw down any amount of money to have it. If that’s the camp you fall into, odds are you’ll love the new maps being added through the First Strike DLC. But if you value your hard earned cash, then you’re going to have to weigh the worth of a few maps that will run you a quarter of what a full game would cost."
We’re known for not appreciating the cost vs. value of the Call of Duty map packs. There you have it.
That said, First Strike is well worth the price of admission. This is simply one of the best map packs to be released throughout Call of Duty franchise history. Each map is well balanced, tight, gorgeous, unique and a lot of fun.
Treyarch has demonstrated their knack for delivering maps with a specific set piece or motif. The result is two-fold: first, players can quickly identify a location on the map based on the unique set of features. Second, each map has that much more flavor. This map pack is no exception; in Kowloon it’s the lighting, rain and pits that split the buildings; in Berlin Wall it’s the little DMZ space with the automatic machine gun nest that mows anyone down in the dead zone; in Discovery it’s the bridge in the middle and the caverns and Northern Lights to the outsides; and in Stadium it’s the arena itself and the exterior buildings.
A quick gripe as a hockey fan… There are stadiums and then there are arenas. Hockey is played in an arena, not a stadium. There, I said it.
While each map will instantly earn a place among fan-favorites, the two standouts here are easily Kowloon and Stadium. With Stadium, the location and spacing make it great. Gamers will feel strangely familiar with the space as they’ve likely been to an arena at some point in their lives. The spacing, though, makes it challenging. There are tons of kill spots that will likely make run-and-gun type players reconsider their strategies. There are some choice spaces to set up camp, but they’re always accessible by a blindside, thus making campers that much more vulnerable. You won’t, however, be able to fight on the ice itself. Major bummer.
Kowloon? Wow. Treyarch has admitted that they’ve openly challenged the conventions of map making with this one. Interrupted player paths, tons of risk reward, an awkward layout and a map that will be just plain tough to navigate without dying. Kowloon is a lot of fun and easily ranks as the best map of the bunch.
The Zombie map Ascension is equally brilliant. There’s some goofy jokes chucked in for fun here and there, but the level is well paced and has some pretty sweet objects. And you fight monkey zombies, I mean, come on…
This is officially the first map pack from Activision for Call of Duty that I’ve ever recommended entirely. First Strike is a complete win and well worth $15. Get it.