You're continuously surrounded by perilous ledges, walls to clamber up and far more imaginative approaches to verticality than the normal 'flat ground and buildings, woo!' approach. As such, you'll be able to take a fair few more cracks at enemies hefting themselves into windows or up onto rooftops than usual, and indeed those using the level's central gimmick – the two zip-wires that criss-cross between the (architecturally unlikely) rooftops.
These slides might bring a bizarre edge of the Krypton Factor into proceedings, but seeing as you're entirely exposed mid-slide, they're pretty pointless in Death Match and Team Death Match – only useful when a swift takeover of a Domination point or a quick escape with a flag is required. Clever use of them may well turn the tide in more exotic game types then, but that doesn't mean that they don't get a little dusty from time to time.
The final multiplayer map is Discovery, a snowy military base beneath the green shimmer of the northern lights. Discovery has the feel of Black Ops' Summit map meshed with Grid – and features a central canyon and some partly destructible bridges, making for some entertaining CTF and HQ bouts as it neatly directs traffic into compromising situations.
It is, however, a fairly slow map when played in vanilla team deathmatch – a clear indicator of First Strike's overall (and understandable) bias towards Black Ops' more proficient players. There's a definite lean here towards those who don't necessarily want to play the basic 'shoot the men' game types, hoping beyond hope that a Nuketown XP harvest is next up on the map rotation. When played in more dextrous game modes, however, Discovery quickly becomes a candidate for First Strike's silver medal – just behind the unabashed victor Berlin Wall.
And what of that most 21st-century update of MB board game classic Ghost Castle, the much hallowed Zombie mode? For those to whom zombie points mean prizes, and unlocked doors, Ascension is a vital addition to the shambling horde. It's vast (which also means it's fairly hard to learn and navigate) but it's wonderfully imaginative in both its execution and the means of execution for those deadheads soon to take a bite of peach.
Starting off in a rather fetching monochrome, and filmed in glorious Technicolor later on, the level takes place in a bonkers Russian techno-lab complete with jet-powered Landers to spectacularly transport you and your chums around the level, and rockets to launch. What's more, in a move that almost makes the zombie mode as unlikely to happen in real life as the Black Ops solo campaign, perk-hungry space monkeys patrol the level every four rounds, dead set on stealing your hard-earned goodies from the vending machines.
Other ridiculous new offerings include the Gersch Device, a Black Hole bomb that can stave off the horde through the medium of sucking them into another dimension while you and your strangely accented friends regroup. Matyroska dolls, meanwhile, the stacking affairs that are strangely popular in gaming of late, are essentially lovingly hand-crafted cluster grenades – a rather scattered attack, but an effective one nonetheless.
First Strike, then, is a well-balanced collection of different styles of map, its highlights undoubtedly favouring those who tend to play away from Free For All and Team Death Match. Cynics would say it's weighted a little too heavily on gimmicks and point at the price tag and guffaw but, as discussed earlier, my future brother-in-law Dave won't give a space monkey. This is a fine addition to one of the only games he plays, and plays religiously, and he won't think twice about forking out the equivalent of a tenner for it. Once, of course, he's called me to find out what MS Points are and I've called him a moron.
As for Bobby Kotick and Activision, the Hungry Hungry Caterpillar of modern game publishing, they've got access to Dave's wallet and they won't let go. Lock up your sons and hold down X to barricade the nearest window: your nearest and dearest will be next. Resistance is futile.
First Strike is available now, exclusively for Xbox 360, on Xbox Live Marketplace. The author of this piece would like to point out that Dave is actually very nice, and God no not the face, don't hit me in the face.