Wednesday 24 January 2018

Digital Life: 'Black Ops' blows away the competition

Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Quick, which release made the biggest splash in the entertainment world this month? Fair play if you guessed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, which pulled in a whopping $125m at cinemas worldwide on its opening weekend -- not far off the all-time record set by The Dark Knight with $160m in 2008.

But you'd also be dead wrong. The monster hit for November -- and the whole of 2010 in fact -- wasn't a film at all. Largely ignored by the mainstream media and almost unheard of by half the population, the undisputed blockbuster is Call of Duty: Black Ops, a gritty and violent videogame intended for adults but inevitably played by many teens.

The launch-day take for Black Ops amounted to a cool $360m -- in just a few hours earning three times what Deathly Hallows netted for the entire weekend.

Although sales have slowed since its November 9 debut, the game hoovered up €650m in the first five days on shelves.

Even in the teeth of a recession, the series has become a licence to print money for its parent company Activision, which even has a small office in Dublin. The only thing that has come close to Black Ops' performance was the previous in the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare 2, released last year and which has earned more than a billion dollars in revenue.

"The performance of the new Call of Duty is about 30pc up on last year," said Michael Finucane, commercial director of Gamestop, which has 55 stores around Ireland. "That's a really strong performance given that the previous Call of Duty was the biggest game of 2009."

Finucane wouldn't be drawn on the exact number of sales of Black Ops in his stores.

But Xtra-Vision, one of the three biggest games chains along with Smyths and Gamestop, has revealed it sold 20,000 in Ireland on day one alone.

It wouldn't be a story of incredible wealth without some conflict and drama. This was the year that Activision fell out with the creators of the Call of Duty series in a bitter battle that ended in a flurry of legal actions.

Developer Infinity Ward produced the first CoD in 2003 and has been taking it in turns with fellow software house Treyarch to create games in the series almost annually. But earlier this year Infinity Ward became embroiled in a dispute about royalty payments with publisher Activision.

The ins and outs of the fallout are lost in a tangle of lawsuits but the upshot was that Infinity Ward head honchos Jason West and Vince Zampella were fired for alleged "insubordination" and many of their top team quit with them.

Treyarch produced this year's massive hit Black Ops but it will be fascinating to see what happens to the megabucks series next year.

Hack and slash and spectacle in spades

Tormented Grecian warrior Kratos tackles a new heartache: a lost brother. But in many senses, Ghost of Sparta treads the usual path of hack and slash. With spectacle in spades and a smooth combat system, this God of War won't disappoint but its familiarity occasionally breeds contempt.

Building on the recent Lego smash hits, LU tries its hand at World of Warcraft for kids. A massive multiplayer adventure, it costs a tenner a month to roam the Lego planet, smashing bricks and bopping enemies.

While it's a safe, fun environment for young players, content is a little thin on the ground yet and it has a hard time competing with the many free alternatives.

More gruesome wallowing in the torture porn that's still ringing tills at the box-office. But the shocks soon wear off and the puzzles quickly repeat themselves.

  • The winner of the Xbox Kinect competition was Alan Anderson from Waterford.

Bits and Bytes

Quiet and unassuming, the Canon PowerShot S95 may resemble a typical small camera at first glance. But in fact it's got super powers, including the ability to pull great pictures out of near-darkness.

The S95's secret lies in the size of its digital image sensor, which is double the dimensions of that found in an ordinary compact camera. Coupled with the S95's high-quality lens, the result is sparklingly good photos in almost any conditions.

This follow-up to the much-loved S90 improves on that camera in several ways. They include better handling, a new movie mode and intelligent options such as wink shutter, which snaps the picture only when someone winks at the lens -- perfect for fitting yourself into group shots.

Alas, the S95 shares some of the S90's weaknesses too, including short battery life and an eye-watering price tag of €480 (or about €360 online). For the money, however, it's a little belter.

Nikon possibly had a tank in mind when designing the Coolpix P7000. A chunky beast dotted with a bewildering array of knobs and dials, what it lacks in elegance it compensates with flexibility and convenience.

No more hunting through menus for ISO or exposure compensation, there's a button for nearly everything. The P7000 is not aimed at casual photographers but rather serious amateurs looking for portable power via its 7x zoom.

Image quality is mostly impressive, even though it's too easy to accidentally trigger some controls and the squirrelly autofocus can be annoying.

Costing €580 (or about €450 online), the P7000 is a powerful machine but not without its flaws.

Irish Independent

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