I'm mortal enemies with a man standing on the cockpit of a Lockheed Martin. In theory, the rest of my team should have closed him down by now, opening fire from the satellite towers overlooking this particular corner of the Hanger 18 map, but the other side has them covered like a lingering venereal infection. The chap on the airplane hull is their ace in the hole, calmly and efficiently slotting anybody stupid enough to peek past the barrels stacked at the southern end. We're dropping like flies out here, Treyarch. Couldn't you have left us a few more crates to hide behind?
Calling Annihilation a "sniper's paradise" is overdoing it. "Sniper's weekend getaway" is closer. As with every other Black Ops battleground, there's no such thing here as an unassailable vantage point: low windows, stairwells and sheltered side routes oblige connoisseurs of the map-length headshot to continually check their flanks and rears. You'll definitely settle in quicker, though, if you like to keep the mess at a firm remove.
In a cruel twist, the two best-looking maps are also the ones where run-gunners can least afford to stop and stare. Hazard - modelled on World at War map Cliffside - is a gorgeous emerald sweep of cultivated lawn with ornamental stone edifices at either end. Drive-In is so busy with memorabilia you'll want to bring a notepad: two huge facades - home, generally, to one or more twinkling scopes - loom over a slew of bombed-out motors, rusty children's playground rides and patchy trailers. There are bowling alleys in the buildings to the north, and fizzing arcade machines to feel nostalgic about.
Hanger 18 and Silo are less of a visual feast, swapping vintage Americana for the ashen, utilitarian overtones of Cold War Russia. Silo is the safer of the two, littering the spaces between two storey military structures with huge concrete pipes. Besides the Lockheed Martin, Hanger 18's big tactical feature is the central hanger, opening directly out onto two of the Demolition points and one team's spawning area.
The requisite zombie offering has less going for it this time round, with no celebs on hand to rally B-movie anoraks, but it's still a map you'll delight in pillaging. Set in verdant Shangri-La, the new map's a lot easier on the eye than Escalation's Call of the Dead, and almost as engagingly ludicrous. Pesky zombie monkies are a real bother when you're hurting, and there are traps straight out of Indiana Jones to break up teams at crucial junctures.
Were it not for Modern Warfare 3's release, dwindling global energy supplies and the limits of the English vocabulary, I'm sure Treyarch could carry on churning out decent Black Ops maps till the sun explodes. It's hard to get wildly excited about Annihilation as a consequence - certainly not with yet another map pack already on the horizon - but that's no real argument against investing if you've already (somehow) exhausted Escalation. The maps are abundant in tactical wrinkles, and ranged tilt aside, skilfully balanced. Call of Duty: Black Ops continues to age gracefully.
Another rock-solid performance from Treyarch
- The usual great layouts
- More scenic touches
- Zombie monkeys
- A little too sniper-friendly
- Few surprises