Adventures with CODBLOPS: My journey to the center of the Call of Duty storm. From zero to prestige and beyond.

Here I am. The first real, non-introductory entry into my series Adventures with CODBLOPS. Whew, boy. It’s been over three years since I’ve played a Call of Duty. It’s been close to four since I’ve given the series anything close to a meaningful handshake and stern look in the eyes. A lot has changed, but also nothing at all. Let’s start from the very beginning.

Firstly, I opted to go the PC route rather than the console. I’ve bemoaned the inadequacies of the PS3 controller several times before, so Steam it was. No muss, no fuss. Moreover, it comes in a neat little package of three smaller downloads. As soon as you buy, you get the option to install the campaign, multiplayer or Zombies mode. For someone like me, who tries to keep all his games on a smaller SSD, this was a noticed and welcome option.

Yeah, I was already looking pretty wrong.

Time to hop into the campaign, just to sharpen my dull teeth; I have no plans whatsoever to critically analyze it. I just wanted to step off the chopper and get a lay of the land. I made it about 40 minutes in before I turned it off. I won’t bore you with a recap, but it wasn’t good. It walked along at 30 frames per second and was poorly scripted, written and checkpointed. Immediately, I began to lose altitude, watching my sixty dollars float down to earth.

Yeah, I was already looking pretty right.

Screw it, I thought, I didn’t pay for the campaign. I slid on over to the multiplayer suite and hopped into the bursting lobbies. Nothing fancy for starters, just Team Deathmatch. Choosing one of the default loadouts, I set off to battle with a wink in my eye, a tip of my cap, a spring in my step and an automatic shotgun. Breathing a sigh of relief, the framerate now held steady at 60 fps and the game was purring like a satiated tiger. Obviously, Treyarch worked on and nailed what matters most.

Now, playing CoD comes back quick. With the finely-tuned starting loadouts, I managed a positive Kill-Death Ratio in my first few rounds back, topping 2.0 once or twice. The lived-in rhythm of sprint, crouch, peek, shoot and sprint wasn’t forgotten, just denied. For better or worse, not much has changed. You live and die with flippant immediacy. You shoot first and you win; watch out for giant missiles in the sky.

The gameplay is still solidified in its mold, only slightly tweaked by which gun you’re holding and what perks you’re sporting. But the question I aim to answer for myself is this: What makes CoD the addictive, divisive monstrosity it has become? What have I been missing? And, can I get it back?

But, for now, I’m not even at level 20, having logged in a slim seven hours. What is immediately apparent is the value of the package. From a lobby of silly, party-like game modes, to a theater with built-in YouTube integration, to Zombies (something I didn’t even touch yet), it’s a feast of content. Barring Halo 4, there is more to do in BLOPS 2 than any other title out there. With about a zillion hoppers to join into, I didn’t even come close to doing it all, but the sheer variety is boggling. I mean, there must be over a dozen lobbies listed under Public Core, from TDM to Mercenary Moshpit to Kill Confirmed.

This was something that shocked me a bit. I frankly didn’t expect the variety (or the levity) of the game modes. When the uneducated like myself think of CoD, they think of one dude with a zoomed-in sniper laying prone in the weeds quick-scoping kids — in other words, a bad time. But I dare you to hop into a round of Kill Confirmed or Gun Game and not enjoy your stay. That’s not to say they’re all winners. I am still baffled how people enjoy the more lethal Hardcore playlist.

I was enjoying stomping kids. It was good fun. Just as I got comfy — bang! — I was burdened with making my own Custom Class with crappy weapons. Soon enough — boom! — I began sucking. The starting weapons and selections are greatly overshadowed by the high-end gear of others and those starting classes. From there, your drive to get that gear back is immense. And like that — grenade! — I’m crawling up the ladder, unlocking unlocks and perks with starving voracity.

This is it. This is how they get you, I thought. Even now, I’m kinda-sorta looking forward to playing some more, yet still cautiously wondering when it will wear thin and become a hassle. As far as a few hours go, they were good, filled with good times and frustrations. Next time, we’ll talk more about the gameplay, the lobbies, the progression and what it all means. We’ll get into it good and proper, dissecting the details, I promise. But for now I’m trying to upgrade my Vector K10 because … because, why not?