Long read: Who is qualified to make a world?

In search of the magic of maps.

If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Call of Duty: Black Ops – First Strike

Bob Crow did warn you.

Editor's note: A joke may be considered to have missed its mark when it requires further explanation to a reasonable number of people, and we apologise if anyone confused Will's tongue-in-cheek pillorying of gamers' attitudes and his future brother-in-law in this review with actual bigotry. For the record, Dave is a real person, is a casual gamer as described, but is in on the joke.

Sometimes as editors we hear the voice of the person writing in our heads when we read their work, which is not a facility necessarily available to our readers and can lead to warm hearts being mistaken for cold ones. Will is a sweet-natured man and a big fan of COD multiplayer, while FIFA is the most played game in the surprisingly unsnobby Eurogamer office by a mile. Angry Birds, though? PEASANTS.

Hi Eurogamer! Eurogamer, this is Dave. Dave might look like us, and in many ways he behaves like us, but he is not like us. He is, in fact, quite different. Note his furrowed brow and the hint of menace in his eyes. Look at those trainers. Judge him.

Dave owns a console and a big television, like any right-minded individual. The problem is that he only has it to play two games: the FIFA football game and Call of Duty. He is, and let's not shy away from the term, part of a growing underclass of gamers. The people who pollute our lifestyle: those of a mind to play Team Death Match in Nuketown every night to the exclusion of everything else. In six months, Dave will become my brother-in-law. He makes me sick. He hasn't even heard of Braid.

Dave doesn't know who Bobby Kotick is. [He's Activision's CEO, Dave. -Ed.] Bobby Kotick, however, knows Dave. He knows Dave's basic needs and Neanderthal desires. He knows how to gather dirty coins from Dave's pockets in exchange for hours and hours of 'entertainment'. Important today is the fact that Bobby Kotick knows that Dave has never bought a game expansion or map pack in his life, yet will happily hand over a ludicrous 1200 Microsoft Points (once I've told him what they are) for a paltry four maps and a zombie level. Stupid, silly, ignorant Dave.

With the reality of this capitalist marketplace in mind then, First Strike is quite good. Its multiplayer levels are varied and interesting both artistically and in terms of gameplay, albeit perhaps with an overall eye towards hardcore players of more exotic game types. Those who favour dispatching the legions of the damned with increasingly silly weapons, meanwhile, will adore the new Ascension zombie map and its house blend of evil monkeys. Dave will be a fan, and you'll grudgingly accept that he's right.

Five times more gunshots have been fired in Black Ops than there are craters on the Moon.

Stadium will seem the most familiar to one and all. An ice hockey complex where grenades fall like rain, it provides instant recall to the likes of Firing Range and (despite not being as symmetrical) Nuketown. It's a map filled with winding routes through the main concourse, but it's also punctured by narrow corridors that lead to open windows where camp-friendly players are a little too protected from the hustle-bustle downstairs.

It's a fast-paced map, and one where death seems to come at any time and from any angle – a fact not helped by a variety of dark corners custom-built for lurkers. As the meat-grinder of the new levels it certainly fits the bill, and it's a neat touch that you can blast the puck around the rink, but it also contains the least design imagination and the most danger-spawns.

Berlin Wall, on the other hand, is a superb offering. Imagine a medium-sized urban map like Havana with Germanies both East and West on either side. Instead of a central open street though, Berlin Wall has a no man's land where a string of automated turrets will punish anyone who foolishly strays out into the open. There are only three safe spots to cross the border, and as such the action is funnelled and condensed beautifully – especially on the central crossing where a Domination point prompts some thrilling exchanges of bullets.

The cumulative distance fallen by Black Ops players worldwide would take you to Sheffield. And back.

Berlin Wall is also a good map for the weak-lemon-drink snipe brigade, those who like nothing more than a prolonged camp in an open window with a variety of distant heads to pop. However, overall there's a great balance of inside areas rubbing up against the great outdoors, so games rarely end in frustration for those who would otherwise be left with continual deathcam replays provided by the smug-on-high.

Pick of the bunch artistically, meanwhile, is Kowloon – a map built around the same concept as the solo Black Ops level that taught us that the best way to get someone to talk is to lacerate their mouth with broken glass. It's also, however, a pain in the arse to navigate when you're first getting your bearings – and don't even think about going in with the Valkyrie rockets killstreak. You're exchanging gunfire up on the rooftops of the city, meaning that the action is on various different levels and gradients.